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05MADRID2209 2005-06-08 15:56:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Madrid
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MADRID 002209 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/07/2015

Classified By: Political Counselor Kathy Fitzpatrick; reason 1.4 (D).

1. (C) Summary. FM Moratinos faced vigorous opposition
criticism this week for declining to condemn Morocco's
refusal to admit two Spanish political delegations seeking to
visit Laayoun as a demonstration of support for the Sahrawis.
The opposition Popular Party has been the most vocal critic,
but support for the Sahrawis cuts across party lines and the
Zapatero administration has faced criticism from both the
right and left for its perceived tilt towards Morocco over
the last year. Moratinos is under pressure to demonstrate
positive motion on the Western Sahara issue and he responded
by pressing for the rapid selection of a UNSYG Personal
Representative to replace Alvaro de Soto, dispatching Spain's
Deputy Foreign Minister to the region, and gaining Moroccan
approval for the visit of an official Parliamentary
delegation to Morocco. The Popular Party refused to
participate in that delegation and is likely to maintain
pressure on Zapatero to harden Spanish policy towards Morocco
regarding Western Sahara. In contrast to other foreign
relations issues such as Venezuela and Cuba, Zapatero's
leftist allies are unlikely to offer much support for his
continued demonstration of flexibility on the Western Sahara
issue. Our normal Western Sahara contacts indicate that
Moratinos is personally handling this issue and limiting
information on developments to members of his inner circle.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) Opposition politicians sharply criticized Foreign
Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos for declining to condemn the
Moroccan government's June 5 decision to bar the entry of a
group of municipal political figures from Madrid,
journalists, and human rights monitors who attempted a visit
to Laayoun. Political opponents (and even some allies) have
asserted that the Zapatero government has tilted to the
Moroccan government over the last year at the expense of
Spain's traditional support for the Sahrawis and this episode
brought their frustrations into the open. The Spanish
delegation was organized by the "State Federation of
Institutions in Solidarity with the Sahrawi People" and
included Socialist (PSOE) and United Left (IU) municipal
representatives, as well as journalists and the president of
the "Spanish Pro Human Rights League." Its announced purpose
was to evaluate human rights conditions in Laayoun in the
wake of the recent disturbances by Sahrawi youths. The group
traveled to Laayoun from the Canary Islands, but was not
permitted to disembark from the airplane and was required to
return to Spain. The situation was exacerbated on June 7 by
news that Morocco would also bar the entry of a multi-party
Catalan delegation that included an IU Parliamentarian.
According to Spanish daily "El Pais," Moroccan MFA official
Taieb Fassi Fihri said that Morocco would not tolerate
interlocutors "who are not impartial...and who are 100%
anti-Moroccan." The Catalan delegation announced June 8 that
they still planned to proceed to Laayoun, though a PSOE
member withdrew from the delegation at the request of the MFA.

3. (SBU) Moratinos moved swiftly to contain the damage and
demonstrate GOS activism on the issue. He dispatched Deputy
FM Bernardino Leon on a lightning visit to Algiers, Rabat,
Tindouf, and Nouakchott to urge calm. An MFA source told
Spanish media that Moratinos would also ramp up efforts to
have UN Secretary General Kofi Annan name a new Personal
Representative to replace Alvaro de Soto. Moratinos
reportedly sent a letter to Annan on June 3 urging the
selection soon of a high-level figure for that role and was
considering convoking other relevant international actors
(U.S., France, UK) to get their support for the immediate
selection of a new UNSYG Personal Representative. (NOTE:
There was no mention in the press of Moratinos' preference
that the Personal Representative be a high-level U.S.
political figure. END NOTE.)

4. (U) FM Moratinos sought to calm domestic critics by
arranging with Moroccan FM Mohamed Benaisa Rabat's acceptance
of the visit of an official Spanish Parliamentary delegation
to Laayoun sometime in the next two weeks. Opposition
Popular Party (PP) Parliamentary spokesman Eduardo Zaplana
said that the PP would not participate in the visit, arguing
that Moratinos should have forcefully protested the expulsion
of the delegation from Madrid. Zaplana said it was
"intolerable" for the GOS to negotiate with Moroccan
officials regarding which Spanish political figures could
enter Morocco and which could not. Unnamed PP sources later
said they might amend their earlier refusal to accompany the
delegation if the GOS also invited journalists and members of
the NGOs that had been barred from entry by Morocco.

5. (C) Percival Manglano, foreign relations coordinator for
the PP Parliamentary group, told us that the PP was taking
the hardest line on this issue, but that a considerable
number of Socialist and United Left legislators also believed
Moratinos had undermined the rights of Sahrawis by not taking
a tougher stand against the expulsion of the Madrid
delegation. Manglano said that Morocco's decision to bar the
visit of the Catalan delegation made it unlikely that Spanish
legislators from the right or left would be willing to
participate in the visit arranged by Moratinos.

6. (C) Moratinos undermined his own efforts to reach out to
the opposition when he allegedly told members of the
Parliamentary Spain-Morocco Friendship Group, including PP
Senator Cristina Tejedor, that Spanish leftists supported the
Sahrawis "out of solidarity, while the right is nostalgic for
colonialism and wants the (Spanish Foreign) Legion to return
to Sahara." Socialist participants in the meeting disputed
whether Moratinos had used this precise expression, but PP
legislators reacted angrily nonetheless and demanded
Moratinos' resignation.


7. (C) This episode has proven particularly challenging for
Moratinos and Zapatero because of the depth of feeling on the
Western Sahara issue within their own leftist political base.
Many PSOE and IU members are as skeptical as their
center-right PP rivals of Zapatero's decision to demonstrate
greater flexibility on the resolution of the dispute. There
is understanding of the broad strategic imperitives
underlying Zapatero's efforts to repair a bilateral
relationship with Morocco strained during the Aznar
administration, but there is equally strong emotional support
for the Sahrawis, particularly among long-standing leftist
backers of the Polisario. Zapatero can easily afford to
antagonize the PP, but he must be far more careful with his
far left IU coalition partners. He and Moratinos will be
under increasing pressure to adopt a harder line with Rabat
regarding both events at Laayoun and on the Western Sahara
issue in general.