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Comings & Goings


Fareed Yasseen, Iraq’s long-serving ambassador to the United States, is leaving Washington after five years representing Baghdad in the nation’s capital.

Yasseen, winner of the 2021 “Ambassador of the Year” award presented by the National US-Arab Chamber of Commerce last December, was formerly Iraq’s ambassador to France.

Trained as a physicist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Yasseen later carried out research at MIT. He was later drawn into political activism, with a focus on human rights advocacy. In 1974, he fled the regime of Saddam Hussein, maintaining a low profile for fear of endangering relatives and friends in Iraq.

Iraq’s veteran ambassador, Fareed Yasseen. (Photo courtesy of NUSAAC)

In the mid-1990s, Yasseen became involved with the worldwide effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming. He joined the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The technologies he pioneered there, including webcasts, now form an integral part of the UN’s activities.

Yasseen’s replacement has not yet been announced.

Meanwhile, David Zalkaliani, foreign minister of Georgia, has resigned his job in order to become his country’s new ambassador to the United States, according to the Tass news agency, quoting Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili.

Zalkaliani will replace David Bakradze, who had been Georgia’s ambassador here since 2016.

In other news, the Times of Israel is reporting that Ron Dermer, Israel’s former envoy to the United States, has joined Exigent Capital Group, a Jerusalem-based investment firm.

Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Washington from 2008 to 2014, has pleaded guilty in US District Court to attempting to embezzle from his own government. (Photo by Larry Luxner)

Dermer, who helped broker the Abraham Accords—Israel’s normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain—will work to develop Exigent’s global relations. Originally from Florida, Dermer has degrees from Oxford University as well as the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Speaking of former ambassadors, Jaliya Chitran Wickramasuriya—who represented Sri Lanka here from 2008 to 2014—has admitted that he diverted and tried to embezzle $332,027 from his own government during its 2013 purchase of a new embassy building in Washington’s pricey Kalorama district.

The joint announcement, made by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, says that Wickramasuriya, 61, devised a scheme in January 2013 to defraud his government by inflating the price of the real estate transaction by $332,027 and, at closing, diverting those funds from the government to two companies which had no role in the real estate transaction.

Larry Luxner

Miami native Larry Luxner, a veteran journalist and photographer, has reported from more than 100 countries in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia for a variety of news outlets. He lived for many years in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the Washington, D.C., area before relocating to Israel in January 2017. Larry has been news editor of The Washington Diplomat since 2005.