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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW13098 2006-12-26 16:02 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #3098/01 3601602
P 261602Z DEC 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 013098 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/26/2016 
REF: A. MOSCOW 13073 
     B. MOSCOW 12986 
     C. STATE 197800 
Classified By: Political M/C Alice G. Wells.  Reasons: 1.4(B/D). 
1.  (C)  Summary:  President Putin sought to lower tensions 
between Lebanon and Syria during back-to-back mid-December 
visits by PM Siniora and President Asad, according to the 
Russian MFA, and had urged that a solution to Lebanon's 
ongoing political crisis be found through negotiations and 
not in the streets.  MFA Director for the Middle East and 
North Africa Sergey Vershinin said that Moscow had told both 
Asad and Siniora that Russia supported the normalization of 
relations and a "depoliticized" Lebanese Special Tribunal, 
and was considering providing non-lethal assistance to the 
Lebanese military.  Siniora did not raise the question of 
weapons transfers to Hizballah, nor did Putin discuss it with 
Asad.  Russia urged Asad to use Syria's influence with Hamas 
to lower tensions in Gaza.  Vershinin raised the Yusifiyah 
power plant in Iraq and noted that while the GOR had no 
official reaction to the Baker-Hamilton report, the MFA 
embraced calls for dialogue with the SARG and Iran, along 
with the creation of a Madrid 2 peace process.  Russia's 
high-profile, but low-result Middle East diplomacy will now 
focus on Putin's planned January-February visit to Egypt and 
the Gulf.  End Summary. 
2.  (C)  Vershinin stressed that PM Siniora's December 14-16 
Moscow visit had been scheduled far in advance and focused on 
Lebanon's internal situation.  It had involved a range of GOR 
interlocutors and included meetings with Muslim and Orthodox 
religious figures.  By contrast, Asad's December 18-20 visit 
was more impromptu, and official discussions had been limited 
to a one-on-one and expanded meeting with Putin that covered 
a broader range of topics, including Lebanon, Iraq and the 
3.  (C)  Noting that the back-to-back meetings had provided 
Russia a unique perspective on the situation in Lebanon, 
Vershinin stressed that Russia had not attempted to mediate 
separately between Damascus and Beirut, but had delivered a 
consistent message to both leaders  --  Lebanon's political 
situation needed to be resolved in accordance with Lebanon's 
laws and not in the streets and that Lebanon and Syria should 
build a "normal" relationship by opening embassies and 
delineating their border.  Russia wanted to aid in lowering 
tensions and have a voice in any diplomatic solution.  In 
this context, Moscow also supported Arab League SYG Moussa's 
efforts to help resolve Lebanon's political crisis. 
4.  (C)  Vershinin said that Russia had consistently opposed 
"revolutions in the streets," and had made plain its views on 
this point to both Siniora and Asad.  The MFA understood that 
Lebanese political forces could have sharply differing views 
on what Lebanon's confession-based governance system might 
allow, but these differences needed to be sorted out through 
discussion.  Vershinin noted that "there was no love lost 
between Asad and Siniora," but the MFA assessed that each 
actor would make decisions "without emotions" to preserve 
national interests.  Vershinin asserted that Siniora had not 
raised the issue of Russian weapons passing from Syria to 
Lebanon nor had Putin discussed this issue with Asad. 
5.  (C)  According to Vershinin, Siniora had emphasized the 
importance of resurrecting a comprehensive peace process and 
the need to strengthen Lebanon's government structures.  No 
Lebanese leader could make a separate peace with Israel, 
Siniora told the GOR.  Turning to reconstruction issues, 
Siniora had been grateful for the work performed by a Russian 
military engineering battalion that had rebuilt nine bridges 
destroyed in the past summer's fighting.  The GOR was now 
weighing providing additional reconstruction assistance; 
Russia intended to participate in the January Paris 
reconstruction conference and was focusing on working with 
the Lebanese military.  (Vershinin noted that the GOR 
engineering battalion left all its equipment behind, 
excepting weapons, as an in-kind contribution to the GOL.) 
6.  (C)  Vershinin noted that Russia had supported the UN 
Security Council's decision to bless the agreement negotiated 
between the UN and Beirut to establish a Lebanon Special 
Tribunal.  Moscow supported the Brammertz investigation into 
MOSCOW 00013098  002 OF 002 
Hariri's assassination and believed that those responsible 
needed to be brought to justice, but at the same time was 
opposed to the establishment of a "politicized" tribunal that 
did not hew closely to the evidence produced through the 
UN-sponsored investigations.  Moscow had reassured As
ad that 
it supported a "judicially clean" mechanism for trying those 
responsible for Hariri's assassination. 
7.  (C)  Characterizing the discussions between GOR officials 
and Asad as regionally focused and more wide ranging, 
Vershinin said that Russia viewed current tensions in the 
Middle East as interconnected and argued that while each 
situation had its own special characteristics, resolution of 
problems could not develop in isolation.  Asad and Putin had 
traded views on the ongoing political crisis in the 
Palestinian Authority, with Vershinin noting that the GOR saw 
little likelihood of the formation of a unity government. 
Russia had encouraged Syria to use its relationships with 
Hamas to lower tensions in Gaza. 
8.  (C)  On Iraq, Russia had been encouraged by Syria's 
efforts to normalize relations with Baghdad and to work on 
cross-border infiltration; Vershinin wondered if the U.S. had 
taken another look at joint Syria-Iraqi-U.S. efforts in this 
area.  Asad had expressed growing concern about the 
possibility of Iraq's breakup and Syria had interpreted 
Baghdad's willingness to enter into discussions with Damascus 
as a "green light" from the U.S. for increased engagement. 
Both Syria and Iran were concerned and threatened by the 
prospect of a fragmented Iraq, as such, Vershinin discounted 
the possibility of "delinking" Syria from Iran. 
9.  (C)  Vershinin noted that completion of the 
eight-generator power plant was important to the long-term 
energy security of Iraq, but that Iraqi government requests 
for a Russian company to recommence construction work were 
complicated by security concerns and unresolved questions 
over responsibility for damages to the plant incurred during 
military operations.  Vershinin took on board the unanswered 
Embassy Baghdad offer to brief the Russian Embassy and 
undertook to encourage the GOR mission to respond.  He noted 
the continued difficult working conditions for the Russian 
Embassy, including a recent cut-off in electricity. 
10.  (C)  After stressing that the GOR did not publicly 
comment on the Baker-Hamilton report because Moscow viewed it 
as a set of unofficial recommendations, Vershinin said that 
many of the proscriptions contained in the report were based 
on a widely-shared expert consensus that Moscow had long 
supported.  Responding to our expressions of U.S. concerns 
about Iran's destabilizing activities in Iraq, Vershinin 
argued that Tehran's growing influence in Iraq and in the 
region was natural and inevitable and that the U.S. needed to 
have a dialogue with Iran.  Russia continued to support the 
idea of an international conference similar to the November 
2004 Sharm El Sheikh Iraq conference that could allow 
regional states and UN Security Council members to provide 
support for Iraqi solutions.  Vershinin also reiterated 
Russian views on the need for a Madrid 2 process to restart a 
comprehensive peace process in the Middle East.  The GOR 
sought to play a helpful role in Iraq, Vershinin concluded, 
but did not know what specifically the U.S. and Iraqi 
governments sought. 
11.  (C)  An increasingly confident Russia has stepped up its 
diplomatic visibility on Middle Eastern issues, which will 
receive yet another boost when President Putin travels to the 
region in late January or early February.  However, the lack 
of any concrete results from the back-to-back visits by the 
Lebanese and Syrian leadership illustrates the limitations on 
Russia's regional role.  Moscow is willing and able to offer 
advice from the sidelines and is always ready to encourage 
"dialogue," but it lacks both the capacity and leverage 
needed to independently broker a resolution to the most 
pressing conflicts.  Moscow will continue to advocate for 
regional tensions to be resolved through the sort of 
international mediation that ensures that Russia has a seat 
at the table. 


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