(Photo: Pete Souza / The White House)
The conversation came after a whirlwind ten days, beginning with President Rouhani sitting down with NBC News’ Ann Curry in Tehran prior to a series of key diplomatic meetings.
PICTURED ABOVE: In this Jan. 14, 2013 file photo, Cubans wait to enter the U.S. Interests Section to apply for U.S. visas in Havana, Cuba.
Cuban, US diplomats increasingly allowed to travel
For decades, Cuban and U.S. diplomats have faced strict limits on their travel within the Cold War enemy countries.
Cuban diplomats at the United Nations in New York cannot go 25 miles beyond Columbus Circle in Manhattan or past the Beltway loop circling Washington without the permission of the U.S. State Department.
U.S. Interests Section workers, meanwhile, must submit detailed itineraries to Cuban officials if they want to travel outside Havana.
Recently, however, Cuban and U.S. diplomats have been increasingly, and more easily, stepping outside the once nearly insurmountable fences.
China president makes first ever visit to Trinidad, starting regional tour that will end in US
Chinese President Xi Jinping (above, right) met for the first time with officials in Trinidad and Tobago Saturday on the first stop of a four-country regional tour.
In a news conference, Xi announced that China was awarding Trinidad a $250 million loan to build a children’s hospital. He also said he and Trinidadian Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (above,left) had signed a memorandum of understanding to co-operate on a range of issues.
"We both agree to actively advance co-operation in key areas of energy, minerals and infrastructure development and also to advance our co-operation in new energy, telecommunications and agriculture," Xi told reporters after he and Persad-Bissessar met in her office.
Persad-Bissessar said Trinidad views China “as a very key business partner and a potential new market for our energy products and for alternative energy research.” She added that Xi agreed to send the Caribbean 100 volunteer medical professionals over the next three years.
Classical diplomacy: Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra to tour China next fall
Plans were announced Monday morning in Ottawa for a two-and-a-half-week tour the National Arts Centre Orchestra will make to China next fall.
From Oct. 4 to 20, the 70– member orchestra will perform in seven cities (including Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai), give eight major concerts, interact with hundreds of Chinese musical students in 80 educational events, and generally spread the excellence of Canadian music-making to one of the fastest-growing audiences for classical music in the world.
A wide range of activities will be held in the last quarter of this year to mark the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Vietnam and the Republic of Korea.
At a press briefing in Hanoi on October 1, Park Nark Jong, director of the RoK Cultural Centre, said that the centre has coordinated with the Korean embassy, Government agencies, local organizations and people from both countries to organize art and cultural exchanges for a busy and significant Vietnam-Korea friendship year 2012.
Other events will include a performance by Sumi Jo, a famous Korean classical musician, with the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra.
Students across the country are looking forward to the Korean language festival from October 12-27, and there will be a Korean Film Festival in HCM City from October 18-24 and Hanoi from December 6-8.
Jee Chang Sun, head of the Korean Tourism Organisation (KTO) representative office, said that,the cuisine and images of both the RoK and Vietnam have become familiar to people from both countries in recent years. A Korean Gastronomy Festival will be held from November 3-4 and coincide with a photography exhibition introducing the country’s natural, cultural and historical heritage.
The KTO will also organize a “Gangnam Style” dance competition. Contestants dance to famous Korean songs and send a video clip of their performance beginning on October 1. Detailed information about the contest is updated on www.visitkorea.org.vn.
A special cultural performance with the participation of artists from the two countries will be held to conclude the Friendship Year.
French President Francois Hollande met Chancellor Angela Merkel in the southwestern German city of Ludwigsburg to celebrate an important anniversary of their countries’ reconciliation following the end of World War II.
‘‘France and Germany have a very special responsibility, we form the heart of Europe,’’ said Hollande, adding that the European Union’s status quo can only be seen as the starting point for a deeper integration.
‘‘Stopping would mean falling back. We don’t have a choice, but to march toward the destiny that is ours, march toward a unified Europe,’’ he added.
Europe’s 17-nation currency zone is experiencing a deep crisis, Hollande said, therefore urging Germany and other nations to help ‘‘create instruments that make us stronger: the budgetary union, the banking union, the social union, a political union.’’
Merkel said both countries will and must work together closely to strengthen Europe to weather those new challenges.
‘‘However great the economic challenges may be. It remains and will remain valid: We Europeans are united in the pursuit of our happiness,’’ she said.
France’s then-leader Charles de Gaulle in 1962 addressed German youth in Ludwigsburg — speaking in German — in a speech that was hailed as a major step toward building German-French ties, after the nations had fought each other in both world wars, and were often referred to as arch-enemies.
De Gaulle and his German counterpart Konrad Adenauer started the reconciliation efforts in the aftermath of World War II.
Merkel said the two leaders, who had witnessed themselves the horrors of war, laid the foundation of Europe’s unification in bringing together their nations ‘‘who were long said to be arch-enemies — what a terrible word.’’ They were convinced that ‘‘natural enmity between people could not exist,’’ she added.
The two countries’ rapprochement evolved to become a motor of Europe’s integration less than two decades after World War II. France and Germany, representing almost half of the eurozone’s economic output, are still seen as key players in forging European policies.
Addressing the youth of both nations, Hollande concluded his speech in German, saying ‘‘it is now your role to make the European dream a reality and give it a future.’’
Myanmar’s Suu Kyi begins landmark US visit
Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, renowned for her peaceful struggle against military rule, began a marathon tour of the U.S. Monday, the latest milestone in her remarkable journey from political prisoner to globe-trotting stateswoman.
The Nobel Peace laureate will be presented with Congress’ highest award during a 17-day visit that comes as the Obama administration considers easing remaining sanctions on the country, also known as Burma. In the latest step toward political opening, Myanmar announced a new round of prisoner releases, hours before Suu Kyi touched down in Washington.
Suu Kyi meets Tuesday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and is likely to visit the White House. She then goes to New York, the American Midwest and California in a whirlwind of speaking engagements and award ceremonies, as if making up for lost time for the years of confinement that prevented her from traveling overseas since the late 1980s.
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has roped in 80 top chefs to work on “the oldest diplomatic tool” of cooking and improve America”s foreign relations.
Vikram Sunderam, a Mumbai native and executive chef at Rasika, an Indian restaurant in Washington has been anointed State Chef as part of the US State Department”s Diplomatic Culinary Partnership initiative, the Washington Post reported. The distinction of State Chef comes with a ”uniform” for chefs, a navy jacket with the American flag and their names embroidered in gold.
Sunderam had introduced local schoolchildren to “A Taste of India” at a cultural exchange at Blair House three years ago, during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh”s state visit in November 2009. More than 80 top-rated chefs were inducted into the first American Chef Corps on Friday.
"Food isn”t traditionally thought of as a diplomatic tool.
But I think it”s the oldest diplomatic tool,” Clinton said in a video played at the launch. "Sharing a meal can help people transcend boundaries and build bridges in a way that nothing else can. Certainly some of the most meaningful conversations I”ve had with my counterparts all over the world have taken place over breakfasts, lunches and dinners," she said.
The State Department plans to use the chefs to cook meals for visiting dignitaries and travel to US embassies abroad to help educate foreign audiences and host culinary experts from around the world in their US kitchens.
"They might meet with an embassy, cook a lunch, post blogs or [write] articles, speak at events," US Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall was quoted as saying by the paper. The Diplomatic Culinary Partnership aims to “elevate the role of culinary engagement in America”s formal and public diplomacy efforts”, the report said.
The names in the roster include Ming, Bloomfield and Washington-area chef Jose Andres, who cooked for the 50th anniversary of the department”s Diplomatic Reception Rooms. Other names include Bryan Voltaggio, the Maryland chef and runner up on TV”s ”Top Chef” who prepared dinner for Japan”s prime minister at the National Geographic Museum in April, and Rick Bayless of Chicago who cooked President Barack Obama”s second state dinner for the Mexican president.
Washington Chef Mike Isabella, who gained fame on TV”s ”Top Chef”, is the first new State Chef to formally represent America”s food culture abroad as a culinary ambassador.
PICTURED ABOVE: Ryu Song Il, right, a North Korean Foreign Ministry official dealing with Japan affairs, arrives at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012.
Japan and North Korea hold first talks in 4 years
Officials from Japan and North Korea held their first government-to-government talks in four years on Wednesday, amid hopes that new leader Kim Jong Un will adopt a less confrontational approach to relations between his isolated, impoverished nation and the outside world.
The talks are being held at the Japanese Embassy in China, the North’s closest ally and biggest aid source, which has been subtly pushing for economic reforms and a more cooperative tone. They are being described as preliminary discussions to pave the way for full-fledged talks in the future covering a broader agenda.
Discussions between Tokyo and Pyongyang have been frozen since August 2008 because of animosity over past frictions and disputes over the North’s nuclear program and its kidnapping of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s. The countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.
Japan is pushing to have the highly emotional kidnapping issue included in the agenda for future talks, chief Japanese government spokesman Osamu Fujimura said. North Korea has admitted abducting 13 Japanese nationals and using them to train spies. It pledged in the 2008 talks to reinvestigate the abductions, but has not done so.
North Korea is using the talks to improve ties with Japan because it urgently needs economic help, said Jeung Young-tae of the South Korean government-funded Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. The North probably wants both investments and compensation for Tokyo’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula in 1910-1945, Jeung said.
"North Korea needs Japanese assistance to find a way out of" its dire economic problems, he said.
The talks were scheduled after the two nations’ Red Cross societies met in Beijing earlier this month to discuss the repatriation of the remains of Japanese soldiers, and come a day after a Japanese delegation landed in Pyongyang in a bid to bring back the remains of relatives who died in North Korea during World War II.
During the 10-day trip, the delegation will visit the graves of Japanese who died in Korea in the closing stages of the war.
In another sign of a slight thaw in Japan-North Korea relations, Tokyo issued special visas to North Korean soccer players to allow them to participate in the women’s under-20 World Cup in Japan. Japan has banned trade and exchanges of people with North Korea under sanctions it imposed over the North’s nuclear and missile programs, but sports and humanitarian visits are considered exceptions.
Egypt’s president to visit Iran, a first in decades
President Mohamed Morsi will attend a summit meeting in Iran this month, a presidential official said Saturday, the first such trip for an Egyptian leader since relations with Iran deteriorated decades ago.The visit could begin a thaw between the countries after years of ill will, especially since 1979 with the Egypt-Israel peace treaty and Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Under Mr. Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, Egypt, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim, sided with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-dominated Arab states in trying to isolate Shiite-led Iran.
Until now, contacts have been channeled through low-level forms of diplomatic representation. Last year, the interim military council that was then governing Egypt, expelled an Iranian diplomat on suspicion that he was trying to set up spy rings.
It is too early to assess the implications of the visit or to what extent Egypt may normalize relations with Iran, but analysts believe it will bring Egypt back to the regional political stage.
The official said that Mr. Morsi would visit Tehran on Aug. 30 to attend the Nonaligned Movement meeting, where Egypt will transfer the movement’s rotating leadership to Iran. The movement was established during the cold war to advocate for developing nations.
Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon (L) and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro meet at the Revolution Palace in Havana April 11, 2012.
Calderon says Cuba, Mexico friends again
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Getting to Know You: Obama, Xi Start Relationship
The man destined to be China’s next leader won an extraordinary welcome across Washington on Tuesday, a finely scripted opening to one of the world’s most important relationships. Trading kind words of cooperation, President Barack Obama and Xi Jinping also spoke directly about human rights and worsening foreign crises.
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper says China will lend panda pair to Canada for the next 10 years
The pandas are expected to arrive in Canada early next year and will go to the Toronto and Calgary zoos for five years each. The giant panda is unique to China and is regularly sent abroad as a sign of warm diplomatic relations or to mark breakthroughs in ties.
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Dilma Rousseff to visit Cuba to focus on post-embargo era
Some forty years ago, Dilma Rousseff was a guerrilla fighter working clandestinely to bring a version of Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s communist revolution to Brazil.
How times change. When Rousseff makes her first visit to Cuba next week as Brazil’s president, she’ll have capitalism on her mind, specifically the building of a container terminal at the port of Mariel aimed at future trade with the United States when Washington one day lifts its 50-year-old embargo on Cuba.
The $800 million modernization of the natural harbor west of Havana is being done by Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht with funding from Brazil’s state development bank BNDES. It is part of a vast and growing constellation of Brazilian-run projects in Latin America, Africa and elsewhere that has paralleled Brazil’s recent rise as an economic power.
The business-focused nature of Rousseff’s Cuba trip highlights a shift in Brazil’s foreign policy since she took office early last year, with trade trumping all other considerations.
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