Monday, December 8, 2014

Canadian Embassy in Cairo Closes Due to Security Concerns

Cairo's Tahrir Square

The embassies of Canada, the UK, and the U.S., are all located in Cairo's Garden City district, just south of Tahrir Square, which is the focus of civil disturbances in the city.

Canada's National Post reports that our fine neighbor neighbour to the north has been forced to close its embassy in Cairo today, Canada closes embassy in Cairo amid security concerns:

The Canadian Embassy announced its closure through a message on its main telephone number Monday. An Egyptian security official told The Associated Press that Canadians asked for all roads around the embassy shut down and more security.

He said they would increase security, but the roads couldn’t close.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to speak to journalists.

The British Embassy closed its offices to the public Sunday and Monday. Both embassies are in Cairo’s Garden City neighbourhood. The nearby U.S. Embassy remained open.

CBC New World added some significant details, Canadian Embassy in Cairo closes for unspecified security reasons:

CBC's Middle East correspondent Sasa Petricic said there have been security assessments in recent years that show the Canadian Embassy is particularly vulnerable in comparison to nearby embassies, including the British and American ones.

It is not set back from the street and is vulnerable on two sides, Petricic said.

Last month, a CBC News investigation showed that the Department of Foreign Affairs failed to spend almost half of the $129 million budgeted for “strengthening security at missions abroad” in 2013-14, leaving $69 million on the table.

So, the Canadian embassy is particularly vulnerable to security threats because it is "not set back from the street?" Setback! That's the foremost defining feature of those Fortress Embassies that critics of diplomatic architecture so loath.

Loathsome it may be, but there is no good substitute for setback when you are trying to operate a diplomatic premise in a dangerous place. Especially when the host government is unable or unwilling to close the surrounding public streets, which is something I can understand when those streets are in the downtown core of their capitol city.    

Regarding that unspent budget for Canadian diplomatic security, I hope for the DFA's sake that the Canadian Parliament has no equivalent of our Representative Jason 'embassy security is my pet project' Chaffetz.

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