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2005-06-21 09:01:00
Embassy Djibouti
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DJIBOUTI 000594 




E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/20/2015

REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) Summary: During his June 19-20 visit to Djibouti,
General John P. Abizaid asked Djiboutian President Ismail
Omar Guelleh for help in moving forward the process of base
lease renewal negotiations for Camp Lemonier and closing a
deal. He told Guelleh he would convey to President Bush how
valuable the U.S. military presence and operation in
Djibouti is to U.S. goals. Guelleh stated that Djibouti
had agreed to meet all U.S. requirements in renewal talks
to date and that the ball was now in the U.S. court,
including expectation of a response from President Bush to
the "background" letter Guelleh had sent to him on base
talks. He said Djibouti wanted to continue support and
service to the U.S., if the same is willed from the United
States. Guelleh expressed fear that the confidence and
good will that had been built up over a long period, going
back to 1993 between the U.S. and Djibouti, may now be
threatened by those, in his view, who preferred to "haggle"
over small details rather than see the larger picture. End

2. (C) General John P. Abizaid, on a June 19-20 visit to
Djibouti, met morning of June 20 with President Ismail Omar
Guelleh at Guelleh's offices. Ambassador, Combined Joint
Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Commander General
Timothy Ghormley, Embassy U.S. Liaison Officer Major Brian
Jenkins, and the Director or Djibouti's National Security
Services, Hassan Said Khaireh, were in attendance.

3. (C) President Guelleh initiated, with an inquiry on the
situation on the ground in Iraq. He asked if General
Abizaid saw eventual civil war breaking out between Sunnis
and Shias there. Guelleh said only Shias, who comprised
the core ranks of the military and police, were being
systematically targeted. Sunnis appear unwilling to accept
rule by Shia majority and also see Kurds as a threat.
General Abizaid acknowledged the difficulties, but
reassured Guelleh that despite all the pessimism emanating
from the news media, the confidence of commanders on the
ground is high.

4. (C) General Abizaid took the opportunity to thank
Guelleh for the level and consistency of Djibouti's support
of U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. The presence of U.S.
forces on the ground, he told Guelleh, is good for security
in the region. Abizaid also noted the good work being done
by members of Djibouti's security services. At the same
time, Abizaid made clear to Guelleh that current
uncertainty in negotiations for renewal of the base lease
agreement is a cause for concern regarding the longevity of
the U.S. base at Camp Lemonier. He asked for President
Guelleh's support in moving the process of negotiations
forward. Abizaid explained that the longer the period of
negotiations draws out, the greater the requirement that
he, as commander, consider other options for his forces
despite his desire to maintain operations in Djibouti.

5. (C) Guelleh responded that the American presence in
Djibouti has been a determining factor for stability and
peace in the region. Since the U.S. military set up a base
of operations in Djibouti, confidence levels of foreign
investors have increased. He expressed pleasure in this
and reiterated that, as president, he knew where he wanted
to take Djibouti and he knew exactly what he was doing in
moving in the directions he had chosen. External threats
are out there, yet the U.S. presence is a factor in the
confidence investors have in the country in spite of those
threats. Guelleh further acknowledged the impact of
U.S.-Djibouti cooperation in this state of affairs by
noting that Djibouti, the United States military, and the
United States intelligence community had been working in
tandem since 2001, and even back to 1993, during the Aideed
era in Mogadishu. Djibouti, he added, had always supported
and serviced U.S. policy in the region. "We have decided
to continue that support and service," he said, "if the
same is willed from your side."

6. (C) Guelleh went on to say that he feared the confidence
and good will that had been built up over such a long
period of time was now being threatened by those who wish
to engage in petty "Chinese-style" bargaining. He
explained that in this style of bargaining, one can haggle
for five hours over a price and in the end find that one
has only managed to save a negligible sum. "The people
from the Pentagon," he said, "are of this spirit
(mindset)." Guelleh added that while this "spirit" is not
a good one and exists at the Pentagon, the overall
friendship of Djibouti with the United States is good. "We
are the smallest and the poorest of countries," Guelleh
told Abizaid, "but we are the most desiring of good

7. (C) Guelleh told Abizaid that he had written a letter to
President Bush "to give him some background" on the
negotiations. In addition, he had explained that a
delegation had come to Djibouti to conduct negotiations and
that Djibouti had accepted all that the delegation said the
U.S. needed. According to Guelleh, "the ball was now in
the court" of the United States and he asked that General
Abizaid convey to President Bush that it was Djibouti's
desire to continue to support U.S. requirements here.

8. (C) General Abizaid responded that he would like to see
the relationship with Djibouti regularized. He noted
excellent support projects already underway in Djibouti,
such as the Doraleh port, which the U.S. Navy will use and
which he, personally, had visited the day prior. In
addition, Abizaid said, the presence of the base and the
increase in the number of high-level official visitors
traveling through Djibouti had created opportunities to
move further. He indicated his willingness to look at
other defense needs for Djibouti as the relationship
progresses. Abizaid also said both sides should not let
small issues cloud the larger vision.

9. (C) Guelleh responded that Djibouti's confidence is high
and that his country's willingness to facilitate the U.S.
military's work in the region is fulsome. He pledged that
his country would make the work of the U.S. in Djibouti
smooth. He reiterated that the U.S. needed to think about
the larger picture, rather than small details, and urged
that U.S. lawmakers be made aware of this. Abizaid pledged
to convey to President Bush how valuable the U.S. military
presence and operation in Djibouti is to U.S. goals.

10. (C) Guelleh told Abizaid that Djibouti was closely
monitoring events in Somalia, in cooperation with other
intelligence communities. He said Djibouti wants to "wipe
out" all the small terrorist cells and bring about peace
and stability there. Some problems remain, Guelleh
continued, on the border between Ethiopia and Somalia. In
addition, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden remain quite
"destabilizing." Abizaid reassured that U.S. naval forces
have been working in these areas, specifically against
piracy and the flow of narcotics. He said he also
recognized that with peace will come stability in Somalia.

11. (C) In closing, Abizaid advised Guelleh that his
message back will be "let us close the deal and move
forward." President Guelleh replied that Djibouti is
waiting for a response from the U.S. side, and
specifically, for a reply from President Bush to his
letter. He also asked Abizaid to convey to President Bush
the need for him to "give appropriate instructions on this
matter to his people."

12. (C) Comment: Guelleh consented to a meeting with
General Abizaid after the latter agreed to delay his
departure from Djibouti by two hours to accommodate the
President's schedule. In addition, businessman Abdurahman
Boreh, with a considerable economic stake in projects that
have grown out of investor confidence in Djibouti as a
result of the U.S. presence here, acted as facilitator.
Boreh told us that President Guelleh had sought rental
payments of USD 50 million annually, as conveyed in the
letter to President Bush, because it would be impossible
for the President to seek less than what France (with less
territory) is paying for its presence (30 million euros
annually, or approximately USD 42 million.) The U.S.,
Boreh said, would have the same benefits as France -- range
and airport use, etc.-- but have access to a far larger
stretch of land. Boreh did not sit in on the meeting he
helped facilitate. End comment.

13. (U) General Abizaid has cleared this message.