Diplomatic mission

A diplomatic mission or foreign mission[1] is a group of people from one state or an organisation present in another state to represent the sending state/organisation officially in the receiving state. In practice, a diplomatic mission usually denotes the resident mission, namely the embassy, which is the main office of a country's diplomatic representatives to another country, usually but not necessarily the receiving state's capital city. Consulates, on the other hand, are smaller diplomatic missions which are normally located in major cities of the receiving state (but can be located in the capital, usually when the sending country has no embassy in the receiving state). As well as being a diplomatic mission to the country in which it is situated, it may also be a non-resident permanent mission to one or more other countries. There are thus resident and non-resident embassies.[2][3][4][5]

Ambasciata di Spagna Presso Santa Sede - panoramio
Spanish embassy to the Holy See and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Ambassade des pays nordiques (Berlin) (6298294868)
An example of multiple embassies in one location: Embassies of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden to Germany in Berlin


A permanent diplomatic mission is typically known as an embassy, and the head of the mission is known as an ambassador or high commissioner. The term "embassy" is commonly used also as a section of a building in which the work of the diplomatic mission is carried out, but, strictly speaking, it is the diplomatic delegation itself that is the embassy, while the office space and the diplomatic work done is called the chancery. Therefore, the embassy operates in the chancery.

The members of a diplomatic mission can reside within or outside the building that holds the mission's chancery, and their private residences enjoy the same rights as the premises of the mission as regards inviolability and protection. [6]

All missions to the United Nations are known simply as permanent missions, while EU member states' missions to the European Union are known as permanent representations, and the head of such a mission is typically both a permanent representative and an ambassador. European Union missions abroad are known as EU delegations. Some countries have more particular naming for their missions and staff: a Vatican mission is headed by a nuncio (Latin for "envoy") and consequently known as an apostolic nunciature. Under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's missions used the name "people's bureau", headed by a secretary.

Missions between Commonwealth countries are known as high commissions, and their heads are high commissioners.[7] Generally speaking, ambassadors and high commissioners are regarded as equivalent in status and function and embassies and high commissions are both deemed to be diplomatic missions. [8][9]

In the past a diplomatic mission headed by a lower-ranking official (an envoy or minister resident) was known as a legation. Since the ranks of envoy and minister resident are effectively obsolete, the designation of legation is no longer used today. (See diplomatic rank.)

A consulate is similar to, but not the same as a diplomatic office, but with focus on dealing with individual persons and businesses, as defined by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. A consulate or consulate general is generally a representative of the embassy in locales outside of the capital city.[7] For instance, the United Kingdom has its Embassy of the United Kingdom in Washington, D.C., but also maintains seven consulates-general and four consulates elsewhere in the US. The person in charge of a consulate or consulate-general is known as a consul or consul-general, respectively. Similar services may also be provided at the embassy (to serve the region of the capital) in what is normally called a consular section.

In cases of dispute, it is common for a country to recall its head of mission as a sign of its displeasure. This is less drastic than cutting diplomatic relations completely, and the mission will still continue operating more or less normally, but it will now be headed by a chargé d'affaires (usually the deputy chief of mission) who may have limited powers. A chargé d'affaires ad interim also heads the mission during the interim between the end of one chief of mission's term and the beginning of another.


Contrary to popular belief, most diplomatic missions do not enjoy full extraterritorial status and – in those cases – are not sovereign territory of the represented state.[10] Rather, the premises of diplomatic missions usually remain under the jurisdiction of the host state while being afforded special privileges (such as immunity from most local laws) by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Diplomats themselves still retain full diplomatic immunity, and (as an adherent to the Vienna Convention) the host country may not enter the premises of the mission without permission of the represented country, even to put out a fire.[11] International rules designate an attack on an embassy as an attack on the country it represents. The term "extraterritoriality" is often applied to diplomatic missions, but normally only in this broader sense.

As the host country may not enter the representing country's embassy without permission, embassies are sometimes used by refugees escaping from either the host country or a third country. For example, North Korean nationals, who would be arrested and deported from China upon discovery, have sought sanctuary at various third-country embassies in China. Once inside the embassy, diplomatic channels can be used to solve the issue and send the refugees to another country. See the list of people who took refuge in a diplomatic mission for a list of some notable cases.

Notable violations of embassy extraterritoriality include repeated invasions of the British Embassy, Beijing (1967),[12] the Iran hostage crisis (1979–1981), and the Japanese embassy hostage crisis at the ambassador's residence in Lima, Peru (1996-1997).


The Vienna Convention states:

The functions of a diplomatic mission consist, inter alia, in representing the sending State in the receiving State; protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending State and of its nationals, within the limits permitted by international law; negotiating with the Government of the receiving State; ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the receiving State, and reporting thereon to the Government of the sending State; promoting friendly relations between the sending State and the receiving State, and developing their economic, cultural and scientific relations.[13]

Diplomatic missions between members of the British Commonwealth of Nations are not called embassies, but high commissions, as Commonwealth nations share a special diplomatic relationship. It is generally expected that an embassy of a Commonwealth country in a non-Commonwealth country will do its best to provide diplomatic services to citizens from other Commonwealth countries if the citizen's country does not have an embassy in that country. Canadian and Australian nationals enjoy even greater cooperation between their respective consular services, as outlined in Canada-Australia Consular Services Sharing Agreement. The same kind of procedure is also followed multilaterally by the member states of the European Union (EU). European citizens in need of consular help in a country without diplomatic or consular representation of their own country may turn to any consular or diplomatic mission of another EU member state.

The rights and immunities (such as diplomatic immunity) of diplomatic missions are codified in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Multiple missions in a city

Some cities may host more than one mission from the same country. An example is Rome, where many states maintain missions to Italy and another to the Holy See. It is not customary for these missions to share premises nor diplomatic personnel. At present, only the Iraqi missions to Italy and the Holy See share premises; however, two ambassadors are appointed, one to each country. In the case of the UN's Food Agencies, the Head of Mission to the Italian Republic is usually accredited as permanent representative. The United States maintains a separate United States Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome, whose head is the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture. Kolkata, India hosts two Bangladeshi Deputy High Commissions, one at Park Circus and another at Mirza Galib Street. This was done to reduce overcrowding inside the Deputy High Commission. At first the Park Circus was opened and later, the one at Mirza Galib Street. Now both the Deputy High Commissions issue Bangladeshi visa.

Non-diplomatic offices

Governments of states not recognized by the receiving state and of territories that make no claim to be sovereign states may set up offices abroad that do not have official diplomatic status as defined by the Vienna Convention. Examples are the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Offices that represent the government of the Republic of China; Somaliland's Representative Offices in London, Addis Ababa, Rome, and Washington, D.C.; the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices that represent the government of that territory. Such offices assume some of the non-diplomatic functions of diplomatic posts, such as promoting trade interests and providing assistance to its citizens and residents. They are nevertheless not diplomatic missions, their personnel are not diplomats and do not have diplomatic visas, although there may be legislation providing for personal immunities and tax privileges, as in the case of the Hong Kong offices in London and Toronto, for example.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "What is a Foreign Mission /Chancery?". www.state.gov. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
  2. ^ Tom Nierop, Systems and Regions in Global Politics (Wiley, John and Sons 1994 ISBN 978-0-471-94942-8), p. 67.
  3. ^ "The Russian Federation has diplomatic relations with a total of 187 countries, but some of them – mainly for financial reasons – maintain non-resident embassies in other countries", International Affairs, issues 4–6 (Znanye Pub. House, 2006), p. 78
  4. ^ "Of Chile's 109 foreign diplomatic missions in 1988, no fewer than 31 were on a non-residential basis, while 17 of the 63 missions in Santiago were non resident" (Deon Geldenhuys, Isolated States: A Comparative Analysis (University of Cambridge 1990 ISBN 0-521-40268-9), p. 158).
  5. ^ "America's diplomatic mission to (Saudi Arabia) was changed from non-resident to permanent Minister in Jeddah" (Fahad M. Al-Nafjan, The Origins of Saudi-American Relations, page not numbered).
  6. ^ "1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, article 30" (PDF).
  7. ^ a b Sidhur Andrews (1 Jun 2007). Introduction To Tourism And Hospitality Industry. Tata McGraw-Hill Education. p. 33.
  8. ^ Nutt, Jim S. "Diplomatic and Consular Representations".
  9. ^ "Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, "What does the work of a High Commissioner involve?"" (PDF).
  10. ^ 'Laws and Rules Regarding Extraterritoriality' on integrity-legal.com: "There is a common misconception that Embassies and Consulates have extraterritoriality. As anecdotal evidence of this misconception, people will often say things like, 'the US Embassy sits upon United States soil.' For the most part, this is not the case as extraterritoriality is not conferred upon an Embassy or Consulate, but in some situations extraterritoriality may be created by Treaty".
  11. ^ "What is a U.S. Embassy?". diplomacy.state.gov.
  12. ^ "Sir Ray Whitney". The Daily Telegraph. London. 15 August 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2015. Red Guards scaled the British mission's wall as diplomats watched the Ealing comedy Two-Way Stretch. They retreated to an inner room without switching off the projector, pushing a piano across the door as the mob broke windows and began climbing in. Whitney and his colleagues retreated again to the embassy's secure zone, with heavily barred windows. The Chinese set fire to the mission, then used a battering ram on the steel emergency door.
  13. ^ "Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relationships, article 3" (PDF).

External links

2012 Benghazi attack

The 2012 Benghazi attack was a coordinated attack against two United States government facilities in Benghazi, Libya by members of the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia.

At 9:40 p.m., September 11, members of Ansar al-Sharia attacked the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi resulting in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith. Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979.At around 4:00 a.m. on September 12, the group launched a mortar attack against a CIA annex approximately one-mile (1.6 km) away, killing CIA contractors Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty and wounding ten others. Initial analysis by the CIA, repeated by top government officials, indicated that the attack spontaneously arose from a protest. Subsequent investigations showed that the attack was premeditated – although rioters and looters not originally part of the group may have joined in after the attacks began.The National Review later labeled the attack Battle of Benghazi, a name that has since been used by several media outlets to refer to the attacks. There is no definitive evidence that al-Qaeda or any other international terrorist organization participated in the Benghazi attack. The United States immediately increased security worldwide at diplomatic and military facilities and began investigating the Benghazi attack. Many Libyans condemned the attacks. They staged public demonstrations condemning Ansar al-Sharia, which had been formed during the 2011 Libyan civil war in opposition to leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.Despite persistent accusations against President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice, ten investigations — six by Republican-controlled congressional committees — did not find that they or any other high-ranking Obama administration officials had acted improperly. Four career State Department officials were criticized for denying requests for additional security at the facility prior to the attack. Eric J. Boswell, the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, resigned under pressure, while three others were suspended. In her role as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton subsequently took responsibility for the security lapses.On August 6, 2013, it was reported that the U.S. had filed criminal charges against several individuals alleged to have been involved in the attacks, including militia leader Ahmed Abu Khattala. Khattala has been described by Libyan and U.S. officials as the Benghazi leader of Ansar al-Sharia. The U.S. Department of State designated Ansar al-Sharia as a terrorist organization in January 2014.Khattala was captured in Libya by U.S. Army Special Operations Forces, who were acting in coordination with the FBI, in June 2014. Another suspect, Mustafa al-Imam, was captured in October 2017.


Agrément is a specialized term in the field of international affairs that refers to the agreement by a state to receive members of a diplomatic mission from a foreign country.

In this procedure, diplomatic connections consent by the demande d' agréation obtained prior to the appointment of a diplomat of the posting state. The posting state showcases an accreditation letter which is presented to the appointed diplomat by the head of state on the diplomat's arrival. He or she is thereby accepted as a member of the diplomatic corps of the receiving state and added to a diplomatic list. The designated personage enjoys diplomatic immunity in the receiving state.

The state receiving the designated diplomat may refuse the agrément without giving a reason, making the designated diplomat "persona non grata". The absence of a timely agrément is often seen as a signal to designate a different individual.

Air attaché

An air attaché is an Air Force officer who is part of a diplomatic mission; this post is normally filled by a high-ranking officer.

An air attaché typically represents the chief of his home air force in the foreign country where he serves. The day-to-day responsibilities include maintaining contacts between the host nation and the attaché's air force. This includes arranging official visits, exchange postings and exercises.

Other duties of an air attaché also include traveling around the host country to determine the extent of the air force infrastructure of the host country and then filing intelligence reports with their superiors in the home air force. Many of the travels are disguised as other types of trips, such as vacations or family trips, otherwise the air attaché could be expelled for spying if caught doing so.

On a smaller diplomatic mission which does not have its own air attaché, the role of the air attaché is carried out by the defence attaché who also deals with army and navy matters. Sizable diplomatic missions may be served by both an air attaché and an assistant air attaché.

Apostolic Nunciature

An Apostolic Nunciature is a top-level diplomatic mission of the Holy See, equivalent to an embassy. However, it does not issue visas, nor does it have consulates.

The head of the Apostolic Nunciature is called a nuncio, an ecclesiastical diplomatic title. A papal nuncio (officially known as an Apostolic nuncio) is a permanent diplomatic representative (head of diplomatic mission) of the Holy See to a state or to one of two international intergovernmental organizations, the European Union or ASEAN, having the rank of an ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, and the ecclesiastical rank of titular archbishop. Papal representatives to other intergovernmental organizations are known as "permanent observers" or "delegates".

In several countries that have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, the Apostolic Nuncio is ipso facto the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps. The nuncio is first in the order of precedence among all the diplomats accredited to the country, and he speaks for the diplomatic corps in matters of diplomatic privilege and protocol. Most countries that concede priority to the nuncio are officially Catholic, but some are not.

In addition, the nuncio serves as the liaison between the Holy See and the Church in that particular nation, supervising the diocesan episcopate (usually a national conference of bishops which has its own elected President, often the highest-ranking (arch)bishop, especially if his seat carries the title of primate or he has individually been created a cardinal). The nuncio has an important role in the selection of bishops.

Diplomatic cable

A diplomatic cable, also known as a diplomatic telegram or embassy cable, is a confidential text message exchanged between a diplomatic mission, like an embassy or a consulate, and the foreign ministry of its parent country. A diplomatic cable is a type of dispatch. Other dispatches may be sent as physical documents in a diplomatic bag.

The term cable derives from the time when the medium for such communications was international submarine communications cables. The term cablegram is also sometimes used. Due to the importance and sensitive nature of the subject matter, diplomatic cables are protected by the most elaborate security precautions to prevent unfettered access by the public, and unauthorized interception by foreign governments. They are always encrypted, frequently by unbreakable one time pad ciphers using key material distributed using diplomatic couriers.

Embassy of Bulgaria, London

The Embassy of Bulgaria in London is the diplomatic mission of Bulgaria in the United Kingdom. Diplomatic relations between the two countries date from 1879 and there has been a Bulgarian embassy in London since 1903. The embassy is currently housed in a building on the east side of Queen's Gate, just within the City of Westminster, which is Grade II listed.

Embassy of Syria, Washington, D.C.

The Embassy of Syria in Washington, D.C. (Arabic: سفارة الجمهورية العربية السورية في واشنطن‎) is the suspended diplomatic mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United States. The final ambassador of the Syrian Arab Republic was Imad Moustapha. A Charge D'Affaires has not been named.

The embassy was ordered to suspend operations on March 18, 2014 by U.S. special envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein, who stated that "We have determined it is unacceptable for individuals appointed by that regime to conduct diplomatic or consular operations in the United States".The United States subsequently recognized the diplomatic mission of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces on 5 May, 2014.

Embassy of Ukraine, London

The Embassy of Ukraine in London is the diplomatic mission of Ukraine in the United Kingdom. Ukraine also maintains a Consulate at 78 Kensington Park Road, Notting Hill.

Embassy of the United States, Paris

The Embassy of the United States in Paris is the diplomatic mission of the United States in the French Republic. The embassy is the oldest diplomatic mission of the United States. Benjamin Franklin and some of the other Founding Fathers were the earliest United States Ambassadors to France. It is located at 2 Avenue Gabriel, on the northwest corner of the Place de la Concorde, in the 8th arrondissement.

Head of mission

In diplomatic usage, head of mission (HOM) or chief of mission (COM) from the French "chef de mission diplomatique" (CMD) is the head of a diplomatic representation, such as an ambassador, high commissioner, nuncio, chargé d'affaires, permanent representative, and to a consul-general or consul. Depending on the context, it may also refer to the heads of certain international organizations' representative offices. Certain other titles or usages that would qualify as a head of mission or equivalent also exist. While they are primarily referred to by the other titles mentioned above, it is common for the diplomatic corps of several countries to use deputy head of mission or deputy chief of mission (DCM) as the primary title for the second in command of a diplomatic mission.

In diplomatic missions and foreign services where ambassadors may be political appointees rather than career diplomats, the deputy chief of mission may be the senior career foreign service professional and generally understood to be more than a "deputy."

Heads of offices of international organizations below this diplomatic rank who are that organization's senior official in country, such as a project manager, and of private sector organizations and firms are commonly called "chiefs of party" to distinguish them from "chiefs of mission."

Chef de Mission is also the title of the team manager of a national delegation in major international multi-discipline sporting events, such as the Olympic Games.

High Commission of Australia, London

The High Commission of Australia in London is the diplomatic mission of Australia in the United Kingdom. It is located in Australia House, a Grade II listed building. It is both Australia's first diplomatic mission and the longest continuously occupied diplomatic mission in the United Kingdom.

High Commission of Rwanda, London

The High Commission of Rwanda in London is the diplomatic mission of Rwanda in the United Kingdom and also the home of the Rwanda diplomatic mission to Ireland. The High Commission is located at 120 to 122 Seymour Place, London, near to Marylebone and Baker Street underground stations.

The High Commission provides consular services to Rwandan citizens living in the UK and Ireland including passport applications, marriage registration, emergency travel documents and police clearance certificates. For UK citizens, the High Commission can provide visa services and travel documents, press accreditation and permission to film in the country, along with information on Rwanda and its people.The current High Commissioner for Rwanda to the UK and non-resident Ambassador to Ireland is Her Excellency Yamina Karitanyi

High commissioner (Commonwealth)

In the Commonwealth of Nations, a high commissioner is the senior diplomat (generally ranking as an ambassador) in charge of the diplomatic mission of one Commonwealth government to another. Instead of an embassy, the diplomatic mission is generally called a high commission.


A legation was a diplomatic representative office of lower rank than an embassy. Where an embassy was headed by an ambassador, a legation was headed by a minister. Ambassadors outranked ministers and had precedence at official events. Legations were originally the most common form of diplomatic mission, but they fell out of favor after World War II and were upgraded to embassies.

Through the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century, most diplomatic missions were legations. An ambassador was considered the personal representative of his monarch, so only a major power that was a monarchy would send an ambassador and establish an embassy. A republic or a smaller monarchy would only send a minister and establish a legation. Because of diplomatic reciprocity, even a major monarchy would only establish a legation in a republic or a smaller monarchy. For example, in the waning years of the Second French Empire, the North German Confederation had an embassy in Paris, while Bavaria and the United States had legations.The practice of establishing legations gradually fell from favor as the embassy became the standard form of diplomatic mission. The establishment of the French Third Republic and the continued growth of the United States meant that two of the Great Powers were now republics. The French Republic continued the French Empire's practice of sending and receiving ambassadors. In 1893, the United States followed the French precedent and began sending ambassadors, upgrading its legations to embassies. The last remaining American legations, in Bulgaria and Hungary, were upgraded to embassies in 1966.The last legations in the world were the Baltic legations, which were upgraded to embassies in 1991 after the Baltic states reestablished their independence from the Soviet Union.

List of diplomatic missions in Ghana

This page lists the diplomatic mission in Ghana. The capital Accra currently hosts 62 embassies/high commissions.

List of diplomatic missions of the Czech Republic

This is a list of diplomatic missions of the Czech Republic. Excluded are honorary consulates and 'Czech Centres', offices without diplomatic status responsible for promoting trade, tourism and Czech culture abroad.

List of heads of the diplomatic missions of the Holy See

The following is a sortable list of the heads of the diplomatic mission of the Holy See. An apostolic nuncio (also known as a papal nuncio or simply as a nuncio) is an ecclesiastical diplomat, serving as an envoy or a permanent diplomatic representative of the Holy See to a state or to an international organization. A nuncio is appointed by and represents the Holy See, and is the head of the diplomatic mission, called an Apostolic Nunciature, which is the equivalent of an embassy. The Holy See is legally distinct from the Vatican City or the Catholic Church. A nuncio is usually an archbishop.

Military attaché

A military attaché is a military expert who is attached to a diplomatic mission (an attaché). This post is normally filled by a high-ranking military officer who retains the commission while serving in an embassy. Opportunities sometimes arise for service in the field with military forces of another state.

Permanent representative

A permanent representative is a diplomat who is the head of a country’s diplomatic mission to an international organisation.Organizations that receive permanent representatives from their member states include the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, NATO, the European Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Organization of American States. Permanent representatives can be sent to subunits or field offices of an organization. For example, in addition to the permanent representatives sent to the United Nations headquarters in New York City, UN member states also appoint permanent representatives to other UN offices, such as those in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna.

Permanent representatives are often informally described as ambassadors. However, although a permanent representative typically holds the diplomatic rank of an ambassador, because he or she is accredited to an international organisation the official title is permanent representative. For example, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations is technically called the Permanent Representative to the UN, even though he or she is widely referred to as an ambassador.

Diplomatic representatives of the Pope are titled apostolic nuncio or papal nuncio, which is equivalent to permanent representative.Some international organizations, such as UNESCO, use the title permanent delegate to refer to the head of a diplomatic mission accredited to them.

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