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The art (and pitfalls) of diplomatic gift-giving

US President Barack Obama speaks on December 14, 2014 in Washington, DCForget Santa’s workshop in the North Pole — year round the elves of the State Department’s busy protocol office have to select and wrap thoughtful gifts as an important symbol marking diplomatic visits. They also have to log all the gifts presented to President Barack Obama, as well as Vice President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State John Kerry and their spouses. “Diplomatic gift-giving is a long historic art that’s taken very seriously by a lot of leaders and a lot of countries, so we have to be prepared for all circumstances,” a State Department official told AFP. In 2013, First Lady Michelle Obama was given a white gold flower-shaped jewelry set of earrings, a ring and necklace resplendent with yellow sapphires and diamonds by the queen consort of Brunei.

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