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American officials summoned Nepali ambassador in Washington over Dahal’s Venezuela statement

  • Nepali leaders and officials asked the Post to downplay the controversy because they said the issue had already been resolved.
- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Feb 1, 2019-

Senior officials at the US State Department summoned Nepali Ambassador to United States Arjun Karki earlier this week after a co-chairman of the ruling communist party issued a strong-worded statement criticising the US and its allies for “intervention in the internal affairs” of Venezuela.

The revelation that Karki was asked to clarify the statement released by Pushpa Kamal Dahal last Friday comes amid a tense week between Singha Durbar and the US Embassy in Kathmandu, which had also asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to clarify the statement and where the government stood on Dahal’s stance.

Two officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kathmandu and the Nepali Embassy in Washington DC confirmed to the Post that Karki was summoned by senior officials from the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the State Department after Dahal’s statement created an unusual--and unprecedented--unease between Nepali and US officials in Kathmandu. A diplomatic source at the US Embassy in Kathmandu confirmed to the Post on Friday that Karki was summoned by Washington officials, but did not go into the details about the meeting.

During the meeting with Karki, US officials inquired about whether Dahal’s statement reflects the official position of the government of Nepal. The officials also told Karki, according to the Nepali diplomat in Washington, that the United States did not expect a statement of that nature from the leader of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) without any background on the internal affairs of Venezuela.

In Kathmandu, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tried to downplay the meeting between Karki and State Department officials and have not issued any ministerial-level communication.

“I do not have any communication with Ambassador Karki and I’m not aware of him being summoned by the State Department,” Foreign Secretary  Shankar Das Bairagi told the Post.

The Post was unable to reach Karki for a response despite several phone calls to Washington throughout Friday.

After the meeting with State Department officials, Karki immediately called Foreign Minister Pardeep Gyawali and Bairagi, the foreign secretary, to brief them, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Nepali official who asked to stay anonymous because he didn’t want to jeopardise the government’s attempt to control the damage said that it was the call from Karki that prompted Singha Durbar to issue a statement on Tuesday clarifying KP Oli administration’s position on Venezuela. Although some foreign affairs experts said the government statement intended to distance the administration from Dahal’s statement, a US embassy official told the Post it was “vague and ambiguous.”

In its clarification, the government on Tuesday had said that the internal political problems of a country need to be resolved within its constitutional parameters in a democratic manner, free from external interferences.

On Friday, US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry skipped the diplomatic briefing by Gyawali informing the Kathmandu-based diplomatic community about the government’s commitment to democracy, transitional justice and its foreign policy priorities. Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada, foreign ambassadors and senior Nepali government officials were present at the briefing.

The US embassy was represented at the briefing by Mike Gonzales, the deputy chief of mission in Kathmandu.

One week into the diplomatic debacle, Nepali government officials and ruling party leaders have been lobbying with members of the media, requesting them not to “blow the issue out of proportion.”

In two separate interviews on Friday, NCP Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha and Oli’s foreign policy adviser Bhattarai urged the Post to downplay the controversy over Venezuela because the issue had been resolved after the government’s statement.

Meanwhile, US embassy officials have also been engaging with political leaders, senior government officials as well as members of the media to discuss the US government’s position on Venezuela and the Nepal government’s weak attempt to clarify its position.

 

Published: 01-02-2019 22:00

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