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05ALGIERS2042 2005-10-03 17:30:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Algiers
Cable title:  

DELIVERY OF PRESIDENT'S LETTER ON WESTERN

Tags:   PREL MO WI AG 
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1. (C) Responding to delivery of the President's letter,
Algerian Presidential Adviser Rahal agreed with the
President's message and the desirability of improved
Algerian-Moroccan relations but did not demonstrate any
flexibility or imagination as to how Algeria might contribute
to such a process. Covering familiar ground, he said Algeria
was not a party to the Western Sahara dispute, had no
territorial claims in the Western Sahara, and did not want
differences over this issue to prevent bilateral cooperation.
Interestingly, he said point blank that "we don't have a
problem with the Western Sahara becoming part of Morocco,"
but that doing this against the wishes of the local
population would be highly destabilizing. In this regard,
Morocco's rejection of the Baker Plan, he claimed, missed an
opportunity to achieve a mutually satisfactory outcome via
referendum voting procedures favorable to Morocco. This was
radicalizing Sahrawi youth, something Algeria did not want to
see. Throughout the conversation, Ambassador expressed the
President's hope that both sides would seize the opportunity
created by the prisoner release to work for improved
relations and better communication. (End Summary)

PRESIDENT'S LETTER DELIVERED


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2. (C) Due to the absence abroad (in Paris) of outgoing
Presidential Chief of Staff Belkheir, Ambassador called on
Presidential Diplomatic Adviser Rahal October 2 to deliver
the President's message of September 30 (reftel) to President
Bouteflika urging improved Algerian-Moroccan relations.
Ambassador read through the text, leaving the English text as
well as an unofficial Embassy French translation.

ALGERIA WANTS IMPROVED RELATIONS BUT ...


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3. (C) Rahal thanked Ambassador for the letter, commenting
that he fully agreed with the President's message. Algeria
wanted improved relations with Morocco, he insisted, and to
this end President Bouteflika had sought to improve bilateral
communication with Morocco by sending Belkheir to Rabat as
Ambassador. Algeria did not want differences over the
Western Sahara to interfere with expanded trade and
cooperation with Morocco, which was in both sides' interest.
Algeria was disappointed that Morocco continued to act as if
Algeria were a party to the dispute. This complicated
efforts to keep the Western Sahara and bilateral issues
separate. He noted that the differences in age, personality,
and experience between Bouteflika and Mohammed VI were
another complicating factor, noting that the King's sudden
turnabout in canceling PM Ouyahia's visit to Rabat last June,
only 45 minutes after the Algerians had been informed the
King would host Ouyahia, had given great offense.

BAKER PLAN REJECTION A MISSED OPPORTUNITY
THAT IS NOW RADICALIZING SAHRAWI YOUTH


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4. (C) Covering familiar ground on the Western Sahara issue,
Rahal said that Algeria had no territorial claims there,
would not sacrifice any Algerian lives over this issue, and
wanted to see a settlement that respected UN resolutions and
the principle of self-determination. Reiterating Algeria's
support for the Baker Plan, Rahal expressed concern that
Morocco, by rejecting the plan and unilaterally seeking to
assert sovereignty, had missed a real opportunity. Worse, "it
was pushing young Sahrawis toward more radical positions,
which Algeria did not want to see happen." Morocco's
rejection of Baker was also increasing demands among Sahrawi
youth for an "independence" outcome, the opposite of what
Morocco wanted.

"WE DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH
THE WESTERN SAHARA BECOMING PART OF MOROCCO" BUT...


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



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





5. (C) In this regard, Rahal said, "We don't have a problem
with the Western Sahara becoming part of Morocco. But it
can't happen against the wishes of the local population."
That would be a recipe for permanent instability and tension.
The Baker Plan, he argued, had offered a way forward because
it would have allowed all Moroccans present in the
territories to vote in a self-determination referendum, not
just the Sahrawis. With roughly equal numbers of Moroccans
and Sahrawis, Morocco, if it had properly managed the
situation and demonstrated that autonomy would work, could
have achieved the outcome it wanted. Algeria had shown good
will in accepting this highly unusual kind of voting process,
he maintained. He underscored that not a single other
government in the world has recognized Moroccan sovereignty
over the Western Sahara and that Algeria would never accept a
fait accompli on this matter. This question could only be
resolved on the basis of self-determination.

NEED FOR IMPROVED RELATIONS, GREATER
SENSITIVITY, AND BETTER COMMUNICATION


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





6. (C) Ambassador throughout the conversation expressed the
President's hope that both sides would seize the opportunity
created by the prisoner release to work for improved
relations and better communication. In this regard, he noted
that both sides seemed to be accusing the other of walking
back on an understanding to separate bilateral and Western
Sahara issues, dealing with the later in a UN framework.
This underscored the need for better communication, as did
the unfortunate misunderstandings that arose when Morocco
announced the lifting of the visa requirement without advance
notice. Ambassador agreed that Morocco could have been more
sensitive in its handling of this issue. By the same token,
Algeria had made a serious error in not being more sensitive
and not responding more generously to the King's gesture in
attending the Arab League Summit in Algiers in March. "Why
do we need to reward someone for attending an Arab League
Summit?", Rahal responded not very sympathetically.

COOL REACTION TO FM BENAISSA'S
INVITATION TO FM BEJAOUI


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





7. (C) Again stressing both sides' interest in getting
bilateral relations back on track via resumption of a high
level dialogue, Ambassador hoped Algeria would respond
positively to the invitation FM Benaissa recently extended to
FM Bedjaoui. Rahal, who seemed not well informed about the
invitation, said his own personal view was that since the
Moroccans had canceled the Prime Minister's visit, to get
things restarted they should issue the invitation at the
prime ministerial level. (Comment: MFA Secretary General, in
an October 3 conversation (septel), took a completely
different tack, dismissively arguing that the issue was not
the level of the interlocutors but what they would say.)
Ambassador closed the conversation reiterating the
President's hope that Algeria would work in a positive and
constructive spirit for improved bilateral relations with
Morocco.
ERDMAN