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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CAIRO1220 2009-06-30 03:03 2011-02-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
DE RUEHEG #1220/01 1810351
O 300351Z JUN 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 CAIRO 001220 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/09/2019 
REF: A. CAIRO 1197 
    ΒΆB. CAIRO 457 C. CAIRO 826 Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey per 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.(C) The U.S.-Egypt strategic dialogue meeting of June 7 covered several major regional and global issues, with a special focus on the Israel-Palestinian conflict and developments in the Arab world. Under Secretary Burns and MFA Assistant Minister for Cabinet Affairs Wafaa Bassim led their respective delegations. The mood was very positive due to the President's recent June 4 speech in Cairo, as well as the Egyptian delegation's satisfaction that the dialogue represented a revitalization of the U.S.-Egyptian bilateral relationship. In a separate meeting preceding the dialogue, FM Aboul Gheit and Under Secretary Burns discussed Sudan and multilateral cooperation. In a June 11 follow-up meeting, Bassim suggested to the Ambassador that the dialogue be maintained at the current level, and that the dialogue receive guidance on an annual basis from the Secretary and FM Aboul Gheit (reftel a). Bassim also suggested experts level groups meet on a schedule consonant with issues and events, i.e. on/around the NPT conference and UNGA. End summary. BILATERAL MEETING WITH FM ABOUL GHEIT -------------------------------------

2.(C) FM Aboul Gheit reiterated praise for the President's June 4 speech in his bilateral meeting with the Under Secretary. U/S Burns said that the President's message was intended for the Islamic world, but that the spirit of this new U.S. approach is applicable to the U.S.-Egyptian bilateral relationship. Aboul Gheit agreed. He said that he had instructed Egypt's multilateral missions to "improve the tone" of U.S.-Egyptian discourse on multilateral issues. Aboul Gheit suggested that A/S for International Organizations Esther Brimmer (in attendance at the meeting) return for a full day of consultations.

3.(C) Aboul Gheit focused on Sudan, and said that the Egyptians had suggested to the President on June 4 that the U.S. support greater involvement of Egyptian NGOs and civil society in Darfur humanitarian operations. This is an opportunity for trilateral cooperation, according to Aboul Gheit; "both of our flags would be represented," he said. Aboul Gheit said that the Egyptians have sent 45 doctors tp Darfur, and are digging 30 wells in central south Sudan. Aboul Gheit said the Egyptian goal is stability and maintenance of the CPA; he argued that "Egyptian experience" has led him to conclude that those who focus on "self-determination" are most upset when a country erupts in "civil war" as a result. Aboul Gheit said that Special Envoy Gration has a solid understanding of the situation in Sudan, especially the specific danger of north-south tensions and the possibility of internal southern violence in the event of secession.

4.(C) Aboul Gheit pressed that the USG support Egyptian inclusion in multilateral venues on the global economy, and complained that the U.S. had been slow to respond to earlier requests on this issue. He contended that Egypt's purchasing power parity was the "largest" on the African continent (Note: This assertion appears to be incorrect), and hoped that the Egyptians would be included at the July 7 G8 leaders meeting in Rome, including the afternoon "forum" session with China, India, Mexico, South Africa and Brazil; and Egypt. (Note: We understand that the Italians have invited the Egyptians to be included in a morning session, but not the "forum" session that Aboul Gheit has asked for inclusion in. End note).

5.(C) Aboul Gheit said that Somalia has been a "mess" since 1992, and contended that an international force of 80,000 soldiers would be necessary to ensure stability. As for piracy, the key is to take firm and swift force against pirates, e.g. destroy boats and secure the coastline. Aboul Gheit argued that taking pirates to domestic courts was a mistake, as eventually the pirates would hijack a vessel and ransom it for release of the detained pirate. STRATEGIC DIALOGUE - MIDDLE EAST PEACE EFFORTS --------------------------------------------- - CAIRO 00001220 002 OF 006

6.(C) Egyptian MFA Spokesman and Senior Advisor Hossam Zaki briefed on Middle East peace efforts. He said that the GOE is increasingly focused on the "end game," in order to underscore the sense of urgency that the Egyptians attach to resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Zaki said that it is very helpful to have a U.S. Administration "dedicated and committed" on the issue of Israeli settlements. However, he said that even if a settlement freeze is achieved, it is only one aspect of a larger challenge, i.e. comprehensive Middle East peace.

7.(C) Zaki said that the Egyptians are continuing to maintain contacts with the Israelis, as well as meeting Hamas and other Palestinian factions to advance reconciliation. He expressed pessimism as to Israel's intentions, but said that the Egyptians have dealt before with Israeli intransigence. Zaki recognized that Israel is under political pressure, to include the Israeli domestic charge that the GOI is putting its relationship with the U.S. at risk. This pressure, however, is needed, and should continue, as it could lead to a "turning point" in Middle East peace efforts. Zaki said that the Egyptians will continue to support the Administration,s efforts, including through facilitation of a Palestinian reconciliation process that "does not hinder" peace efforts and mitigates the risk of Hamas or another malefactor from playing the role of "spoiler."

8.(C) U/S Burns said that the Administration is indeed dedicated to advancing Middle East peace, as evidenced by the very early engagement of the President and the announcement and subsequent visits of Special Envoy Mitchell. Israel must live up to its commitments, including on settlements and natural growth. Arabs, however, have responsibilities as well, especially to articulate the promise of the Arab Peace Initiative to both the Israeli and Arab peoples. The Egyptian-U.S. partnership is crucial to our efforts, and will remain so, especially in Gaza.

9.(C) Zaki responded that in Egypt's view the burden is squarely on Israel to take steps on settlements before any reciprocal steps from the Arab side. Israel's position is more "hardline" than that of the Arabs, Zaki contended. He asked U/S Burns about the role of the Quartet, and said that Egypt wants to see a bigger role for the Quartet as well as a bigger role for the "Arab Contact Group" to the Quartet. U/S Burns agreed that the Quartet has a very important role to play, and was very familiar with the origins and intent of it as a way to bring political and practical resources to Middle East peace efforts.

10.(C) Asst. Minister Bassim asked about U.S.-Syrian talks, and expressed interest in coordinating with the U.S. U/S Burns confirmed that U.S.-Syria discussions will continue. Both sides agreed that it was unclear if the Syrians really wanted peace with Israel or merely the establishment of a process, and that the Israel-Syria track should not be pursued at the expense of the Israel-Palestinian track. Deputy Assistant Minister Ayman Zaineldeen assessed that the Syrians still believe that "stonewalling" is the best tactic, and that although there are signs that Syria wants to move away from Iran, it is unclear if Damascus has the ability to do so. The new U.S. Administration may give Damascus greater confidence to take steps in this direction, Zaineldeen said. Referring to the IAEA investigation of Syria,s nuclear program as another example, U/S Burns agreed that Syrian behavior will not be easy to change. (Note: Both sides agreed that the Lebanese election, held the following day, was "too close to call." End note). IRAQ ----

11.(C) U/S Burns said that after a painful period at the outset of the post-Saddam era, there has been steady improvement in Iraq on several fronts. The Iraqis are slowly repairing their society. Central institutions are making progress, especially the Army and to a lesser degree the police. Maliki,s Basra operation in 2008 sent a firm signal that the GOI was willing to take the necessary steps to ensure security. The U.S. remains fully committed to the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, which involves the withdrawal of American combat troops from the cities by June 30. Iranian influence remains a concern. CAIRO 00001220 003 OF 006

12.(C) Assistant Minister for Arab Affairs Abdel Rahman Saleh said that Egypt "could not agree more" on the need to keep Iraq intact, so as not to impact the region in a negative way. In the coming months, the Egyptians expect to complete bilateral agreements with the Iraqis (reftel b); an agreement on oil has already been completed; and there is a draft agreement on military cooperation in the works. However, Saleh complained that the Iraqis remain slow to implement and respond to Egyptian initiatives for bilateral cooperation. Soon, he said, the Egyptians should complete discussions on the location of their new embassy in Baghdad. Saleh noted the possibility of working with the Saudis on helping the Iraqis to improve stability in the south. (Note: On June 16, Egypt named its new Ambassador to Iraq, Sharif Shaheen (currently Ambassador to Zambia). End note). SUDAN -----

13.(C) DAS Wycoff thanked Egypt for its cooperation with Special Envoy for Sudan Scott Gration. The U.S. focus was on implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), he said, noting the planned June 23 meeting in Washington to support implementation and a potential follow on meeting hosted by the Egyptians. DAS Wycoff acknowledged that the CPA was behind schedule, but stressed that the U.S. was committed to getting the agreement "back on track." On Darfur, DAS Wycoff thanked Egypt for offering additional humanitarian assistance after Sudan's "disheartening" expulsion of foreign NGOs following the International Criminal Court's indictment of President Bashir. Sudan agreed to allow some international NGOs to go to Darfur to address critical humanitarian needs, he continued, but the U.S. was "disappointed" with the lack of implementation to date.

14.(C) Ambassador Kassem, Director of the Sudan Department - who will represent Egypt at the June 23 meeting - said Egypt was encouraging the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) to implement the CPA with "clear conviction." He expressed Egypt's support for S/E Gration's "new approach," and hoped the Sudanese would reciprocate with a "new attitude." He reiterated Egyptian support for a unified Sudan, saying that "separation would not be good for either the north or the south." Steps must be taken to make unity more appealing to the south, including by increasing infrastructure and development projects. On Darfur, Kassem emphasized that the conflict was a "Sudanese problem that must be solved by the Sudanese."

15.(C) Assistant Foreign Minister Wafaa Bassim said Egypt preferred a united Sudan over a disintegration in "our backyard" that could send millions of refugees pouring into Egypt, in addition to the estimated 3 - 4 million Sudanese already in Egypt. She also called for exerting more pressure on rebel groups outside of the political process to join in peace talks. Ahmed Abu Zeid, Cabinet Advisor on African Affairs, agreed on the centrality of the CPA for peace and stability, stressing the need for both sides to fulfill their commitments. He criticized the Doha Process for not being inclusive of all concerned parties and said pressure was not being applied equally, as the Sudanese government received more attention than the rebel groups. Abu Zeid also expressed concern that the Doha process was not effectively utilizing neighbor countries' capacity to support the political process and advocated for a more comprehensive approach to deal with the challenges posed by CPA implementation and the ICC ruling (Note: See reftel c for more information on Egyptian views of the Doha process. End note).

16.(C) DAS Wycoff highlighted U.S. efforts to pressure the governments of Chad and Sudan to stop supporting each others' insurgencies, which was especially critical for the Chadean rebels who could not function without Sudanese support. He agreed on the need to treat all the challenges confronting peace and stability in Sudan comprehensively, but not necessarily simultaneously. He added that the U.S. was open to including other rebel groups in the Doha process. SOMALIA ------- 17. (C) Ambassador Marzouk, Deputy Assistant Minister for CAIRO 00001220 004 OF 006 East and South Africa, voiced Egypt's support for the Djibouti process and TFG President Sheikh Sherif. He noted that Egypt had already agreed to send 10,000 uniforms for TFG security forces and stood ready to train Somali forces at Egyptian military and police academies, if requested by the TFG. Bassim added that international support for Sherif was critical and was eager to hear the U.S. assessment of Sherif's abilities. 18. (C) DAS Wycoff expressed confidence in Sherif, noting that his security forces appeared to have successfully repelled the Shabab's recent attacks. The situation was still "fragile," he cautioned, adding that the TFG security forces needed better equipment and additional financing to be effective. Sherif understood, however, that long-term stability depended on a political and not a military solution. DAS Wycoff acknowledged donors' concerns about corruption within the TFG and said Sherif was working with PriceWaterhouseCoopers to create a transparent budget mechanism. He also stressed the importance of undercutting support for extremists, including stemming the flow of foreign fighters and by cutting off Eritrean support for Somali extremist groups. U/S Burns stressed that instability in Somalia is an international problem and promised to provide additional information on Somali groups' links to foreign extremists through the proper channels. AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN ------------------------ 19. (C) U/S Burns stressed the importance of using a combination of security and development strategies to promote stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, adding that the problems both countries faced were inextricably linked. He welcomed GOE offers of assistance and emphasized that the U.S. would work closely with regional countries, including Iran, who had a clear interest in preventing a resurgent Taliban. The Egyptians noted the recent trip by the Assistant Foreign Minister for Asian Affairs to Afghanistan and Pakistan who conveyed Egypt's support for combating extremism to both governments. He added that Egypt recently sent two C-130s full of humanitarian assistance supplies for refugees in Pakistan. IRAN ---- 20. (C) U/S Burns highlighted U.S. concerns over Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions and Iran's destabilizing interference in regional affairs, including their support to Hezbollah and Hamas. He assured the Egyptian government that the U.S. would not exchange a privileged regional role for Iran for a resolution of the nuclear issue. "We will proceed very carefully and cautiously" with engagement with Iran, U/S Burns continued, and "will evaluate how best to engage the Iranian government following the upcoming presidential elections." The Egyptians said that they were "deeply concerned" about Iran,s nuclear activities and continued Iranian interference in the region. In response to a question on Iranian military capability, U/S Burns noted the rapid pace of Iran's ballistic missile program, while conventional capability remained limited. Iran continues to use asymmetric warfare as a potent weapon. 21. (C) U/S stressed the importance of diplomatic pressure, especially from the international community, to changing Iran's negative behavior and ensuring that it meets its NPT and IAEA obligations. The U.S. would be transparent with its partners, he added, noting that the GCC 3 and P5 1 would be an appropriate format for coordination on Iranian nuclear issues. Asst. Minister Saleh expressed Egypt's focus on preventing Iranian interference in the region and advocated for increased interaction on Iranian issues between the U.S. and regional countries through the P5 1/GCC 3 format. He acknowledged a reluctance by some Gulf states to engage through this group and encouraged the U.S. to work on "diluting" their opposition. Saleh also stressed that preventing Iran from wielding "veto power" over the Iraqi government would advance our mutual goals in the region. CULTURAL AFFAIRS ---------------- 22. (C) MFA Assistant Minister for Cultural Affairs Mona Ziki CAIRO 00001220 005 OF 006 believed both governments should focus more on cultural relations to bolster mutual understanding. She suggested a U.S. fund for American-Egyptian cultural events, noting that the 2008 "Big Read" at the Cairo book fair was a success and could be broadened. She also proposed an exchange of religious leaders, and mentioned that the GOE has discussed bringing Afghan and Pakistani Sheiks to Al-Azhar University in Cairo for training to moderate their views. U/S Burns agreed that it would be useful to consider cultural exchanges, and expressed interest in exploring specific programs. MULTILATERAL ISSUES ------------------- 23. (C) MFA Assistant Minister for Multilateral Affairs Naela Gabr noted that the GOE would preside over the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) conference starting in July and would assume the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) presidency in 2011. She said the GOE is exploring a women's issues mechanism in the OIC. Gabr welcomed U.S. membership in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and expressed hope for improved bilateral cooperation in that forum. She described the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime as "extremely important," noting that the Egyptian parliament and media are keenly focused on it. In response to Assistant Foreign Minister Wafaa Baassim,s question on UN Security Council enlargement, U/S Burns replied that the U.S. is still reviewing its approach. 24. (C) U/S Burns noted the importance of tone and style on both bilateral and multilateral human rights issues. He said the U.S. looks forward to a detailed bilateral exchange. Assistant Secretary Brimmer said that U.S.-Egyptian dialogue can strengthen UN institutions. She noted that the U.S. and Egypt are working together on UN Human Rights Council resolutions in September on freedom of expression and defamation of religion to respect countries, cultural sensitivities and the U.S. tradition of free speech. 25. (C) Deputy Assistant Minister for Human Rights Wael Aboulmagd noted that he and a Department delegation had conducted positive discussions in May on the UNHRC freedom of expression resolution. He welcomed the U.S. idea of using the UNHRC as a forum to demonstrate a new spirit of U.S.-Egyptian cooperation. He encouraged both sides to manage differences over issues such as Palestine, Durban and country specific resolutions, and suggested that bilateral relations be viewed as broadly as possible. Aboulmagd pointed to significant GOE work on trafficking-in-persons, including a law that will be submitted to parliament. He raised concern that Congressionally mandated reports had created bilateral tensions. Naela Gabr said that the GOE approaches human rights as a development issue, and is working to develop a culture of human rights, specifically on issues such as transparency and anti-corruption. 26. (U) DELEGATIONS: ------------------- United States ------------- Under Secretary Burns Ambassador Scobey Assistant Secretary for International Organizations Brimmer Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Carl Wycoff NSC Director for Israel, Palestinian, Egyptian and Jordanian Affairs Prem Kumar NEA/ELA Director Nicole Shampaine Special Assistant to the Under Secretary Roopa Rangaswamy Embassy First Secretary Greg LoGerfo (notetaker) Embassy First Secretary Melissa Cline (notetaker) Embassy Second Secretary David Berns (notetaker) Egypt: ------ Assistant Minister for Cabinet Affairs Wafaa Bassim Assistant Minister for Arab Affairs Abdel Rahman Saleh Assistant Minister for Multilateral Affairs Naela Gabr (working lunch only) Assistant Minister for Cultural Affairs Mona Ziki Sudan Department Director Mohammed Kassem Deputy Assistant Minister and Spokesman Hossam Zaki Deputy Assistant Minister for Arab Affairs Ayman Zeineldeen CAIRO 00001220 006 OF 006 Deputy Assistant Minister for Human Rights Wael Abou Maged Deputy Assistant Minister for East and South Africa Abdelhammed Marzouk Cabinet Advisor for American Affairs Hatem Atawy Cabinet Advisor for Arab Affairs Mahmoud Afifi Cabinet Advisor for Sudan Affairs Ahmed Abou Zeid Cabinet Advisor for Israel-Palestinian Affairs Ahmed Hamshari Cabinet Advisor for Iranian Affairs Ahmed Megahed SCOBEY