Night Watch

North Korea-Panama: Update. Two diplomats from North Korea assigned in Cuba will arrive in Panama on 23 October to deal with the case of the North Korean ship and crew seized and detained in Panama for transporting undeclared Cuban weapons, according to a Panamanian official.

Ri Il Gyu, secretary of the North Korean Embassy in Havana, and Political Counselor Ra Yun Bak are scheduled to meet with Drug Prosecutor Javier Caraballo, who is handling the criminal case.

Comment: Panamanian authorities said this week they are prepared to release the ship and 33 of the 35 crew members. The captain and his mate are to remain in custody under criminal charges.

The ship is not seaworthy. Repairs and removal will be one of the agenda items in the talks.

United Kingdom-Iran: An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that the UK and Iran will appoint non-resident charges d'affaires within eight days. After that, the Iranian Embassy in London and the British Embassy in Tehran will reopen and the two countries will close their interests sections. The Iranian spokesperson said this is first step towards a gradual normalization of relations.

Comment: Iran and Britain agreed on 8 October to appoint non-resident chargés d'affaires as a first step toward reopening their embassies during a meeting on the sidelines of the Geneva talks. What appears to have facilitated this move was a recent set of UK court decisions that found that British sanctions on Iranian banks were arbitrary and capricious and had to be lifted. The Iranian parliament downgraded relations with the UK in 2011 after the government imposed sanctions on Iranian banks.

The European Union has already lifted sanctions on Iran's largest bank and another bank. The European commitment to some Iraniansanctions appears to be slipping.

Saudi Arabia-US: Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats the kingdom will make a "major shift" in its relations with the United States, according to an unidentified source close to Saudi policy on 22 October.

Prince Bandar said the US had failed to act effectively on the Syria crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011.

Night Watch

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