07MOSCOW259, DFM SALTANOV ON QUARTET, LEBANON, SYRIA, IRAQ,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW259 2007-01-23 10:38 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO5500
OO RUEHDBU RUEHROV
DE RUEHMO #0259/01 0231038
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 231038Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6688
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000259 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/22/2017 
TAGS: PREL ECON RS IS IZ SY LE
SUBJECT: DFM SALTANOV ON QUARTET, LEBANON, SYRIA, IRAQ, 
PUTIN'S TRAVELS 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns: 1.4 (b, d). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary: In a January 22 meeting with the 
Ambassador, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Saltanov 
reaffirmed support for the roadmap, while expressing sympathy 
for Palestinian efforts to proceed to final status 
discussions, and flagged that FM Lavrov will resurrect the 
GOR proposal for a Middle East conference during the February 
2 Quartet.  Saltanov viewed Asad's engagement with Iraq and 
encouragement of intra-Palestinian dialogue as constructive, 
while noting (without much conviction) Asad's promise not to 
meddle in Lebanon.  He stressed steps taken by the GOR to 
prevent further weapons transfers to Hizbollah.  The GOR will 
not make a financial pledge at the Lebanon conference, but 
seeks to provide technical assistance, and will continue to 
reject Hizbollah's demands to pressure PM Siniora  Saltanov 
welcomed U.S. efforts to enhance the security of the Russian 
mission in Baghdad, noted GOR initiatives to promote 
high-level contacts with the GOI, laid down a marker on 
Iraq's impending oil legislation, and reaffirmed Russia's 
intent to implement its waiver of Iraqi debt.  During Putin's 
"historic" visit to the Gulf and Jordan, Lukoil will announce 
a significant deal with the SAG.  End Summary 
 
------------- 
Peace Process 
------------- 
 
2.  (C)  Quartet meeting:  Welcoming the opportunity for the 
Secretary and FM Lavrov to exchange views during the upcoming 
 
SIPDIS 
February 2 Quartet meeting, the Ambassador underscored the 
Secretary's determination to revive and accelerate efforts at 
 
SIPDIS 
Middle East peace, and the possibilities that were now 
arising -- notwithstanding the difficult domestic positions 
of PMs Olmert and Abu Mazen.  Saltanov, confirming his 
attendance at the Lebanon pledging conference in Paris this 
week, noted that it was important for the Quartet to resume 
its activities, first with the envoys' pre-meeting in Paris, 
followed by the ministerial in Washington.  For a variety of 
reasons, he noted, there had been little substantive 
engagement by the Quartet recently, but current events 
required greater international activism.  The Quartet should 
encourage the Palestinians to revive a more substantive 
dialogue, and Saltanov confirmed that Lavrov would resurrect 
the idea of a Middle East conference (below) when meeting 
with the Secretary. 
 
3.  (C)  Final Status:  Based on recent conversations with 
former FM Shaath, Saltanov predicted intensified Palestinian 
lobbying for accelerated final status negotiations. While 
stating that it was reasonable to adhere to the roadmap's 
current phasing, Saltanov noted the logic of the Palestinian 
position.  Negotiations, secret or otherwise, on final status 
could get the parties out of the circular argument of who had 
failed to meet which benchmark at any given point in time. 
Saltanov speculated that a clearer political horizon on final 
status could create a more promising atmosphere or, at a 
minimum, remove some of the burdens on the Palestinian 
leadership.  The notion of "preliminary borders" was a 
non-starter for the Palestinians, he added, with Abu Mazen 
convinced that anything temporary would soon become 
permanent.  Saltanov stressed that the GOR expected the 
roadmap to be preserved on the negotiating table. 
 
4.  (C)  ME Conference:  Saltanov maintained that the Russian 
proposal for a Middle East conference was gaining ground. 
Abu Mazen and Shaath endorsed the Russian initiative.  The 
logic of the conference, he repeated, was intensifying, 
particularly in light of the need for a comprehensive 
approach to the interlocking situations in Iraq, 
Syria-Lebanon, and Lebanon. Pushed to elaborate on the 
Russian concept, Saltanov repeated that "high-level experts" 
should first convene, followed by a full-fledged conference. 
If there was movement in the Israeli-Palestinian track, the 
conference could move in parallel with the roadmap; 
otherwise, the conference could be independent of roadmap 
discussions.  The Russian goal was to launch a new track that 
addressed the outstanding conflicts between Israel-Syria, 
Israel-Lebanon, and Syria-Lebanon.  The conference could 
underscore the goals already articulated by the roadmap, but 
most importantly would get the parties to the negotiating 
table.  Saltanov flagged as significant Syria's new 
willingness to decouple progress on the Palestinian track 
from forward movement on the Syrian front, which would 
provide the parties greater room to maneuver. 
 
5.  (C)  Feasability of ME Conference:  Pressed by the 
Ambassador for the Israeli reaction, Saltanov said there had 
not been a categorical "no," but equally no categorical 
"yes."  During the October 2006 visit of Olmert and December 
 
MOSCOW 00000259  002 OF 003 
 
 
2006 visit of MFA Director General Abramov
ich, GOI questions 
had focused on "how."  While the EU did not have a unified 
position, it was "obvious" that most were inclined toward the 
Russian proposal.  The GOR will sound out Arab League Amr 
Musa further during his planned visit to Moscow in early 
February.  The Ambassador cautioned against getting too far 
down the road on the "conference" theme without the most 
careful and thorough consideration within the Quartet.  As 
Saltanov knew very well, these ideas often looked a lot more 
appealing in concept than in implementation.  The key point 
ought to be taking advantage of the practical opportunity for 
progress that might be emerging. 
 
------------------------------------- 
Syria -- Relations with its neighbors 
------------------------------------- 
 
6.  (C)  Establishment of relations with Iraq:  Saltanov 
reiterated the GOR stance that it would be extremely 
difficult to solve any of the outstanding conflicts in the 
region without direct engagement with Syria.  In this light, 
the GOR welcomed the establishment of diplomatic relations 
between Syria and Iraq as a "major step" forward, which 
Saltanov said Asad took seriously.  Saltanov asserted that 
the Syrian regime was disquieted by the flow of terrorists 
across its territory, some of whom remained, or returned with 
combat experience from Iraq; Asad was also motivated by 
economics and the need to normalize ties and restore energy 
links, including oil reprocessing business opportunities. 
Practical results of Syrian-Iraqi cooperation should be seen 
in a decline in infiltration.  The Ambassador stressed that 
while it was natural for Iraq to develop relations with its 
neighbors, the burden was on Syria to demonstrate practical 
results. 
 
7.  (C)  Lebanon:  When asked to assess Asad's attitudes 
towards Lebanon, Saltanov conceded that the Syrian leader 
found the demands of the opposition more appealing than the 
appeals of Siniora  However, Asad had promised Putin that 
Syria would not destabilize the internal situation in 
Lebanon. 
 
8.  (C)  Palestinians:  Saltanov noted GOR pressure on Asad 
to help solve internal Palestinian battles, and viewed the 
Khalid Mishaal-Abu Mazen meeting in this light.  Noting that 
he did not have a readout of the Damascus session, Saltanov 
agreed that there was no evidence of a breakthrough. 
However, he stressed the positive, arguing that the 
Hamas-Palestinian Authority unification talks continued, with 
agreement on Fayyad as Finance Minister, but disagreement 
over who would occupy the post of Interior Minister. 
 
9.  (C)  Weapons Transfers:  The Ambassador underscored the 
continued, strong U.S. opposition to the rearming of 
Hizbollah, especially through the transfer of weapons sold to 
Syria and Iran.  Saltanov replied that this was a subject of 
"constant discussion" with the SARG and that the GOR would 
not tolerate a repeat of the unauthorized transfer of Russian 
weapons to Hizbollah.  Saltanov referred to measures taken by 
the GOR to tighten its export controls, in the wake of the 
August 2006 incident, and of the additional obligations 
placed on Syrian end-users.  Saltanov stated that the GOR was 
against the illegal resupply of Hizbollah.  The Ambassador 
reiterated that an influx of weapons to Hizbollah would not 
advance the peace process and would severely undermine the 
situation. 
 
------- 
Lebanon 
------- 
 
10.  (C)  Paris Conference:  Saltanov confirmed that the GOR 
would not deliver a new financial pledge but was looking for 
a "niche," where it could provide technical assistance, 
perhaps in the continued reconstruction of southern Lebanon. 
The Siniora government had made such a request, and Saltanov 
agreed with the Ambassador that pledges needed to be followed 
up by practical results. 
 
11.  (C)  Political Situation:  Saltanov noted that the 
general situation had not worsened in Lebanon, despite 
opposition threats to broaden the street protests.  Hizbollah 
actions had failed to close down the government.  The GOR 
agreed with those Lebanese who maintained that the time had 
come for Lebanon to resolve its own problems, without 
reference to outside parties.  The GOR listened to, but 
rejected, Hizbollah arguments that pressure should be applied 
to the Siniora government.  Siniora represented the 
legitimate government of Lebanon, with whom the GOR would 
continue to cooperate.  Both parties, Saltanov maintained, 
 
MOSCOW 00000259  003 OF 003 
 
 
needed to place the national interests of Lebanon above their 
personal political agendas.  What was not achieved through 
consensus, could not be achieved through force. Saltanov 
welcomed signs of potential flexibility from Siniora on the 
composition of the government. 
 
---- 
Iraq 
---- 
 
12.  (C)  Attack on Russian Embassy:  The Ambassador 
encouraged Saltanov to keep open lines of communication with 
the U.S. on the security of its embassy in Baghdad, noting 
that the U.S. was sensitive to Russian concerns following the 
tragic June 2006 kidnapping and murder of four Russian 
diplomats.  He noted that the U.S. and Russian missions in 
Baghdad were in direct contact following the abortive January 
10, 2007, terrorist attack on the Russian compound.  Saltanov 
expressed appreciation and noted that this was a particularly 
painful topic for the GOR.  The security situation in the 
Mansour district, where the Russian Embassy is located, had 
deteriorated and Saltanov repeated GOR requests that MNF 
ensure for the security of diplomatic missions in Iraq. 
 
13.  (C)  GOR-Iraq Engagement:  Saltanov confirmed that the 
GOR was actively seeking to expand and deepen contacts with 
the Iraqi government, but recognized that internal political 
developments remained the foremost preoccupation.  The 
governments have discussed the formation of a bilateral 
commission, but the GOR remains focused on the promulgation 
of new legislation regulating Iraq's oil industry.  The 
legislation, he stressed, should not discriminate against 
foreign firms.  The preservation of Lukoil's contracts were 
in Iraq's (as well as Russia's) self-interest: first, Iraq 
needed influential oil and gas companies to engage and, 
second, it would demonstrate Iraq's adherence to 
international legal norms and the continuity of the Iraqi 
government (not, he stressed, the continuity of Saddam). 
Saltanov complained that Lukoil had been treated unfairly by 
Saddam, and now faced the possibility of discriminatory 
treatment by Saddam's successors.  The Ambassador responded 
that the U.S. would continue to encourage the GOI to create a 
level playing field and to increase transparency in an 
important sector that would benefit all foreign firms, 
including Lukoil.  The Ambassador praised Lukoil and Conoco's 
efforts to train Iraqi Ministry of Petroleum officials. 
 
14.  (C)  De
bt Relief:  The Ambassador pushed the GOR to 
implement its decision to waive Iraq's debt soon, noting the 
positive signal that this would send.  Saltanov maintained 
that the delay in implementation was purely technical in 
nature and a "problem of the experts only."  On a political 
level, the GOR was fully committed.  (Note: Ambassador is 
also following up on debt forgiveness with Finance Minister 
Kudrin.) 
 
----------------- 
Putin's ME Travel 
----------------- 
 
15.  (C)  Historic Visit:  Saltanov characterized the 
first-ever visit by a Russian (or Soviet, or 
pre-revolutionary Imperial) head of state to the Gulf and 
Jordan (excluding Yeltsin's attendance at King Hussein's 
funeral) as historic.  With Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan 
in mid-February, Putin would raise regional stability, peace 
process, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and terrorism.  On the 
economic track, the GOR expected a significant deal to be 
announced with Lukoil in Saudi Arabia, and movement in other 
commercial negotiations.  A Joint Business Council will be 
announced with Qatar (but no concrete business commitments), 
with the GOR open to the further development of economic ties 
with Jordan, but seeing less basis for optimism. 
BURNS

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