Canberra says Moscow was not building its new diplomatic headquarters fast enough
Australia has terminated the lease for a new Russian embassy in Canberra, the National Capital Authority (NCA) announced on Wednesday.
Russia has 20 days to leave “premium sites” in Yarralumla, not far from the Australian parliament, the NCA said in a statement.
The Russian Embassy in Australia is currently located in the Griffith suburb of the Australian capital, but there were plans to move it to Yarralumla, which houses the diplomatic compounds of some other countries.
“The NCA supports a ‘use it or lose it’ policy” Sally Barnes, the head of the agency that oversees planning and development for the capital, explained the termination of the lease.
She accused Moscow of showing no willingness to develop the Yarralumla site, which was granted to it in 2008.
According to the NCA, all approvals for the building were issued in 2011, with Russia promising to complete construction of the complex within three years.
“While initial work has begun, the block in question sits like a building site with unfinished construction for many years now,” Barnes insisted.
“The unfinished work in progress detracts from the overall aesthetics, importance and dignity of the area reserved for diplomatic missions and foreign representation in the nation’s capital”, she added.
Once the site is cleared, it will be returned to the pool of land available for diplomatic purposes in Canberra, and foreign countries will be able to file applications to use it.
“The Russian Federation may submit a new request in the future which the NCA will review and assess accordingly,” the agency said.
Tensions between Russia and Australia have risen since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, in which Canberra backs kyiv.
Australian authorities have joined international sanctions against Moscow, while providing Ukraine with armored vehicles and other military equipment worth $390 million. During his visit to Kyiv last month, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his country was “the largest non-NATO contributor” in Kyiv.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on Thursday criticized the AUKUS pact between the US, UK and Australia to arm Canberra with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, saying it would could “explode” the entire Asia-Pacific region.
“The implementation of this plan will have a profound negative effect on global and regional security and create an environment conducive to the weakening of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” Shoigu warned.
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