UAE Opens Israel Embassy After Normalisation Deal

Israeli President Isaac Herzog (3rd R) and Emirati Ambassador to Israel Mohamed al-Khaja (2nd R) pose at the new UAE embassy in Tel Aviv on July 14, 2021. – The United Arab Emirates opened its embassy in Israel, housed in Tel Aviv’s new stock exchange building, in the latest step solidifying ties after a US-brokered normalisation deal last year. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

 

The United Arab Emirates opened an embassy in Israel Wednesday, housed in Tel Aviv’s new stock exchange building, in the latest normalisation move under a deal brokered by Washington last year.

The venue in the heart of Israel’s financial district highlighted the central role economic cooperation has played since the UAE became only the third majority-Arab country to recognise the Jewish state.

At the ceremony, attended by new Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Emirati ambassador Mohamed al-Khaja called the embassy opening “an important milestone in the growing relationship between our two countries”.

“The UAE and Israel are both innovative nations, we can harness this creativity to work towards a more prosperous and sustainable future for our countries and our region,” he said.

Herzog called for the “historic agreement” with the UAE to be “extended to other nations seeking peace with Israel.”

Israel and the UAE have signed a raft of deals — ranging from tourism to aviation to financial services — since normalising ties as part of the so-called Abraham Accords brokered by former US president Donald Trump’s administration.

Wednesday’s ceremony, held in the lobby of the stock exchange building two floors below the embassy, came after Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid made a landmark visit to the UAE last month, opening an embassy in Abu Dhabi and a consulate in Dubai.

The Palestinians were outraged by the UAE’s decision to establish ties with Israel, which broke with decades of Arab consensus that there should be no normalisation of ties without a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Following the UAE deal, Israel normalised relations with Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, accords that also sparked Palestinian protests.

But Israel and UAE have sought to emphasise the economic dividend offered by normalisation.

Lapid told Emirati media last month that bilateral trade has reached over $675.22 million since the signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020.

Israel’s spate of normalisation deals were agreed under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lapid was an architect of the coalition that ousted Netanyahu last month, but has, along with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, vowed to keep up Netanyahu’s policy of pursuing deeper ties in the Arab world.

AFP

Kosovo Establishes Israel Ties, To Open Embassy In Jerusalem

Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi gives a statement during a ceremony held over Zoom with his counterpart from Kosovo marking the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and Kosovo, at the Israeli Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem on February 1, 2021. (Photo by menahem kahana / AFP)

 

Israel and Kosovo established diplomatic ties on Monday, with the Muslim-majority territory recognising Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital, putting it at odds with the rest of the Islamic world.

Israel has since August established ties with a four Arab states under a series of deals brokered by former US president Donald Trump, collectively known as the Abraham Accords.

But the majority-Muslim parties to those accords — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — have all said their diplomatic missions will be in Tel Aviv, in line with global consensus against recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital until the Palestinian conflict is resolved.

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In exchange for setting up its mission in Jerusalem, Kosovo gets recognition from Israel, as it seeks to further legitimise its 2008 declaration of independence from its former war foe Serbia.

Because of coronavirus restrictions, officials on Monday signed joint declarations separately in Jerusalem and Pristina.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said the ceremony marked “the first time in history that diplomatic relationship are being established over Zoom”.

He added he had approved Kosovo’s “formal request to open an embassy in Jerusalem”.

– ‘Historical bond’ –

Kosovo’s top diplomat, Meliza Haradinaj-Stublla, thanked Israel for becoming the 117th country to recognise its independence, joining much of the Western world.

China, Russia and five European Union members have not granted recognition to Kosovo.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (L), mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, signs a joint declaration establishing ties with Kosovo during an official ceremony held over Zoom with his counterpart from Kosovo Meliza Haradinaj Stublla (screen), at the Israeli Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem on February 1, 2021. – Israel and Kosovo established diplomatic ties on February 1, with the Muslim-majority territory recognising Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital, putting it at odds with the rest of the Islamic world. (Photo by menahem kahana / AFP)

“Kosovo has waited for a very long time to establish diplomatic relations with Israel,” Haradinaj-Stublla said.

“We mark a new chapter in the historical bond between our two countries who have witnessed a long and challenging path to existing as a people and to becoming states,” she added.

Haradinaj-Stublla also thanked Trump, who announced in December 2017 that Washington would move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.

Trump’s successor, President Joe Biden, has said he does not intend to reverse the move.

But Biden’s presidential campaign indicated his administration would seek to reopen a mission in east Jerusalem to engage the Palestinians, who consider the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state.

– Serbia reaction –

In September, Trump announced at a summit originally organised to strike a deal between Kosovo and Serbia that Kosovo and the Jewish state would establish diplomatic ties.

But the most standout part of the summit was an announcement by Kosovo that it would mutually recognise Israel, and Serbia saying it would follow Washington’s lead in moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

So far, however, Serbia has failed to honour its pledge, with some officials claiming the deal was non-binding.

Ashkenazi said Israel was committed to working towards a “stable Balkans”, but Monday’s ceremony could have diplomatic consequences.

Briefing journalists this week, the head of the Balkans division at Israel’s foreign ministry, Dan Oryan, said recognition of Kosovo causes the Serbs significant “pain”.

In one of Europe’s most intractable disputes, Serbia has refused to recognise Kosovo’s declaration of independence since the province broke away in the bloody 1998-99 war that was ended only by a NATO bombing campaign against Serb troops.

More than 13,000 people died in the war, mostly Kosovo Albanians, who form a majority in the former province.

The two sides have been in EU-led talks for a decade to normalise their relationship, but little progress has been made.

EU Warns Serbia Over Jerusalem Embassy Move

European Union, Ogbonnaya Onu, Science and technology

 

 

The EU voiced “serious concern and regret” on Monday over Belgrade’s commitment to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, casting a shadow over the resumption of Serbia-Kosovo talks.

President Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti are to meet in Brussels for a second round of EU-brokered face-to-face talks to resolve disputes two decades after clashing in war.

The meeting follows a high-profile summit at the White House where Vucic and Hoti signed statements agreeing to measures to improve economic relations — and in Serbia’s case, committing to moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The EU is still committed to the so-called “two state solution” in which Jerusalem will be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state, and its own diplomatic mission is in Tel Aviv.

The bloc expects prospective members like Serbia to align with its foreign policy positions.

“In this context any diplomatic steps that could call into question the EU’s common position on Jerusalem are a matter of serious concern and regret,” EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano told reporters in Brussels.

Breaking with longstanding diplomatic practice, President Donald Trump’s administration in December 2017 recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy to the city.

– Long-running dispute

Washington touted the agreements signed by Vucic and Hoti on Friday as a major breakthrough, but on Monday the two leaders issued a joint statement giving a far more cautious read.

“The recently agreed documents in Washington DC, building on previous dialogue-related commitments undertaken by the two parties, could provide a useful contribution to reaching a comprehensive, legally binding agreement on normalisation of relations,” the statement said.

In one of Europe’s most intractable disputes, Serbia has refused to recognise Kosovo’s declaration of independence since the province broke away in the bloody 1998-99 war that was ended only by a NATO bombing campaign against Serb troops.

Both Kosovo and Serbia are facing mounting pressure from the West to resolve the impasse which is seen as crucial to either side joining the EU.

More than 13,000 people died in the war, mostly Kosovo Albanians, who form a majority in the former province.

One key question is diplomatic recognition for Kosovo — five of the EU’s 27 countries do not acknowledge its independence.

The two sides have been in EU-led talks for a decade to normalise their relationship, but little progress has been made, with a raft of agreements concluded in 2013 yet to be fully implemented, and the previous round of negotiations broke down in 2018 after a series of diplomatic tit-for-tats.

Vucic and Hoti resumed face-to-face talks in Brussels in July but the effort got off to a frosty start, with the Serbian leader accusing Pristina of trying to “blackmail” Belgrade.

EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell, who is hosting the Brussels talks along with the EU’s special representative Miroslav Lajcak, said Monday’s meeting would focus on “non-majority communities and the settlement of mutual financial claims on property”.

“Both topics are very sensitive and very important for the future relationship between Kosovo and Serbia and for the everyday life of their people,” Borrell said.

AFP

Britain Closes Embassy In North Korea, Evacuates Diplomats

Britain Flag

 

Britain has shuttered its embassy in North Korea and all its diplomats have left the country, its ambassador said Thursday as Pyongyang maintains strict entry controls to try to prevent a coronavirus outbreak.

The North has closed its borders and insists it has not had a single case of the virus that emerged in neighbouring China late last year and has since swept the world.

The closure was a temporary move and came because Pyongyang’s “restrictions on entry to the country have made it impossible to rotate our staff and sustain the operation of the Embassy”, a Foreign Office spokesperson said.

Ambassador Colin Crooks tweeted: “The #BritishEmbassy in #Pyongyang closed temporarily on 27 May 2020 and all diplomatic staff have left the #DPRK for the time being.”

The Swedish embassy — which remains open — replied that they would miss him and his team “and hope they can return soon”.

The specialist news site NK News said the British diplomats crossed the border into China overland on Wednesday.

Britain intends to maintain diplomatic relations with the North “and will seek to re-establish our presence in Pyongyang as soon as it is possible to do so”, the Foreign Office said.

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Early in the outbreak, Pyongyang imposed tight quarantine restrictions on all resident foreigners, including a virtual lockdown in their own premises that Russian ambassador Alexander Matsegora described as “morally crushing”.

Those rules were later eased and dozens of diplomats and other foreigners were allowed to leave the country in March, when several missions in Pyongyang closed, among them the German embassy and France’s representative office — Paris does not maintain full diplomatic relations with the North.

Hundreds of foreigners remain in the country.

Analysts say that the North is unlikely to have avoided infections, and that its ramshackle health system could struggle to cope with a major outbreak.

AFP

Tunisia Arrests Five Over Attack Near US Embassy

Tunisia’s flag/AFP

 

Five people have been arrested in Tunisia over a double suicide attack that killed a police officer near the US embassy in Tunis last week, the prosecution said Tuesday.

Two suicide bombers struck outside the embassy on Friday, wounding six other people and again shaking a city repeatedly hit by jihadist violence.

The five detainees were arrested on Saturday and are being held at a police station in the capital’s El Gorjani district specialising in anti-terrorism investigations, spokesman Sofiene Sliti told AFP.

Tunisian media have reported that the two suicide bombers were men from Tunis who had served their sentences after being found guilty on terror charges in 2014.

The attack on Friday at midday rocked the Berges du Lac district hosting the highly fortified embassy, causing panic among pedestrians and motorists.

A video shared later on social media shows two men in sports clothes and with caps on their heads riding a scooter up to a police van then pausing for a few seconds before an explosion.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack and authorities have not announced any other advances in their investigations.

Tunisia has been hit by multiple jihadist attacks since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

A string of deadly attacks in 2015 killed dozens of foreign tourists and security personnel.

An attack that year that killed 12 presidential guards prompted authorities to announce a state of emergency that has remained in place ever since.

AFP

Netanyahu Asks Uganda To Open Jerusalem Embassy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech in Jerusalem on October 10, 2019.
GALI TIBBON / AFP

 

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday held talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and called for the opening of missions in each others’ countries, during a visit aimed at boosting ties.

Netanyahu last visited Uganda in July 2016 to mark the 40th anniversary of a hostage rescue at Entebbe airport, in which his brother Yonatan died.

“There are two things we very much want to achieve… one is direct flights from Israel to Uganda,” Netanyahu told Museveni at a joint press conference.

“And second… you open an embassy in Jerusalem, I’ll open an embassy in Kampala,” he added.

“We are studying that,” Museveni replied.

Traditionally, most diplomatic missions in Israel have been in Tel Aviv as countries maintained a neutral stance over the status of Jerusalem.

But US President Donald Trump shocked the world in December 2017 by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and shifting the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to that city.

In recent years, Israel has boosted its links with African nations, improving ties following a difficult period when many post-independence African leaders sided with Israel’s Arab rivals and viewed Israel’s support for apartheid, South Africa, with intense suspicion.

Israel now has diplomatic relations with 39 of 47 sub-Saharan African states.

Netanyahu is on his fifth visit to Africa in less than four years. The continent is a lucrative market for defence equipment and the agriculture sector.

As Israeli expertise in military and agricultural technology has developed, the opportunity for trade with Africa has grown.

AFP

South Africa Shuts Embassy In Nigeria For Fear Of Attack

South African Embassy deserted for fear of attack. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun

 

South African High Commission in Nigeria has shut down its offices and consulate for fear of attack.

The country’s acting High Commissioner, Ambassador Bobby Moroe says he has directed the Mission to suspend all consular activities until further notice.

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Officials of the commission confirmed to Channels Television that none of its officials has left the country except for those on leave.

Counter-Terror Police Arrest Man Suspected Of Plotting Attack On US Embassy

The US Embassy in Brussels, Belgium.

 

Belgian counter-terror police have arrested a man suspected of plotting an attack against the US embassy in Brussels, federal prosecutors said Monday.

The police on Saturday arrested the man following “converging signs raising fears of an attack against the US embassy,” the prosecutor’s office said.

“The suspect has been detained for an alleged attempted attack within a terrorist context and preparation of a terrorist offence,” it said in a statement.

The man identified only as M.G. appeared Monday morning before an investigating judge who ordered him held, it added.

The suspect denies any involvement in the alleged plot.

A source close to the investigation told AFP the suspect is a Belgian man around 40 years old and a convert to Islam who had “raised suspicion because of his behaviour”.

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He had been seen “scouting” the embassy area before he was arrested, the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source declined to say whether the suspect fit the profile of a jihadist.

A spokesman for the US embassy said, “We have no comment at this time.”

Jihadists have staged a number of attacks in Brussels, which hosts the headquarters of the European Union and NATO.

The worst was on March 22, 2016, when suicide bombers killed 32 people and wounded hundreds of others at Brussels airport and a metro station near EU buildings.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the twin attacks.

Previous attacks in Belgium

Since 2016, several other attacks, some of them also claimed by IS, have targeted Belgian police or soldiers.

The last “terrorist attack” occurred in the eastern city of Liege on May 29 last year when Benjamin Herman shot dead two women police officers and a student.

He shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) before being shot dead by the police.

Since the end of January 2018, the terror alert level in Belgium has been set at two, which means an attack is considered unlikely, the same as it was before January 2015.

A level three alert — indicating an attack is possible and likely — was set later in January 2015 after police smashed a jihadist cell in the eastern city of Verviers.

That Belgian police raid occurred a week after attacks against the Charlie Hebdo magazine and Jewish supermarket in Paris.

The level four alert — which means a serious and imminent threat of attack — has been put in place twice but for limited duration.

It was imposed for the first time for a week in the wake of the November 13, 2015, attacks in Paris which claimed the lives of 130 people and wounded hundreds of others.

It was then raised from three to four in the days after the March 2016 attacks.

Police say they believe the same cell was behind both the French and Belgium attacks.

AFP

US Orders Non-Emergency Embassy Staff To Leave Venezuela

US Secretary of State, Mr Mike Pompeo

 

The United States on Thursday ordered non-emergency embassy staff to leave Venezuela but stopped short of complying with a full expulsion ordered by Nicolas Maduro, who Washington says is no longer president.

 

Amid deadly political clashes in the crisis-torn country, the State Department said that US citizens “should strongly consider departing Venezuela.”

Maduro on Wednesday gave US diplomats 72 hours to leave the country after President Donald Trump, backed by major Latin American nations, said the leftist firebrand was no longer Venezuela’s legitimate president.

The United States said it was ignoring the order as it did not believe Maduro was still president and instead recognized as interim leader Juan Guaido, the opposition head of the National Assembly.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview Thursday that Maduro — to whom the military leadership is still loyal — bore responsibility for the safety of US diplomats.

“There’s no higher priority for the State Department than to keep all the people in our missions safe and secure. And we’ve made clear to the Maduro regime that it is our expectation that they will be safe and secure,” he told conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham.

“What we want to make sure that former president Maduro knows is that he doesn’t have the right to make the decision about whether or not we stay there,” Pompeo said.

State Department officials have not answered questions on how many US personnel remain in Venezuela.

Maduro has also shuttered US missions in the United States.

 

AFP

Maduro Announces Closure Of Venezuela Embassy In US

Entrance to the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC/ AFP

 

President Nicolas Maduro announced on Thursday the closure of Venezuela’s embassy and consulates in the United States having broken off diplomatic ties with President Donald Trump’s government the day before.

Maduro made the call during a special session at the Supreme Court in which he accused the US of pushing opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself Venezuela’s acting president on Wednesday, into attempting a coup d’etat.

AFP

US Closes Embassy In Nigeria Indefinitely Over Government Shutdown

US Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington

 

The United States Embassy in Nigeria has announced its decision to shut down operations indefinitely.

In a Facebook post on Monday, the embassy blamed the development on the government shutdown in the US.

“Due to the current U.S. government shutdown, the American Centers located in the Embassy, Abuja and Consulate General, Lagos are unfortunately closed. They will re-open once the U.S. government shutdown is resolved. Sorry for any inconvenience to our valued patrons,” the statement read.

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The implication would mean that thousands of Nigerians will miss their visa appointments following the incident.

Also, persons who have applied for tourist, study, business visas, immigrant visas or any other travel document will have to cancel their plans.

The embassy charges N57, 600 in visa fees which is non-refundable. However, it was not clear whether any concessions would be made to applicants since the development was no fault of theirs.

President Donald Trump and the legislative arm have been at loggerheads for nearly two months over his decision to build a wall along the Mexican border.

Building a wall was one of Trump’s major campaign promises as part of efforts to curb illegal migration and crime.

He had boasted during his campaign that the Mexican government would pay for the wall.

But the Democrat members in Congress have, however, rejected Trump’s proposal.

UAE To Resume Diplomatic Service In Damascus After Seven Years

File photo of damaged buildings in Damascus

 

The United Arab Emirates to resume diplomatic service in Damascus embassy on Thursday, an official said, seven years after it severed ties with Syria over the violent repression that triggered the war.

An official at the information ministry invited journalists “to cover the reopening of the Emirati embassy in Damascus today”.

The move is seen as another step in efforts to bring the regime of President Bashar al-Assad back into the Arab fold after years of diplomatic isolation.

A visit to Damascus by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir earlier this month had been interpreted by some observers as a sign of that trend.

Rumors of the Emirati embassy reopening have circulated in recent days as renovation work was spotted getting underway at the building.

The UAE broke ties with Syria in February 2012, as the repression of nationwide protests demanding regime change was escalating into a war which has now killed more than 360,000 people.

AFP