06MOSCOW10382, LAVROV’S MIDDLE EAST DIPLOMACY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW10382 2006-09-18 11:43 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO5909
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0382/01 2611143
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 181143Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2448
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 010382 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/15/2016 
TAGS: PREL PARM IS SY LE RS
SUBJECT: LAVROV'S MIDDLE EAST DIPLOMACY 
 
REF: A. STATE 148157 
     B. TEL AVIV 3390 
 
Classified By: POL M/C Alice G. Wells: 1.4 (b,d) 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  With FM Lavrov's September 7-9 trip to the 
Middle East, promotion of a "universal" peace process, 
experts' conference, renewed Syria track, and support for the 
Arab League ministerial session at UNGA, the GOR continues to 
seek "player" status in the region.  Practically, GOR support 
for UNSC 1701 will be bilateral and limited to an engineering 
battalion, numbering 300.  Lavrov pushed for normalized 
Lebanon-Syria relations, within the context of Syrian 
cooperation in the Hariri investigation.  Lavrov told the 
Syrians that the GOR would thoroughly investigate charges 
that Russian weapons were transferred to Hezbollah, and 
briefed PM Olmert on this "serious approach."  The MFA views 
a possible Palestinian unity government as vindication of 
engagement with Hamas, and questioned whether it was 
practical to expect a new government to simultaneously 
implement the three conditions for Western recognition. 
Upcoming visits to Moscow this fall by UAE Crown Prince 
Mohammed bin Zayed, PM Olmert, and President Mubarak provide 
opportunities for continued GOR activism.  End Summary 
 
2.  (C)  In a September 15 meeting, Russian MFA Director for 
the Middle East and North Africa Sergey Vershinin provided a 
readout of Foreign Minister Lavrov's whirlwind September 7-9 
trip to Beirut, Damascus, Tel Aviv, and Ramallah.  Lavrov 
undertook the swing with two overriding objectives: (1) to 
spur implementation of 1701 and (2) to assess, in the wake of 
the Israel-Lebanon war, regional interest in another round of 
"universal" peace process diplomacy. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
Beirut: Nasrullah, GOR aid, peace process 
----------------------------------------- 
 
3.  (C)  In Beirut, Lavrov met "with all of Lebanese society" 
-- specifically, President Sinoria, Nabbi Berri, and FM 
Sallukh, with a pre-trip telephone call to Saad Hariri, who 
was out of town. While recognizing the Lebanese Christian 
argument that Hezbollah's popularity was damaged by the war's 
destructiveness, the GOR found Nasrallah's star ascendant, 
and calculated that any dip in domestic support was offset by 
his improved standing in the Arab world.  From a local 
player, he was transformed into a regional power.  Lavrov 
agreed with Sinoria's assessment that disarming Hezbollah 
could only be done within a Lebanese political compact, 
without interference from the international community. 
Vershinin praised the "mood" among Sinoria and his advisers 
to push disarmament, but underscored the GOR belief that any 
"sharp" action would precipitate civil war.  It would be an 
easier process if Hezbollah were an outside force -- if it 
were a question of blocking Iran or Syria; however, 
Hezbollah's indigenous standing meant that dialogue would be 
key to any resolution.  Vershinin repeated the GOR's 
conclusion that there was no significant Iranian choreography 
of the war: "ideological closeness, yes; direct commands, 
never."  Iran benefited by the international community's 
attention towards Lebanon and away from questions of nuclear 
proliferation, but there was no direct evidence of Iran 
having masterminded events. 
 
4.  (C)  In response to reftel (A) points on maintaining 
momentum in Lebanon, Vershinin expressed in careful terms the 
GOR delegation's dismay over the extent of the destruction of 
civilian infrastructure, and questioned the intensity of 
Israeli attacks in the days immediately preceding the 
ceasefire.  He noted that the GOR was committed to full 
implementation of 1701.  While both the GOL and UN requested 
GOR participation in UNIFIL-2, Russia decided to send up to 
300 military sappers/engineers in a bilateral capacity to 
assist in the reconstruction effort.  Finance Minister Kudrin 
will attend the September 18 WB/IMF discussions in Singapore, 
but Vershinin signaled that it was unlikely that the GOR 
would commit to more humanitarian assistance beyond the four 
cargo loads already provided.  Under consideration would be 
additional de-mining support. 
 
5.  (C)  Noting GOR efforts to encourage direct 
Lebanese-Syrian negotiations over Shabaa farms would not 
resolve the broader question of peace between Lebanon and its 
neighbors, Vershinin said that FM Lavrov believed another 
"universal" effort aimed at negotiating a comprehensive peace 
was required, along the lines of the Madrid conference. 
Vershinin argued that this round of peace should attempt to 
"attract" Iran to the negotiating table, in order that any 
negotiated outcome would be stable and enduring. 
Acknowledging US resistance to this proposal, Vershinin 
replied that "if Iran has influence, we should work with it." 
 Vershinin pointed to the presence of a million Russian 
 
MOSCOW 00010382  002 OF 003 
 
 
speakers in Israel, including concentrations under Hezbollah 
rocket attack in Haifa, as one reason for
 Russian diplomatic 
activism.  There were numerous Jewish organizations in Russia 
who sought to deepen GOR engagement in the Middle East. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
Syria: Asad confident, ready to negotiate 
----------------------------------------- 
 
6.  (C)  The GOR found Asad confident and pragmatic in the 
aftermath of the war.  Asad told the GOR that this should be 
"the last war" in the Middle East and that Syria sought a 
universal settlement, wanted peace with Israel, and was ready 
for contacts and negotiations.  The GOR conveyed this to PM 
Olmert, and interpreted recent GOI actions (reftel B) as 
indicative that Israel may be preparing a Syria track. 
Olmert, Vershinin said, was not categorical in ruling out a 
renewed effort with Syria. 
 
7.  (C)  Asad, Vershinin commented, was realistic about 
normalizing relations with Lebanon and told the GOR that he 
was prepared to host Sinoria, although there was no agreement 
on dates.  Vershinin defended high-level engagement with 
Syria as essential, given that it was an "original" peace 
process player.  If Syria was not constructive, Vershinin 
argued, nothing substantive could be accomplished.  The GOR 
had pressed Syria to cooperate fully in the Hariri 
assassination investigation, but Vershinin was non-committal 
on what message had been passed to Syria on halting support 
for terrorism against Israel.  Vershinin merely stressed that 
the only GOR-Palestinian contacts on this trip were with 
Abbas. 
 
---------------------------- 
Russian weapons to Hezbollah 
---------------------------- 
 
8.  (C)  The GOR told Syria that it would need to undertake a 
comprehensive investigation of Russian weapons supplied to 
the SARG, in order to determine whether there was leakage to 
Hezbollah.  Syria reacted positively to the investigation, 
within the context of examining how to revive "normalized" 
trade relations -- including military-technical ties -- in 
accordance with international obligations.  Vershinin had no 
details to add on the status of the GOR investigation, except 
to underscore that the GOR had adopted a "very serious" 
approach that had been briefed to PM Olmert. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
Israel: Olmert searching for new strategy 
----------------------------------------- 
 
9.  (C)  Despite the allegations over the illegal arms 
transfers to Hezbollah, Vershinin insisted that relations 
with Israel were good, with Russia enjoying a more intensive 
dialogue with the GOI than with many others in the region. 
The weapons controversy, he noted, would not derail the 
October 15 visit of PM Olmert to Moscow, following on the 
visit by Foreign Minister Livni and an ongoing security 
channel dialogue.  Vershinin again underscored the bilateral 
component of the relationship, with the over one million 
former residents of the Soviet Union constituting a "Russian 
street" that energized relations.  The trip will focus on 
bilateral ties, with Putin having instructed the MFA to 
develop concrete initiatives rather than organize "just 
another friendly visit." 
 
10.  (C)  The GOR concluded that Olmert's difficult domestic 
predicament ultimately will translate into greater 
receptivity on rejuvenating a universal peace initiative. 
"Unilateral disengagement is dead," Vershinin commented, and 
"Olmert is not excluding any alternative policy initiatives 
at this stage." Olmert told Lavrov that it would be 
impossible to talk peace without the return of the Israeli 
soldiers, and requested GOR assistance.  Subsequently, 
Vershinin noted, the GOR talked to the Palestinians, Syrians 
and Iranians (to no apparent effect, although Putin 
underscored Russian responsiveness to the GOI request in his 
mid-September meeting with Western analysts).  Since (at 
least in Russian eyes) Olmert lost militarily, the GOR 
believes that the Prime Minister is looking for a diplomatic 
success. 
 
11.  (C)  While Vershinin acknowledged the GOI "allergy" to 
an international peace conference (with the Israeli Embassy 
here telling us they threw cold water on the concept), the 
GOR has decided to read the absence of a categorical 
rejection as a yellow light for the GOR to continue to flog 
its proposal.  The concept of a conference, Vershinin 
insisted, resonated in the region.  The GOR was not looking 
for a "one-day show," Vershinin argued, but a beginning of a 
process that would renew all three tracks to a comprehensive 
 
MOSCOW 00010382  003 OF 003 
 
 
peace.  That said, Vershinin implied that the GOR's alternate 
proposal, a meeting of international experts first proposed 
by Putin during his May 2005 Egypt visit, continued to be 
kicked around within the MFA, despite a similar Israeli cold 
shoulder. 
 
l2.  (C)  The GOI Embassy tells us that most of the focus of 
the GOR visit was on Lebanon, although their readout was 
limited given the preponderance of time spent in a 
Lavrov-Olmert one-on-one session.  They described the visit 
as less operational, and more an exchange of views, with the 
GOR pushing for the resumption of a Syria track and demurring 
on any stationing of international peacekeeping troops along 
the Syrian border. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
PA: Looking favorably on unity government, AL ministerial 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
 
13.  (C)  Lavrov's swing through the region has swung the MFA 
behind the Arab League concept of a ministerial session on 
the margins of UNGA.  It was important, Vershinin said, to 
demonstrate to the region that the international community 
was not indifferent to the long-standing crisis in the 
region.  Vershinin acknowledged that the Quartet meeting on 
September 20 could play this function, but argued that the 
meeting would be focused more narrowly on how to respond to 
the possible unity government between Fatah and Hamas. 
 
14.  (C)  Should a unity government materialize, Vershinin 
made it clear that the GOR would seek to take credit for the 
development, which he attributed to open GOR lines of 
communication with both Fatah and Hamas.  Vershinin 
reiterated that there was no legal impediment to engaging 
Hamas, since the GOR did not classify the organization a 
terrorist organization.  The Palestinian factions, he 
maintained, realized that they had reached a dead end and 
were looking for a way out.  Vershinin previewed GOR 
arguments that would favor easing the requirements for a 
unity government to be recognized by the international 
community, arguing that "simultaneous" implementation of all 
three conditions (to recognize Israel and previously signed 
peace treaties, as well as to renounce terrorism) was 
unrealistic.  While a unity government would not answer 100 
percent of the international community's concerns, Vershinin 
maintained, it would provide Abbas with the
authority he 
needed to negotiate a way forward.  Vershinin took on board 
our reiteration that all three conditions would need to be 
satisfied by Hamas before the US could recognize a unity 
government. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
15.  (C)  Lavrov's whirlwind trip to the region was 
overshadowed by the visits of PM Blair and UNSYG Annan, but 
Russian activism will continue.  As Russian lobbying for a 
conference, meeting, and ministerial indicate, the GOR 
continues to seek "player" status in the Middle East, 
simultaneously embracing the Quartet process, while promoting 
an Arab League ministerial to assuage Arab allies.  If a 
Fatah-Hamas unity government becomes a reality, we will 
continue to press back against GOR instincts to shrink or to 
accept a phased implementation of the core conditions 
governing western recognition of Hamas.  In addition to the 
mid-October visit of Olmert, the GOR will host UAE Crown 
Prince Mohammed bin Zayed on September 19 and Egyptian 
President Mubarak on November 2. 
BURNS

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