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Diplomat c

A Business, Diplomacy & Foreign Policy Publication

SEPTEMBER – OCTOBER 2018 • $7.95

The Premier Ambassador Magazine


H.E. FERNANDO ORIS DE ROA Ambassador of Argentina to the United States

H.E. CAMILO REYES RODRIGUEZ Ambassador of Colombia to the United States

H.E. MASUD BIN MOMEN Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations

CONSUL GENERAL HLYNUR GUDJONSSON Consulate General of Iceland in New York

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Diplomatic EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Dawn Parker DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS OPERATIONS Lauren Peace BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Evan Strianese DESIGN & CREATIVE Larry Smith Design DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENTS and CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Roland Flamini, James Winship, PhD and Monica Frim DIPLOMATIC CONNECTIONS WEBSITE DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT IMS (Inquiry Management Systems) 304 Park Avenue South, 11th Floor New York, NY 10010 Marc Highbloom, Vice President Maria D’Urso, Project Manager

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To order photos from the events go to: Send any name or address changes in writing to: Diplomatic Connections 4410 Massachusetts Avenue / #200 Washington, DC 20016 Diplomatic Connections Business Edition is published bi-monthly. Diplomatic Connections does not endorse any of the goods or services offered herein this publication. Copyright 2018 by Diplomatic Connections All rights reserved. Cover photo credits: H.E. Oris De Roa, Ambassador of Argentina to the United States, Paula Morrison/Diplomatic Connections; H.E. Camilo Reyes Rodriguez, Ambassador of Colombia to the United States, Paula Morrison/Diplomatic Connections; The Royals in Ireland, Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage; H.E. Masud Bin Momen, Permanent Represenative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, Christophe Avril/Diplomatic Connections; Consul General Hlynur Gudjonsson, Consulate General of Iceland in New York, Christophe Avril/Diplomatic Connections; Tunisia, Monica and John Frim/Diplomatic Connections




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Ambassador Roa discusses memory and money with Diplomatic Connections Roland Flamini


June, the government of Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri applied for, and was given, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) $50 billion line of credit to solve pressing liquidity problems (the Buenos Aires government had asked for $30 billion). Earlier in the year, an Argentinian general named Reynaldo Bignone died, aged 90. Both developments, while unrelated, were landmarks of sorts in the Latin American nation’s efforts to grapple with its past. Bignone was the last leader of the murderous military junta (1976-1983), the memory of which still haunts Argentinians. The regime’s crimes included executing its opponents and handing their children to pro-government parents. Argentina’s Ambassador Fernando Oris de Roa said in a recent interview with Diplomatic Connections that the authorities are still handling the cases of 400 children whose real parents are not accounted for. The IMF line of credit is an important part of the other Argentinian narrative: President Macri’s uphill battle to resurrect Argentina’s long failing economy. When the hoped for influx of new foreign investment fell sort of Macri’s requirements – the result of a lack of investor confidence the ambassador blamed on “seventy years of lack of (fiscal) discipline” – Macri resorted to the IMF to avoid a financial crunch. Macri has had considerable success reinserting Argentina in the world and repairing Argentina’s international relations, including with the United States. His visit to the White House in April 2017 was cordial - from all accounts despite the fact that the two presidents have had intermittent business contacts for many years, rather than because of it. Still, Trump has exempted Argentina from his new steel and aluminum tariffs. Ambassador Oris de Roa is not a career diplomat, and this is his first diplomatic post. He has spent most of his career in private business in the agricultural sector, including as the owner of one of Argentina’s leading lemon plantations. It so happens that the Obama administration had barred the importation of Argentinian lemons and the issue is still in dispute. When the ambassador presented his credentials to Trump, the president greeted him 16

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H.E. FERNANDO ORIS DE ROA Ambassador of the Republic of Argentina to the United States

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with shouts of “Lemons! Lemons! Lemons!” Oris de Roa told Diplomatic Connections he sees his appointment as an opportunity to broaden the embassy’s traditional role in keeping with modern demands being made on the practice of diplomacy. Diplomatic Connections: Good afternoon, Ambassador Roa. Thank you for speaking with Diplomatic Connections. Tell us how you came to be Ambassador to the embassy. Ambassador Oris de Roa: It’s my first (diplomatic) job, but diplomacy is a concept that is undergoing some re-thinking, so the role of the diplomat needs to be re-framed. It has to adapt to the needs of the people who govern, and those needs are different than they were many years ago. And so therefore part of my job is redefining what an embassy means for the rest of the government. Diplomatic Connections: Have you changed anything in this embassy? Ambassador Oris de Roa: I’m told the way I approach the U.S. administration is different. To begin with, I don’t feel that I’m here to represent Argentina to the U.S. administration only; it’s just part of my job. Also, my purpose in this position is to represent my country in the civil society, the private sector, and in front of individual American citizens, so I have a variety of counterparts. Diplomatic Connections: Could you expand a little on that? 18

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Ambassador Oris de Roa: I have redefined who my “clients” are; I work for Argentina’s ministry of foreign relations, but my clients are the ministers and the governors of the states. Basically, they’re the ones who formulate policy and since they’re not going to come to me with their needs, because they’re not used to that, I will go to them, and when I talk to governors and ministers, more than half of their (American) agenda is not with the U.S. government, it is either with state governments, with intermediate institutions as in health organizations, hospitals, educational institutions like universities, schools, or judges with whom Argentinian judges want to exchange views on the law. So there’s an abundance of need from the Argentine side, and that’s an important part of my job. Diplomatic Connections: President Macri said last year, “Argentina barely has relations with the United States. There is a great deal that we could improve, and hardly anything we could make worse.” True, this was prior to his visit to Washington, but how would you characterize the prevailing state of U.S.Argentine bi-lateral relations? Ambassador Oris de Roa: Superb. I never ever expected such an open invitation for dialogue, not only for dialogue but, for actual help, of access, of travel. We have been treated in a way that I couldn’t describe any other way but deferential. Diplomatic Connections: This is relatively recent.

Stephen Jaffe/IMF via Getty Images

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde meets Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne on May 10, 2018 at the IMF Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Ambassador Oris de Roa: Completely. It is recent (by saying recent I don’t mean since my arrival). It is abundant because there was a vacuum before, and anything filling a vacuum does so at a certain speed, and later on, stabilizes. But I am absolutely surprised by the access and warmth with which we have been received at different levels of this administration. Diplomatic Connections: To what do you attribute this, other than perhaps the fact that Macri and Trump have known each other for years?

Davis Fernandez/AFP/Getty Images

Ambassador Oris de Roa: That is, of course, a good start. Furthermore, what Argentina is doing in terms of its policies is exactly what this administration, or any other administration, would want Argentina to do - and at a time when examples of success like ours are needed for the foreign policy of the United States in the region.

what Argentina is doing in terms of its policies is exactly what this administration, or any other administration, would want Argentina to do - and at a time when examples of success like ours are needed for the foreign policy of the United States in the region. Diplomatic Connections: But does the U.S. have a coherent strategy towards the Hemisphere in general, and towards Argentina in particular? IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde meets with Argentina's President Mauricio Macri at the presidential residence in Olivos, Buenos Aires on March 16, 2018.

Diplomatic Connections: But does the U.S. have a coherent strategy towards the Hemisphere in general, and towards Argentina in particular? Ambassador Oris de Roa: That is, of course, a good start. Furthermore,


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Ambassador Oris de Roa: I can only speak about Argentina. Basically, my mission is to fulfill a mandate given to me by the president of Argentina and that mandate is basically to stick to the every day work and make sure that the policies of our government are implemented as far as this embassy is concerned. I would be a very poor dialogue partner in geopolitics. Diplomatic Connections: But you have to pretty much know, for example, what U.S. expectations are in the region. Ambassador Oris de Roa: I do know about these expectations because they’re very clear, and very public. Basically, they’re concerned about Venezuela, number one. Second, there is a strong concern about the growing influence of Chinese trade and involvement in all of South America. And third, the security issues related to terrorism, narco-traffic and money laundering. Diplomatic Connections: Not so much Cuba? Ambassador Oris de Roa: I think that Cuba is a situation that still needs to be resolved, but belongs to the past. Many challenges are much more of the future; nevertheless, of course there are some of the present, like cyber security. For example, the challenge of what to do with the work force in the face of advancing technology. On one side 20

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you make progress and you alleviate poverty, but you have a good part of the work force that is left jobless by automation. Diplomatic Connections: But that’s a global issue. Ambassador Oris de Roa: And also a regional issue. A region that is now in movement. You’ve recently had elections in Colombia; a change of government in Ecuador; there’s just been a change of government in Chile, and there’s a big, big coming election in Brazil – and I mean big because of the impact. Ours is at the end of 2019. And in the middle of this you have Venezuela, with an uncertain outcome. So South America as a region is of concern to the United States administration: it may not be a priority, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a concern, and it doesn’t mean that they’re not working on it. Now, you have 10 hours in the day, maybe eight hours are dedicated to something else. Diplomatic Connections: But whereas Trump is pulling apart U.S. trade agreements, Macri supports free trade, which is a different approach. In fact, what’s happening with trade here is contrary to what is developing in most of Latin America. Ambassador Oris de Roa: You are absolutely right. I guess that one of the reasons they asked someone such as myself to occupy this position is basically to adapt to

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

International Monetary Fund (IMF) governors including Yi Gang, governor of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), front row from left, Nicolas Dujovne, Argentina's treasury minister; Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia's minister of finance; Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF; Lesetja Kganyago, governor of South Africa's reserve bank; Steven Manuchin, U.S. Treasury secretary; Taro Aso, Japan's finance minister; Philip Hammond, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer; and Margaret Mwanakatwe, Zambia's minister of commerce, attend the group photo at the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington, D.C., April 21, 2018.

these differences, and that’s an important definition. I don’t see any difficulty overall from the trade point of view. Our strategy should be, and has to be, in those areas that are not affected by the “big” policy of the United States. We need to develop literally, not hundreds but thousands of small companies interacting with other small or medium companies in the United States. All these trade deals become such a distraction. You have tariffs on steel, and aluminum. But I’m talking about deals that could change our economy in Argentina, the medium and small companies that employ most people. Together they represent maybe 60 percent of the Gross National Product. Those are the companies that we need to bring to the United States and find a market for them. Amazingly enough when you do this, and we are (so far) doing this on a relatively small scale, there’s no tariff, or barrier, that we encounter. Basically, our objective is to engage with people interested in a particular service or product that we can produce. And it doesn’t have to be only in commerce, it can be in areas such as tourism, health, areas that also have large economic impact, and they’re not called trade. So I have to be able to adapt this embassy into whatever the environment favors. Diplomatic Connections: Thinking small, in short. Ambassador Oris de Roa: Thinking small, but multiplied by a thousand rather than trying to make a home run with diesel oil. And also be defensive. We’ve had preferential treatment from the United States when we were spared the tariffs on steel and aluminum. Those are the not so small gestures that we are receiving.

Diplomatic Connections: What is your bi-lateral trade with the U.S.? Ambassador Oris de Roa: We have a trade deficit of $3.5 billion, that is, excluding services. Diplomatic Connections: You concentrate on small businesses, and you’re not, for example, in NAFTA. On the other hand, if NAFTA were to be dismantled, you would be affected. Ambassador Oris de Roa: We would, but would it be positively or negatively? Let me put it this way: Would anybody be affected by Brexit? Actually, we are. Diplomatic Connections: Well, you’re currently hoping to negotiate a post-Brexit trade agreement with the Brits – Ambassador Oris de Roa: True, because the Brits need it. And Mexico will need to increase trade with Argentina. One thing that we have done with the British as they face a post-European Union scenario is to say, this situation about the Malvinas (to the British: the Falkland Islands), could we keep on arguing about it, but on the side, because we have so many other things to talk about. We’re not relinquishing on anything (regarding Argentinian claims to the Malvinas) and when the time comes we’ll be as insistent as ever, but frankly speaking, we need the British to become interested in Argentina and we need the British market. The same thing happened with Mexico and with Canada. All these blocks that, in a way, kept countries like Argentina out of those markets, now we find out that it’s because the United States was, in a way according to this administration, subsidizing these agreements. If the United States stops subsidizing these agreements it’s good for continue through to page 27

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Argentina's Central Bank Governor Federico Sturzenegger listens while Argentina's Finance Minister Nicolas Dujovne speaks during a press conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on June 7, 2018. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed with Argentina to a standby loan of $50 billion over a threeyear period.

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Landscapes, natural scenery and towns in Patagonia, a mountainous region in southern Argentina.

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Large group of Rockhopper Penguin Chicks at Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas).


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Group of seals and sea lions with penguins above them, Beagle Channel.

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Tourist filling bottle with glacial water of the Perito Moreno glacier in the Los Glaciares National Park, Patagonia, Argentina.

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A whale watching boat with tourists navigates near a Franca Austral whale (Southern Right Whale) and her white calf swimming at the Golfo Nuevo near Puerto Piramides at Peninsula Valdes, Patagonian province of Chubut, Argentina.

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Tourists on a horse ride along the South Arm of Argentino Lake at Nibepo Aike farm in the Park and National Reservation Los Glaciares, an ecotourism destination in Patagonia, Argentina, declared by the UNESCO as Natural World Heritage Site.

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Tourists paddle through the rapids in the muddy waters of the Mendoza river near Potrerillos, Argentina.


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Tourists enjoy a ride in a Venetian gondola through Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires.

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A train carries tourists to the Iguazu Falls in Puerto Iguazu, Misiones, Argentina. The name “Iguazu” comes from the Guarani or Tupi words meaning “water.” Iguazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil, on average flow at a rate of 1750 cubic meters of water per second.

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jon g. fuller/vw pics/uig via Getty Images

The Guanaco, Lama guanicoe, is a camelid native to the mountainous regions of South America. They are found in the altiplano of Peru, Bolivia and Chile and in the Patagonian regions of Argentina and Chile, where they are most numerous. They are one of the largest wild mammal species found in South America. Guanacos live in herds composed of females, their young, and a dominant male. Bachelor males form separate herds. Their natural predators include cougars, jaguars, and foxes. When they feel threatened, guanacos alert the herd to flee with a highpitched, bleating call. To escape, they can run up to 56 km (35 miles) per hour, often over steep and rocky terrain.


ourism T

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Tourists on a walkway, Iguazu National Park, Iguazu River, Argentina.

us. But again, my point is – and this is the central point because it describes the modus operandi – is that I’m not here to say things are good or bad, I’m here to adapt. So I will adapt to any mood or policy that the United States administration displays. Diplomatic Connections: President Macri, when he was elected, identified three priorities for his administration. The first was the reduction of poverty, the second was security, and the third was rebuilding the institutions. How has he done in these three areas? Ambassador Oris de Roa: According to the most conservative statistics, poverty has been reduced down to 25 percent from 31 percent. In two years, I think that’s an extraordinary achievement. Of course, 25 percent is still unacceptable, and you can’t celebrate an achievement like that for too long before admitting that it’s still an absurd level that Argentina should correct immediately – and we are in the process of doing that. Security: as far as anti-terrorism, narcotraffic, money laundering, I have just been involved in bi-lateral dialogue with the authorities from Homeland Security to the Treasury Department and we have been congratulated on our progress, and we cooperate closely with the United States. In terms of building the institutions, if Macri will be remembered for something it will be as a president who speaks the truth. He is ready to sacrifice political capital to remain close to the truth; and that helps a lot with institutional building. So, no fancy footwork where the institutions are concerned. They are recovering, public trust in these institutions is growing. Diplomatic Connections: A year ago the Argentinian economy was doing a lot better than it is now. In June, Argentina negotiated a $50 billion loan availability with the IMF. Why is that, and what is the most recent economic prognosis?

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Ambassador Oris de Roa: We grew for seven consecutive quarters at the rate of 3.5 percent, which is quite extraordinary, until about two months ago. We’re going to have a setback this trimester. Diplomatic Connections: And you now find yourselves in need of IMF support. Ambassador Oris de Roa: Financial. There has been a challenge to our finance by the market. We had a runoff: people started selling pesos and buying dollars to the point that we lost control of that, and we decided

to take those extra measures so that we don’t fall into these crises that are typical of many places in South America, but particularly in Argentina. We go to the IMF already when we are about to default. The government lives with two situations that are particularly fragile in Argentina. Our political capital is slim: we don’t have a majority in Congress or in the Senate, whatever we do we have to do by consensus, and that is very expensive, very tiring, and slows down the process. Also, we never had any money and depended on credit in order to finance the turnaround of the country. We asked the IMF for $30 billion and were given $50 billion as a credit facility. Maybe it will be used. The market took it as a weakness. Diplomatic Connections: But didn’t the market interpret is as a weakness because they are not seeing a sufficient flow of foreign investment? Ambassador Oris de Roa: True. Diplomatic Connections: And isn’t one of the reasons why you, a successful businessman, are here is to promote more investment? Ambassador Oris de Roa: It’s one of my top three priorities. The fact is that we expected companies to bump into each other to invest in Argentina, and that didn’t happen. The thing is that we do have to carry the irregular behavior that we had in the past as part of our inheritance. We underestimated the weight of our past – seventy years of lack of discipline, and of surprising the markets many times. So investors are much more cautious. They are coming. We had $10.3 billion in new investments in 2016, and $10.1 billion in 2017, but we thought it was going to be more than that. Diplomatic Connections: How much more? Ambassador Oris de Roa: We thought there would be close to double, and that was what was announced by different companies. We also thought that these investments would have a direct impact; and I was given a very, very good lesson by a representative of Apple in this office. He told me, I’m going to let you into – not a secret – but something you probably don’t know. The moment we decide to open an Apple store in any country, that Apple store will open five years after we make the decision. The whole process they have established in terms of training people, making sure

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that the stores are done the right way, finding suppliers, complying with the rules and regulations. I would take that as an example of what happens to many companies. Coca Cola has just announced a $1.2 billion investment in Argentina, the investment will be immediate, but the impact in terms of jobs is going to take a couple of years. Diplomatic Connections: When the time comes for you to leave, what would you most like to have achieved here? Ambassador Oris de Roa: A change of attitude of the embassy towards servicing the ministers and the government. Rather than being passive in complying to the demands as they come, that we actually reverse the process and we are the ones looking for a mandate. That means changing the mentality of the organization, making them much more pro-active. Diplomatic Connections: You’re talking about changing the mindset of a long-established institution. Ambassador Oris de Roa: The relationship that we have with the U.S. administration is like a tunnel that is very big, but the actual business is a trickle of water in that tunnel. We have a much broader capability of relating to our counterparts, whether it’s government, civil society or the private sector than we actually use to. What I need is “product.” I need the minister of health to tell me that they need at least two partnerships with different states or 28

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universities, I need the education minister to tell me that such and such an exchange program should grow from 50 students to 2,000 students. I need the judicial branch of Argentina to tell me they want an exchange of Supreme Court justices, to exchange places, or visit each other. The same thing with science, technology – tourism, for Heaven’s sake. None of those need to be affected by trade barriers. Diplomatic Connections: But Argentina has a healthy tourist trade. Ambassador Oris de Roa: Compared to New Zealand we are at 10 to one. Diplomatic Connections: Why do you chose New Zealand? Ambassador Oris de Roa: It’s a country with a similar history to ours in terms of development, we became independent at the same time, it is the Southern Hemisphere, it’s far away, it offers the kind of nature that we have. That is something that I need to work on for Argentina. We could have a multiple of ten more tourists than we have today, without making any major effort. We’re not going to promote tourism from this embassy: the strategy is to promote investment in tourism. Diplomatic Connections: Do you tweet? Ambassador Oris de Roa: No. The embassy tweets. I’m 65 years old. I have put a limit to the amount of new things

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Tourists look at the Iguazu Falls (Cataratas del Iguazu in Spanish), from the Brazilian side of the Iguazu National Park which is shared with Argentina. The Falls, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984, is a spectacular canyon of 275 waterfalls that reach heights of 80 meters.

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Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina.

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I’m going to learn. Being an ambassador is taking 99 percent of that space. I’m already long in terms of exposure, and given the effect that tweeting has on other people, I don’t need that.

Diplomatic Connections: The other topic I wanted to bring up is Mercosur. It has been trying to strengthen its presence in the Hemisphere, and at the same time to broaden its international reach – towards the EU, for example. Do you foresee any (L-R) Brazil's Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes, Uruguay's Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa, Paraguay's Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga, Canada's Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie and Brazil's acting Industry, External Commerce adnd Services Minister Marcos Jorge pose for pictures after signing an agreement to extend talks on a Mercosur-Canada free trade deal, at the Foreign Ministry in Asuncion on March 9, 2018.


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Heads Of State meet during The MERCOSUR Summit Gabriela Michetti, Argentina's vice president, from front left, Tabare Vazquez, Uruguay's president; Michel Temer, Brazil's president; Alvaro Garcia Linera, Bolivia's vice president; stand for a family photograph during the Mercosur Summit in Asuncion, Paraguay on June 18, 2018. The two-day meeting of Mercosur leaders ended in Asuncion with no consensus on how trade negotiations with the European Union should proceed.

likelihood of Mercosur evolving into something similar to the European Union, a political as well as an economic regional union. After all, Latin America starts with the advantage of a common language (except for Brazil, of course), and a common cultural base. Ambassador Oris de Roa: I think that’s more than a dream: It’s a necessity, and a commitment from my president. It’s completely absurd that the number one trading partner for Argentina and Brazil, with whom we have had a Mercosur agreement for over 30 years, we still have not been able to advance on a better integration. Now, Paraguay is absolutely on board. Uruguay has had some reservations, but is on board. Depending on whose elected as Brazil’s next president in the coming elections (JulySeptember), you may see a lot of progress in terms of Mercosur. Macri is completely committed, and, it’s difficult to forecast, but if either of three of the seven

Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty Images

Ambassador Oris de Roa: One official of the U.S. administration asked me, “What can the U.S. do to compete with the Chinese in Latin America?” My reply was: start by showing up. We put out tenders – for example, solar parks – and in that case the bidders were one from Italy, and two from China. None from the U.S.

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Diplomatic Connections: As you pointed out earlier the Americans get uneasy about the Chinese activity in Latin America. But the Chinese perform a very useful role in Latin America, and wouldn’t you say that the Americans haven’t really challenged them for the turf in Latin America?

candidates is elected, you will see impressive progress in Mercosur. Diplomatic Connections: The recent death of Gen. Bignone, the last of the military dictators. What does that mean for Argentina? How much residue is there still to deal with of that period?


Ambassador Oris de Roa: There is residue, of course, substantial amounts. We are trying to overcome it. I can vividly recall, when I was twenty, everything that happened. I also vividly remember not knowing what was happening, and finding out later. The political differences of today are strongly influenced by the days of the dictatorship, and this is something that we have not yet resolved emotionally. A great deal of progress has been made, but it would be offensive even to mention that it’s just something of the past. With the dictatorship you had two periods. The state-sponsored terrorism and the Malvinas. I don’t know what number of people disappeared, died, particularly when you aggregate the casualties in the Malvinas. But it’s something that is still very much in the minds of every Argentinian. Right now a lot that has been written about the period in testimonials;

it really is raw material, and you do need new generations to be able to analyze this with a bit of perspective. We are still finding children, or grandchildren, of people who disappeared. I think the number is 400. Diplomatic Connections: You said earlier that the situation in Venezuela caused concern in Washington, but it must surely do the same in the Western Hemisphere. What do you think is going to happen in Venezuela? Ambassador Oris de Roa: I can tell you what I hope will happen in Venezuela. I hope it will soon change its regime. The real size of the crisis is still not known. But I hope that it’s an opposition led change, and not an outside led change. It may have help from the outside, and if it does have help from the outside, I hope it’s Latin American. ■

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Ambassador Masud Bin Momen of Bangladesh


National Interests with

Humanitarian Concerns James A. Winship, Ph.D.


Bangladesh W W W. D I P L O M AT I C C O N N E C T I O N S . C O M

H.E. MASUD BIN MOMEN Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the People's Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations

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United Nations Headquarters, New York, September 25, 1974: Addressing the General Assembly, then Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose country was admitted to United Nations membership on September 17, 1974.

different from each other. West Pakistan was dominated by the Punjabis (43%) and Pashtuns (17%) and included several other smaller groups. East Pakistan was also Muslim but was dominated by Bengalis. Bangladesh, which had been born as East Pakistan, did not become a sovereign state in its own right until 1971. More than half (55%) of Pakistan’s population lived in East Pakistan, and East Pakistan was ethnically much more homogenous – 98% Bengali – with strong linguistic affinity and an even stronger cultural tradition. Yet, at independence, West Pakistan dominated East Pakistan allotting the Bengalis a disproportionately small number of seats in the national parliament. Moreover, only limited numbers of East Pakistanis were represented in the government bureaucracy (15%) and in Pakistan’s military (10%). This unbalanced situation produced resentments that eventuated in civil disobedience, an armed uprising and the imposition of martial law by West Pakistan on the East as well as the banning of Bengali literature, including the works of the Nobel Prize laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Tensions built as natural disasters pummeled the East taking hundreds of thousands of lives. The central government in West Pakistan was perceived as slow to respond, and calls for the independence of East Pakistan reached a fever pitch. Though the pro-independence movement won nearly all the parliamentary seats allotted to East Pakistan, the Prime Minister-elect Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was placed under arrest and flown to West Pakistan, but not before he had declared the independence of Bangladesh. What Bangladesh calls its War of National Liberation began with the intervention of large numbers of troops from West Pakistan who sought to put down the independence movement by eliminating hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, intellectuals, artists and opponents of the Pakistani regime. Thousands of refugees fled across the border to India as Bangladesh forces denied the Pakistanis control of territory. Unable to control the countryside and pushed back into the cities, Pakistan chose to attack India on the Western Front, drawing that country into the war. The combination of the Bangladesh forces and Indian air power led to the surrender of the Pakistani forces, the return of Sheikh Mujibur to Dhaka, and the global recognition of a new, self-governing state – Bangladesh.


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UN Photo/Teddy Chen

With nearly 3,000 people per square mile Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries on earth. Located on the Bay of Bengal between India and Myanmar and at the confluence of three major rivers – the Padma (Ganges), the Meghna and the Jamuna – nearly 80% of Bangladesh is made up of the river deltas. The land is subject to frequent flooding from monsoon rains and rising sea levels. The water table is so high that Bangladesh is officially designated as a waterlogged country, meaning that the alluvial land is at once fertile and agriculturally productive yet fragile and frequently inundated. Though the majority of its population remains rural, Bangladesh is experiencing rapid urbanization and working to build a modernizing industrial economy alongside its more traditional agriculture and fishery sectors. Rice is the main crop and the hot, wet climate allows for three plantings a year. Shrimp is the major fisheries export. At the same time, Bangladesh has become a major global producer of ready-made garments (RMGs) and has a heavy industrial sector focused on shipbreaking (now referred to as ship recycling), ship repair and ship building. The partition of British India in 1947 resulted in the creation of two states - India, a secular but predominantly Hindu state, and Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim state but with constitutional protections for religious minorities. The Pakistan born of partition was a country divided between West and East Pakistan, two parts of the same nation-state, literally separated by the geographic presence of India. Though technically one state that shared Muslim cultural identity, the two parts of Pakistan were quite

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Sheikh Hasina, current Prime Minister of Bangladesh and daughter of Bangladesh's first Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, meets with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

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The United Nations Security Council meeting in the spring of 2018 discussing the on-going humanitarian plight of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh including not only their immediate needs but circumstances for their return to their homes and villages in Myanmar.

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Admitted to the United Nations in 1974, Bangladesh is today the world’s eighth largest country in population and the fourth largest in Muslim population, following Indonesia, Pakistan and India. Despite its immense population pressures, Bangladesh has managed to nurture substantial economic growth, averaging 6% over the past decade and at times exceeding 7% growth in GDP. Still, roughly one-third of the population lives in extreme poverty. Both foreign aid and remittances play a substantial part in the economy, but Bangladesh has significantly updated its industrial base as well as its agricultural technology. It continues to be a developing country, but it is ranked as a middle power and has been listed among the “Next 11” likely prospects for substantial growth behind the so-called BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India and China. Though Bangladesh faces daunting development challenges in its own right, in recent months the government has chosen to accept, or had thrust upon it, a new challenge originating from outside its borders in neighboring Myanmar. “Since August 2017,” says the World Health Organization, “an estimated 693,000 Rohingya have crossed over from Myanmar into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, joining approximately 212,500 others who had fled in earlier waves of displacement.” Though the influx of refugees has slowed in 2018, nearly one million Rohingya - a predominantly Muslim people living in Buddhist dominated Myanmar – have been forced to flee their home country under pressure from the Myanmar military. The refugees live in encampments that have become make-shift villages. The Rohingya live under the indulgence

of the government of Bangladesh, which recognizes a humanitarian obligation to care for co-religionists and remembers the sufferings that brought about its independence. The refugees survive with the assistance of United Nations humanitarian programs and the services offered by an array of private relief agencies that help to provide the necessities of life. In these conditions diseases like cholera, diphtheria and measles that are normally well controlled by public health professionals reappear and spread. Bangladesh’s monsoon season now disrupts any appearance of normalcy in the refugee camps compounding routine difficulties with flooding and mud slides that destroy facilities and displace already displaced people. With United Nations assistance, agreements in principle have been reached to repatriate the Rohingya to their homeland in Myanmar, but progress has been complicated by what Myanmar calls terrorist attacks by Muslim groups and what the United Nations terms unsafe conditions for return of the Rohingya. In the midst of that impasse, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has recently begun formal registration procedures to identify and document the Rohingya living in the Bangladesh camps. These credentials carry the logo of the UNHCR and the government of Bangladesh and state that: "This person should be protected from forcible return to a country where he/she would face threats to his/her life or freedom." Bangladesh continues to face a humanitarian crisis not of its own making. It has responded to the plight of the Rohingya refugees forced out of Myanmar with its limited national resources, in the process endangering its own path continue through to page 48


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(L-R) United Kingdom's permanent representative to the United Nations Karen Pierce, Kuwait’s permanent representative to the United Nations Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi and Peru's ambassador to the UN and delegation leader Gustavo Adolfo Meza Cuadra Velasqez address a pre-departure press conference at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka in Bangladesh, on April 30, 2018.

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(R-L) Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Vietnam's prime minister; Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bangladesh's prime minister; Jovenel Moise, Haiti's president; Mauricio Macri, Argentina's president; and Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, participate in the Outreach leaders working session at the Group of Seven (G7) Leaders Summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, on June 9, 2018.

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Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Bekir Bozdag, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey; Adel Al-Jubeir, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, pose for a group photo with other leaders during he 45th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CMF) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Dhaka, Bangladesh on May 5, 2018.

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UN Photo/Caroline Gluck


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Members of the Security Council delegation visit the Kutupalong Refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. The camp is currently the world's largest refugee settlement and hosts around 600,000 refugees. Members of the delegation visit Kuna Para, the so called "No Man's Land" between Myanmar and Bangladesh, where many Rohingya are staying. Mansour Al-Otaibi (at podium), Permanent Representative of the State of Kuwait to the UN, addresses the audience.

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Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Priyanka Chopra is not only an accomplished international actress, but she is also a very engaged and resolute humanitarian. By lending her highly regarded name and talents to UNICEF on behalf of those who are assailable and without proper resources, she represents in a way that both contributes immeasurably and advocates for a better life for those in need. She is a proponent for people who are afflicted all over the world; however, she recently visited Bangladesh to speak to the issue of refugees.

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Humanitarian, Bollywood/Hollywood actress and UNICEF Global Goodwill Ambassador Priyanka Chopra during a UNICEF event.

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UNICEF goodwill ambassador Priyanka Chopra speaks at a news conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh on May 24, 2018. She has called for increased support for vulnerable Rohingya refugee children and women following a four-day visit to Cox's Bazar where she met Rohingya children and families living in refugee camps and informal settlements.

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Miroslav Lajcรกk (at podium), President of the 72nd session of the General Assembly, makes remarks during a reception held in recognition of thirty years of Bangladeshi contributions to UN Peacekeeping Operations. Secretary-General Antรณnio Guterres (second from right) also spoke.


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President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer (R) talks to Rohingya refugees during his visit to Chakmarkul refugee camp in Teknaf on July 1, 2018. He said it was not safe to return Rohingya refugees to their homes in Myanmar, where he described whole villages abandoned and destroyed.


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Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

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to sustainable development. Repeated calls to the international community for assistance have helped to meet the immediate needs of the refugees. Despite substantial efforts by humanitarian organizations to alleviate suffering, observes President Peter Maurer of the International Committee of the Red Cross, “Too many people are still suffering too much, despite all the talking and all the efforts.” Today Bangladesh confronts an inescapable dilemma. The short-term goal was to shelter the Rohingya people in their exile. Now, the medium-term target must be to improve the immediate quality of their life by providing the essentials of community – education, sanitation, health care. Somewhat in contradiction to these immediate needs, however, the long-term goal must be to repatriate the Rohingya to their home area, Rakhine state, in Myanmar in “a safe, voluntary and dignified manner.” How to accomplish these simultaneous and competing ends? Summer 2018 brought a stream of United Nations and international officials to Bangladesh including UN Secretary General António Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund Dr. Natalia Kanem, and UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee. In the midst of a summer of many discontents around the world, their goal was to focus attention on the continuing plight of the Rohingya and to prepare an action agenda for the opening of the UN General Assembly in September. These leaders met in Dhaka with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other government officials to express the appreciation of the international

community for the efforts Bangladesh had undertaken and to learn the government’s plans for the future of the refugees. They went to see first-hand the situation in the Rohingya settlements and review options under consideration in Bangladesh. They deliberated and examined how best to effectively engage the government of Myanmar in the work of repatriation by securing the resettlement environment, building suitable housing and offering productive economic opportunities. Diplomatic Connections was pleased to have the opportunity to speak at length with Bangladesh’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative at the United Nations in New York, H.E. Masud Bin Momen. A career diplomat, prior to his posting in New York, Masud Bin Momen served as Bangladesh’s Ambassador to Japan and previous to that as Ambassador to Italy where he was also Permanent Representative to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Program (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. He has long experience in multilateral and multisector diplomacy designed to bridge his country’s relations across South and Southeast Asia. Diplomatic Connections: For Bangladesh, what is the importance of being here in New York at the United Nations? What is the importance of the United Nations as a multilateral institution? Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: For any country the United Nations is the ultimate forum for international interaction on a government-to-government level. Not only is the United Nations the key forum for multilateral diplomacy, it also offers a vital locale for bilateral and regional diplomacy to take place. When Bangladesh gained its independence, we also

Masfiqur Sohan/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled from Myanmar violence a few months before offer Eid prayers on June 16, 2018 while held at Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.


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Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim (center) arrives at the Kutupalong refugee camp during his visit to the Rohingya community in Bangladesh's southeastern border district of Cox's Bazar on July 2, 2018. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he heard unimaginable accounts of atrocities during a visit July 2 to vast camps in Bangladesh that are home to a million Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Myanmar. Accompanied by the head of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, he called it a “mission of solidarity with Rohingya refugees and the communities supporting them. The compassion and generosity of the Bangladeshi people shows the best of humanity and saved many thousands of lives.�

Masfiqur Sohan/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Hundreds of thousands Rohingya have fled from Myanmar violence taking shelter on the hills of Cox's Bazar (southern part of Bangladesh) on June 16, 2018. They started cutting down trees on the hills for their makeshift residences. As they continue living inside the tents on the hills, landslides from heavy rains and storms are killing many people.

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began the process of gaining recognition as a separate sovereign state with its own seat at the United Nations. We became a United Nations member in 1974. Since that time we have been active participants deeply engaged in the work of the United Nations at all levels. The father of our nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – father of our current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina - made his landmark statement at the United Nations General Assembly in September 1974. There he laid out the fundamentals of our country’s foreign policy: friendship to all and malice to none. That simple principle has continued to shape our foreign policy and our work in New York and at the United Nations in Geneva to this day. Diplomatic Connections: Does it make a difference that all 193 members of the United Nations are here in New York whereas there are some states that are not represented bilaterally in various countries around the world? Every state is here in New York, even – from an American point of view – the North Koreans, even the Iranians, even the Cubans. [NOTE: Three states that are not members – The Holy See, Kosovo and Palestine – have been accorded Non-Member Permanent Observer Status.] Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: The United Nations Charter is very explicit that membership is open to all “peaceloving states.” This is essential because it means that each member state can hear the voice, the aspirations, and the world views of other states on a wide variety of issues. In many ways, the United Nations is a vital locale for listening even more than speaking. Here, Bangladesh has the opportunity to discuss various issues and whenever possible to form smaller groupings or coalitions of likeminded countries that share our views in order to enhance our influence on global decision-making. Often smaller countries do not have enough leverage to make their voice heard, but the United Nations can amplify their voices and highlight their concerns. Diplomatic Connections: How is Bangladesh coping with the large influx of Rohingya refugees? In a country that already has a very large population, hundreds of thousands of people flooding across your border as refugees in the span of a few months presents a serious dilemma. The refugees are in camps inside Bangladesh but not far from the border with Myanmar. How is the United Nations helping? How is your country coping? Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: Although we are not parties to the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention, Bangladesh felt strongly that out of humanitarian consideration we had to allow these people into our country. When we saw


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desperate people, including large numbers of women and children, trying to flee violence in Myanmar by crossing the river that separates our two countries, Bangladesh felt obligated to allow them to enter even though it put an enormous strain on our resources. Diplomatic Connections: To what extent is the conflict in Myanmar based on religious identity given that the Rohingya are predominantly Muslim in a majority Buddhist country, and to what extent is it a more complex ethnic conflict between the Rohingya group and other ethnic groups in Myanmar? Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: There are more than 135 registered ethnic groups in Myanmar and historically the Rohingya have been included among them. From 1948 onwards, Burma has had very exclusionary citizenship policies and since 1982 the Rohingya have been denied full citizenship rights. Though they were permitted “temporary status” for several years and even granted special identity cards, in recent years the government of Myanmar has become even more restrictive and anti-Muslim sentiment has grown. Though the Rohingya had been living in Rakhine state since the 15th century and many others arrived in the 19th and 20th century during the era of colonialism in British India, the government of Myanmar essentially views the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. By denying the Rohingya citizenship, Myanmar has rendered the Rohingya virtually stateless. Religious identity is certainly shorthand for the difficulties the Rohingya have faced, but the reality is much more complex and involves history, culture, and economics. Diplomatic Connections: What would improve the situation of the Rohingya at this point? Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: The refugees in the camps pose significant challenges. For instance, in Bangladesh we have virtually eliminated diphtheria, but now we are encountering significant numbers of diphtheria cases among the refugees in the camps. We are also seeing cholera and other public health challenges. Bangladesh has been able to manage these threats among its own population, but the rapid expansion of the camps has presented enormous difficulties. Bluntly, the camps though a necessity in humanitarian terms are a recipe for disaster because the crowded conditions and limited facilities provide an ideal environment for the spread of disease. The international community has been very forthcoming with assistance but the need is so great and the plight of

the refugees so prolonged that it is difficult to sustain the amount of assistance needed. There are other displaced communities and refugees in need of assistance around the world. Not only does a degree of donor fatigue set-in but resources are simply stretched too thin. And, it is difficult to keep attention focused on the plight of the Rohingya. It is in the nature of the international community and the media to move from one crisis to another. Diplomatic Connections: Looking ahead, projecting, what should be the solution to the Rohingya question? Can the Rohingya be repatriated? Can they be integrated in some way into the civil, economic and political order of Bangladesh? Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: Bangladesh has signed a bilateral statement with Myanmar that is designed to move towards repatriation of the Rohingya. Of course, this would be a voluntary repatriation to be conducted with dignity, with guarantees of safety and in a sustainable manner. We are currently working to finalize the terms of reference for this transition and working to establish a Joint Working Group that will oversee the repatriation process; it was our hope that this course of action could actually start this year (2018), but progress has been halting. Diplomatic Connections: You would only send the Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar under conditions where Bangladesh felt their security was reasonably assured? Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: If the persons concerned feel that they are not safe enough or they are not treated fairly, then they themselves might refuse to return to their homes in Myanmar. The most critical element is that many of these people have been subjected to various forms of torture and intimidation before leaving their land. They are still traumatized and, as a result, it is very difficult to convince them to go back unless the situation on the ground improves. The Myanmar authorities will have to design and put in place a series of confidence building measures in order to facilitate the repatriation process. Diplomatic Connections: Bangladesh is pursuing parallel tracks in an attempt to deal with the Rohingya refugees. You are dealing directly with Myanmar and, at the same time, pursuing multilateral diplomacy through the United Nations. How do these two diplomatic tracks reinforce each other? Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: You have made a very important observation. We have to solve this problem bilaterally at the end of the day. It is between Myanmar and Bangladesh because these people have come to

Bangladesh, and now we are making arrangements so that they can go back to Myanmar. But, given the history of these events and our experience with the refugee flow, we have seen that if it is left solely between the two countries, then it might take years or decades to complete this process. The international community’s constant engagement is required. We feel that the social outcry about the situation of the Rohingya, the attention of the media, and the concerns expressed by various human rights organizations as well as civil society must continue not only in order to amplify the voices of the Rohingya but also to encourage the government of Myanmar to correct the situation and allow the Rohingya to return to their home with full citizenship rights. The momentum that has been created is helping to move the bilateral negotiating process forward by highlighting the human tragedy of the Rohingya migration into Bangladesh from Myanmar. We are asking the international community to take “custody” of the humanitarian and political situation of the refugees in order to facilitate their return home and the restoration of their basic human rights. Diplomatic Connections: The United Nations involvement assures that the attention of the world does not turn away from this humanitarian crisis? Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: Exactly. Otherwise the situation can relapse into a downward spiral where the Rohingya become “stateless” and trapped in a kind of diplomatic limbo with no one taking responsibility for them. Diplomatic Connections: Do you expect action from the Security Council beyond continuing to be “seized” of this issue? Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: The critical thing is for bilateral diplomacy to operate in an atmosphere where all parties are conscious that the international community is watching and encouraging a positive outcome that will protect the Rohingya and preserve their human, cultural, political, social and economic rights. The Security Council can take some actions. There must be a demand for the immediate cessation of violence and all kinds of hostilities. We need continuing international action to ensure that violence against the Rohingya homeland does not continue, even if allegedly in the name of preparing for their return to Rakhine state. In the

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Diplomatic Connections: Does that mean that being in multilateral diplomacy here in New York is more frustrating because the results are less immediate? Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: Here at the United Nations, the responsibilities can be more challenging. Certainly you invest time and effort in talking to your colleagues from other countries, but they are also tied by the guidance UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres meets with a Rohingya refugee at the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh's southeastern border district of Cox's Bazar on July 2, 2018.

meantime, we need to do all that we can to protect the Rohingya in the camps and provide adequate conditions for them. This is especially critical now that the monsoon season has set in. Diplomatic Connections: Given your long and varied experience, how would you describe the differences between bilateral diplomacy and multilateral diplomacy? Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: Both bilateral and multilateral diplomacy are important. In bilateral diplomacy you can see the result of your efforts. Directly. That can provide great satisfaction. In United Nations and other multilateral work the issues are multi-faceted, and it is often more difficult to see the immediate impact of your work. Yes, resolutions can be passed but their language is often diluted by competing demands. At the end of the day, it is often not clear that your country has directly benefited from those resolutions. In bilateral diplomacy the situation can be quite different. For instance, there might be 100,000+ Bangladeshi workers laboring in Italy in various capacities.


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Suzauddin Rubel/AFP/Getty Images

If you can help them to establish themselves and live more easily in a foreign country, you have really had an impact on those workers lives and livelihoods. That is a satisfaction. While I was in Italy, I always tried to promote integration of Bangladeshi citizens into the Italian mainstream. I tried to promote football (soccer) and other games that can easily be shared across cultures. We also tried to promote various cultural activities. Because Bangladesh has a rich cultural heritage it is often possible to dissuade our workers from taking religion to an extreme in defense of their cultural identity. The goal is to guide the Bangladeshi diaspora in certain directions. This is something in which I took great pride. That was true not only in Italy but in Japan as well.

their foreign ministries have given them. Realpolitik requires them to look first at their own country’s interests in political, economic and geostrategic terms. National interests can often override even more real humanitarian concerns. That can be frustrating, but it is the nature of a diplomat’s work. Diplomatic Connections: You have had such a long and varied career. Based on your experience, what would you want to offer as lessons to a new generation of Bangladeshi diplomats? Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: Diplomats are given a trust, the responsibility to represent their home country and to do something to advance its interests. Never undervalue any diplomatic position; no matter what the assignment or the country. Every station, every desk job at the Foreign Ministry is a stepping stone to the next position and presents an opportunity to learn. Contribute toward creating a better image of your country. Help to build and strengthen economic ties. Diplomatic Connections: You used the word “trust.” In fact, whether it is the Bangladeshi Foreign Service or the diplomatic personnel of any other country, diplomats are entrusted not only with protecting their country’s national interests but also

entrusted with understanding and accurately reporting back to their Foreign Ministry the interests of the country to which that diplomat has been posted. Ambassador Masud Bin Momen: I believe in honest diplomacy. I believe in mutual trust and respect. With technology and the internet nobody can hide or bluff their way out of a dilemma. There is no question in my mind that: “Honesty is the best policy.” A single deception, a single misrepresentation can undermine not only a diplomat’s but a country’s credibility in an instant, or these days a click of the mouse. If you are honest then automatically you gain trust, with your friends and even with your adversaries. That will eventually create a situation where everybody benefits. Diplomatic Connections: Thank you, Ambassador Masud. We have had a lengthy and fascinating discussion that has touched not only on Bangladesh’s place in the world but has dealt extensively with one of the most pressing humanitarian conundrums confronting our world, the Rohingya refugees who have safe haven in your country. Their plight poses unusually challenging questions of cultural identity, nationality, sovereignty and fundamental human rights.

Suzauddin Rubel/ AFP/Getty Images

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (C) arrives at the Kutupalong refugee camp for the Rohingya community in Bangladesh's southeastern border district of Cox's Bazar on July 2, 2018.

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There's GOLD in Tunisia. Beautiful, green, liquid gold.

Its history goes back 2,500 years, to the time of Queen Dido and the ancient Phoenicians who founded Carthage on the northern coast of Africa. They brought with them olive trees, considered sacred by many religions and mythologies. Later, when the Romans conquered Carthage, they expanded the cultivation of olives into every region of Tunisia and introduced them to Italy and other destinations around the Mediterranean Sea. What the Carthaginians

Monica Frim Photography by John Frim and Monica Frim

started, the Romans expanded, and today’s Tunisians perfected. Tunisia has become a world leader in organic extra virgin oils and winner of numerous awards in international competitions, including 11 medals—seven gold and four silver—at the New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) held in April 2018. It is the leading exporter of olive oil outside the European Union—and the third largest

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Mounir Boussetta and Zhaira Abdellah Boussetta of Domaine de Segermès have much to smile about. Their organic virgin olive oils are winning international awards and catching the attention of chefs and gourmands the world over.


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exporter of olive oil (after Spain and Italy) to the United States. Yet Tunisian olive oils are scarcely known to the American consumer. For years, Tunisian olive oil made its way to Italy and Spain where it was mixed with other oils, bottled and, in the case of Italy, slapped with labels sporting the Italian flag or pictures of Mount Vesuvius, and exported with no mention of its Tunisian provenance. But now Tunisia is reclaiming and celebrating its olive oil industry by bottling its own oils and selling them directly to international markets under the Tunisian producers’ own labels. What’s more, Tunisia is slowly gaining recognition on the world stage for quality extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) rich in Vitamin E and polyphenols, which act as antioxidants in a heart-healthy diet. Mr. Chiheb Slama, Head of the Olive Oil Exporters Syndicate, addressed some industry objectives in his welcoming speech at the Tunisian Olive Oil Awards, held April 19, 2018 in Tunisia and organized by the Tunisian Packaging Technical Centre (PACKTEC) under the aegis of the Tunisian Ministry, Small and Medium Enterprises. “We want to improve our place within the international market,” Slama said. “To increase exports and make our brands better known in the world and to develop new packaging to penetrate new markets.” But if Tunisian olive oil is to make headway in the United States, it will require more than clever packaging. Americans, used to bland, sweet fats, need time to adjust to the sophisticated, some would say acquired, tastes of a high quality extra virgin oil. Despite the labels attesting to extra virginity, many oils imported from Europe have been blended with hazel or other oils, or refined through a variety of chemical processes so that they contain few, if any, polyphenols. Polyphenols give great oils their evidential bitter tastes—a peppery and fruity throat-burn that signifies extra virginity. As one virgin oil aficionado remarked during a tasting, “Like medicine, bitter is better.” The mantra seems to be making its way into olive bars in New York and Los Angeles, where olive oil aficionados taste and compare olive oils much like the patrons of wine bars. It’s all in keeping with the trend towards heightened sensory perceptions through foods like dark chocolate, bitter salad greens and pungent cheeses. If you can appreciate the subtleties of those strong flavors, you’re probably already a connoisseur of extra virgin olive oil. Tunisia prides itself on producing organic EVOOs that are exceptionally high in polyphenols, possibly triggered

by the tough semi-arid climate that also precludes a need for pesticides or herbicides. Olive trees grow naturally in every region of the country, either planted roughly 24 meters apart, with 17 olive trees per hectare for optimum water absorption, or scattered naturally by bird and animal droppings in dry river beds and other uncultivated regions. Their longevity is astounding; olive trees can survive and produce fruit for more than a thousand years. Indeed, south of Tunis, the peninsula of Cap Bon boasts a 2,500-year-old tree, that was planted during the Carthaginian reign and still bears fruit! Ancient Roman olive mills still dot the landscape of Tunisia, many of them on display, museum-like, in privately-owned olive orchards such as the ones at Domaine de Segermès and Domaine Ben Ammar, both certified organic with internationally award-winning oils. While 95% of olive oil producers use traditional organic methods, few operations are officially certified as organic due to the high cost of certification. Segermès is named after the original Roman place as found on an ancient map of Africa. It is the label of the award-winning oils produced by the BioLive Company, owned and operated by Mounir Boussetta whose father purchased the land in the mid1900s complete with Roman ruins and the remains of a Byzantine church, baptistry and sarcophagus. Two antique olive mills are also on display on the property. Indeed, Boussetta proudly positions his production facility within the framework of history. “It’s both a museum and a modern production plant,” he says. The facility is modern with the stainless steel machines, tanks and laboratory equipment, but traditional in the sense that the olives are grown organically, then crushed and filtered by mechanical processes without the addition of solvents or chemicals to manipulate the flavors. Olives are crushed the same day they are picked for maximum flavor and health benefits. Boussetta uses both Chemlali and Chetoui olives, two major cultivars native to Tunisia. Chemlali olives produce a somewhat sweet, golden-green oil, while the Chetoui leans toward a more bitter, darker green oil. Not that color bears any significance. Serious olive oil tastings are usually done with sips from little blue glasses that obscure the color of the oil to avoid any prejudice in favor of greener oils. The idea is to first cover the top of the glass with one hand to trap the aroma inside before continue through to page 65

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The tastes and flavors of organic olives include [clockwise from top], a bottle of Domaine de Segermès Chetoui organic extra virgin olive oil, winner of the Extra Gold medal at the 2018 Biol International Olive Oil Competition; a shelf loaded with vaious olives for table consumption; olive oil tasting samples; a Tunisian salad accompanied by a bottle of Domaine Ben Ammar, whose Ivlia label won the Gold Award at the 2018 NYIOOC, the largest international olive oil competition in the world.


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Domaine de Segermès also produces chemlali oils with fruity and grassy flavors, and a unique l’huile sauvage from the tiny olives that grow wildly from seeds dropped by birds.

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Some proud winners of the 2018 Tunisian Olive Oil Awards event held at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Gammarth.

A table of trophies and awards stands on the patio of the Ben Ammar organic farm in recognition of Domaine Ben Ammar’s prestigious award-winning olive oils.


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you take a whiff. When you taste it, it’s important to take a goodly amount that can be rolled around your mouth with your tongue. Swallow, paying close attention to the sensation you detect in the throat. Does it kick, tingle or make you cough? For a light olive oil that barely denotes a scent or a tingle, Boussetta also produces a pale yellow olive oil from trees grown from seeds scattered by bird droppings in the wilds. Appropriately, it’s called, simply, Wild Olive Oil. The Domaine Segermès Chetoui Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil received the Biol Extragold medal in the 23rd International Competition for the best organic extra virgin olive oil in the world. Held in Bari, Italy in March, 2018, the Biol Prize is dedicated to the best olive oils from around the world. At Domaine Ben Ammar, sales manager Rawia Ben Ammar leads a team of journalists and photographers through an all-encompassing facility that produces not only some of the best Tunisian EVOO—their IVLIA olive oil, an organic robust Chetoui under the label of Tunisia Natura received the Gold Award at the prestigious New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC) in April 2018— but also boasts a natural spring water bottling plant, free range chickens and a variety of vegetables. Here too the emphasis is on organic in all aspects of the operation—from olives to artichokes, tomatoes and the almonds planted between the rows of olive trees. Rawia’s brother-in-law, Mr. Chaouki Ben Ammar explains that as a family operation (The Tunis Natura Company was founded by his brother, Mr. Abed Raouf Ben Ammar) they try to

work in the spirit of their ancestors and in close conjunction with nature. They press only their own olives and use the paste left over from the pressing as a heating fuel. After it is burned, the residue is mixed with manure to fertilize the trees. Nothing goes to waste. The production of olive oil is a seasonal industry so the other endeavors keep the company in production all year. In fact, according to Chaouki Ben Ammar, the facility cannot keep up with the demand for their products. Their 15,000 (3,000 per hectare) free-range chickens are fed only organic grains. They take five months to mature. Though destined mainly for national consumption, the chickens are in high demand in Qatar, so three times a week the company flies fresh poultry meat to the Middle Eastern nation. The gnarly trunks and bushy heads of Tunisia’s emblematic trees have studded the North African landscape for thousands of years. Their liquid gold has flowed through changing civilizations—from Carthaginians to Romans , Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Berbers, Spaniards, Turks, Italians, French and traces of other cultures—as a binding force of hope and renewal. The green gold still flows as the country wrestles with the economic challenges of a tenderfoot democracy, seeking to gain a mutually beneficial foothold in international markets. Where olive oil was once a sign of wealth, it is now universally viewed as a foretoken of health. It seems an honorable exchange. ■ continue through to page 67

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Archaeological remains of an old Roman oil mill link past and present and provide a touch of elegance to the entrance at Domaine de Segermès. International journalists join representatives of PACKTEC, the branch of the Ministry of Industry that runs the Tunisian olive oil campaign, for lunch at the Ben Ammar organic farm.


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Bottles of some of the Segermès award-winning olive oils.

Rawia Ben Ammar, sales manager of the family business, dons traditional dress for a farewell photo taken at the Ben Ammar organic farm.

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A view of the famous Blue Lagoon spa where tourists and locals gather for geothermal bathing in the silica rich waters, on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the south west of Iceland. A country of glacial and volcanic geology, with a rich historic tradition, Iceland was ranked in 2007 by the UNHDI as the most developed nation in the world.


keeping with our Consul General series, Diplomatic Connections recently interviewed Iceland's Consul General in New York, Hlynur Gudjonsson. He's been a diplomat for approximately 12 years and prior to that, he was working in corporate America. His business background has given him a substantial foundation to work from in his current career as a government representative. Gudjonsson views his appointment as an opportunity to broaden the consulate's traditional role in keeping with modern demands being made on the practice of diplomacy. Diplomatic Connections: How and when did your career in diplomacy begin? Consul General Gudjonsson: I come from the business side and was working for a corporation in the U.S. when I was asked to take over the Icelandic trade mission for North America at the end of year 2005. My diplomatic career started in January 2006. Diplomatic Connections: How did you come to be a diplomat in New York?


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Consul General Gudjonsson: After serving as the trade commissioner for three years, the Consul General position became available. I was asked to assume those duties as well, which I was happy to do. Diplomatic Connections: What is the anticipated length of stay for your particular posting here in New York? Consul General Gudjonsson: I started out as the trade commissioner and still hold that position. Most countries tend to keep their trade people for longer periods of time in the U.S. Why? Because it takes considerable time and effort to build a practical and effective business network in such large markets. Diplomatic Connections: How do you define the mission of a consulate in general and for your nation specifically? Consul General Gudjonsson: The consulate’s mission is to serve our nationals, whatever their needs are, as well as to promote Iceland and its people, brands and culture. The trade commission´s goal is to increase the nation’s prosperity. We try to accomplish this by increasing the positive awareness of Iceland in North America through

Jim Dyson/Getty Images


HLYNUR GUDJONSSON Consul General and Trade Commissioner Consulate General of Iceland in New York D I P L O M AT I C C O N N E C T I O N S B U S I N E S S E D I T I O N | S E P T E M B E R - O C T O B E R 2 0 1 8


Diplomatic Connections: What is its role in New York versus another city in the United States? Consul General Gudjonsson: New York is the hub of business and trade management for Iceland in North America. The office is well supported by our embassies in Ottawa and Washington, D.C.; by our honorary consuls in North America; and by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in ReykjavĂ­k. We work closely with partners such as Promote Iceland, Invest in Iceland, Film in Iceland, Innovation Center Iceland, and with various businesses and industry associations. Diplomatic Connections: How is the consulate organized specifically in New York? Consul General Gudjonsson: We are a small office focused on Iceland, our core industries, foreign direct investment and the start-up ecosystem in Iceland and culture. The office is also responsible for collaborations with the other Nordic countries in North America. We partner with Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland on projects such as Nordic Innovation House-New York, Nordic City Solutions,

Atlantic puffins can certainly be found in Iceland; however globally, they aren't as common as they once were with a decline in recent years. They primarily feed on small fish having wings that are quite powerful providing them astounding ability to dive underwater to retrieve them with great ease which can often give puffins the illusion of flying through the water.


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promotions of our products, services and culture in our target markets. The stronger the position that Iceland builds in the market, the more likely our companies can open doors to build new business. Therefore, a strong Iceland brand has a better chance of attracting new and diverse foreign direct investment, and of maintaining and advancing interest in Iceland as a destination. A strong Iceland brand is also better prepared to deal with crisis, economic or other. We focus as well on various issues that matter to Icelanders, beyond business and trade, such as gender equality, as we understand that human rights are a cornerstone of a healthy society and vital to continued prosperity.

Nordic Welfare Solutions and various cultural initiatives in the U.S. and Canada. The trade commission, in partnership with Promote Iceland, is also responsible for the management of the Iceland Naturally marketing program (www. We also manage the Icelandic American Chamber of Commerce and the Icelandic Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Diplomatic Connections: What region does the consulate represent for the northeast corridor? Consul General Gudjonsson: The consulate covers New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island and hosts the Icelandic trade mission for the U.S. and Canada. Diplomatic Connections: How is the economic collaboration of your country with the United States? Consul General Gudjonsson: The economic relationship with the U.S. continues to be strong. The U.S. is a vital export market for Iceland and the leading source of imports to our country. It is by far our largest customer when it comes to goods and services.

Horses roam together in a pasture in Hofn. Iceland's tourism industry continues to thrive; just eight years ago Iceland welcomed approximately 464,000 tourists and by last year nearly 2.2 million people visited the nation.

The growth of tourism has been extraordinary, making the U.S. our most important source of visitors. According to Travel Weekly magazine, Reykjavík was Americans’ third most-favored destination in 2017 (up from 28th place in 2015). That’s behind only London and Paris and ahead of Rome and Amsterdam, which is enormous for a nation of 350,000 people. The U.S. has also been the largest foreign direct investor in Iceland for a long time and the interest in investing continues to grow. Diplomatic Connections: What is the role of the consulate when you have elections in your country? Consul General Gudjonsson: The consulate’s role is to host and organize a polling station in at the consulate to enable Icelanders in the area to take part in elections, both parliamentary and local.

Cuveland/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Diplomatic Connections: What services does the consulate offer to your country’s nationals residing in your district as well as visiting tourists? Consul General Gudjonsson: The consulate’s prime responsibility is to assist Icelandic nationals in need of help. They can come to the consulate to apply for passports including attaining one in the case of an emergency where someone might be injured or need medical help. We also have a responsibility to ensure that Icelanders who may be arrested by police get due legal representation and we pay visits to those serving prison sentences in the U.S., if they so wish. Diplomatic Connections: How does the consulate participate in the cultural and touristic promotion of your nation in the U.S.? D I P L O M AT I C C O N N E C T I O N S B U S I N E S S E D I T I O N | S E P T E M B E R - O C T O B E R 2 0 1 8


Consul General Gudjonsson: We focus on public diplomacy, not just coming into a market doing something as Iceland but really engaging with the local audience and talent. This we accomplish in numerous ways. One example is the Reykjavik Calling concert where we curate talents from Iceland with musicians from the local market for an evening of music collaboration. Another example is our relationship with the radio station in Seattle. KEXP has created close to 300 Icelandic music videos at Iceland Airwaves and their studio in Seattle. The collection has received over 60 million views and they have discovered bands like Of Monsters and Men through this partnership. It is a long-term vision, creating bonds between the local market and Iceland that will last for more than the three hour concert. The office organizes larger events such as Taste of Iceland in New York, Seattle, Boston, etc. through Iceland Naturally. We have a large social media presence and showcase our nation, its products, services and culture online, through a mix of marketing activities. Additionally, our purpose is to assist travelers going to Iceland with information on it as a destination, visa questions, customs, etc. Diplomatic Connections: How can the consulate help those who are not citizens of your country planning to travel to your country? Consul General Gudjonsson: The U.S. is our largest tourist market and we are a small office, but we answer requests

in the thousands every year. We’ve built good websites for people to check out when planning a trip, specifically:, and Our country offers unique and dramatic nature, wonderful food and inspiring art and culture. It is divided into seven geographical regions: West, Westfjords, North, East, South, Reykjanes and Reykjavík/the capital area. Each region offers a host of diverse experiences for the visitor to enjoy, from puffins (see photos on page 72) in the East to the black beaches of the South, from the Dynjandi waterfall in the Westfjords to whale watching in the North. Visitors can hop from one tectonic plate to another in Reykjanes, descend into a glacier in the West or explore buzzing downtown Reykjavík. Travelers can find information about the different regions at: Diplomatic Connections: What would the difference be if you were to make suggestions for a tourist versus someone going there on business? Consul General Gudjonsson: The Icelandic airlines offer stopovers in Iceland, free of charge, on the way to Europe and the other way around. It’s a great option for business travelers to spend a weekend there before they head on to their meetings. It is also a good idea for tourists going on vacation in Europe, a vacation within a vacation. For the business person, a visit to Reykjavík makes

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Black sand beach near Vik, Iceland.


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Martin Zwick/REDA&CO/UIG via Getty Images

North Atlantic coast during winter near Reykjanesviti and Valahnukur in February.

the most of possibly limited time. Our capital is a hotbed of activity all year around, with a remarkable number of annual festivals and seasonal events. The city boasts seven swimming pools warmed with Iceland’s famous geothermal water. People will also discover a thriving cultural scene with outstanding restaurants and a variety of interesting galleries, theaters and sports facilities. People can also take day tours outside of the city, to glaciers in West or South Iceland, for example, or to the Blue Lagoon in Reykjanes. Iceland is a large island and there is plenty to see and do all year around: Whale watching, hiking, snowmobiling, ice climbing, caving, horseback riding, diving and even northern-light hunting during the winter as well as museums, music, design and other cultural activities and events. For the tourist, I would suggest spending several days in the capital area, and then venturing out to other regions. Don’t rush, give it time and then come back for more.

and in Chicago next April. Sign up for our newsletter to follow our events calendar, stay tuned at: www. Diplomatic Connections: If you had a message for our readers specifically concerning your country, what would it be and why? Consul General Gudjonsson: Come to our country; it's an easy, welcoming and beautiful place to visit. This large island offers plenty of places where you find both action and tranquility. The legal framework and infrastructure are in many ways very European, like that of the other Nordic countries. English is widely spoken. You will discover that the experience of doing business in Iceland is similar to working elsewhere in Europe – and at times possibly easier. Enjoy Iceland! ■

continue through to page 81

Diplomatic Connections: Are there any upcoming cultural events organized by the consulate? Are they open to the public? Consul General Gudjonsson: Yes, we have Taste of Iceland events coming up in New York, Sept. 27-30; in Seattle, Oct. 11-14; in Toronto, Nov. 15-18; in Boston next March; D I P L O M AT I C C O N N E C T I O N S B U S I N E S S E D I T I O N | S E P T E M B E R - O C T O B E R 2 0 1 8


Online Properties: Consulate of Iceland in New York: • • • Iceland Naturally: • • • Consul General: • • Tourism: • • • Invest and Trade: • • For further information, please contact: Consulate General of Iceland in New York at


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Hendrik Osula/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The setting sun lights up the waterfall known as Seljalandsfoss with a red glow in Selfoss. Iceland's tourism industry continues to thrive; just eight years ago Iceland welcomed approximately 464,000 tourists and by last year nearly 2.2 million people visited the nation.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Búðakirkja also known as Budir black church. The first Búðakirkja was built on the spot in 1703, but was eventually deconstructed due to the area's lack of parishioners. The current church was reconstructed in 1987 after a single member of the church lobbied to have the chapel brought back. It has a historic graveyard as well as relics such as a bell and chalice from the time the church was first erected. Iceland is one of the Nordic nations in Europe. With its population estimated at just over 330,000 in 2017, Iceland has a total land area over 103,000 km square, it is one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world. Iceland is famous for its volcanoes and hot springs. During winter months, many tourists visit the island nation to see the Aurora Borealis also known as the northern lights.


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Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, over southern Iceland.

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Sunset at Eystrahorn in Iceland.

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Visitors sit in the geothermal waters at the Blue Lagoon close to the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik .

Helen Maria Bjornsd/Nordic Photos/Getty Images

People on snowmobiles make their way towards a volcanic eruption between the Myrdalsjokull and Eyjafjallajokull glaciers in Fimmvorduhals, Iceland.


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Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located in a lava field in GrindavĂ­k on the Reykjanes Peninsula near Reykjavik, southwestern Iceland.

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ATime of

It’s one thing to sign a peace agreement; it’s another to implement it.

Reckoning for

COLOMBIA A conversation with Ambassador Camilo Reyes Rodriguez

Roland Flamini

Ambassador Reyes argues that Colombia’s counter-narcotics effort requires international support because Colombian coca growers are fulfilling a demand from the United States, Europe and elsewhere. He also points out that the global increase in cheaper synthetic drugs, easier to produce, is already undercutting the cocaine market, and will continue to do so. Ambassador Reyes was called out of retirement to take over the Washington embassy two years ago. Following a distinguished diplomatic career that included one period as foreign minister and two as deputy foreign minister, he spent eight years as head of the Colombian-American Chamber of Commerce. He talked to Diplomatic Connections this summer as his D.C. posting was drawing to a conclusion. Diplomatic Connections: Why were you were brought out of retirement to take over the Washington embassy? Ambassador Reyes: I was a career diplomat for 35 years, and I retired in 2008. Then I was head of the Colombian-American Chamber of Commerce, in the private sector for eight years, and after all that President Santos asked me to take over as ambassador in Washington. I think the most important reason for sending me here was that I had been so much involved with Colombian and American enterprises generating investment and trade between the two countries. Diplomatic Connections: So that was one of your priorities as ambassador in Washington, what were some of the others? Ambassador Reyes: Well, my first priority was to ensure the continuation of United States support for the peace process. But another important mission was the strengthening and further development of the bi-lateral trade and investment relationship – getting in touch with American enterprises, establishing a good relationship, and inviting them to Colombia. We already have a large number of American companies operating in Colombia; they have done good business and they have been successful – and persistent, because we’ve had difficult times. But the fact is that Colombia has gained stability. Then I worked with the United States in confronting the difficulties in the region 82

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H.E. CAMILO REYES RODRIGUEZ Ambassador of Colombia to the United States

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– Venezuela and Central America, the whole triangle, Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. And, of course, the level of cooperation between Colombia and the United States in the fight against drugs. Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in drug production. Overall, I would say that we have managed to build a high level dialogue and cooperation regarding strategic objectives and the work of sustaining peace and we’ve agreed that we will keep that level of cooperation for the next five years. Diplomatic Connections: Is there a permanent mechanism in place that looks after this arrangement? Ambassador Reyes: There are many mechanisms to keep it going – mechanisms between the Colombians and different government departments in the United States. There’s an education area, there’s an environment negotiation and preservation mechanism; there’s another area of cooperation dealing with security and specifically with development in areas that were affected by the conflict in Colombia. It’s an interesting process that has been advancing for already seven years. Diplomatic Connections: So Peace Colombia, the U.S. economic program ($450 million) to help advance the peace process and a successor to the anti-drug program Plan Colombia - is continuing... Ambassador Reyes: It is being sustained. In 2017, the United States decided to support all the programs with $391 million. The same amount was approved in 2018, and I’m happy to mention we’ve heard that at least the first indications for the coming year are very positive in respect of that kind of continued American support. So we have the political support, and the financial support - and we worked hard to get them both. Diplomatic Connections: Do you think Washington is obsessed with Colombia’s narcotics problem? Ambassador Reyes: I wouldn’t say that it is obsessed. I think it is concerned, worried, but we have managed through a lot of work and a great deal of exchange to build a common view on the way in which we are now operating. Colombia is doing an enormous effort which is reflected in a strategy that has three elements – forced eradication, crop substitution, and interdiction. In a few more months we will start to see very interesting results in the reduction of the area of production. Diplomatic Connections: At the moment, as you yourself just pointed out, the area of coca production is increasing. It’s now 200,000 hectares of coca, and that’s an increase from the 84

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130,000 hectares not so long ago. Ambassador Reyes: There’s always a discussion on the amount. The United States says there are 200,000 hectares of coca growing. Why has the coca production increased? First, we had a peso devaluation which meant an increase in the profits of the business; second, there was a reduction of gold prices and many illegal gold miners moved to coca production – from one illegal activity to another illegal activity – and third the government offered coca-dependent peasants help to switch to legal crops, and the result was a surge in coca farming to cash in before the eradication. Colombia’s approach to the drug problem is based on what we call shared responsibility, because it’s not only our responsibility. There’s the demand from the United States. Diplomatic Connections: Successive Colombian governments have made that argument that Colombian coca crops meet the demand of U.S. and European markets – although in recent years there’s been an increase in drug use in Colombia itself… Ambassador Reyes: Yes, an increase in domestic consumption. Diplomatic Connections: Do Colombians believe there is the international will to combat drugs as a global problem? Ambassador Reyes: The (international attitude) is changing. It’s taking more time than we would like, but it is happening. The change is for two reasons, the more people are affected by the problem they realize that it is much more a health issue than a security issue, and the approach to this problem should be a different one, but that change takes time. Secondly, in the end it’s the huge increase in the synthetic drug consumption that’s probably going to change reality. Diplomatic Connections: In other words, synthetic drugs are taking over the cocaine market. Ambassador Reyes: Yes, the opiates and the introduction of drugs like fentanyl that you can make in a small back room. Diplomatic Connections: Is the U.S. involvement what Colombia wants, or is it the involvement the U.S. thinks that you should have? Ambassador Reyes: We have managed to build a common understanding, starting from different realities. One of the big merits of the whole effort is that we have been able until now to build a common understanding of the best way to confront the problem. Diplomatic Connections: What does that mean in practice? Ambassador Reyes: Our view is that we have made an

enormous effort, and many Colombians have been lost; we have suffered an enormous amount of violence because of our drug problem, and why is it that it happens? Because someone paid for it. On the other hand the Americans say, this is reaching our society because someone produces it. From two very different perceptions in which one could always blame the other, Colombia and the United States managed to build a common view and a common approach in which we work together to reduce and control, and, we hope, one day simply eliminate the problem. Diplomatic Connections: How much of a challenge is Venezuela to Colombia? Ambassador Reyes: It is from very different points of view a huge challenge, we already have many refugees – 800,000 at present - and we really hope the international community increases its efforts to contain a humanitarian crisis which is huge, and then to see which way it can press for a path forward to democratic institutions in Venezuela. Diplomatic Connections: President Duque campaigned on the promise to advance the peace process, isn’t that correct? Ambassador Reyes: The new government has said that they want to change some elements of the agreement. They have said, We will comply, we want to implement it, we will push onward with the agreement. But there are some elements that need to be changed. The challenge now is to see how these changes can take place, while at the same time, preserving the peace process as a whole. So it is not going to be easy, but I think – and this is my own opinion - that Colombia really wants to preserve the peace agreement, and that public opinion wouldn’t back a return to war, and asking the FARC to “go back to the mountains” because the agreement couldn’t be implemented. Diplomatic Connections: Isn’t one of the issues how to make some insurgents accountable for their past actions? Ambassador Reyes: Yes. There are still many challenges, and the first one is to figure out how the justice system is to be applied to people who took part in the conflict, and people who were victims of the conflict. You can pardon the guerillas; you can tell them, you demobilize - which has happened - give in your weapons – which also happened, and in both cases it happened surprisingly successfully and then you say, now we want you to become members of a functioning society and become citizens. But those of you who committed a certain type of crime will have to somehow pay, and be punished, because there is a part of justice that cannot be avoided. That part of the

implementation is extremely touchy and difficult. More so when you think of former rebels participating in politics. Diplomatic Connections: Indeed: Gustavo Petro, who came second in the election, is himself former leftist guerilla. The fact is that the left, for the first time, did surprisingly well in the presidential elections. How do you explain its success? Ambassador Reyes: It’s a trend away from the institutionalized political parties. The traditional (conservative) parties in Colombia are having a difficult time. In the past, the left in Colombia had been “kidnapped” by the left wing guerillas. Once the guerillas were demobilized the whole political scenario changed. The FARC itself got very few votes in the election, but the opportunity of having a legitimate left wing party and a (leftist) political voice was enhanced by the peace process. Diplomatic Connections: Given your long experience in diplomacy, what advice would you give to a young diplomat coming to Washington? Ambassador Reyes: Firstly, (he or she) needs to be aware that both the United States and the international environment are going through a transition, or parallel transitions, which represent new realities and new challenges. This country is going through an important transformation, and an important change in the way the U.S. addresses the international agenda. There is also a change globally, and all this makes the work of a young diplomat much more demanding. It is going to be more difficult to understand what is happening, and it’s going to be more difficult to try to build a strategy for a country, and increasingly demanding to be efficient. There are new actors in the international community. There are very powerful NGOs (non-government organizations), and a very powerful new genre of enterprises. If you think of Google, or Microsoft, or Apple, with larger revenue than the GDP of many countries; Facebook has a stronger political capacity than many countries. Diplomatic Connections: What changes do you have in mind? Ambassador Reyes: I think that there are many new circumstances, but I would mention the Brexit phenomenon. The fact that the successful advancement of the integration process in Europe was suddenly stopped, questioned, and one needs to admit that Europe has entered a crisis with some big risks. When you look at what is happening in Central Europe, and what is happening in Spain, one realizes that this huge effort that went into the building of the European Union has stopped, and is going

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through a difficult time, which I think will last for some years before it finds a new, stable kind of integration. Diplomatic Connections: What’s next for you after Washington?

Schmidt, Willy Brandt. They were not only very courageous. Consider the cost and the political generosity they needed, the enormous amount of money they paid to integrate.

Ambassador Reyes: I’m looking forward to some rest and may also take time to travel. But I’ve had a strong connection with some universities and teaching is of great interest to me. I hope to share the experiences of my career with young students, and at the same time do some research to try and establish the main elements that today create this very difficult foreign policy environment for Latin America.

Diplomatic Connections: And in the U.S.?

Diplomatic Connections: You’re thinking of writing a book.

Diplomatic Connections bids a fond farewell to

Ambassador Reyes: I’m going to try to do just that. It’s not an easy project. Based on my own experience, I want to try to identify the main lessons from 40 years in foreign relations, including my years at the chamber which were very related with foreign trade and investment. Diplomatic Connections: In your long career, which world leader impressed you most? Ambassador Reyes: I was very surprised to see the ability with which the German politicians put together Germany at the end of the Cold War – Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Helmut

Ambassador Reyes: In the U.S., I am very, very much seduced by the personality of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He had an enormous influence in Latin America. Both elements of politics, The Good Neighbor and The New Deal, somehow were copied in Colombia. On the other hand, I can’t ignore obviously that very bright moment and some very strong elements of John F. Kennedy’s presidency.

Ambassador Reyes. `


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(Full L-R bottom) F) in Dublin on July 10, 2018; G) observing a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster during a visit to Chester on June 14, 2018; H) at Marlborough House in London on July 5, 2018; I) celebrating the Prince of Wales's 70th Birthday Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on her first official engagement as the Duchess of Sussex on May 22, 2018 J) at the Southbank Centre in London on July 17, 2018.

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Page 95 (Full L-R top) A) Kensington Palace on November 27, 2017 formally announced their engagement; B) on a visit to Nottingham Academy on December 1, 2017; C) at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on February 13, 2018; D) attending the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey on March 12, 2018; E) at a reception at the Royal Aeronautical Society during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on April 19, 2018;

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...posing with the Sentebale Polo 2018 trophy after the match held at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club in Windsor on July 26, 2018.

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...accompanying Lord Peter Hain, Chair of The Nelson Mandela Centenary Committee, as they visit the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition at Southbank Centre's Queen Elizabeth Hall on July 17, 2018 in London, England. The exhibition explores the life and times of Nelson Mandela and marks the centenary of his birth.

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Megan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, wearing discreet colors, long dresses and chaste necklines while attending events and engagements in chronological order in the months before her wedding (top) and subsequent to her wedding (bottom). Go to page 92 for more detailed information.

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Ampeer Residences offers fully furnished residences with flexible accommodation terms, from 30 days to 12 months. Perfectly situated in the heart of Historical Dupont Circle, you are steps away from the best that Washington has to offer. Beautifully appointed social spaces are available exclusively to our residents and their guests. Enjoy breakfast in our Social Kitchen and evening hors d’oeuvres in our Grand Ballroom with cocktails crafted by our inhouse Mixologist.

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Diplomatic Connections Sept/Oct 2018  

Ambassadorial interviews. International politics.

Diplomatic Connections Sept/Oct 2018  

Ambassadorial interviews. International politics.