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Breaking Diplomatic Ties

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Breaking Diplomatic Ties


Previously the rupture of diplomatic relations between countries was considered a serious measure. In most cases, this rupture would lead to war. In 1793, Great Britain broke off diplomatic ties with France as a result of the execution of Louis XVI and ordered the rench ambassador to leave the country. A few days later, France declared war.[1] In some instances it is a measure used as the only remaining option to stop serious abuses. Qaddafi’s regime in Libya came into power after a military coup in 1969. He renamed the embassies People’s Bureaus and has continually abused and exploited diplomatic immunities, hiding terrorist weapons in their missions and communicating plots of terrorist murders against opponents of the regime through diplomatic bags and coded messages. The US went as far as closing down the Libyan People’s Bureau in the hope of curbing these abuses.[2] Even in the Libyan shooting in London where Constable Fletcher was killed, Britain broke diplomatic ties as a last resort, because no other remedy had worked.[3]

Using this remedy might ensure that diplomats from that specific country never commit a crime in the receiving State again, but once again, the perpetrator goes unpunished. Yet it is interesting to note that although countries have severed diplomatic ties, it does not mean that the two countries do not negotiate or converse at all. A group of diplomats of the State will work under the flag of another State. This is known as an “interests” section and is regulated by Article 45 and 46 of the Vienna Convention. For instance, when the 1991 Gulf War broke out, Iraq and UK had severed ties; however, an interests section of Iraq was attached to the Embassy of Jordan in the UK. The Embassy of Jordan is known as the protecting power who allows Iraq to conduct diplomatic relations in their embassy. Interests sections can also be established as a step towards reconciliation between diengaged States. An example was in 1955 when the Soviet Union and the South African government severed relations. However, as a result of their common and strong interests in the economic sphere of gold and diamond marketing, and the domestic changes in South Africa by the 1980, interests sections were opened under the protection of the Austrian embassies in Moscow and Pretoria.[4]

References and Works Cited

[1]           T.J. Lawrence, The principles of International Law, Sweet & Maxwell, London, at 301-302, (5th ed. 1910).
[2]           McClanahan, Supra Note 13, at 146.
[3]           Denza, Supra Note 28, at 65.
[4]           Berridge, Supra Note 87, at 140-141.


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