Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05ALGIERS1765
2005-08-21 15:25:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Algiers
Cable title:  

LUGAR VISIT AFTERMATH

Tags:  PREL PGOV PBTS PHUM AG MO WI 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ALGIERS 001765 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 25X1-HUMAN
TAGS: PREL PGOV PBTS PHUM AG MO WI
SUBJECT: LUGAR VISIT AFTERMATH


Classified By: Ambassador Richard W. Erdman; reasons 1.4 (B)(D)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ALGIERS 001765

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 25X1-HUMAN
TAGS: PREL PGOV PBTS PHUM AG MO WI
SUBJECT: LUGAR VISIT AFTERMATH


Classified By: Ambassador Richard W. Erdman; reasons 1.4 (B)(D)


1. (C) Despite some scattered grumbling in the media and
elsewhere about U.S. "pressure" and unaddressed humanitarian
concerns vis-a-vis the Sahrawis, press coverage of Senator
Lugar's humanitarian mission and the unconditional release of
all remaining Moroccan prisoners by the Polisario has been
positive overall. The Sahrawi and Polisario officials we
encountered were also generally quite positive, many of them
noting that the unseasonal desert rainstorm the day before
was an auspicious omen on the occasion of the POW release.
The government, despite its feeling let down by aspects of
our public reaction to the release, has bitten its tongue,
welcomed what it predictably portrayed as an entirely
Polisario decision, and, as it promised it would, publicly
presented the humanitarian release as an opportunity to
create a more positive dynamic in the region.

GOA CLARIFIES IT IS NOT A PARTY TO THE
DISPUTE BUT CAN PLAY GOOD OFFICES ROLE
--------------


2. (U) Minister of State Belkhadem, who also serves as
President Bouteflika's Personal Representative, also issued a
clarifying statement August 19 in response to Senator Lugar's
remarks in Morocco suggesting that Algeria and Morocco were
the negotiating parties in the Western Sahara dispute. As
reported in El Khabar August 20, Belkhadem explained that
Algeria can play a part in the settlement of the conflict,
but only to the extent of playing a good offices role,
helping to bring the viewpoints of the two parties to the
dispute, Morocco and the Polisario, closer together on the
issue of implementing international legality and UN
resolutions.

MFA STATEMENT HOPES RELEASE WILL
MARK BEGINNING OF A POSITIVE DYNAMIC
--------------


3. (U) In an August 18 statement released by the Foreign
Ministry spokesman, Algeria welcomed the release of the
prisoners by the Polisario to President Bush's envoy, Senator
Lugar, praising the release as an important humanitarian
action that demonstrated Polisario's responsible behavior and

good will. "With this welcome development, the Polisario
Front has liberated all the prisoners of war, thus enabling a
sensitive page in the fratricidal Western Sahara conflict to
be turned. Algeria hopes that all other pending humanitarian
issues can be resolved rapidly, in particular the question of
Sahrawi prisoners and missing persons.


4. (U) At the same time, the Ministry statement continued,
Algeria hopes that today's positive development will mark the
beginning of a dynamic of good neighborliness and positive
interaction ("convivialite"),to the benefit of all peoples
in the region. The statement went on to underscore that
Algeria remained more than ever attached to international
legality and wanted to see renewed UN efforts to secure full
cooperation of the parties to the dispute (Morocco and the
Polisario) in the context of the peace plan for
self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara.

BOUTEFLIKA SENDS WARM WISHES ON KING'S BIRTHDAY
AND ANNIVERSARY OF 1953 UPRISING AGAINST COLONIAL RULE
-------------- --------------


5. (U) Separately, on the occasion of both King Mohammed VI's
birthday and the anniversary of the uprising of the Moroccan
king and people against French colonial rule, both of which
fall on August 21, Bouteflika sent the King a warm letter of
congratulations. In his message, Bouteflika conveyed
"fraternal best wishes" on behalf of himself and the people
and government of Algeria; praised the King's "enlightened
leadership"; reaffirmed Algeria's "firm will and
determination to pursue cooperation and work together for the
development of special, brotherly relations between Morocco
and Algeria"; and recalled their shared struggle against
colonial rule, describing it as launching a new era in their
relations and in the Maghreb.

POSITIVE RHETORIC BELIES CONTINUING PRIVATE ANGER
-------------- --------------


6. (C) Beneath the generally positive public rhetoric, it is
clear from Bouteflika's August 18 comments to Senator Lugar
(Algiers 1753) that he is incensed over perceived Moroccan
insults and policy moves, particularly Morocco's last-minute
cancellation of Prime Minister Ouyahia's visit in June and
what Algeria sees as a policy of "faits accomplis" regarding
the Western Sahara. In this regard, Bouteflika's comment
that Algeria would only improve relations with Morocco if the
latter agreed to return to the UN framework (for resolving
the Western Sahara issue) would appear to go beyond Algeria's
standard position that bilateral relations and the Western
Sahara issue are completely separate and that disagreement
over the latter need not hold back the development of
relations. While time will tell, the MFA spokesman's
remarks, Bouteflika's birthday/anniversary message to the
King, and Presidential Chief of Staff Belkheir's reported
appointment to Rabat as Ambassador all suggest Bouteflika's
comments may have been more a venting of personal anger and
frustration than a genuine shift in longstanding policy.

ABRUPT CANCELLATION OF OUYAHIA
VISIT AT HEART OF BOUTEFLIKA'S PIQUE
--------------


7. (C) The abrupt manner in which the King cancelled PM
Ouyahia's visit in June (declaring the visit "inopportune"
only 45 minutes after informing the Algerians that the King
would meet with and host Ouyahia at lunch) is at the heart of
Bouteflika's pique and offended pride because he saw it as a
direct, grave, and high-level sign of disrespect both toward
Algeria and to his own person as president. Previous
explanations attributing the cancellation to accumulating
Moroccan frustrations over Algerian "right to independence"
rhetoric, or Algeria's failure to adequately respond to the
King's important gesture of attending the Arab League Summit
in Algeria in March, in our view have not been fully
convincing because the King had agreed to receive Ouyahia
DESPITE this provocative rhetoric. (The Algerians, for their
part, would argue that their rhetoric was in response to
mounting Moroccan statements and actions rejecting a
referendum and treating Moroccan sovereignty over the Western
Sahara as a fait accompli.) So what changed in the 45-minute
period?

A POSSIBLY MORE CONVINCING
EXPLANATION OF THE CANCELLATION
--------------


8. (C) Moroccan Ambassador Benryane (strictly protect) told
Ambassador in early August the real reason for the abrupt
cancellation was the King's anger when he received the final
Algerian delegation list for the visit. According to
Benryane, the King had viewed the meeting of the two prime
ministers as primarily political in nature, with the object
of the meeting being agreement on concrete steps that would
result in a reopening of the border. He had resisted
agreeing to personally receive the Algerian PM as long as it
was not clear that the Algerian Foreign and Interior
Ministers would be on the delegation, because he viewed their
participation as evidence that the Algerians also viewed the
visit in a political framework and were serious about an
early reopening of the border.


9. (C) According to Benryane, when the King was presented a
delegation list that included the two ministers, he
immediately agreed to meet with and host PM Ouyahia and word
was relayed within minutes to Algiers via the Algerian
ambassador in Rabat. Shortly after the King extended the
invitation, the Moroccans received the final delegation list
from the Algerians. That list showed the Foreign and
Interior ministers would not be on the delegation after all.
The King in turn angrily concluded the Algerians were not
serious and ordered the Algerians be told the time was not
"opportune" for the Prime Minister's visit.

ERDMAN