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05ALGIERS1159 2005-06-06 13:43:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Algiers
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1. (C) During June 5 meeting on other issues (septel),
Presidential Chief of Staff Belkheir said both Morocco and
Algeria were making efforts to send positive signals to the
other, proceeding with plans for Prime Ministers Ouyahia and
Jettou to meet in Rabat June 21-22, and hoping to re-energize
the mixed commission process, with a view to re-opening the
Moroccan-Algeria border later this year. Ambassador said we
welcomed these positive signals and noted that we would
shortly be demarching both capitals to express concerns about
a series of earlier, negative events and urge renewed efforts
to improve relations. Turning to Syria, and using very frank
language, Ambassador flagged our strong concerns about
Syria's unacceptable behavior, which was so clearly against
the wishes of the international community for peace,
democracy, and stability in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. He
cautioned that in defending Syria so actively in New York and
elsewhere, Algeria often seemed to be well outside mainstream
Arab opinion. Such a posture risked creating negative
perceptions of Algeria. Belkheir said he would brief
President Bouteflika on concerns expressed by Ambassador.
(End Summary)



2. (C) During a June 5 meeting on other issues, Presidential
Chief of Staff Belkheir said both Morocco and Algeria were
making efforts to send small, but important, positive signals
to each other with a view to improving relations. The
Algerian side saw as very positive the Moroccan statement
responding to President Bouteflika's congratulatory letter to
the Polisario because, according to Belkheir, it was "the
very first time" Morocco had explicitly acknowledged the
Western Sahara issue must be resolved within a UN (as opposed
to bilateral) framework. Algeria had in turn responded with
a public statement (by Minister of State and former FM
Belkhadem) welcoming Morocco's recognition that the UN was
the appropriate framework for resolving the Western Sahara

3. (C) While disappointed by the King's decision not to
participate in the May 24-25 Arab Maghreb Union Summit in
Tripoli, Algeria had positively noted Morocco's willingness
both to participate in the summit at Foreign Minister level
and to proceed with participation in the Algiers
International Trade Fair. In another positive signal,
Algeria had immediately agreed to a Moroccan request to
permit overland travel by over a hundred performers coming to
perform at the Moroccan Pavilion gala. (In the end, they
decided to come by air. The Moroccan gala was attended by
Belkheir and at least ten ministers, including the foreign
and finance ministers, and thus a clear signal of a desire to
get rapprochement back on track.)




4. (C) Belkheir also drew attention to Bouteflika's televised
visit to the Moroccan pavilion, where a mock-up of a new
hotel complex being built on the coast near the
Algerian-Moroccan border was displayed. While viewing the
mock-up, Bouteflika said that "50 per cent of the rooms
should be reserved for Algerians." Belkheir implied this was
a deliberate signal about the president's intentions of
reopening the border. In this regard, and in response to
Ambassador's direct question, Belkheir confirmed that the
June 21-22 Rabat meetings between PM Ouyahia and PM Jettou
would proceed as planned. These meetings would aim to
re-energize the mixed commission process and resolve
outstanding border issues. If agreement could be reached on
these issues, including agreement on increased cooperation to
combat the growing and very worrisome cross-border drug
trade, Belkheir volunteered, this would lead to the opening
of the border. He did not indicate the time frame for such a
move and Ambassador decided not to press, but the impression
he left was that it could be sooner rather than later (i.e.,
some time this summer).



5. (C) Ambassador welcomed the positive signals each side now
seemed to be sending the other and reaffirmed our strong hope
that a renewed process of rapprochement could lead to a
reopening of the border. We had frankly been very concerned
and disappointed by the recent series of events -- the
Polisario letter, the King's withdrawal from the summit, the
cancellation of the summit, and Morocco's violent suppression
of Sahrawi demonstrations -- and would shortly be delivering
demarches both in Rabat and Algiers expressing our concerns
and urging renewed efforts to advance Moroccan-Algerian
rapprochement. It was encouraging to see that both sides
seemed to recognize their interest in getting things back on



6. (C) Ambassador then turned to Syria, noting that in his
June 2 meeting with visiting SACEUR General Jones, President
Bouteflika had spoken positively about recent Syrian actions,
including the withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon and the
impetus the Baath Party Congress would give to the reform
process. Bouteflika, Ambassador noted, had also spoken about
Syrian concerns that the U.S. was seeking to destabilize the
regime, and had seemed unclear as to why we taking a hard
line against Syria. Ambassador explained that we were not
against Syria per se. We were against its unacceptable

7. (C) Syria was directly working against goals broadly
shared by the international community, Ambassador continued.
In Iraq, it was providing a support base and safe haven for
insurgent groups, facilitating the flow of terrorists as well
as arms and money, into Iraq from recruiting networks in the
region, including in Algeria, and directly undermining
efforts to stabilize the situation, proceed with
reconstruction, and build a democratic state in which Iraqis
were truly sovereign. Was Syria really helping the
terrorists this way, Belkheir asked with apparent sincerity,
to which Ambassador replied "absolutely, and without doubt."



8. (C) Syria's record on Lebanon was no better, Ambassador
continued. While Syria had withdrawn uniformed troops, it
had not withdrawn its intelligence services, and was in fact
setting up new intelligence offices in various parts of the
country. Many Lebanese were concerned that Syria was trying
to destabilize the country and, while there was as yet no
proof of responsibility, there were widespread suspicions,
including within the senior Lebanese leadership, that Syria
was behind the recent assassination of an influential
anti-Syrian journalist. It is true that Syria has taken a
few positive steps to address international concerns in both
Lebanon and Iraq, but they have tended to conform to previous
Syrian behavior. That is, they take a small step here and
there, in hopes of diminishing and deflecting international
attention, while not changing their basic negative behavior
or orientation. On the Palestinian issue, Syria was
similarly directly undermining efforts to advance a peace
process by its active support of Palestinian rejectionist
groups. When the entire world was hoping to seize the
current hopeful moment to achieve peace and a democratic
Palestinian state, Syria was working in the opposite



9. (C) Ambassador, noting he would speak with candor as
always, said we frankly did not understand why Algeria was
always protecting and defending Syria, particularly at the
UN, when Syria's actions were so clearly contrary to the
wishes of the international community in Iraq, Lebanon, and
Palestine. We understood that Algeria, as the member of the
Security Council representing Arab interests, had to reflect
or at least take those interests into account. Our problem
was that Algeria was not simply representing mainstream Arab
interests. Instead, it was taking positions well to the left
of the mainstream and defending Syria in a way that no other
Arab states were. In effect, Algeria was associating
itself, whether it liked it or not, with Syria's unacceptable
international behavior. Ambassador cautioned that this has
been noticed in Washington and New York, and risked creating
negative perceptions of Algeria. Belkheir, after briefly
speculating that perhaps Syria's behavior was linked to the
continued occupation of the Golan, said he would brief
President Bouteflika on the Ambassador's comments and