07MOSCOW1392, MIDDLE EAST: MFA ON NUG, IRAQ, LEBANON, WESTERN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW1392 2007-03-29 14:39 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXYZ0011
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMOA #1392 0881439
ZNY CCCCC ZZH ZUI RUEWMCE0570 0881427
O 291439Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC0000
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 001392 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/29/2017 
TAGS: PREL KPAL IS IZ LE MO WI SU RS
SUBJECT: MIDDLE EAST:  MFA ON NUG, IRAQ, LEBANON, WESTERN 
SAHARA AND SUDAN 
 
REF: MOSCOW 828 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: POLITICAL M/C ALICE G. WELLS.  REASONS: 1.4(B/D). 
 
1.  (C)  SUMMARY:  THE MFA STRESSED IN A RECENT MEETING THAT 
THE FORMATION OF A PALESTINIAN NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT 
REPRESENTED A MILESTONE IN HAMAS' SLOW EVOLUTION AND 
SUGGESTED THE QUARTET SHOULD REVISIT ITS POLICIES ON CONTACTS 
AND ASSISTANCE TO THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY.  MFA DIRECTOR 
FOR THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA SERGEY VERSHININ TOLD US 
THAT THE NUG HAD ALREADY REDUCED INTRA-PALESTINIAN VIOLENCE 
AND CRITICIZED ISRAEL FOR HASTILY REJECTING CONTACTS WITH THE 
NEW GOVERNMENT.  HE SAID RUSSIA STRONGLY SUPPORTED THE 
SECRETARYS EFFORTS TO RESTART TALKS BETWEEN ISRAEL AND THE 
 
SIPDIS 
PALESTINIANS AND SUGGESTED THAT SAUDI ARABIA COULD PLAY A 
USEFUL ROLE IN MODERATING HAMAS.  RUSSIA CONTINUED TO 
ADVOCATE FOR A NATIONAL RECONCILIATION CONFERENCE IN IRAQ BUT 
WELCOMED RENEWED ENGAGEMENT WITH THE NEIGHBORS AND OTHER 
INTERNATIONAL PARTIES.  HE CLAIMED THERE WAS NO URGENT NEED 
TO ESTABLISH A HARIRI TRIBUNAL AND ARGUED THAT ONLY LEBANESE 
CONSENT COULD PROVIDE THE TRIBUNAL WITH THE NECESSARY 
LEGITIMACY.  VERSHININ WAS SKEPTICAL ABOUT THE CHANCES FOR 
PROGRESS IN WESTERN SAHARA AND STRESSED RUSSIA'S OPPOSITION 
TO SANCTIONS ON SUDAN AFTER BASHIR'S REJECTION OF PLANS FOR 
THE DARFUR PEACEKEEPING OPERATION.  END SUMMARY. 
. 
GOR AND NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT 
--------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C)  MFA MIDDLE EAST DIRECTOR VERSHININ EMPHASIZED THAT 
RUSSIA SAW THE FORMATION OF A PALESTINIAN NATIONAL UNITY 
GOVERNMENT (NUG) AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE INTERNATIONAL 
COMMUNITY TO ENGAGE WITH THE PALESTINIANS AND FIND A WAY 
FORWARD TO ACHIEVING A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT.  HE EXPLAINED 
THAT MOSCOW WAS SURPRISED BY THE SPEED WITH WHICH THE 
PALESTINIANS HAD BEEN ABLE TO TRANSLATE THE MECCA AGREEMENT 
INTO A WORKABLE GOVERNING COALITION.  RUSSIA HAD QUICKLY 
HAILED THIS DEVELOPMENT BECAUSE THE NUG PROVIDED THE QUARTET 
AND OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES "WITH A CHANCE, IF WE'RE ABLE TO 
USE IT" TO MOVE BEYOND THE EXISTING STALEMATE.  HE SAID THAT 
ISRAEL'S REJECTION OF THE NUG WAS A MISTAKE AND THAT THE 
ISRAELI LEADERSHIP NEEDED TO ADAPT TO A FAST CHANGING 
SITUATION. 
 
3.  (C)  TURNING TO QUARTET PRINCIPLES, VERSHININ 
ACKNOWLEDGED THAT RUSSIA HAD A DIFFERENT INTERPRETATION OF 
STATEMENTS MADE BY PALESTINIAN LEADERS WHEN THE NUG WAS 
FORMED AND WAS PREPARED TO POCKET THE AMBIGUITY PROVIDED BY 
HAMAS "RESPECT" FOR PREVIOUS PEACE AGREEMENTS WITH ISRAEL. 
HE STRESSED THAT THE MECCA AGREEMENT HAD ALREADY PRODUCED A 
REDUCTION IN INTRA-PALESTINIAN VIOLENCE.  HE SAID THAT THE 
EUROPEANS WERE REVIEWING THEIR POLICIES ON INTERACTING WITH 
THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY GOVERNMENT IN LIGHT OF THE NUG AND 
MECCA AGREEMENT, AND WELCOMED U.S. WILLINGNESS TO DIFFER WITH 
ISRAEL ON CONTACTS WITH FATAH MEMBERS OF THE NUG. 
 
4.  (C)  ON THE ARAB LEAGUE SUMMIT IN RIYADH, VERSHININ SAID 
THAT DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER SALTANOV WOULD ATTEND AND WOULD 
LIKELY MEET WITH PALESTINIAN OFFICIALS.  (NOTE:  PRESS 
REPORTS INDICATE THAT HE DID SO ON MARCH 28.)  HE WAS 
SKEPTICAL THAT THE SUMMIT WOULD PRODUCE ANY "BIG 
BREAKTHROUGHS" BUT HOPED THAT THE ARABS WOULD BE ABLE TO 
RECAPTURE THE "FRESH SPIRIT" REFLECTED IN THE 2002 SAUDI 
INITIATIVE.  VERSHININ NOTED RUSSIA'S STRONG SUPPORT FOR 
SECRETARY RICE'S EFFORTS TO START A DIALOGUE BETWEEN PM 
 
SIPDIS 
OLMERT AND PRESIDENT ABBAS (WHICH A MARCH 28 MFA STATEMENT 
"POSITIVELY" ASSESSED.)  VERSHININ FLAGGED RUSSIAN EFFORTS TO 
ENCOURAGE THE RELEASE OF KIDNAPPED ISRAELI SOLDIER GILAD 
SHALIT, WHICH VERSHININ AGREED WAS CRITICAL TO PROVIDING 
STIMULUS TO AN ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN TRACK.  HE CHARACTERIZED 
COOPERATION AT THE WORKING LEVEL BETWEEN ISRAEL AND THE PA ON 
HUMANITARIAN ISSUES AS "TERRIBLE" AND ARGUED THAT ISRAELI 
ACTIONS CONTINUED TO UNDERCUT ABBAS' POSITION BECAUSE THEY 
RESTRICTED HIS ABILITY TO DEMONSTRATE IMPROVEMENTS IN 
DAY-TO-DAY LIFE. 
. 
SAUDI ARABIA'S ROLE 
------------------- 
 
5.  (C)  REVIEWING RUSSIA'S IMPROVED TIES WITH SAUDI ARABIA 
AS REFLECTED IN PRESIDENT PUTIN'S RECENT VISIT TO RIYADH 
(REFTEL), VERSHININ SAID THAT THE SAG PLAYED AN INCREASINGLY 
IMPORTANT ROLE ON ALL REGIONAL ISSUES.  THE SAUDI GOVERNMENT 
MOVED VERY SLOWLY, BUT IT HAD DEMONSTRATED A DEFT TOUCH IN 
BROKERING THE MECCA AGREEMENT BETWEEN PALESTINIAN FACTIONS. 
HE THOUGHT THE SAUDI MONARCHY COULD HELP IN INFLUENCING HAMAS 
TO EVOLVE IN A MORE PEACEFUL (AND ACCOMMODATING) DIRECTION. 
VERSHININ CONCEDED THAT THE PACE OF CHANGE IN HAMAS' POSITION 
WAS TOO SLOW, BUT STRESSED THAT HAMAS WAS EVOLVING AND THAT 
ITS LEADERS WERE LEARNING TO BALANCE THEIR IDEOLOGICAL 
INCLINATIONS WITH THEIR NEED TO GOVERN. 
 
. 
IRAQ:  ENGAGEMENT IN NEIGHBORS PLUS 
----------------------------------- 
 
6.  (C)  VERSHININ WELCO
MED THE MARCH 10 NEIGHBORS PLUS 
MEETING THAT TOOK PLACE IN BAGHDAD AND SAID THAT IT WAS 
IMPORTANT TO DEVELOP THE IDEAS THAT CAME OUT OF THE MEETING 
TO CHART A NEW PATH FOR IRAQ.  RUSSIA CONTINUED TO SEE A NEED 
FOR A CONFERENCE THAT FOSTERED NATIONAL RECONCILIATION. 
VERSHININ ACKNOWLEDGED THAT RUSSIA'S BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP 
WITH IRAQ HAD NOT MET EXPECTATIONS, WHICH HE ATTRIBUTED TO 
CONTINUING INSTABILITY IN IRAQ AND A LOW LEVEL OF POLITICAL 
CONTACTS BETWEEN MOSCOW AND BAGHDAD.  RUSSIA CONTINUED TO 
HAVE A SUBSTANTIAL INTEREST IN OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT IN 
IRAQ, BUT DISCUSSIONS HAD NOT PROGRESSED FAR.  (A SUBSEQUENT 
MFA STATEMENT NOTED THAT DFM SALTANOV'S MEETING IN RIYADH 
WITH IRAQI PRESIDENT TALIBANI FOCUSED ON TRADE AND ENERGY 
DIPLOMACY.) 
. 
LEBANON:  NO NEED FOR HARIRI TRIBUNAL (YET) 
------------------------------------------- 
 
7.  (C)  VERSHININ WAS COMPLIMENTARY ABOUT UNIIC CHIEF SERGE 
BRAMMERTZ'S MOST RECENT REPORT TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL, 
CALLING IT BALANCED AND "UNPOLITICIZED" AND NOTING THAT 
BRAMMERTZ WAS FOCUSED ON COMPLETING THE INVESTIGATION.  HE 
WOULD NOT SPECULATE ON HOW LONG THAT MIGHT TAKE, BUT STRESSED 
THAT ESTABLISHING A TRIBUNAL WAS NOT AN URGENT TASK. 
VERSHININ ARGUED AGAINST A CHAPTER VII AUTHORIZATION FOR THE 
TRIBUNAL, STATING THAT ITS LEGITIMACY DEPENDED ON ACCEPTANCE 
BY THE LEBANESE, WHO WERE NOT READY TO COME TO AGREEMENT.  HE 
TOOK THE POINT THAT BRAMMERTZ HAD COLLECTED SIGNIFICANT 
EVIDENCE ALREADY, BUT NOTED THAT THE UNIIC CHIEF HAD NOT 
CALLED FOR THE IMMEDIATE ESTABLISHMENT OF A TRIBUNAL.  HE 
EXPRESSED CONCERN ABOUT THE ONGOING POLITICAL TURMOIL IN 
LEBANON, WHICH COULD EASILY SLIP INTO A CIVIL WAR AND WOULD 
BE EXACERBATED BY "FOREIGN PARTICIPATION." 
. 
WESTERN SAHARA:  PROGRESS UNLIKELY 
---------------------------------- 
 
8.  (C)  ACCORDING TO VERSHININ, DURING EARLY-MARCH 
CONSULTATIONS WITH MOROCCAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER 
FASSI-FIHRI, THE MOROCCANS PREVIEWED A PROPOSAL FOR AUTONOMY 
FOR WESTERN SAHARA, BUT HAD NOT SHARED DETAILS OF THE PLAN. 
VERSHININ WAS SKEPTICAL ABOUT THE CHANCES FOR PROGRESS IN THE 
DISPUTE.  RUSSIA SUPPORTED NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN THE GOM AND 
THE POLISARIO, BUT BELIEVED THESE WERE UNLIKELY.  IN HIS 
ANALYSIS, WESTERN SAHARA WAS AN EXISTENTIAL QUESTION FOR THE 
MOROCCANS, WHO COULD NOT COMPROMISE ON THE QUESTION OF 
INDEPENDENCE, WHILE ALGERIA LACKED ANY INCENTIVE TO COME TO A 
RESOLUTION.  THE ZERO-SUM MENTALITY OF THE PARTICIPANTS MEANT 
THAT LITTLE COULD BE EXPECTED IN THE NEAR FUTURE, AND THERE 
WAS NOTHING ON THE HORIZON WHICH WOULD CHANGE THE EXISTING 
DYNAMIC.  THE BOTTOM LINE, VERSHININ SAID, WAS ALGERIA'S 
CALCULUS THAT MOROCCO WOULD "WIN" IF WESTERN SAHARA WAS 
SETTLED. 
. 
SUDAN:  KEEP WORKING ON BASHIR 
------------------------------ 
 
9.  (C)  REFLECTING ON SUDANESE PRESIDENT BASHIR'S MARCH 6 
REJECTION OF THE SECOND PHASE OF THE UN-AU PLAN FOR DARFUR 
PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, VERSHININ SAID THAT THE UN WOULD 
NEED TO REDOUBLE ITS EFFORTS TO PERSUADE THE GOS TO ACCEPT 
THE TROOPS.  VERSHININ SAID THAT BASHIR HAD NOT 
UNCONDITIONALLY AGREED TO THE ENTIRE PEACEKEEPING PACKAGE. 
IN THE MFA'S VIEW, BASHIR FEARED THAT PERMITTING UN TROOPS ON 
THE GROUND IN DARFUR WOULD POSE A THREAT TO HIS REGIME. 
THIS, COUPLED WITH FEARS OF CONTINUING INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL 
COURT INDICTMENTS OF SUDANESE OFFICIALS, WOULD MAKE GAINING 
AGREEMENT FROM BASHIR THAT MUCH HARDER.  VERSHININ REJECTED 
THE THREAT OF SANCTIONS AND WAS PARTICULARLY CRITICAL OF 
BRITISH SUGGESTIONS OF ESTABLISHING A "NO-FLY" ZONE IN SUDAN, 
ARGUING THAT THIS WAS A NON-STARTER. 
. 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
10.  (C)  RUSSIA CONTINUES ITS HIGH-VISIBILITY DIPLOMACY IN 
THE MIDDLE EAST, WITH PUTIN'S FEBRUARY VISIT TO THE GULF AND 
JORDAN FOLLOWED BY A STEADY STREAM OF MID-RANKING ARAB 
OFFICIALS.  WE SHOULD EXPECT MOSCOW TO CONTINUE TO PUSH ITS 
VIEWS ON HAMAS' EVOLUTION AND SEEK TO NARROW OR REINTERPRET 
QUARTET PRINCIPLES. 
RUSSELL

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