New York (22/12-40). Germany’s United Nations envoy, during his last scheduled UN Security Council meeting, appealed to China to free two detained Canadians for Christmas, prompting China’s deputy UN envoy to respond: “Out of the bottom of my heart: Good riddance.”
His comments is leading to a diplomatic spat over China’s role in hostage taking, seemingly a new sport in Asian countries when it comes to uncomfortable affairs. Observers increasingly argue both European and Western powers could take a harder stance towards China.
Germany finishes a two-year term on the 15-member council at the end of this month and Ambassador Christoph Heusgen plans to retire after more than 40 years as a diplomat.
“Let me end my tenure on the Security Council by appealing to my Chinese colleagues to ask Beijing for the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Christmas is the right moment for such a gesture,” Mr Heusgen told the council session, whose official agenda topic was Iran.
China also drawn the irk of U.S. military commanders as Beijing failed to meet their U.S. counterparts to discuss maritime safety in the South China Sea calling China as ‘unreliable’.
The U.S. military slammed China for failing to appear for virtual, senior-level meetings slated for this week, calling this “another example that China does not honor its agreements”, but Beijing said the U.S. version of events distorted the facts.
Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat who was working as an adviser for the International Crisis Group think tank, and businessman Spavor were detained by Beijing in 2018 shortly after Canadian police picked up Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a US warrant.
China’s deputy UN ambassador Geng Shuang accused Mr Heusgen of abusing the Security Council to launch malicious attacks on other members “in an attempt to poison the working atmosphere”.
But China overlooks the minor fact that espionage charges are leveled by the Chinese against the two Canadians. Both arrests and charges seen as politically motivated.
“I wish to say something out of the bottom of my heart: Good riddance, Ambassador Heusgen,” Mr Geng said. “I am hoping that the council in your absence in the year 2021 will be in a better position to fulfil the responsibilities…for maintaining international peace and security.”
Mr Heusgen also used the Security Council meeting to advise Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy to read certain articles about Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who said he had tricked a Russian secret agent into disclosing details of a botched plot to kill him. Russia’s FSB security service dismissed the recording as a fake.
The German ambassador has spared with the Russians on a range of issues such as the support for the Syrian regime drawing flak from the Russian side.
Mr Polyanskiy replied: “It seems he’s developed a certain dependency on the council, there’s never a meeting without criticism of Russia even if that’s not suitable for the subject matter. I hope that after Jan 1 that Christoph’s symptoms will improve.”
The German diplomats were at odds with the Russian after president Putin last year suggested a new security architecture with Europe reflecting the Russian ambitions to be included in the European Union, a dream much part of the Russian post Soviet Union collapse.
Putin was quoted by the Financial Times last year, “Despite the “misunderstandings of the past decades”, he said Russia “is profoundly European . . . We believe in a Europe that stretches from Lisbon to Vladivostok”.”