Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Israeli and Polish top diplomats meet to restore ties

The Israeli and Polish foreign ministers met Wednesday in a step that they hailed as a breakthrough in restoring a relationship that has been badly damaged due to bickering over Holocaust memory over the past five years. “I came here to restore the relationship between our countries, and I found in you, my distinguished colleague, a trusted partner,” Cohen said at a news conference alongside Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, whom he referred to more than once as his friend. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/03/22/poland-israel-cohen-warsaw-ghetto-anniversary-holocaust/b7421826-c8b5-11ed-9cc5-a58a4f6d84cd_story.html) The ministers signed an agreement that they say will allow for the resumption of Israeli youth trips to Poland, one of several points of contention that have led to bitter feelings between the two countries. The visit by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is the first at that level since 2018, and Poland’s Foreign Ministry says it will be followed by Israeli President Isaac Herzog attending observances next month for the 80th anniversary of the World War II Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Newsline: Russia summons Canadian envoy

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it had protested to Canada’s top envoy in Moscow over comments by Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly about “regime change” in Russia. The ministry said it summoned Canadian charge d’affaires Brian Ebel on Monday and told him Joly’s comments were unacceptable. (https://neuters.de/world/russia-summons-canadian-diplomat-protest-regime-change-statement-2023-03-21/) Canadian media quoted Joly as saying at a news conference on March 10: “We’re able to see how much we’re isolating the Russian regime right now — because we need to do so economically, politically and diplomatically — and what are the impacts also on society and how much we’re seeing potential regime change in Russia.” The Russian statement condemned the “Russophobic attack” and said it would have serious consequences for relations. Russia reserved the right to take “appropriate countermeasures” depending on Ottawa’s further steps.

Newsline: EU top diplomat urges Israel to disavow minister’s comments on Palestinians

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on Monday on the Israeli government to disavow a minister’s comments that there was no Palestinian history or culture and no such thing as a Palestinian people. Borrell told reporters in Brussels that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s comments “certainly cannot be tolerated”. “I call on the Israeli government to disavow those comments and to start working together with all parties to defuse tensions,” Borrell said. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/eu-top-diplomat-borrell-urges-israel-disavow-ministers-comments-palestinians-2023-03-20/) “I have to deplore these unacceptable comment by Minister Smotrich. It is wrong, it is disrespectful, it is dangerous, it is counter-productive to say this kind of things in a situation which is already tense,” he added.

Newsline: Top level diplomacy of China’s and Russia’s leaders

China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin published separate articles on Monday, as Xi was due to begin a visit to Moscow, setting out their hopes for bilateral relations and praising each other. “China and Russia are the largest neighbours, strategic partners of comprehensive cooperation, leading world powers and permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Both countries pursue an independent and autonomous foreign policy, and consider relations between China and Russia as one of the main priorities in diplomacy,” Xi wrote in Rossiiskaya Gazeta. “China and Russia adhere to the concept of eternal friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation.” A Chinese proposal on the Ukraine crisis, a 12-point paper released last month, represents “as much as possible the unity of the world community’s views”, Xi said. “We are grateful for the balanced line of (China) in connection with the events taking place in Ukraine, for understanding their background and true causes. Russia is open to a politico-diplomatic settlement of the Ukrainian crisis. We welcome China’s willingness to play a constructive role in resolving the crisis,” Putin wrote in China’s People’s Daily. (https://neuters.de/world/putin-quoting-confucius-heaps-praise-xi-2023-03-20/) Bilateral trade in 2022 rose to $185 billion – a record. Putin says $200 billion in trade is likely to be reached in 2023. Putin said oil and coal deliveries had grown and that Russia is helping to build new nuclear power reactors in China. He says the two are exploring outer space and developing new technologies.

Newsline: Serbia, Kosovo agree on EU-backed diplomatic deal

Kosovo and Serbia have reached an agreement on implementing a European Union-backed deal to normalise ties, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said late on Saturday, though the two leaders said disagreements remain. (https://neuters.de/world/europe/kosovo-serbia-leaders-arrive-eu-backed-talks-deal-normalise-ties-2023-03-18/) Kosovo and Serbia have been in EU-backed talks for nearly 10 years since Kosovo declared independence in 2008, almost a decade after war ended Serbian rule. But Serbia still regards Kosovo as a breakaway province and flare-ups between the Balkan neighbours have stoked fears of a return to conflict. The agreement on Saturday came after 12-hour talks between Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and EU officials on implementing the deal, which both sides had agreed to in Brussels last month. The two leaders held separate meetings with Borrell before a three-way session in North Macedonia.

Newsline: France’s President seeks to calm diplomats amid foreign service reform

President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday promised to raise budgets and hire more officials as he sought to assuage France’s diplomatic corps over a civil service reform. Pushed by young foreign ministry civil servants, hundreds of diplomatic staff at home and abroad, including some ambassadors, took part in the first strike for 20 years last June in protest over the reform and years of staff cuts. “I want a complete rearmament of our diplomacy to serve peace,” Macron said in a rare speech to diplomats at the Quai d’Orsay, home of France’s foreign service in Paris. Promising to increase budgets by 20% over the next four years and to hire some 700 hundred new officials, he said the reform would be a transformation. “We must end years of reductions and give ourselves the means to commit new capacities, develop new skills and, at a time when war has come back to Europe, be able to give ourselves the means to serve our interests, defend our priorities, influence and have the capacities to make our country shine.” (https://neuters.de/world/macron-seeks-calm-diplomats-amid-overhaul-foreign-service-2023-03-16/) The core grievance centred around the merging of career diplomats into the broader civil service, increasing competition for posts, but which diplomats say would dilute the service that they say needs expertise — including in languages and on-the-ground experience — garnered from years work overseas. In response, the ministry on Wednesday sent Macron a 300 page report outlining an overhaul of the diplomatic service to give it new skills. Ministry officials have said the reforms, passed by decree last May and put into force in January, will preserve the diplomatic profession and careers. Speaking on condition of anonymity several diplomats said they felt betrayed and they believed it would leave France without a high-performing diplomatic service. France has the world’s third-largest diplomatic network behind the United States and China, with some 1,800 diplomats and about 13,500 officials working at the foreign ministry.

Newsline: Diplomats from 200 nations meet in Switzerland to discuss Climate Change’s report

Diplomats from nearly 200 nations and top climate scientists began a week-long huddle in Switzerland on Monday to distil nearly a decade of published science into a 20-odd-page warning about the existential danger of global warming and what to do about it. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s synthesis report — to be released on March 20 — will detail observed and projected changes in Earth’s climate system; past and future impacts such as devastating heatwaves, flooding and rising seas; and ways to halt the carbon pollution pushing Earth toward an unliveable state. “It’s a massive moment, seven years since the Paris Agreement and nine years since the last IPCC assessment report,” Greenpeace Nordic senior policy advisor Kaisa Kosonen, an official observer at IPCC meetings, told AFP. (https://news.yahoo.com/governments-vet-crucial-un-climate-105326400.html) Since its creation in 1988, the IPCC — an intergovernmental body staffed by hundreds of scientists who work for it on a volunteer basis — has released six three-part assessments, the most recent in 2021-2022.

Newsline: Poland summons U.S. ambassador

The Polish Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. envoy about the actions of a television station, it said in a statement without naming the station or specifying what it believes it did wrong. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recognizes that the potential effects of these actions are identical to the goals of the hybrid war aimed at leading to divisions and tensions in Polish society,” the ministry said in a statement. “Therefore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the U.S. Ambassador to inform him about the situation and its consequences in weakening the ability of the Republic of Poland to deter a potential adversary and its resistance to threats.” (https://neuters.de/world/poland-summons-us-envoy-over-tv-stations-unspecified-actions-2023-03-09/) Poland has previously been at odds with the United States over Discovery-owned news channel TVN24, which is critical of the government. TVN24 recently contributed to stirring a heated debate in Poland by airing a documentary alleging late John Paul II knew about sexual abuses by Catholic clergy before becoming pope. It was not immediately clear if the issue the U.S. ambassador was summoned over concerned TVN24. The U.S. embassy in Warsaw had no immediate comment. A Polish foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment further.

Newsline: EU revises climate diplomacy deal

European Union countries intend to push for a global phasing out of fossil fuels among their climate diplomacy priorities this year, which the bloc hopes to approve this week after rewriting a contentious section on nuclear energy. The draft text aims to set out the EU’s diplomatic priorities ahead of this year’s U.N. climate summit, where nearly 200 countries will negotiate joint efforts to curb climate change. A draft seen by Reuters said the EU would back a global shift away from fossil fuels. “The shift towards a climate neutral economy will require the global phase-out of unabated fossil fuels,” the draft said. “The EU will systematically promote and call for a global move towards energy systems free of unabated fossil fuels well ahead of 2050.” (https://neuters.de/business/environment/eu-rewrites-climate-diplomacy-deal-resolve-nuclear-sticking-point-2023-03-06/) Some countries are hoping this year’s COP28 summit could clinch a deal on phasing out the use of CO2-emitting fossil fuels – not only coal, as agreed at previous U.N. climate talks, but also oil and gas. A proposal by India to do this gained some support at last year’s U.N. climate summit but was opposed by Saudi Arabia and other oil and gas-rich nations. Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands had pushed for the fossil fuel exit in the EU text, EU diplomats said. Diplomats from EU countries will attempt to finalise the text on March 8, which ministers must then approve formally.

Newsline: Hungary to move embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

Hungary is to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem next month in an act of support by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to his counterpart Benjamin Netahyahu, the Times of Israel reported on Friday. The move, if confirmed, would make Hungary the first member state of the European Union to open an embassy in Jerusalem, which Israel claims as its capital but which is not recognized as this by most countries and whose status under international law is disputed. Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mate Paczolay did not confirm the report, but said the ministry would provide updates on any changes to the embassy in all cases. “We have already moved the commercial department of our Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem years ago,” he said in response to a question on the report from Reuters. “The inauguration of the foreign trade representation was jointly announced by Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” (https://neuters.de/world/europe/hungary-move-israel-embassy-jerusalem-israeli-media-report-2023-03-03/) An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment. Under former President Donald Trump, the United States moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in 2018 but only a handful of other countries have done the same.