Brexit prompted opening of NZ embassy in Ireland

New Zealand has just opened an embassy in Ireland. This was prompted by Brexit.

Winston Peters:  New Zealand opens first embassy in Dublin

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters officially opened New Zealand’s first resident embassy in Ireland at a ceremony in Dublin today.

“Ireland and New Zealand are already close friends but our new diplomatic post will strengthen connections and further develop the relationship. As small island nations committed to democracy, the rule of law and free and open trade, we look forward to working well together,” said Mr Peters.

Today, Mr Peters met with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, and also visited the Irish National Stud and The Curragh to discuss racing industry issues. While in Dublin, he will also meet with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, and will deliver a speech at the Irish Institute of International and European Affairs.

“The embassy in Dublin will also foster New Zealand’s trading interests in Europe,” said Mr Peters.

“New Zealand has a lot at stake in its relations with Europe and people on the ground in Dublin makes sense as Europe’s architecture evolves, following the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU,” he said.

Trade between Ireland and New Zealand is growing. It was worth $509 million in the year to June 2018.

New Zealand’s first resident Ambassador to Ireland is Mr Brad Burgess.

Speech by Peters: Opening of New Zealand Embassy in Dublin, Ireland

This follows the opening of an Irish embassy in Wellington: Embassy of Ireland, New Zealand

And the appointment of an Irish ambassador to New Zealand in August: Ireland’s first Ambassador to New Zealand appointed (Newshub):

Ireland’s first Ambassador to New Zealand, Peter Ryan, has been appointed at a ceremony at Government House in Wellington.

“I am deeply honoured to have been given the privilege of representing Ireland as the first resident Ambassador to New Zealand. In taking up the role, I am conscious that we are indeed fortunate to enjoy special ties of kinship and history with New Zealand and with the many New Zealanders of Irish heritage,” Ambassador Ryan said in his speech.

“I am particularly mindful today of the rich contribution of generations of Irish women and men to the development of New Zealand, and their love of both countries.”

The opening of new Embassy in Wellington was first announced by Irish President Michael D. Higgins during his visit to New Zealand in late 2017.

So a new era in diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Ireland.

Nikki Haley resigns as US ambassador to UN

In what appears to be a shock announcement Nikki Haley has resigned as US ambassador to the UN. She has been seen as very competent at the UN, standing out amongst Trump appointments. She has also been suggest as a good future political candidate, including for the presidency, but she has emphatically said she won’t be standing in the 2020 election. (Is that because Trump has told her he wants to stand again?)

Gezza has been doing some middle of the night coverage.


Aljaz TV reporting:

US PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS ACCEPTED RESIGNATION OF UN AMBASSADOR NIKKI HALEY.

TRUMP SAYS SHE WILL LEAVE HER POST AT THE END OF THE YEAR.

New York Times: Nikki Haley Resigned as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

A lot of head-scratching about why she has resigned at this time, just before the mid-term elections. Reasons unclear. Trump’s apparently told her he hopes she returns to the administration & can have pretty much any job she likes. Doesn’t seem to be a disagreement with Trump ?

Showing Nikki speaking to press, sitting with Trump, in those yellow chairs now.

Doesn’t have any set plans. Reviewed all the US has achieved,including getting NATO pay more various other things Trump has pursued like Iran, making the US respected again – if not liked by everybody at least respected & is satisfied. Going out on a high.

She told the president earlier in the year maybe two years would be long enuf. Not leaving until the end of the year, plenty of time to hand over to next UN Ambassador. Thanks Mr President, it’s been an honour. No she’s not running for 2020. She’s campaigning for 2020 supporting the president.

Haley’s & Trump’s press conference.

(Nikki: Jared is a genius & Ivanka is a great friend they do a lot behind the scenes wishes more people knew about. 🙄 ? )

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le6eR5cSPsk

Interesting comments from Aljaz UN political editor. Word around the UN is that she is politically ambitious, very politically astute, gone along with Trump because his pro-Israel and other political positions match hers. Very well placed to run in the future as a Republican candidate for first woman President, should she choose to do so and should Trump not be in the running.


That last comment may be the key – ” should Trump not be in the running”. It could be a long political game by Haley.

Fox News:Haley abruptly steps down as UN ambassador in surprise decision, vows she won’t run in 2020

Haley called her time at the U.N. a “blessing,” but offered no reason for leaving other than a belief that government officials must know “when it’s time to step aside.”

Nikki Haley abruptly announced her resignation Tuesday as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, catching staff and lawmakers by surprise and leaving Washington guessing about the next move for one of the administration’s most prominent figures.
Speaking in the Oval Office alongside President Trump, who accepted the resignation, Haley said she would serve through the end of 2018. She preemptively sought to mute speculation she might run against her old boss, stressing that she will support Trump and will not campaign for the White House in 2020.
Haley called her time at the U.N. a “blessing,” but offered no reason for leaving other than a belief that government officials must know “when it’s time to step aside.”

Trump told reporters that Haley did “an incredible job” and is a “fantastic person.” He said she had told him six months ago that she wanted to take a break “maybe at the end of the year.”

Haley called her time at Turtle Bay the “honor of a lifetime” and said there was “nothing set on where I am going to go.” She also praised the work of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, particularly Kushner’s role in re-negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). She called Kushner a “hidden genius.”

“Now the U.S. is respected. Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do,” she said, citing a number of achievements of the Trump administration.

“The U.S. is strong again, it’s strong in a way that should make all Americans very proud,” she told reporters.

On why it’s time to leave, Haley said she’s a believer in term limits and believes it’s good to rotate new government officials in from time to time.

There may be a hidden reason, but sometimes people in high profile, demanding jobs just want to have a break from it.

Also from Fox:

Reuters: Trump’s U.N. envoy Haley quits, denies 2020 ambitions

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is resigning “to take a little time off,” President Trump said, as she became the latest in a long line of high-profile departures from the administration.

Haley, 46, is the latest in a long line of high-profile departures from the administration, such as former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was fired in March, and Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, who left in August 2017.

So interest will now turn to who Trump replaces her with at the UN. Was she signalling a role for Jared Kushner?

 

Groser ‘will not seek extension’ in Washington

Ex National MP and Foreign Minister Tim Groser was appointed as New Zealand’s ambassador in Washington in 2016, but he will be replaced next year.

Stuff:  NZ Ambassador to Trump’s Washington recalled

NZ’s ambassador to Washington DC is being pulled from the post, as the government begins a clean-out of less favoured diplomats.

Tim Groser will stay in the US until the end of the year, long enough to welcome Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and baby Neve to the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

Groser, a former trade minister criticised for his enjoyment of the good life at public expense, took up the Washington posting in 2016. Now, one source describes the Embassy, under his administration, as a “party palace”.

That is quite a diss of Groser. I wonder who the “one source” is. It could be fair criticism, but it sounds a bit like they are dumping on Groser to justify dumping him.

Sources indicated a new ambassador had already been selected from within the ranks of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and was merely awaiting official sign-off.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has made clear his disdain for political appointments to key foreign postings, calling out a “mainly white brorocracy.”

“Winston Peters is not enamoured with political appointments and has singled out Groser’s appointment as the reason why,” said one source. “His performance has been underwhelming. Winston has been sensitive about lopping people’s heads off, but Groser had a target on his back.”

‘One source’ again.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Groser’s term was up. “New Zealand Ambassador to the United States Hon Tim Groser will be leaving his position at the conclusion of his three-year appointment,” he said.

“The process to appoint a successor is underway and an announcement will be made in due course, as with all New Zealand Heads of Mission appointments.”

Now it’s a ‘spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ – career public servants tend to not like having ex politicians appointed to plum positions they may see as part of career paths they feel they have earned.

Peters didn’t like Groser being appointed to Washington, and the implication from this report is that he has significant say on “a clean-out of less favoured diplomats”.

Stuff (May 2016): Has Winston Peters scuppered David Carter’s chances of London High Commissioner post?

Behind-the-scenes jostling between National and NZ First may have dashed Speaker David Carter’s chances of a plum diplomatic post to London.

But it is understood NZ First is demanding that if in a position to get National across the line for a fourth term, then it would want Carter hauled back from the London posting should he have already gained it.

Carter didn’t get the job,. Jerry Mateparae was appointed New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

ODT (August 2016): Diplomatic posting for Williamson

Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced Williamson will be the Consul General in Los Angeles after Williamson announced in July he was not standing again in 2017.

Williamson, who has been an MP since 1987, follows in a long line of politicians appointed to diplomatic postings.

In recent years that has included former Speaker Sir Lockwood Smith to London, former Trade Minister Tim Groser to Washington and former Labour MP Shane Jones as a newly created Pacific Economic Ambassador.

NZ First leader Winston Peters has criticised the suitability of some appointments as a “broracracy” saying he would demand some were recalled if he was part of the Government after 2017.

Peters in April 2017: National looking after their mates – Winston Peters

Jobs for mates is a hallmark of the National government.

The latest to parachute into a sweet public position is former National MP Simon Upton.

But the person appointed to this role should be politically independent. Disappointingly neither the Labour Party nor the Greens adhered to this in backing the appointment of Mr Upton.

So it isn’t surprising that Groser is being recalled as Peters cleans out political appointments.


Except, here’s quite a different take on it:

New Zealand’s Ambassador to the United States Tim Groser himself asked to leave the position at the end of his three-year term, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has confirmed.

“Any suggestion he has been recalled by the minister or ministry is baseless,” Peters said in a statement.

“The New Zealand Ambassador to the United States, Hon Tim Groser, is leaving his position later this year at the expiry of his three-year term.

“He was appointed by the previous government and his contract was only ever for three years.

“Mr Groser himself asked to finish at the conclusion of his three-year term and did not seek any extension.”

Trade Minister David Parker also rubbished suggestions the failure to gain an exemption from tariffs was behind the end of Groser’s term.

“It’s not because of under-performance on trade. I can confirm that’s not the case because I’d know about that because I’m Trade Minister.

So the Stuff story was stuffed up.

Interesting then that Peters seems not to be on a mission to cancel all political appointments given past opposition to them.

US ambassador at odds with modern Netherlands

Pete Hoekstra, the Trump appointed US ambassador to the Netherlands, is getting some awkward publicity.

Image result for pete hoekstra ambassador appointed

Stuff:  Donald Trump’s new ambassador to the Netherlands caught lying about his own lies

A Dutch journalist has asked new US Ambassador Pete Hoekstra why he said there were “no go” areas in the Netherlands, where radical Muslims are setting cars and politicians on fire.

Hoekstra denied it, and called the claim “fake news”.

A standard Trumpian response.

The report cut to a video clip of Hoekstra at a 2015 conference hosted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center saying:

“The Islamic movement has now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos. Chaos in the Netherlands, there are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned.”

“And yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands”.

When the reporter pressed, Hoekstra denied using the term “fake news”, which he’d uttered moments before.

“I didn’t call that fake news,” he said. “I didn’t use the words today. I don’t think I did.”

The odds of Hoekstra being controversial were always high.

Though Hoekstra was born in the Netherlands, his family immigrated to Michigan when we was a toddler.

A bit ironic given:

He served as a Republican congressman for a decade-and-a-half, eventually chairing the US House Intelligence Committee.

In that time, he adopted several positions that are at odds with core Dutch values. Hoekstra is opposed to same-sex marriage and gay rights. In the US Congress, he voted repeatedly to limit women’s rights to abortion. He supports the death penalty, and has argued passionately that refugees are a threat to European security.

Hoekstra has given several talks at the anti-Islam American Freedom Alliance, which has also hosted Dutch far right leader Geert Wilders. In 2015, Hoekstra blamed a “secret jihad” for the “chaos” in the Netherlands.

So he was always going to be controversial as an ambassador.

After Trump announced Hoekstra’s appointment, Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant observed that Trump “put a Dutchman in the Netherlands – but it is a Dutchman from the Netherlands of the ’50s”.

Of the appointment, liberal politician Sophie in’t Veld said: “We are looking forward with interest to co-operating with Mr Hoekstra.

We will certainly remind him his roots lie in a country that values tolerance, equality and inclusion … we expect the representative of our friend and ally the United States to fully and wholly respect our values and to show that respect in all his acts and words.”

Hoekstra has apologised, sort of.

He only refers to “remarks in 2015” without qualification, defends being “passionate about confronting the global threat of terrorism”,  and “regret the exchange” shows more concern about being embarrassed, with a very lame apology tacked on.

It’s a Clayton’s ‘I’m sorry I got found out’ sort of non-apology.

The appointment of Hoekstra is another example of jobs for loyal supporters of Trump, which is at odds with the ‘drain the swamp’ goal, unless Trump meant ‘drain the swamp and refill it with my own lackeys.

Detroit Free Press: President Donald Trump nominates U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra to be Dutch ambassador

President Donald Trump on Monday evening nominated former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of west Michigan to be his ambassador to the Netherlands, selecting for the job to a key supporter in a state that helped elect Trump.

During the 2016 campaign, Hoekstra became a key surrogate for Trump and his outsider bid to become president, appearing on cable TV in support of him and introducing him at a large rally at the Freedom Hill Amphitheater in  Sterling Heights the weekend before the election last November.

In announcing Hoekstra’s nomination the White House praised him as “a prominent politician” and said he “continues to be active on public policy issues and in business affairs as a consultant, researcher, and writer.”

Hoekstra has a bit to learn about diplomacy.

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph:

“The administration made a wise decision by picking Pete, with his long-established Dutch roots and heritage,” He is exceptionally qualified and will make a tremendous ambassador. Pete’s always had a passion for public service and a way of connecting with people that will continue the fruitful relationship we’ve long-enjoyed with The Netherlands.”

His way of connecting with people in The Netherlands needs a bit of refinement.

Russian ambassador spoked to Sessions about campaign

The Russian doesn’t like going away for Donald Trump and his administration.

Reuters: Russian envoy overheard saying he discussed campaign with Sessions

Russia’s ambassador to Washington was overheard by U.S. spy agencies telling his bosses that he had discussed campaign-related matters, including issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing current and former U.S. officials.

A U.S. official confirmed to Reuters that Ambassador Sergei Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions, then a U.S. senator and key foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump, were intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was nothing automatically inappropriate about Sessions, then a U.S. senator as well as a Trump supporter, discussing policy matters or even Trump’s thinking about them with a foreign diplomat.

“The question is whether he crossed the line and discussed classified information or talked about deals like lifting sanctions if the Russians were interested in investing in the U.S. or had dirt on Secretary Clinton,” said a second official familiar with the intercepts, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. “His memory is another matter.”

Sessions at first failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

As Attorney General, he recused himself in March from matters connected to an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any connections to the Trump campaign following his admission that he had talked to the Russian envoy.

Sessions has denied discussing campaign issues with Russian officials and has said that he only met Kislyak in his role of U.S. senator.

The Post cited one U.S. official as saying that Sessions provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.”

The newspaper reported that a former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

A day or two ago:  Trump says he should not have picked Sessions as attorney general

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would not have appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation, according to a New York Times interview.

“Sessions should have never recused himself and if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” the Times quoted Trump as saying.

Not surprisingly this comment was strongly criticised. It is criticval the Attorney General be independent of the president, especially when investigating things related to the president. And when the Attorney General was also linked to aspects of any investigation they had no choice to recuse.

Ambassador: “Give Trump a fair go”

New US ambassador Scott Brown has asked new Zealanders to give Donald Trump a fair go.

RNZ:  NZ needs to give Trump a chance

Mr Brown is a former US Senator and served in the National Guard for 35 years, reaching the rank of Colonel. He replaces Mark Gilbert.

He was also an early supporter of Mr Trump’s presidential campaign.

He has described himself as a “social moderate but a fiscal conservative”.

“I said that this is the country I want to go and I could have had a choice of anywhere.

“[Donald Trump] trusts me, he understands that I’m very direct and he respects my opinions.

“He wanted somebody here in this important part of the world, as you know what’s happening with China and their taking rocks and turning them into islands and potentially militarising them.”

Mr Brown acknowledged some New Zealanders may not like Mr Trump’s style as American president, but he urged them to give him a fair go.

“One thing that people like about him is the fact that he is different….he’s not a politician. He ran on a platform and he’s one of the first elected officials that actually has fulfilled those promises.

Stuff:  ‘Give Trump a chance’: US ambassador’s plea to NZ (link includes video):

“Whether you like it or not he’s a man of his word and that’s one thing I’ve always respected about him. Will he get a fair go from the American people, or from the world, New Zealanders and other media outlets?

“Gosh I hope so because I think it’s critically important to give anybody who’s in a new position, a new position as the President of the US, or the Prime Minister of this country – I don’t care who, give them a chance first before you start criticising.”

New Zealand has to do what it can to get on with Brown, Trump and the US as well as possible.

There might be a few New Zealanders who would like Trump to give them and the world a fair go too.

 

Scott Brown nominated as NZ ambassador

Ex-US senator and Trump campaign supporter Scott Brown has been nominated as the new US ambassador to New Zealand. This requires confirmation from the US Senate.

The previous ambassador, Obama appointee Mark Gilbert, had to leave New Zealand when Trump took office on 20 January.

Fox News:  Trump to nominate Scott Brown as New Zealand ambassador

President Trump announced Thursday he will nominate former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown as ambassador to New Zealand.

Brown, a moderate Republican and a Fox News contributor, burst onto the national stage in 2010 when he won the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat after Kennedy’s death.

His blue-state victory was of particular national significance as his election gave the GOP a 41st vote in the Senate, and with it the ability to filibuster legislation during the debate over then-President Obama’s signature health care law.

A version of the legislation passed anyway, and Brown later lost his seat in 2012 to current Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

A different headline from NZ Herald: Man tipped for US ambassador role in NZ a former nude model who supports waterboarding

The man tipped to be President Donald Trump’s US ambassador to New Zealand is a former naked centrefold and supports the use of waterboarding.

In 1982 he nailed Cosmopolitan magazine’s “America’s Sexiest Man” competition, with the former Army man then turning his hand to politics.

His Cosmopolitan past is hardly relevant 35 years later, and hopefully his support of waterboarding won’t impact in New Zealand. We have different water problems here, cow rather than bull related.

Last year avid cyclist Brown told GQ magazine “I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand or Scotland or Wales and just ride 100 miles, hit a pub, drink, eat, sleep, do some exploring, and then get up, ride another 100 miles, do that for a couple weeks.”

Washington Examiner has a more recent report: Trump names Scott Brown ambassador to New Zealand

President Trump on Thursday said he plans to nominate former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown as ambassador to New Zealand.

“If confirmed, Scott Brown of Massachusetts will serve as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to New Zealand,” the White House said in a release.

“Mr. Brown is a lawyer and former United States Senator. Mr. Brown served in the Massachusetts Army National Guard before receiving his law degree from Boston College Law School,” the White House said. “He then went on to serve in the Massachusetts legislature for over a decade before winning the special election for Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat in 2010. Since serving in the Senate, Mr. Brown has been a political contributor for Fox News.”

Brown endorsed Trump for president before New Hampshire’s primary in 2016.

It’s normal for US ambassadors to be political appointments, often awarded for services or support rendered.

Controversial US ambassador pick for NZ

Some dismay and concern is being expressed about the person put forward as next US ambassador to New Zealand.

Stuff: ‘It’s an insult!’ Backlash against Trump’s pick for diplomatic post to New Zealand

Donald Trump’s pick to be the next United States ambassador to New Zealand has been labelled an “insult”.

Scott Brown, a former US Senator, is being vetted to become Trump’s representative in New Zealand, according to reports in the Boston Globe.

The 57-year-old supports torture, posed nude for a photoshoot, and was named as having groped and made sexually inappropriate comments towards former Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros. Brown denies the allegations.

Former US intelligence advisor Paul Buchanan said Brown’s appointment was an “insult”.

“It just shows you what importance we have to the Trump Administration.”

Buchanan said Brown’s support of waterboarding was “very troubling.”

Buchanan said Brown is “not the brightest bulb”, and while he could grow into the job, he was “pretty much useless as a Senator.”

He said that the Senator’s appointment would come as a reward for supporting Trump, because he knows nothing of New Zealand.

Brown has previously said he wants to come here to cycle, but that’s about it, Buchanan said. “It’d be an extended holiday. New Zealand deserves a little bit better, certainly better than this guy.”

‘A little bit better’ may be in short supply.

Brown lost his Senate position in 2014 and has been a contributor for Fox News.

Details at Wikipedia: Scott Brown (politician)

Many picks for ambassadorial positions in the US seem to be personal, political and paybacks rather than diplomatic.

Israeli ambassador recalled from NZ

After New Zealand helped get a resolution passed in the United Nations Securioty Council condemning Israeli settlements on disputed land Israel recalled their ambassador from New Zealand.

NZ Herald: Israeli ambassador recalled from New Zealand after UN resolution

The Israeli Government has recalled its ambassador from New Zealand after the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israel’s continued settlements.

New Zealand co-sponsored the resolution, which said the settlements violate international law and undermine a two-state solution in Israel’s conflict with Palestine.

The resolution was passed 14-0 at the last council meeting of the year, and New Zealand’s last meeting in its two-year term as an elected member of the Security Council.

Loud applause was heard in the packed chamber when the US ambassador, Samantha Power, abstained.

All remaining members of the security council, including Egypt, which had drafted the resolution and had been briefly persuaded by Israel to postpone the vote, voted in support.

Malaysia, Senegal and Venzuela also sponsored the resolution and are likely to face diplomatic reprisals too.

The US abstained but the outgoing and incoming Presidents are split on this.

Egypt was pressured by US President-elect Donald Trump and Israel to delay the resolution. It eventually dropped it but the co-sponsors ploughed ahead with it.

Donald Trump tweeted yesterday that the outgoing Obama Administration should veto the resolution – but it abstained, allowing it to pass.

The US decision to abstain was immediately condemned by Netanyahu’s office as “shameful”, which pointedly referred to Israel’s expectation of working more closely with Trump.

Following the vote Trump, tweeted: “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan 20.”

He would support breaches of international law?

Is he going to drain the United Nations too?

The United Nations maintains that settlements are illegal, but UN officials have reported a surge in construction over the past months.

About 430,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and a further 200,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.

Murray McCully was involved in this:

Foreign Minister Murray McCully told the Herald Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told him before the vote ambassador Itzhak Gerberg would be recalled if the resolution passed.

McCully said he had been informed the ambassador had been recalled “for consultations”.

“It underscores the fact that Israel is strongly opposed to the council position on the issue. That is not a great surprise to us.

“But we hope that the friendship that has existed between the two countries will be able to endure regardless of different view on this issue.”

Asked if it was a victory, McCully said: “It is a victory for those who are keen to see the Security Council take some action on the Middle East peace process after eight years of complete inaction.”

It would have been inappropriate to take the Foreign Affairs portfolio off him just as this was going through the Security Council.

 

Russian provocation or UK over-reaction?

Some breaking news from the BBC is potentially a bit disturbing – Russian military jets ‘disrupted UK aviation’

Russian military planes flying near UK airspace caused “disruption to civil aviation” on Wednesday, the UK Foreign Office said.

It said the Russian aircraft did not enter UK airspace, but the manoeuvres were “part of increasing pattern of out-of-area operations” by Russia.

The planes were “escorted” by RAF jets “throughout the time they were in the UK area of interest”, officials added.

Russia’s ambassador has been summoned to “account for the incident”.

Diplomatic type language is used but for this to be reported and for the ambassador to be summoned it must be causing someone some concern.

More detail and comment from Reuters – Britain says fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian bombers

British Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian Bear long-range bombers which had flown close to UK airspace, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Thursday.

The Russian planes were detected flying over the Channel, south of England, on Wednesday and typhoons were launched from Royal Air Force (RAF) bases at Lossiemouth in Scotland and Coningsby in eastern England, the MoD said.

“The Russian planes were escorted by the RAF until they were out of the UK area of interest. At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

Last year, NATO conducted more than 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft, about three times as many as in 2013, amid sharply increased tensions between the West and Moscow over theUkraine crisis.

Elizabeth Quintana, a senior research fellow at defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute said Wednesday’s incident was unusual however, and could be linked to Britain beginning an inquiry into the death nine years ago in London of Kremlin critic and ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko.

“Normally Russian Bears come past Norway and down the North Sea. It could have been used to probe the RAF speed of reaction south,” she told the Daily Mail newspaper.

“Flying any military aircraft in or close to the sovereign airspace of another country signals displeasure or at worst aggression.”

And another side to the story: Russia Says Air Force Flight Near UK Complies With International Law

MOSCOW, January 29 (Sputnik) — Two Russian Air Force strategic bombers spotted near British airspace were conducting a planned 19-hour flight over the North Atlantic and did not breach international regulations or any nation’s borders, a Russian Air Force spokesman said Thursday.

“Two [Tupolev] Tu-95MS [Bear] strategic bombers… successfully completed the planned air patrols. The flight route passed through neutral waters near the Barents and Norwegian Seas, [as well as] the Atlantic Ocean. The flight duration was over 19 hours,” Col. Igor Klimov told RIA Novosti.

According to Klimov, Russian strategic bombers were planned to be escorted by RAF Typhoon aircraft, Norwegian F-16s and French Mirage fighters at different stages on their route.

The spokesman reiterated that the flight had been performed with strict adherence to international regulations on the use of airspace over neutral waters without violating states’ sovereign borders.

Complying with international law doesn’t mean it wasn’t deliberately provocative.

Or is the UK making more of this than it warrants?