06MOSCOW12628, RUSSIA KEEPS UP THE PACE IN MIDDLE EAST DIPLOMACY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW12628 2006-11-27 08:18 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO8725
PP RUEHDBU RUEHROV
DE RUEHMO #2628/01 3310818
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 270818Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5438
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 02 MOSCOW 012628 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/27/2016 
TAGS: PREL PGOV IS SY LE IZ RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA KEEPS UP THE PACE IN MIDDLE EAST DIPLOMACY 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 12035 
 
     B. CAIRO 6867 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons: 1.4 (b, d). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Following the assassination of Lebanese 
Minister Gemayel, Russia has become increasingly concerned 
about political violence in Lebanon, but is unwilling to 
press Damascus on its role.  The MFA preferred to offer 
legalistic arguments about whether there was compelling proof 
of Syrian involvement in political violence.  Defending 
Russia's engagement with Syria, MFA Middle East and North 
Africa Director Vershinin argued that Bashar al-Asad was 
isolated and faced radical pressures at home which were 
exacerbated by his international isolation.  The MFA welcomed 
efforts to stimulate more comprehensive talks on Middle East 
peace, but judged the Arab League's proposal for a conference 
by year's end as unrealistic.  Vershinin argued that the U.S. 
should take a less rigid view of the three conditions for 
recognition of a Palestinian unity government.  The MFA 
acknowledged the increased pace of engagement with Gulf 
states, which was driven by shared energy interests.  End 
Summary. 
. 
MIDDLE EAST VISITORS FLOCKING TO MOSCOW 
--------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C)  In a November 22 meeting, Russian MFA Middle East 
and North Africa Director Sergey Vershinin reviewed the 
situation in Lebanon following the assassination of Minister 
Pierre Gemayel, discussed Syria's role in the region, 
reviewed prospects for restarting Middle East peace talks, 
and deplored the ongoing violence in Iraq.  He briefly 
touched on visits by a number of Middle Eastern officials 
over the past month.  (Note:  Since Israeli PM Olmert's 
mid-October visit (ref A), Egyptian President Mubarak has met 
with President Putin in Moscow (November 1-3) and there have 
been Moscow visits by Qatari FM Hamad bin Jasim (October 18), 
UAE Foreign Minister Abdallah bin Zayid (Oct. 30) and 
Bahraini FM Khalid bin Ahmad al-Khalifa (November 9).  End 
Note). 
. 
LEBANON:  (NOT) TAKING IT TO THE STREETS 
---------------------------------------- 
 
3.  (C)  Vershinin underlined that Moscow viewed Lebanon as 
passing through a dangerous and decisive point following the 
assassination of Minister Gemayel.  He reiterated the MFA's 
statement earlier that day condemning violence in Lebanon and 
noted that political murders and interconfessional violence 
were entering an even more deadly phase.  Taking a backhanded 
swipe at the Cedar Revolution, Vershinin stressed that Russia 
had always supported a national political dialogue that 
followed regular legal norms and that did not depend on 
street action, no matter who was calling for change.  He 
claimed that inter-Lebanese dialogue had been making progress 
on contentious issues such as demilitarization of Hizbollah 
and other militias and the status of Shebaa Farms until it 
was interrupted by Israeli military action this summer. 
 
4.  (C)  Pressed to explain Syria's role in Lebanese 
politics, Vershinin asserted that Moscow supported the 
establishment of "fully normal" diplomatic relations between 
Beirut and Damascus to create a state-to-state relationship. 
He argued that Lebanese politicians who "recklessly" claimed 
that Syria was behind the bulk of the violence in Lebanon did 
not have compelling proof for their accusations and only made 
relations worse.  Arguing that there was no hard evidence of 
official Syrian involvement in the Gemayel assassination or, 
for that matter, in many other killings in Lebanon, he argued 
that political killings must be neutrally investigated and 
judged by the facts, not emotions. 
. 
SYRIA'S REGIONAL ROLE 
--------------------- 
 
5.  (C)  Acknowledging Moscow's good relations with Damascus, 
Vershinin argued that Russia pursued a step-by-step 
engagement with Syria in pursuit of shared interests.  He 
welcomed agreement between Syria and Iraq to restore 
diplomatic relations, arguing that Iraq needed to have good 
relations with all its neighbors, especially Syria, in order 
to stem the cross-border flow of militants into Iraq.  In his 
view, President Bashar al-Asad faced a difficult internal 
situation given pressures for economic reforms.  This was 
coupled with serious problems with many of Syria's neighbors, 
which only increased Syria's isolation and bolstered radical 
forces.  Israel seemed to be uninterested in pursuing any 
sort of dialogue with Syria.  He acknowledged strong U.S. 
concerns about Syria's destabilizing role in Lebanon, Iraq 
and in Gaza and the West Bank, but argued that renewed 
efforts to engage with Damascus might produce better results. 
 
MOSCOW 00012628  002 OF 002 
 
 
. 
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 
------------------------- 
 
6.  (C)  Vershinin's view was that a general settlement of 
Middle Eastern disputes was neede
d rather than piecemeal 
bilateral settlements, but that current discussions about a 
Middle East conference needed to be refined.  He labeled an 
Arab League proposal for a conference by year's end as 
unrealistic -- such an undertaking required a strategic 
approach and careful preparation and should not be pushed as 
a tactical ploy.  He said that existing conference proposals 
did not make clear whether the organizers saw a conference as 
the beginning or the end of the peace process; if it was to 
be the former, what kind of process would it launch, he asked 
rhetorically, and how did this fit in with the Quartet's 
efforts.  Participation was crucial as well, he argued, 
pointing out that the failure to invite Syria or Iran to the 
July 26 Rome International Conference on Lebanon limited the 
usefulness of the meeting and should not serve as a model for 
future regional discussions. 
. 
PALESTINIAN GOVERNMENT AND QUARTET DEMANDS 
------------------------------------------ 
 
7.  (C)  Vershinin reiterated Russian support for Abu Mazen's 
efforts to form a Government of National Unity (GNU). 
Stating that the situation changed on a daily basis, he said 
the Palestinians were trying to reach a compromise on 
ministerial portfolios which would meet Quartet and (by 
implication) U.S. concerns.  Characterizing the U.S. approach 
to a GNU as "all or nothing," he urged that Washington be 
more flexible in evaluating whether a new government met the 
requirements to restore international funding.  Acknowledging 
U.S. warnings about moving the goal posts on recognition, 
renunciation of violence and acceptance of prior agreements, 
he stressed that Moscow had followed a different approach to 
Hamas, which, he emphasized, had been the democratic choice 
of the Palestinian people.  Russia believed the best way to 
change Hamas was to engage with it. 
. 
IRAQ/THE GULF STATES 
-------------------- 
 
9.  (C)  Vershinin deplored sectarian violence in Iraq and 
argued that the situation was growing out-of-control with 
violence now spreading.  He reiterated Russia's call for an 
inclusive national dialogue that produced consensus, pointing 
out that Moscow had been advocating this position for the 
past three years.  In his view, the death sentence handed 
down in the Saddam Hussein trial was an internal matter for 
the Iraqis, but he argued that it was a distraction that had 
resolved none of the serious problems Iraq faced. 
 
10. (C)  Acknowledging the steady flow of visitors from the 
Gulf, Vershinin said that over the last several years Russia 
had worked hard to build up relations in the region.  While 
political and security issues -- particularly Iraq's future 
and Iran's emergence -- were a subject of discussion, he 
stressed that a shared interest in energy matters and 
investment drove these ties.  Vershinin noted that Putin's 
planned trip to the region (reftel B) had not yet been 
completely nailed down.  (NOTE:  An Egyptian Embassy contact 
confirmed there had been discussions about a Putin trip to 
Egypt in January, but no date had been set yet.) 
. 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
11.  (C)  Russian efforts to remain relevant to Middle East 
discussions have strengthened over the past several months as 
Moscow finds positive reinforcement for its role from among 
its Arab interlocutors.  Putin's confidence as a global 
figure, Russia's continued efforts to portray itself as a 
great power whose equities need to be taken into account, and 
Moscow's energy-driven diplomacy intersect in the Middle East 
in ways that suggest Russian interests will only deepen. 
BURNS

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