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Newsline: China praises British diplomat for saving drowning woman

Beijing on Tuesday praised a British diplomat who was filmed diving into a river in southern China to save a drowning student, a rare warm moment between two countries at loggerheads over human rights. Britain’s mission in the southwestern city of Chongqing said Monday that Consul General Stephen Ellison leapt into action at the weekend to save a woman who had fallen into a river coursing through a nearby tourist town. The video on Chinese social media — viewed more than 170 million times in China — shows Ellison pulling off his shoes and jumping in to rescue the woman, who was floating face down. “I think he should be commended for his act of bravery. I’d like to give him a big, big thumbs up,” said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a routine briefing Tuesday. Ellison’s actions also earned praise from British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who tweeted: “His bravery and commitment demonstrates the very best of British diplomats around the world.” (https://news.yahoo.com/china-praises-british-diplomat-saving-092331677.html) The 61-year-old former engineer had only recently been appointed to the role in the southern metropolis after serving for years at the main embassy in Beijing, and is an accomplished triathlete, according to local media reports.

Newsline: Chinese Ambassador to the UK summoned to the FCDO

The FCDO Permanent Under-Secretary has summoned the Chinese Ambassador to the UK to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The Chinese Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. The Permanent Under-Secretary set out that China’s imposition of new rules to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong was a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The Permanent Under-Secretary said that Beijing’s latest actions are an assault on Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Joint Declaration. (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chinese-ambassador-to-the-uk-summoned-to-the-fcdo) He called on China to uphold its international obligations.

Newsline: Ex-British ambassador to US probed over alleged relationship with CNN reporter

The feds launched an “unprecedented” probe into Britain’s former ambassador to the US because they feared he was leaking secret White House intel to his alleged lover — a CNN journalist, according to a sensational new report. The Department of Justice investigation into Kim Darroch and his alleged relationship with CNN reporter Michelle Kosinski is thought to be the first into a serving British ambassador in Washington, The Sun reported. “For the US to investigate the most senior diplomat of its greatest ally on suspicion of leaking secret information is almost unprecedented,” a security source told the outlet. (https://nypost.com/2020/10/17/ex-uk-ambassador-probed-over-alleged-fling-with-cnn-reporter/) It’s unclear when the probe began, but it came some time after the “not well connected” Kosinski suddenly began landing major scoops in 2018 — some based on highly classified or extraordinarily difficult-to-obtain information, the Sun reported. Eyebrows were raised in Feb. 2018 when Kosinski — who left NBC’s London bureau to work for CNN in 2014 – learned that CIA Director Mike Pompeo was being tapped as the next secretary of state. He was sworn in that April. Shortly thereafter, she got a scoop on Pompeo’s highly sensitive trip to North Korea to lobby for the safe return of three US citizens. A source told The Sun: “It was believed that no one on the US side would leak this information.” The married Darroch, 66 — who began serving as UK ambassador to the US in 2016– denied all allegations of impropriety and was eventually cleared by investigators of passing information to the also-married Kosinski, 46, the outlet reported. “Although the investigation found nothing over Darroch, the fact it happened is extraordinary,” a security source told the paper. Little detail was revealed by the outlet about their alleged, “several months” affair, which it reported began in the beginning of 2018. Kosinski and Darroch allegedly swapped “intimate messages,” seen by The Sun, in which they gave detailed plans for secret hook-ups. No examples were given. Kosinski told The Sun Saturday that Darroch was not a source for any of her stories, and denied having an affair with him. Darroch resigned his post in July 2019 after leaked cables revealed he had called Trump “incompetent.” “The leaks of the cables last year were obviously deeply embarrassing and left Darroch no option but to resign once President Trump made his feelings clear. Kosinski appears to have left her CNN job five months later, according to her LinkedIn profile. A call to CNN by The Post was not returned Saturday. Kosinski could not be reached for comment.

Newsline: US seeks 1,000-year lease on US ambassador’s Regent’s Park mansion

Donald Trump is lobbying for the Queen to extend the Crown Estate lease on the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park as part of the UK-US trade deal, sources say. The U.S lease on Winfield House has been in place since 1955 but is set to expire in 2053, with Trump angling for a 999-year extension to be put in place, reports The Times. (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8827855/Donald-Trump-wants-Queen-grant-1-000-year-lease-ambassadors-Regents-Park-mansion.html) The 35-room neo-Georgian mansion boasts a 12.5 acre garden in prime central London and could be among the most expensive homes in the city, with the second largest garden after Buckingham Palace. Now the former New York property developer is expected to ask for the inclusion of the residence’s lease in a UK-US trade deal, with his billionare friend and current U.S ambassador to London, Woody Johnson, recently raising the issue in a meeting with UK officials. The source told The Times: ‘Johnson could talk of little else’.

Newsline: UK recalls ambassador to Belarus amid unrest

The UK has temporarily recalled its ambassador from Belarus amid growing tensions over political unrest there. Authorities in Minsk have cracked down on protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, who claimed victory in disputed elections in August. The opposition says he must quit but he says they are Western “puppets” trying to overthrow him. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the move was in solidarity with Poland and Lithuania – critics of Mr Lukashenko. (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-54489442) On Friday, Belarus expelled 35 diplomats from those two neighbouring countries. Mr Raab condemned that as a “completely unjustified” decision, which, he said on Twitter, would “only isolate the Belarusian people” further.

Newsline: Belgian ambassador throws King Charles II treaty into EU fishing debate

When the issue of the future access of European fishing fleets was being discussed by EU ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday the Belgian government’s representative, Willem van de Voorde, made a notable intervention. To the confusion of some, and the delight of others, the ambassador cited a treaty signed some 350 years ago by King Charles II which had granted 50 Flemish fishermen from Bruges “eternal rights” to English fishing waters. It was an important historical footnote illustrating the long relationship between Belgian fishermen and British waters, Van de Voorde suggested. When the Privilegie der Visscherie was given in 1666, Bruges was part of the Southern Netherlands, controlled by Spain. The offer had been Charles’s way of showing gratitude for the hospitality he received when he stayed there during the interregnum that followed the decapitation of his father, King Charles I, and his own restoration to the throne. “I wasn’t quite sure what he was on about but I think he was joking,” said one confused diplomat who had listened to Van de Voorde’s intervention. “But, then, you never know.” (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/oct/08/belgian-ambassador-throws-king-charles-ii-treaty-into-eu-fishing-debate) While the validity of the Belgian claim is somewhat unlikely, the tensions in Brussels over fishing access for European fleets from 1 January are very real. The UK has demanded a radical increase in fishing catches in its exclusive economic zone as it leaves the EU’s common fisheries policy. Some in Brussels recognise the need to satisfy this demand – it was one of the key arguments made for Brexit during the 2016 referendum – certain coastal countries, including France in particular, are insisting on the status quo. During the same meeting of ambassadors, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, pointed out that EU revenues from fishing in UK waters was around €650m, compared with €150m for British fishing in UK waters.

Newsline: Cause of UK diplomat’s death ‘not yet known’

Initial investigations have yet to establish how a diplomat whose body was found in a forest months after going missing died, an inquest has heard. Richard Morris was last seen running in Alton, Hampshire, on 6 May. The cause of death following a post-mortem examination on the 52-year-old’s body has been recorded as “unascertained”, senior coroner Christopher Wilkinson said. (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-hampshire-54264439) During the four-minute remote hearing, Mr Wilkinson confirmed Mr Morris, who lived in Bentley and was originally from Worcestershire, was found dead by a member of the public at Alice Holt Forest in Hampshire on 31 August. Mr Wilkinson said consultant forensic pathologist Dr Russell Delaney carried out the initial examination on the body, adding: “The nature of his death is at this stage unascertained.” The inquest was adjourned until June 2021 for further evidence to be gathered. Mr Morris was the ambassador to Nepal between 2015 and November 2019 and accompanied the Duke of Sussex during his tour of the country in 2016. Before that he was head of the Pacific department in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and had held senior diplomatic posts including in Australia and Mexico during nearly 30 years’ service. Before his disappearance he was appointed British High Commissioner to Fiji. At the time of the discovery of his body, police said they were not treating the death as suspicious.

Newsline: German Diplomat Tells U.K. to ‘Stop the Games’ on Brexit

Germany’s Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth slammed the U.K.’s strategy in Brexit talks, saying that the lack of progress is disappointing and that a recent bill that seeks to override parts of the divorce agreement is unacceptable. The European Union fully backs its Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier and is committed to a fair deal, Roth told reporters on Tuesday before a meeting of European Affairs Ministers in Brussels. “But please, dear friends in London, stop the games. Time is running out,” he said, adding that the U.K.’s Internal Market Bill is extremely worrying. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-22/u-k-must-stop-the-games-on-brexit-german-diplomat-says) The contentious element of the bill involves changes to the Withdrawal Agreement’s protocol for Northern Ireland, which shares a land border with the EU. Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said on Sept. 8 that the legislation would break international law in a “specific and limited way.” The bill, which triggered a storm in the U.K. and abroad, “violates the guiding principles of the withdrawal agreement and that’s totally unacceptable for us,” Roth said.

Newsline: UK Ambassador to China Stirs Uproar

Britain’s newest ambassador to China has gotten off to a rocky start after posting a photo on social media that some viewers interpreted as an endorsement of the hard-line policies of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Caroline Wilson, appointed in June to lead Britain’s diplomatic mission in Beijing as of this month, posted the photo on Twitter after a meeting with Liu Xiaoming, China’s envoy to Britain. In the photo, Liu beams with apparent delight as the two hold what appears to be a gifted book, the latest in a series of tomes laying out Xi’s thoughts on governance. Wilson described the occasion on Twitter as a “valuable meeting with @AmbLiuXiaoMing before heading to Beijing.” Her new subordinates at the British Embassy in Beijing subsequently retweeted the posting. (https://www.voanews.com/europe/uk-ambassador-china-stirs-uproar-photo-seen-promoting-xi-jinping) As of Friday morning, Wilson’s tweet had generated more than 1,000 comments, and while a handful praised her as “the perfect person for this absolutely pivotal role,” the vast majority considered the posting highly problematic. A spokesperson from the British foreign ministry defended Wilson’s tweet, telling VOA their country has “a policy of engagement with China and our approach will remain consistent even if difficulties emerge.”

Newsline: Explosive device hits British diplomatic vehicle in Baghdad

A British diplomatic vehicle was hit by an explosive device on Tuesday on the airport road in Baghdad but no one was injured, the British Embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad said. “We can confirm that one British Embassy Baghdad vehicle was struck by a roadside IED this morning in Baghdad. There were no casualties,” an embassy spokesperson said. (https://www.reuters.com/article/iraq-security-britain/update-2-explosive-device-hits-british-diplomatic-vehicle-in-baghdad-no-injuries-embassy-idUSL8N2GC36H) Two security sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the explosion was caused by a homemade explosive device that was planted on the side of the road. Iraqi special forces closed down the road leading to the Green Zone from the western side, they said. Tuesday’s attack is the first attack of its kind on a diplomatic convoy along the road for years. Separately on Tuesday, two Katyusha rockets landed inside the Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign missions, but caused no casualties or damage, the military said in a statement. Rocket attacks against U.S targets have increased over the past few weeks, with many rockets landing in the vicinity of Baghdad airport or the Green Zone. Last week, in two separate incidents several rockets landed within the perimeter of the airport.