Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Iran accused of gunboat diplomacy in Strait of Hormuz

Gunboat diplomacy is defined in terms of international politics as the pursuit of foreign policy objectives by displaying signs of aggressive naval power, implying the threat of warfare if agreeable terms are not met. (https://www.upi.com/Voices/2022/06/27/iran-Iran-gunboat-diplomacy-strait-hormuz/4031656331659/) Gunboat diplomacy was a tactic famously utilized by some of the imperialist powers during the 19th century. It is a somewhat outdated concept, although that doesn’t seem to have deterred the Iranian regime. Last week, ships from the U.S. Fifth Fleet were sailing through international waters in the Strait of Hormuz when they were threatened by high-speed, head-on assaults by three naval vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The U.S. coastal patrol ship USS Sirocco had to fire a warning flare when the IRGC vessels, acting in a hostile manner, came within 50 yards of their ship. The threatening and dangerous behavior lasted for more than an hour before the IRGC boats departed.

Newsline: Russia says it is expelling eight Greek diplomats

Russia declared eight Greek diplomats “personae non gratae” and gave them eight days to leave the country, the Russian foreign ministry said on Monday. The foreign ministry said it had summoned the Greek ambassador to protest over what it called “the confrontational course of the Greek authorities towards Russia, including the supply of weapons and military equipment to the Kyiv regime”. The ministry said it had also protested against a Greek decision to declare a group of Russian diplomats “personae non gratae”. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/russia-says-expelling-eight-greek-144501622.html) Greece is a member of NATO and the European Union and has joined EU sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

Newsline: UN hails ‘fire diplomacy’ on divided Cyprus

Trust among the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities on their divided island is at a low point but their cooperation in combatting last week’s wildfire was “very positive”, a senior UN diplomat said Monday. UN chief of mission Colin Stewart met Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek-Cypriot leader, days after his community helped the Turkish Cypriots battle a huge blaze in Kantara in the northern mountain range. “I thanked him for the support of the Greek Cypriots for the terrible fire that had been raging in the north over a few days last week,” Stewart said. “It illustrates a fundamental point about this island, and that is the solidarity amongst Cypriots,” he told reporters. “When the time came, there was unhesitating and unquestioned assistance from Greek Cypriots for Turkish Cypriots who were in this difficult situation, and I think this is a very positive thing,” he added. (https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/un-hails-fire-diplomacy-on-divided-cyprus/ar-AAYUaJv) Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when mainland Turkish forces occupied the island’s northern third in response to a military coup sponsored by the junta then in power in Greece. The UN official is consulting Cypriot leaders on the UN peacekeeping mandate, up for its six-monthly renewal before the Security Council. There have been no UN-sponsored peace talks to resolve the island’s division since a Cyprus conference collapsed in Switzerland in July 2017.

Newsline: China to issue visas to Afghan businessmen

The Chinese Embassy in Kabul is preparing to issue visas to Afghan businessmen, Beijing’s envoy to Afghanistan has confirmed. The confirmation came during talks between Wang Yu, the Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan, and the Taliban’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi here, reports Khaama Press. In a tweet on Sunday, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, said the two sides discussed earthquake relief, political issues, bilateral trade, humanitarian aid and the repatriation of Afghan students to China. At the meeting, Muttaqi called on the Chinese Ambassador to expedite the process of issuing Chinese visas to Afghan businessmen to which the envoy said that they were getting ready to start the procedure. (https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/world/china-to-issue-visas-to-afghan-businessmen/ar-AAYTRld) Ambassador Wang also offered his sympathies to the families who were affected by last week’s devastating earthquake in Paktika province, saying China’s first consignment of humanitarian relief will arrive in Afghanistan on Monday.

Newsline: Iran welcomes reopening of embassies in Tehran, Riyadh

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said his country welcomes the reopening of the Iranian and Saudi Arabian Embassies in Riyadh and Tehran. Iran only seeks to promote the region’s interests, Amir-Abdollahian said in a meeting with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. He praised the Iraqi government for its efforts to encourage dialogue among regional countries and play a constructive role in the normalization talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as other Middle Eastern nations, reports Xinhua news agency. (https://in.investing.com/news/iran-welcomes-reopening-of-embassies-in-tehran-riyadh-3254115) Iran maintains that the solution to regional problems lies within the region, Amir-Abdollahian said, adding that Iran backs the continuation of the ceasefire in Yemen, highlighting the necessity of lifting the siege on the Arab state. The Foreign Minister noted that given the commonalities between Iran and Egypt, improving relations between Tehran and Cairo will be in the interest of the region and the Muslim world.

Newsline: EU Ambassador dismisses Brexit plan as ‘Illegal and unrealistic’

Boris Johnson’s Protocol aimed at scrapping the Irish Sea checks border is “illegal”, the EU Ambassador to the UK, João de Almeida, has condemned. The new bill, introduced by Foreign Secretary Lizz Truss, was meant to address the DUP’s concerns around the Irish Sea border after they refused to share power with Sinn Fein in the Northern Ireland’s Assembly. To put an end to the political crisis, Secretary Truss put forward a bill that she said respects international law and addresses the DUP’s concerns. Speaking to Sky News, the EU Ambassador to the UK refuted that position. When asked about the UK’s chances of resolving the Northern Ireland conundrum, Mr De Almeidas said: “We remain very much committed to that. We want to find a way out. I’m afraid the government’s strike may be, probably, unfortunately, the road to nowhere. And we would like to avoid that. (https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/road-to-nowhere-eu-ambassador-shuts-down-boris-brexit-plan-as-illegal-and-unrealistic/ar-AAYSwhJ) Liz Truss came forward with a bill that would scrap the Irish Sea border and impose a system of lanes. Goods travelling from Great Britain to the EU would go through checks via the red line, while goods destined to Northern Ireland would go via the green line without checks. However, the EU has called the bill “illegal”, further exacerbating the Northern Ireland issue.

Newsline: Russian ambassador overheard in DC restaurant complaining about lack of respect from US

Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov was reportedly overheard at Washington, D.C.’s Café Milano complaining about a lack of respect toward his nation. Antonov was photographed sitting for dinner with former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and CEO of the Center for the National Interest Dimitri Simes. The three officials were allegedly engaged in a discussion on the conflict in Ukraine, according to the Politico journalist who took the photo. (https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/russian-ambassador-overheard-in-dc-restaurant-complaining-about-lack-of-respect-from-us/) Antonov reportedly expressed deep confusion on American support for Ukrainian resistance forces.

Newsline: New U.S. ambassador to South Korea to arrive in Seoul on July 10

Philip Goldberg, the new U.S. ambassador to South Korea, will arrive in Seoul on July 10 to begin his term, the U.S. Embassy here said. “The entire team at the U.S. Mission to Republic of Korea looks forward to welcoming Ambassador-designate Philip Goldberg to Seoul on July 10th,” the embassy said on its Twitter page. (https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20220625000900325) Goldberg will fill the vacancy left by his predecessor, Harry Harris, since January 2021, when U.S. President Joe Biden took office. The career diplomat previously served as ambassador to Colombia and worked as a coordinator for the implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea from 2009-2010.

Newsline: India reopens Embassy in Kabul

In a major step towards re-establishing its presence in Afghanistan, India sent a “technical team” of officials to be based in Kabul, reopening its Embassy. India also sent its first consignment of earthquake relief assistance to Afghanistan, where more than 1,000 Afghans have been killed in an earthquake outside the city of Khost. (https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-reopens-embassy-in-kabul/article65558557.ece) The move to reopen the embassy, that comes more than ten months after the government shut down the Indian embassy, and pulled out all Indian personnel after the Ghani government fell, marks a reversal of the government’s policy on engaging the Taliban, and comes a few weeks after a team headed by senior MEA official J.P. Singh travelled to Kabul to meet with the Taliban-appointed acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mottaqi and acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, and received specific assurances on security for the deployment. The Indian embassy will become the 15th mission to be open in Kabul with staff deployed there under the Taliban regime, along with Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, European Union and four Central Asian states. The U.S. has delegated its diplomatic functions to the Qatari embassy there.

Newsline: Some US diplomats to receive six-figure payouts after suffering ‘Havana syndrome’

Some US diplomats and intelligence officers will receive six-figure payouts after suffering from Havana syndrome, the mysterious health issues that include headaches, vision issues, dizziness, and brain fog. The payments will be between $100,000 to $200,000 to each recipient, according to The Washington Post. (https://news.yahoo.com/us-diplomats-intelligence-officers-receive-201955482.html) The financial compensation scheme comes after an effort lasting years by members of Congress. The legislature passed a law last autumn mandating that the State Department and the CIA compensate both current and former officials who are victims of what the US government refers to as Anomalous Health Incidents (AHI). The US remains unsure what is behind the syndrome despite the issue having been investigated for six years. The issues were first reported by US diplomats and intelligence officers working in the Cuban capital but they have since been reported on all continents except for Antarctica. The payments will be provided to those who have been found to have experienced major setbacks because of the syndrome, including job loss and their career being thrown off course. Officials told The Post that the payment scheme hasn’t been finalized and could be changed when the State Department conducts its final review.