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03ROME5363 2003-11-25 17:37:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rome
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L  ROME 005363 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2013

Classified By: POL M/C Tom Countryman for Reasons 1.5 (b)
and (d).

1. (C) Summary: MFA Eastern Mediterranean Office Chief, Luca
Ferrari gave a read-out on MFA Mediterranean and Middle East
Director General Riccardo Sessa's recent trip to Syria. Sessa
traveled to Syria to inform GOS officials of the need to do
more on the Arab-Israeli conflict if they want to advance the
EU-Syria Cooperation agreement. Italy invited GOS officials
to come to Rome November 27-28 for closed talks to discuss a
Syrian approach to peace talks with Israel. Italy is
concerned that Syria may overlook other issues due to its
focus on Israel and that friendly overtures by the EU could
lead to incongruence between US and EU positions on important
issues in the region. Ferrari also described a lack of
understanding and appreciation for the Israeli position by
many EU member-states and a concern over USG leadership in
the region. End Summary



2. (C) Sessa traveled to Syria without representation from
other EU member-states. Ferrari stated that the GOI decided
to take this approach since Italy has a good relationship
with Syria and could speak more frankly and accomplish more
if unhindered by other EU representatives. He stated that
the main purpose of the trip was to send a clear message to
the Syrians that, although they have done some work to bring
stability to and solve problems in the region, such as voting
in favor of resolution 1511, working on the Iraq border issue
and supporting the fight against terrorism, they need to do
more in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict if they want to
advance the EU-Syria Cooperation agreement and find a way out
of their current position of isolation.

3. (C) The Italians asked the Syrians to begin searching for
solutions and send clear messages to Jerusalem and Washington
that they are serious about working to find a solution. The
GOI extended an invitation to the GOS to come to Rome to
conduct closed talks to explore solutions. The Syrians
accepted the offer and Deputy Foreign Minister Walid Maullem
agreed to come to Rome in November 27-28. According to
Ferrari, the Syrians had already been approached by other EU
members on this same issue but accepted only Italy's offer
due to Italy's close relation with Syria and Rome's close
ties to Washington and Jerusalem. Ferrari stated that this
meeting will be low-key and may not produce any results, but
is a positive start to a good initiative.

4. (C) Ferrari stated that the Syrians have a complicated
regime and it is hard to know what they are thinking.
However, it is evident that they are currently weak and their
economy is faltering. According to Ferrari, the cronies of
the Syrian regime live off of a corrupt system that is
dependent on the economy and thus need to maintain a growing
economy and cannot afford economic isolation. Under the
circumstances, the EU-Syria Cooperation agreement can help
Syria salvage its economy while providing the EU leverage in
convincing the Syrians to act responsibly. Ferrari further
stressed that this dialogue and the cooperation agreement are
important for the EU and come under the EuroMed framework.

5. (C) Pol M/C appreciated Italy's efforts to get Syria to
act responsibly, but expressed the following concerns
regarding the Italian initiative and the EU-Syria Cooperation
agreement. By directing Syria's focus towards Israel, Pol M/C
expressed concern that other issues, such as Hezbollah, the
Iraq border and terrorism may be overlooked. Furthermore, Pol
M/C stated that it must be made clear that focusing on Israel
and progressing on that issue alone does not mean all other
issues will be solved. He reiterated that the Syrians must
continue increasing their efforts in the fight against
terrorism and must deal effectively with the Hezbollah
problem. On the EU-Syria Cooperation agreement, Pol M/C
expressed concern about the US and the EU sending conflicting
messages. He explained that the US's tough stance on
terrorism could be counterposed to a new EU-Syrian agreement
as a transatlantic division on a key player in the region.
Ferrari understood these points and assured Pol M/C that he
would keep him abreast of any developments and work together
to avoid any misunderstandings.



6. (C) Ferrari also touched upon the EU Association Agreement
stating that some EU countries felt the EU should use it as
leverage against Israel in order to show EU muscle. Ferrari
feels that many EU countries do not fully appreciate Israel's
situation and furthermore do not understand that the

Association Agreement is not meant to be used as a
sanctioning tool. He stated that there are anywhere from 10
to 12 EU countries willing to jeopardize the Association
Agreement by using it as a sanction tool against Israel.
These members do not appreciate that the same logic apply to
using cooperation agreements against Libya, Syria or any
number of other EU partners.

7. (C) Ferrari further stated that many members of the EU are
upset with Italy for taking a balanced approach towards
Israel. He feels the Franco-Spanish initiative is not in the
interest of the EU because it is internally driven and that
the EU's "messianic" attitude toward Israel is unhealthy.

8. (C) Ferrari expressed hope that, due to the internal
political challenges currently facing the Israeli government,
Sharon will begin talking with the new Palestinian
government, giving Prime Minister Qurei's government an
opportunity to act more effectively than the previous

On Washington


9. (C) Ferrari expressed concern that there are discrepancies
between DOS and the White House over policy and action in the
Middle East which could become more pronounced during the
upcoming presidential campaign. Although he applauded
President Bush's recent speech on Democracy and Human Rights
in the Middle East, he feared that excessive caution in
implementation would cause American leadership in the Middle
East to suffer. Pol M/C assured Ferrari, in detail, that the
White House and the State Department are on the same page and
that the President is determined to move forward if a new
Palestinian government provides an opening for peace.

2003ROME05363 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL