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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
03AMMAN8194 2003-12-15 18:14:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Amman
Cable title:  

CONSENSUS REACHED ON UNRWA GENEVA CONFERENCE;

Tags:   PREL KWBG UNRWA 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 AMMAN 008194 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR IO, NEA AND PRM; GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/15/2013
TAGS: PREF PREL KPAL KWBG JO UNRWA
SUBJECT: CONSENSUS REACHED ON UNRWA GENEVA CONFERENCE;
ISRAELI PARTICIPATION MAY BE RESOLVED

REF: JERUSALEM 4009

Classified By: DCM David Hale, per 1.5 (b) and (d)



1. (C) Summary and comment: UNRWA officials briefed donor
and host government representatives on preparations for the
June 2004 UNRWA Geneva conference during a December 11
steering committee meeting in Amman. Apparent EC agreement
to drop its previous insistence on a separate workshop on
humanitarian access as well as careful UNRWA management of
the NGO and panel debate issues seem to indicate that the
conference is taking shape in way that reflects our concerns
that it remain focused on UNRWA's humanitarian mandate.
Apparent Israeli acquiescence in allowing the conference to
proceed without their presence (at least, according to UNRWA)
preserves this delicate balance. UNRWA requests written
comment (if needed) on any outstanding conference issues
before December 31. End summary and comment.



--------------------------


Israeli Participation May Be Resolved
After UNRWA-Israeli Discussions


--------------------------





2. (C) Following contentious debate at the December 2 core
group meeting over UNRWA's surprise proposal to invite Israel
to the Geneva Conference (ref), UNRWA agreed that it should
not raise the subject with the broader steering committee
until it had discussed the conference with Israeli officials.
While the issue was therefore not raised in the steering
committee, Syrian and PLO representatives separately told
refcoord on the margins of the meeting that they could not
accept Israeli participation at the Geneva conference. In a
December 15 telcon, Deputy ComGen Karen AbuZayd told refcoord
that she briefed senior Israeli MFA officials on the
conference on December 14. She reported that the MFA seemed
interested in and supportive of the conference, and did not
express interest in participating in the conference. When
questioned by refcoord, AbuZayd admitted that she had not
invited the Israelis to participate in the meeting. UNRWA,
she said, prefers to work under the assumption that the
Israelis do not want to attend the conference and will only
address the issue if the Israelis ask to attend. (AbuZayd
confided to refcoord on the margins of the December 11
meeting that UNRWA hoped the Israelis would not be interested
in participating in the Conference, as Israeli participation
would be sure to politicize the Conference's debate.) The
issue, AbuZayd concluded on December 15, would be closed
unless the Israelis ask specifically to be invited to the
Geneva conference.



--------------------------


Workshop Themes Finalized;
EC Drops Insistence on Access Workshop


--------------------------





3. (U) UNRWA External Relations Director Andrew Whitley told
the steering committee December 11 that the core group had
agreed on four workshop themes for the Conference: children
and youth; housing, infrastructure and environment needs in
the camps; empowering Palestinian refugees to participate in
economic development; and conditions for the successful
mobilization of resources. (Revised conference agenda was
faxed to PRM/ANE.) The fifth proposed workshop, humanitarian
access and obstacles to service delivery, would instead be
addressed by interweaving these questions in a systematic
fashion in the four remaining workshops.



4. (SBU) Both the EC and U.S. objected that the core group
had not agreed to these four themes. As recorded in the
minutes of the December 2 meeting, UNRWA core group members
insisted that management concerns, including program
budgeting and priorities, be included in the resource
mobilization workshop. All core group members had agreed
that the workshop title should be appropriately retitled.
AbuZayd responded that the workshop would be retitled as
requested. Finally, while the EC told the steering committee
that it did not yet have instructions on the workshop topics,
EC representative Philippe Jacques privately told refcoord
that the compromise of addressing access in the four other
workshops appeared to address the "spirit" of the EC's
position as expressed by RELEX Director Leffler to PDAS
Greene.



--------------------------


Sweden and Jordan Agree to Lead Workshops


--------------------------





5. (SBU) Only two countries have agreed to lead workshops at
the Geneva conference. UNRWA confirmed that Sweden, as
previously announced, would lead the workshop on children and
youth while Jordan has agreed to lead the workshop on camp
infrastructure. UNRWA announced at the steering committee
meeting that it was in discussions with Canada over the
economic development workshop and with Norway over the
resources management workshop. CIDA representative Wayne
Primeau later told refcoord that Canada still had many
reservations about the conference and had opened discussions
with UNRWA only over the provision of technical support
(e.g., funding the participation of Palestinian refugee
expert Rex Brynen) for a workshop. However, given Canada's
role as gavel holder of the (defunct) Refugee Working Group,
it was likely that Ottawa would eventually accept a more
high-profile role. The EC, according to Jacques, has not yet
decided what leadership role it will play in the conference
and was unaware that UNRWA was touting it as a prospective
vice-chair to other core group members.


--------------------------


Panel Debate


--------------------------





6. (U) UNRWA still hopes to include in the conference a
panel debate among senior officials from host governments,
major donors, UN agencies and research institutions.
Building on suggestions made at the December 2 core group
meeting, UNRWA proposed that the panel debate focus on:
"Human Security and Economic Progress: Improving the Lives
of Palestinian Refugees." External Relations Director
Whitley told refcoord UNRWA hoped this subject would prove
broad enough to capture the protection concerns favored by
the Europeans, while steering the discourse closer to the
socio-economic concerns preferred by the U.S. and host
governments.



--------------------------


Conference Declaration


--------------------------





7. (U) UNRWA still hopes to issue a short declaration at the
end of the conference, expressing support for Palestinian
refugees, UNRWA and its mandate and the peace process. UNRWA
plans to take the lead in the drafting process, circulating a
proposed text to core group members in early January.
Acknowledging that the drafting process could prove
contentious, Whitley told the steering committee that UNRWA
would be prepared not to issue a declaration if stakeholders
were unable to reach consensus before the conference. UNRWA
does not want the conference to devolve into negotiations
over a politicized text.



--------------------------


NGO Consortia Participation


--------------------------





8. (U) UNRWA announced that the three Geneva-based NGO
consortia (Interaction, SCHR and ICVA) would be invited to
participate in the Conference. Deputy ComGen AbuZayd
clarified that representatives from the three consortia will
be free to participate in all aspects of the conference but
that only Swiss Government and UNRWA officials would have
speaking roles during the plenary session. The Netherlands
pushed for participation of individual NGOs in the workshops,
if those NGOs have particular expertise in the workshop
topic. AbuZayd responded that such NGO participation could
be appropriate but would be at the discretion of individual
chairs to decide.



--------------------------


Next Steps


--------------------------





9. (U) UNRWA asked steering committee members to provide
written comment (if needed) on any problematic conference
issues before December 31. The next core group meeting will
be held during the week of January 12, with a steering
committee meeting scheduled in February. Both the core group
and the steering committee will be eligible to comment on the
draft declaration. Working groups for the four workshops are
due to commence in January and will hold monthly meetings
until late April, when they will produce policy papers for
discussion at the Geneva Conference. Given apparent
consensus on the overall direction for the conference and the
timeline for planning the conference, UNRWA announced that it
would issue "pre-invitations" to 65 donors, prospective
donors and host governments before December 31.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





10. (C) The Geneva Conference is finally taking shape in a
way that reflects our concern that the conference remain
focused on UNRWA's core humanitarian mandate and avoid
politicized debate. Israel's apparent readiness to let the
conference proceed without its participation, while being
kept fully informed of preparations and the conference's
findings would preserve everyone's (including Israel's)
equities in the conference. This approach enables UNRWA to
generate positive publicity for its mandate and give donors a
voice in establishing medium-term program priorities for the
agency.
GNEHM