Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Australia

Newsline: Australian family says targeted with bomb threats amid fight with Chinese diplomat

Even if Drew Pavlou wins what he believes is a landmark case against a Chinese diplomat, the activist says it won’t stop the bomb threats. However, the human rights campaigner hopes a protection order against Xu Jie is successful, saying China’s ex-Brisbane consul-general started a brutal, systematic harassment campaign against him. “The Chinese Communist Party has been behind an extended campaign to brutally go against me and my family,” Pavlou said. “My younger brother has been targeted with bomb threats, my family have continued to be targeted with death threats, I have been assaulted multiple times on Australian streets.” (https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/queensland/pavlou-says-family-targeted-with-bomb-threats-amid-fight-with-chinese-diplomat-20221125-p5c1fh.html) Pavlou on Friday launched a Brisbane District Court appeal after his Peace and Good Behaviour Act application against Xu was dismissed in August 2020. The complaint two years ago followed a July 2019 protest at University of Queensland in which Pavlou was twice assaulted. Xu issued a press release after the confrontation, which Pavlou said incited violence against him. Pavlou was unsuccessful in court two years ago after a Brisbane magistrate ruled Xu had diplomatic immunity. However, he has launched the appeal after seeking legal advice from international experts even though Xu is no longer Brisbane consul-general or in Australia.

Newsline: Australia’s top diplomat pledges millions in climate, security aid for Pacific

Australia has promised millions of dollars in support for Pacific island nations to address the “existential threat” of climate change, as well as funds for Australia’s police deployment in the Solomon Islands, regional aerial surveillance, and an Australian Border Force network. Foreign Minister Penny Wong, speaking at the Pacific Way Conference in French Polynesia, said Australia would increase its total budget for overseas development assistance by 1.4bn Australian dollars (around $878.3m) over the next four years. Some 900 million Australian dollars (almost $565m) will go to the Pacific region. Australia will update its federal budget next week and 46 million Australian dollars (some $29m) will be set aside to fund the country’s police deployments in the Solomon Islands, where officers are helping to provide security since last year’s riots in the capital Honiara. Wong described the assistance as a way of supporting regional partners to “provide their own security so they have less need to call on others”. “Without these investments, others will continue to fill the vacuum,” Wong was reported to have said, according to Reuters, and she pointed to previous Australian governments for losing ground in the Pacific where “we have a lot of catching up to do”. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/10/21/australia-promises-millions-in-security-aid-for-solomon-islands) Wong said the budget commitments would be a “major step towards the goal of making Australia stronger and more influential in the world”, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

Newsline: Australian embassy to remain in Tel Aviv

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has announced Labor would reverse Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, hitting out at former prime minister Scott Morrison for his decision to “play politics” in shifting the position. Ms Wong on Tuesday said the Labor Government was committed to a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist “in peace and stability”. “Today the Government has reaffirmed Australia’s previous and long-standing position that Jerusalem is a final status issue that should be resolved as part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people,” she said. “This reverses the Morrison Government’s recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” Ms Wong said Australia’s embassy would remain in Tel Aviv, where it “has always been”. The Foreign Minister said “Australia will always be a steadfast friend of Israel” as she criticised Mr Morrison’s shift and the “distress” it caused. (https://www.skynews.com.au/world-news/global-affairs/penny-wong-reverses-decision-to-recognise-west-jerusalem-as-capital-of-israel-with-the-australian-embassy-to-remain-in-tel-aviv/news-story/) In 2018 Mr Morrison made the move to officially recognise West Jerusalem as the capital, which Labor at the time strongly opposed.

Newsline: Australia’s former prime minister may become next ambassador to the United States

In the growing speculation around who will be Australia’s next ambassador to Washington, DC, one name keeps coming up: Kevin Rudd. The former prime minister is the lead name in speculation on who will become the next US ambassador, with support from key American foreign policy figures. The Saturday Paper understands the federal government has made no formal decision about who will replace incumbent Arthur Sinodinos – a former senator and chief of staff to prime minister John Howard – when his term expires in February. (https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2022/10/15/kevin-rudd-shortlist-become-next-ambassador-the-united-states#mtr) But Rudd is in the mix. If the list contains more than one name, his is high up. On qualifications alone, it is not clear whose would be higher.

Newsline: Australia’s diplomatic efforts in the Pacific seen bearing fruit

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has announced it wants to establish a security agreement with Australia, welcome news for analysts wary of rising Chinese influence. This decision reflects well on Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s tireless diplomacy with Pacific Island capitals. Since becoming Foreign Minister a little over three months ago, Wong has made four separate trips to the Pacific; to Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Solomon Islands, as well as engaging with Pacific leaders during July’s Pacific Islands Forum Summit. And these efforts appear to be paying off. Not only has PNG expressed an interest in a security pact with Australia, but Timor-Leste has also just signed a defence cooperation agreement. (https://theconversation.com/penny-wongs-diplomacy-efforts-in-the-pacific-begin-to-bear-fruit-with-png-security-pact-189710) However, there is both much more and much less to the PNG security announcement than meets the eye. The announcement by Justin Tkatchenko, PNG’s new foreign minister, was light on detail. Tkatchenko said the security treaty with Australia has been in the works since 2019 but has been spurred by the recent security agreement between Solomon Islands and China.

Newsline: Ukraine makes bid for Russian embassy land in Canberra after lease terminated

Ukraine is looking to snap up a plot of land in Canberra that is potentially available after the National Capital Authority terminated the Russian embassy’s lease. The NCA said this week it cancelled the lease because of its “use it or lose it” policy. More than a decade since Russia’s building plans were approved, construction has failed to progress. The capital authority gave Russia 20 days to vacate the property. Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, now wants to move on the site in Yarralumla for his country’s embassy. Myroshnychenko said on Friday that once he received approval from his government, he would make a formal application to the NCA. “The Ukrainian government is renting an office space in a building for the embassy, and I don’t have a residence, we’ve just rented a small townhouse,” the ambassador told ABC radio. “That would be very nice, if we could get that plot of land.” (https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/aug/19/ukraine-eyeing-embassy-land-after-canberra-authority-terminates-russias-lease) The unfinished Russian works, the NCA said, were an eyesore. The Russian embassy in response said it was obtaining legal advice about the decision.

Newsline: Russia threatens taking Australia to court over unfinished embassy dispute

Russia has threatened Australia with legal action after Canberra cancelled Moscow’s lease on a prime plot of land in the Australian capital where it had planned to build a new embassy. The National Capital Authority (NAC) on Wednesday gave Russia 20 days to vacate the site in Yarralumla, one of Canberra’s most expensive suburbs, as it said the embassy had failed to comply with a three-year construction deadline stipulated in a contract signed in 2008. The NAC said in a statement the unfinished works detract “from the overall aesthetic, importance and dignity of the area reserved for diplomatic missions and foreign representation in the national capital”. The organisation added that its decision was based on a “use it or lose it” policy due to the limited availability of diplomatic blocks. “The Russian federation acknowledges they’re in breach of their lease and when we asked them for an indication for a completion date or commitment of funding towards the new embassy they weren’t able to provide it,” NCA chief executive Sally Barnes told Sky News. (https://www.msn.com/en-xl/news/other/russia-threatens-taking-australia-to-court-over-unfinished-embassy-dispute/ar-AA10NjuF) Construction of the compound began in 2011, but has been beset by delays and financial problems.

Newsline: Russia’s embassy came under kangaroo attack in Australia

Russia came under attack by a gutsy kangaroo in Australia, and the animal’s attempt to infiltrate Russia’s embassy was caught on camera. The marsupial was spotted on surveillance video trying to hop through the gates of the Russian Embassy in Canberra, 9News reported. (https://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/trending/unauthorized-entry-kangaroo-attempts-break-into-russian-embassy/) The Russian embassy later shared the video on its Twitter page, saying that the CCTV cameras “recorded an event of unauthorized entry. No one got hurt.” The video shows the kangaroo trying to squeeze through the bars of the embassy’s gates multiple times, almost appearing to get stuck, before hopping away.

Newsline: Australia’s top diplomat calls for calm over Taiwan tensions

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Monday called for a cooling of tensions after Beijing accused her of “finger-pointing” in her criticism of China’s military exercises in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. “What is most critical at the moment is that the temperature is lowered and calm is restored when it comes to cross-strait tensions,” Wong told reporters. (https://news.yahoo.com/australia-calls-cooling-taiwan-strait-053852810.html) Wong criticized China’s launch of ballistic missiles during the ongoing air and sea drills around Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory. She also signed a joint statement with the United States and Japan on Saturday that condemned firing of missiles into Japanese exclusive economic zones and accused China of “raising tension and destabilizing the region.” The Chinese Embassy in Australia replied to the trilateral statement, saying: “It is absolutely unacceptable for the finger-pointing on China’s justified actions to safeguard state sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The embassy accused Australia of doing the bidding of the United States, which China described as the “biggest saboteur and destabilizer of peace in the Taiwan Strait and the biggest troublemaker to regional stability.” Wong declined to comment on the state of the Sino-Australian relationship following Pelosi’s visit last week. Beijing had signaled a potential reset in the relationship following the new Australian government’s election in May. Relations had plumbed new depths during the previous government’s nine years in power.

Newsline: France appoints ambassador for Indo-Pacific

France’s top envoy to Australia will become its first ambassador for the Indo-Pacific amid rising concerns about the Chinese Communist Party’s growing influence in the region. The move to shift ambassador Christophe Penot from Canberra to the broader economic zone is the sharpest escalation of France’s strategy in the contested area to date, as Germany and France push the European Union to become more assertive in its China strategy. Penot is due to leave next Tuesday and will be replaced in Australia by Jean-Pierre Thebault. Thebault organised the G7 in Biarritz in 2019 and is a former ambassador for the environment. (https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/france-escalates-china-push-appoints-ambassador-for-indo-pacific-20201012-p5647f.html) Penot will be based in Paris but will travel throughout the Indo-Pacific and be responsible for co-ordinating diplomacy across the region. France’s Minister for the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, has pushed for an Indo-Pacific “axis, with France, India and Australia as its backbone” to develop foreign policy as global tensions increase. The trilateral dialogue would work separately from “the Quad”, which includes Japan, the United States, Australia and India and has a security focus.