New Zealand’s top diplomat in the UK has had a private audience with Queen Elizabeth II to mark her appointment to the role.
Bede Corry recently took office as New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and yesterday met the British monarch on a video call.
It comes days after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also revealed that she had received a phone call from Her Excellency, who was checking in to check-in to see how New Zealand was doing and wishing everyone a “pleasant break”.
Arden said in an Instagram post, the Queen shared memories from her time when she once visited New Zealand during the holiday season.
Corry’s audience seemed more formal.
“Today I am given the immense privilege of having a Private Hearing with Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand,” Corry wrote on Twitter.
“I am proud to wear the Ngāi Tahu Korowai to mark this event with a graceful gift from Your Excellency @RoyalFamily.”
The Royal Family also issued a statement at the meeting.
“Mr Bede Corry was received by the Queen via video link this afternoon following his appointment as High Commissioner for New Zealand in London.”
Today I have been granted the privilege of having a Private Hearing with Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand. I am proud to wear the Ngāi Tahu Korowai to mark this gracefully gifted occasion by His Holiness @Royal Familypic.twitter.com/hgwEx043dw
France and Germany have welcomed the creation of two new crossing points on the line of contact. This increases the number of intersection points along approx. 450km length of the seventh contact line. As such, Ukraine complies with the obligations agreed upon by Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany in the conclusion of the Normandy-format summit held in Paris on 9 December 2019. Therefore, Ukraine has taken steps to improve remote conditions at the crossing points before winter arrives. in and to alleviate the suffering of the people in eastern Ukraine. We welcome the support of the European Union in providing infrastructure at the new crossing points at Zolote and Shchastya.
We pay tribute to the involvement of Ambassador Heidi Grau, Special Representative of the Chair of the OSCE in the Trilateral Contact Group, and Ambassador Toni Frisch, Coordinator of the Humanitarian Working Group, in pushing for this Opening.
We call on Russia and the separatists to reopen all existing crossing points on the line of contact in the Donetsk region without delay. Thousands of people seeking to see doctors, withdraw pensions or visit relatives are currently barred from crossing the line of contact. Conflict must not be allowed to continue at the expense of the population, and divisions must not be allowed to widen.
Despite an agreement in the Trilateral Contact Group, the separatists have not fulfilled their obligation to allow the opening of the crossing points at Zolote and Shchastya on November 10 as agreed. We call on Russia to use its influence to ensure that this agreement is implemented. As a member of the Trilateral Contact Group, Russia is also in direct negotiations with Ukraine and bears responsibility for the successful implementation of the conclusions of the Paris Summit.
France and Germany remain committed to fully implementing the agreement reached at the 9 December 2019 Summit.
The Lancaster House Treaties, signed on November 2, 2010, is the cornerstone of a solid defense and security partnership between our two countries. This defense cooperation is based on shared interests and a common determination to defend the international order and multilateralism based on democratic and universal values. It rests on a shared vision and longstanding strategic closeness.
As we mark the 10th anniversary of the Agreement, France fully intends to pursue structuring bilateral defense cooperation in all areas over the coming years: operational, capability, industrial and nuclear. This cooperation will continue on the basis of close dialogue on all issues related to international defense and security, to consolidate the privileged defense relationship it has developed with Great Britain, and to maintain a high level of ambition in the years to come.
The domain of French-English cooperation
Over the past 10 years, thanks to the Lancaster House Agreement, Franco-British cooperation has been strengthened especially in the operational and nuclear fields as well as in terms of military capabilities.
Regarding its operations, the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) is declared fully operational this year. The CJEF is a binational force that counts up to 10,000 troops, can be deployed in a short time and is capable of conducting high-intensity operations. France and England are also working together on the field. Our two countries are working together on the battlefield, in the Sahel on Operation Barkhane and in the Levant. They also participate in NATO operations on the continent of Europe (Advanced Presence in the Baltic countries, Baltic Air Policing missions).
In terms of military capability, the Franco-British arms cooperation has been structured in the missile field around the sharing of information relating to research and needs, to identify the axes of our future cooperation and to streamline costs. The joint Future Cruise and Anti-Ship Weapon (FC / ASW) project is at the heart of our shared priority and could enter the assessment phase as early as 2021. The joint Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) project has also made significant progress since 2015.
The Franco-British nuclear cooperation as outlined in the Lancaster House Treaties was drawn up primarily by the Teutates Treaty, which aims to share radiographic facilities related to the prevention programs of the two countries and which will continue in the coming years.
Read the joint interview by French Ambassador to London Catherine Colonna and British Ambassador to Paris Ed Llewellyn, first published in la Revue de la Défense nationale on November 2, 2020.
British Deputy High Commissioner in Karachi Mike Nithavrianakis asked Karachi Commissioner Muhammad Sohail Rajput in his office to discuss various ongoing projects in Sindh under a public-private partnership.
Khalid Mehmood Sheikh, director general of the public-private partnership unit was also present at the occasion. He gave a detailed presentation on the progress of the unit in Sindh. Visiting officials were informed about projects in health, education and infrastructure implemented under the public-private partnership mode.
According to a statement issued by the Office of the Commissioner, future mega projects with private sector assistance include the 39.75 kilometer Malir Toll Road project, the Water Transport Project to supply 45 cusec water to an independent power producer (IPP) in Thar. Block I and the SITE wastewater treatment plant, which were discussed in detail at the meeting.
The commissioner said the Sindh government was aware of the water problems faced by the Karachi people and ongoing major interventions were being made to resolve them. He added that currently the Asian Development Bank is providing assistance to the public-private partnership unit for processing 360 million gallons of wastewater per day, while the International Finance Corporation provides consulting services for the Hub Canal improvement transactions.
Nithavrianakis praised the Sindh government’s efforts to attract private investment through a strong framework and congratulated the director general on achieving the status of the sixth best public-private partnership unit in Asia, as stated by The Economist – a world leading journal.
The British diplomat stated that the British Government, as a pioneer in private finance initiatives (PFI), is fully committed to working together in the area of public-private partnerships.
He stressed that Pakistan could also benefit from UK Export Financing (UKEF), the UK’s export agency, to support various international projects which could further increase trade between the two countries.
Tensions between the two biggest economies in the world have increased again this week after the United States ordered the closure of the Chinese embassy in Houston, accusing it of being a den of Chinese spies trying to steal data from facilities in Texas.
Experts and former diplomats say all diplomatic missions gather intelligence, and countries often “turn a blind eye”
US officials said the Houston consulate’s activities crossed what was acceptable
Houston is an information center for aerospace and pharmaceutical research facilities
In retaliation, China then ordered the United States to close its consulate in Chengdu, accusing its staff of meddling in its internal affairs.
But espionage experts say intelligence gathering is an important part of what diplomatic missions do, and that often includes not only legal means but also the use of spies to gather “confidential information”.
“They did it, we did it. We only hope to catch them, and hope they don’t arrest us,” said Anthony Glees, an internationally published security and intelligence expert and political professor at Buckingham University.
To some extent, countries choose to “turn a blind eye” to many of these activities because “it is in their mutual interest to do so,” Professor Glees told ABC.
Most of a secret revealed by Edward Snowden in 2014 included detailed information about how the US used its own diplomatic mission to spy on countries around the world, but as a result no US consulate was closed.
But this accepted spy culture does have boundaries, and crossing that line, though rarely, can lead to diplomatic expulsion.
Here we see examples of the past, and why the Houston Chinese consulate – one of five Chinese consulates in the US, along with the embassy in Washington DC – was chosen.
Senior US officials said that espionage activities by Chinese diplomatic missions took place throughout the country, but their activities outside the Houston consulate went far above what was acceptable.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the consulate “a center of spying and theft of intellectual property”, an accusation which China denies “malicious slander”.
A senior State Department official also linked espionage activities from the consulate to China’s pursuit of vaccine research for the new coronavirus.
Professor Glees said Houston is currently an information center because of its aerospace and pharmaceutical research facilities, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I would not doubt that the Chinese in Houston are improving intelligence. This is one of the few Chinese consulates, but – in terms of cutting edge research – it might be the best place to be,” he told ABC.
But Professor Glees then asked two important questions.
“Is China trying to do this secretly and therefore breaking the law? People would think it is, but it doesn’t have to be,” he said.
“Do the US, Britain and Australia do the same thing? Of course.”
China’s retaliatory efforts to close the US consulate in Chengdu may also be a choice based on strategic location.
“That’s where the US collects information about Tibet and the development of Chinese strategic weapons in neighboring areas,” said Wu Xinbo, a professor and expert on American studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.
Has the embassy ever been closed?
Closing of embassies amid espionage allegations is rare, but diplomats accused of spying have been driven out in the past.
Russia responded by expelling 23 British diplomats and ordered the closure of the British consulate in St. Petersburg and the office of the British Council in Moscow.
At the height of the Cold War, Britain expelled 25 Soviet diplomats after the defection of Oleg Gordievsky, the former head of KGB operations in London, who had appointed KGB personnel operating at the Soviet embassy in London.
In Canberra, the Soviet embassy was closed in 1954 when an intelligence officer based in the capital defected, offering to provide information about Soviet espionage activities against Australia and west. The Embassy reopened in 1959.
A mysterious burglary
While the expulsion of diplomats and, more than that, the closure of the embassy rarely happens outside the war, Professor Glees said being forced into the consulates of other countries was “absolutely not possible”.
But shortly after the Houston consulate closed, a group of men who appeared to be American officials were seen forcing open the back door of the building.
After the people entered, two uniformed members from the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Bureau arrived to guard the door.
China condemns the breach by saying it violates the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the China-US consular agreement.
“But they will just get away with it because Trump is ready to be reelected and going to China now makes sense politically even if there is no specific reason, to be honest.”
‘Legal spies’ and illegal operators
Professor Glees said consular staff who were officially registered and known as hosts could operate as “legal spies”, but they were required by law to comply with certain rules.
This intelligence meeting, whether confidential or open, can be held in many ways such as through meetings, conferences and visiting universities, businesses or research centers.
“Then you have ‘illegal’ – officers and agents who are not listed in the embassy’s name list … assuming your identity or just using the excuse to be in the recipient country to conduct espionage on his part,” he said.
But even “legal spies” are sometimes involved in illegal espionage, most often by recruiting agents to act on their behalf.
He said while Chinese diplomats were gathering information openly “to avoid being accused of engaging in secret intelligence work “, they might also provide primary assistance for covert operations.
“But most operations are run independently by various [government] department, “he told ABC, adding that in many cases Chinese state-run companies could provide safer homes.
Mr Chen said most of the infiltration could be done more effectively through migration – especially skilled workers and experts.
Instead of using embassies or consulates, they can communicate directly with Chinese officials or meet in a third country, making this operation very difficult to detect.
The most common diplomats work to create connections and place students and experts in the main research department to openly obtain information about new technologies and developments that can then be used by China, he said, adding that such activities are very broad in Australia where his response to theft of intellectual property has been “weak”.
Instead, the Trump administration has taken a hard line against China in trade and politics.
What might happen next?
Issues ranging from trade to the coronavirus pandemic, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its crackdown on Hong Kong, have plunged relations between Washington and Beijing to what experts say is the lowest level in decades.
Following a burglary on the now closed Houston site, China has threatened to cause a reaction, and the White House has not ruled out the possibility of closing more embassies.
While in a related incident, a researcher who fled to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco after allegedly lying to investigators about his Chinese military service was also arrested by US officials.
“As far as closing additional embassies, it’s always possible,” US President Donald Trump told reporters earlier this week.
But Chen said while the US appeared to distance itself from China, further responses from Beijing were likely to be held back.
“China benefits broadly from globalization,” he said.
“China’s economy relies on international trade and shared technology and they don’t want to risk breaking up with the US or Australia.”