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”.

READ ALSO: Iran Rejects Dialogue With US After Fresh Sanctions

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

Palestinians Slam ‘Provocative’ Brazil Embassy Move To Jerusalem

A picture taken on October 28, 2018, shows the Israeli and Brazilian flags hanging outside the building housing the offices of the Brazilian Embassy, in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. Brazil’s far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro declared that he will move the embassy to Jerusalem if he is elected. JACK GUEZ / AFP

 

A senior Palestinian official on Friday condemned Brazilian far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s announcement that he would move his country’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem.

“These are provocative and illegal steps that will only destabilise security and stability in the region,” Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, told AFP.

The United States moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, sparking fury among Palestinians, who consider the Israeli-annexed eastern part of the city the capital of their future state.

“It is very unfortunate that Brazil has joined this negative alliance against international law,” Ashrawi said.

On Thursday Bolsonaro tweeted that “as previously stated during our campaign, we intend to transfer the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

“Israel is a sovereign state and we shall duly respect that,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the move as “historic”.

Only the United States and Guatemala currently have their embassies in Jerusalem, while other countries have theirs in Tel Aviv.

Israel occupied Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

It sees the entire city as its capital.

For decades the international community maintained that the city’s status should be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.

AFP

Brazil Will Move Its Embassy In Israel To Jerusalem – Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro gestures to supporters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on October 28, 2018. 
MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP

 

Brazil will move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday, making the Latin American giant the largest country after the United States to make the controversial switch.

“As previously stated during our campaign, we intend to transfer the Brazilian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel is a sovereign state and we shall duly respect that,” Bolsonaro tweeted, a move that will defy Palestinians and most of the world.

In interviews, Bolsonaro said Israel should have the right to decide where its capital is located, just as Brazil moved its capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia in 1960.

Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, with international consensus being that the status of the whole city must be negotiated between the two sides.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.

In December, President Donald Trump reversed longstanding US policy and recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.

The embassy was officially transferred on May 14. Guatemala and Paraguay followed suit, though the latter announced last month it would return its embassy to Tel Aviv.

Bolsonaro, 63, who won a run-off election on Sunday, has outraged many with his overtly misogynistic, homophobic and racist rhetoric.

Following his victory, Netanyahu told Bolsonaro he was certain his election “will lead to a great friendship between our peoples and the tightening of links between Brazil and Israel.”

An official in Netanyahu’s office told AFP the Israeli premier was “very likely” to attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration ceremony in January.

Bolsonaro meanwhile plans to make Israel one of his first foreign trips as president, along with the United States and Chile — countries that “share our worldview,” according to the president-elect’s future for chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni.

AFP

Paraguay Moves Embassy To Jerusalem After US, Guatemala

FILE PHOTO Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales (C) speaking to the press after holding a meeting with the US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (L). Johan ORDONEZ / AFP

 

Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes inaugurated his country’s Israel embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, making it the third nation to make the deeply controversial move after the United States and Guatemala.

Cartes and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the inauguration of the new embassy in a Jerusalem office park.

The Paraguayan leader called it a “historic event”.

“This act has profound significance in the sense that it expresses Paraguay‘s sincere friendship and full solidarity with Israel,” he said.

Netanyahu said cooperation between the two countries would become “greater,” naming areas such as agriculture, security and technology.

The South American nation of some seven million people follows in the footsteps of the United States, which broke with decades of international consensus when it declared Jerusalem Israel’s capital in December.

Washington followed up on the declaration by moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14.

The US embassy opening was accompanied by mass protests and clashes along the Gaza border that saw 62 Palestinians killed by Israeli gunfire.

Israel has sought to persuade other countries to follow the White House move, but so far only Paraguay and Guatemala have done so.

Guatemala opened its new embassy in the same Jerusalem office park as Paraguay‘s on May 16.

Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the thorniest issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

AFP