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Embassy Row: Return of the king?

- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2012

The mayor of Easton, Pa., has clashed with the Ghanian ambassador in Washington, who tried to undermine a celebration the mayor is planning for the return of a Ghana native who grew up in the small town south of Philadelphia and now calls himself a king.

Mayor Salvatore J. Panto Jr. said Thursday that he is "quite upset" with Ambassador Daniel Ohene Agyekum, who has denounced John Quartey, a 1998 graduate of Easton Area High School, for his claims to be king of the Ga tribal people of the West African nation.

Mr. Quartey says he should now be referred to by his title, Nil Guate Asuasa Ekasee Ako II.

Mr. Panto recently wrote to the ambassador to seek his help with Easton's planned celebration for Mr. Quartey, who is bringing more than 20 Ghanian dancers and musicians with him on his two-week visit beginning June 29.

The mayor said the ambassador warned him that Mr. Quartey is an "imposter" who is "trying to scam" the city.

"He didn't know that I've known him for years, and he grew up next to my brother," Mr. Panto told Embassy Row.

He added that Mr. Quartey was among the Ghanian dignitaries who greeted President Obama on a visit to the West African nation in July 2009.

The mayor said Mr. Quartey also is bringing a "petition for peace in Ghana" to help promote democracy and human rights. He added that the mayors of at least eight other Pennsylvania cities plan to sign the petition and some will hold a ceremony for Mr. Quartey.

Mr. Agyekum was not available to comment on the dispute Thursday, but earlier this week he told the Morning Call newspaper of Allentown, Pa., that Mr. Quartey has no business calling himself a king. At the most, he is a tribal chief, the ambassador said.

"Quite honestly, I do not know where this claim is coming from," Mr. Agyekum said. "The claim to be king of the Ga is absolutely misleading and inaccurate. ... He is not a king to us."

Mr. Panto said his city of 27,000 people is undeterred by the controversy and will continue plans for what the city has called a "royal visit."

"Regardless of his title, be it king or chief, John Quartey will be welcomed back to the city ... that he says made him a better person, gave him a great education and friends, teachers and coaches who helped mold him into a leader in his home country," Mr. Panto said in an email to the Morning Call.

He described Mr. Quartey as a "fine gentleman who is polite, honest and a young man of integrity."

In his interview with Embassy Row, Mr. Panto added that Mr. Quartey will be accompanied by Azumah Nelson, an ethnic Ga and a former world featherweight boxing champion.

"He calls John king," the mayor noted.

WAITING FOR MORNINGSTAR

Azerbaijan, an oil-rich Central Asian nation and key U.S. ally, has had no American ambassador since January and is growing restless for U.S. diplomatic attention.

"It is necessary to appoint an ambassador to our country for the dynamic development of Azerbaijani-U.S. relations," presidential spokesman Elnur Aslanov told reporters this week in the Azeri capital, Baku.

In Washington, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday approved President Obama's nominee for the position, Richard Morningstar, a career diplomat.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Mr. Morningstar would replace the controversial Matthew Bryza, whom Mr. Obama appointed for a temporary, yearlong term during a congressional recess in 2010.

Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Barbara Boxer of California, both Democrats, tried to block Mr. Bryza's nomination because they suspected he was too biased in his support for Azerbaijan in its ethnic and territorial disputes with neighboring Armenia.

Both senators draw strong support from Armenian-Americans, a small but influential voting bloc.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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