wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05RABAT2475
2005-12-13 10:08:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

WESTERN SAHARA: GOM DEFENDS ITS ACTIONS

Tags:   AG  MO  PBTS  PGOV  PHUM  PREL 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXYZ0003
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRB #2475/01 3471008
ZNY CCCCC ZZH (CCY ADX6DA8DA MSI4229-623)
O 131008Z DEC 05
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2259
INFO RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 3599
RUEHHE/AMEMBASSY HELSINKI PRIORITY 0093
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 2681
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 5279
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT PRIORITY 2889
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 0174
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 3907
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0197
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA PRIORITY 0960
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0901
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0404
						C O N F I D E N T I A L RABAT 002475 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG, EUR

C O R R E C T E D COPY - CAPTION ADDED

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/30/2010
TAGS: AG MO PBTS PGOV PHUM PREL
SUBJECT: WESTERN SAHARA: GOM DEFENDS ITS ACTIONS

REF: A. STATE 209648

B. RABAT 22312

C. RABAT 2407

D. RABAT 2425

E. RABAT 2363

F. RABAT 1052
Classified By: Ambassador Thomas T. Riley for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)



1. (C) Summary: During a December 1 meeting with the
Ambassador, Deputy FM Fassi Fihri defended recent Moroccan
actions in the Western Sahara, stressing that the GOM was
responding appropriately to violent acts by demonstrators.
He fended off any suggestion that demonstrators were rounded
up merely for expressing their views. He reaffirmed that an
investigation was on-going into the death of Hamid Lembarki,
and appropriate action would be taken against those
responsible for his death, citing the arrest already of two
police officers. He put much of the blame for the current
unrest in the Sahara squarely at the feet of Algeria and the
Polisario; they were deliberately inciting the population as
part of a broader policy of non-cooperation with Morocco
driven by Morocco's refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of
the Baker Plan. Fassi Fihri said he had seen new Algerian
Ambassador Larbi Belkheir on several occasions but was
reserving judgement on whether Belkheir had really come to
Rabat to engage with the GOM. He said the GOM welcomed a
visit to the Sahara by the OHCHR, provided it was not a
commission of inquiry and provided the delegation also
stopped in Algiers and Tindouf. The GOM, he said, would also
work to reschedule the aborted visit by Nordic countries to
the Western Sahara, under certain conditions. Ambassador
stressed the importance of outside visitors being able to
make accurate assessments of the situation, even if the
picture was not perfect. End Summary.



2. (C) As instructed Ref A, Ambassador met with Minister
Delegate for Foreign Affairs Taieb Fassi Fihri on December 1
to discuss the human rights situation in the Western Sahara.
(Fassi Fihri's intensive travel schedule did not permit an
earlier meeting; as a result, DCM raised US concerns with MFA
Americas Director Tazi and MFA Bilateral Affairs Director
Amrani in separate meetings. See Refs B and C). Ambassador
was accompanied by Polcouns and Econoff, while Fassi Fihri
was joined by MFA SecGen Omar Hilali and MFA Director of
Multilateral Affairs Mohamed Loulichki. Other issues covered
in the 90-minute meeting were the Free Trade Agreement (Ref
D), the King's December visit to Japan, and the visit to
Morocco of Mauritanian President Ould Vall (septels).
Ambassador noted that a number of events had taken place
recently focusing attention on human rights in the Western
Sahara -- the death of Hamdi Lembarki, hearings on Capitol
Hill, an aborted Nordic diplomatic visit, and potentially an
upcoming mission from the UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights -- and there was a sense that things were worse in the
territory in terms of human rights. It was difficult to get
an accurate picture of the situation.




3. (C) Fassi Fihri said the situation was not as delicate as
some made it out to be. Recent events in the Western Sahara
needed to be seen in a global context. Algerian President
Bouteflika had told Spanish FM Moratinos recently and in very
clear terms that Algeria refused to cooperate with Morocco as
long as the King refused to recognize the international
legitimacy of the Baker Plan. Bouteflika told Moratinos he
would go to Barcelona (for the ten-year anniversary of the
Barcelona Process) but, erroneously thinking that King
Mohammed would be there, "would say nothing to the
Moroccans." The Algerian position was pretty clear:
maintain the status quo. In the Algerian view, progress in
Moroccan-Algerian relations was tied to the Baker Plan.



4. (C) Ambassador noted that he had the chance to greet new
Algerian Ambassador to Morocco Larbi Belkheir, and he had the
impression Belkheir wanted to see progress in relations with
Morocco. Fassi Fihri said he had met with Belkheir on a few
occasions since his arrival, and he was hearing that Belkheir
was planning to stay only for a year. Ambassador interjected
that Belkheir perhaps wanted to see what he could do in one
year. Fassi Fihri wondered how Belkheir would define
success; did Algeria plan to open the border with Morocco?
Normalize relations with Morocco? Revitalize the Arab
Maghreb Union? Those were common ambitions between the two
countries, and if that's what Belkheir wanted to work toward,
relations would go forward. Morocco was willing to separate
out the Western Sahara from other bilateral issues. Morocco
was ready to work with Belkheir. Speaking on behalf of King
Mohammed, Fassi Fihri said he had told Belkheir that his
success in Rabat would be Morocco's success. But Algeria
places conditions on dialogue, Fassi Fihri said, by still
insisting on the Baker Plan. This approach creates problems.


5. (C) Fassi Fihri said there was a second area of concern:
Algeria's support for a Sahrawi republic. That "republic"
now has a "territory" -- the east side of the berm. This is
a new development, which Fassi Fihri noted the GOM has raised
with the US previously as a concern. The Polisario does not
refer to this area as "liberated territory;" rather, they
refer to the west side of the berm as "occupied territory."
There was a big celebration in Bir Lahlou (in the
northeastern corner of the Western Sahara) to mark the
independence of the territory.

GOM Response is Appropriate


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





6. (C) Fassi Fihri continued that problems arose in the
Western Sahara in part because of Morocco's own internal
evolution and promotion of democracy. The Polisario has
sought to take advantage of the situation by calling on
people -- especially women and children -- to agitate. When
people resorted to violence, as had happened in the last
month, there had to be a judicial process in response.
Throughout the many demonstrations that had occurred in
recent months, the authorities had intervened only when
public order was disturbed -- when protesters threw molotov
cocktails, for example. The GOM does not routinely put
demonstrators in prison, Fassi Fihri insisted, but the
organizers might be detained. If there is violence, there
must be a proportionate reaction.



7. (C) The death of Hamdi Lembarki was under investigation,
Fassi Fihri said. The GOM was not hiding those responsible
for his death. Frankly it was not always easy to apply the
law evenly; sometimes it was bad for morale among the police.
There were two policemen in detention for the killing of
Lembarki, and the investigation into the circumstances of his
death was proceeding. The GOM was careful about applying the
law; Morocco could not be a model of democracy in the north
and a dictatorship in the south. The situation in the south
(Western Sahara) was complicated by the Baker Plan, Algeria,

and the Polisario. The security forces had to act when there
was violence.



8. (C) Fassi Fihri turned to leading Sahrawi activist Ali
Salem Tamek, claiming that in Barcelona recently Tamek had
called on the Sahrawis to take up arms in the Sahara. Yet
Tamek benefitted from full legal protection, not only in the
north but in the south. Tamek claimed to be in prison simply
because he is an activist. But no, Fassi Fihri said: Tamek
is operating in a context of violence. The GOM does not
round up hundreds of people -- just the perpetrators. Tamek
has lawyers and enjoys the full protection of the law. Tamek
has said if there is no referendum, he advocates violence.
He has said so publicly. Other Sahrawis were in prison not
for political activism but for commiting violence; they went
beyond simply calling for self-determination. Such actions
necessitated a reaction from the GOM.



9. (C) In the last two weeks, Fassi Fihri continued, there
were aggressive actions by some people who have lived in the
territory for many years. When they reacted aggressively, we
responded in a similar manner. The GOM respects the rules of
the game. We need to react when there is a flag burning. We
try to maintain a balance. If someone is killed, there is an
investigation and prosecution.

Nordic Visit


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





10. (C) Turning to the aborted Nordic visit to Laayoune (Ref
C), Fassi Fihri said he had spoken recently to the Swedish FM
about the situation. The FM asked why the GOM authorized
contacts in the Western Sahara for some diplomats (comment:
likely referring to the US) but not for the Nordic countries?
Fassi Fihri said the Norwegian Ambassador in Rabat had
requested meetings with people in jail (comment: Nordic
diplomats in Rabat, including Norwegian Ambassador Aasheim,
have consistently maintained that they never requested to see
anyone in prison). Fassi Fihri said he told the Swedish FM
he was ready to take another look at the Nordic visit, but
there needed to be agreement on its terms. He had asked MFA
Director Loulichki to meet with the Nordic ambassadors to
discuss rescheduling the visit (comment: the meeting took
place on December 5. The Nordics are currently planning to
make their Sahara visit in late January 2006, the earliest
the diplomats from Norway, Sweden, and Finland are all
available).

OHCHR


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





11. (C) Fassi Fihri said that Loulichki and MFA SYG Hilali
had met recently with the Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva to plan their visit. Fassi
Fihri stressed the GOM accepted OHCHR's visit, but the
framework needed to be clear. It was not a commission of
inquiry. The visit had to include stops in Algiers and
Tindouf and not simply Morocco. Hilali said the GOM
understood the OHCHR would also look at the issue of
violations against our "detainees" in Tindouf. When the
OHCHR scheduled the Morocco stop, however, they suddenly
dropped Algiers from the itinerary. The OHCHR needed to
respect its regional commitments and make all three stops.
The visit now appeared to be back on track for the
January/February timeframe.



12. (C) Fassi Fihri added that over the years no one
listened to Morocco's presentation on human rights violations
in Tindouf. There should be an international census to
determine the population in Tindouf, and the international
community should investigate the diversion of humanitarian
aid. There were people in the camps who had spent as many as
ten years in Algerian prison, only to be detained by the
Polisario. The Ambassador added that the US supported the
conducting of a census in the camps. Fassi Fihri said that
had been Morocco's demand for 30 years, but Algeria still
refused. Hilali commented that OHCHR Commissioner Louise
Arbour told him that she regretted that her institution had
never reacted to the Moroccan concerns about Tindouf.
Morocco was ready to work with her.



13. (C) The Ambassador noted that there was a great deal of
contradictory information circulating about the situation in
the Western Sahara. It was important to have independent
observers assess the situation there, even to visit prisons.
The Ambassador said the more such observers see, the better.
There was a feeling that no one was being allowed to see the
situation and report on it accurately. Visitors might say
the situation was not perfect, but it was important that
outsiders be allowed to make assessments. Fassi Fihri said
unfortunately Algeria and the Polisario communicate better
than the GOM. They distribute photos alleging various
abuses, even though the photos are doctored. For Morocco's
part, the Equity and Reconciliation Commission had announced
the discovery of mass grave in the Sahara, something the GOM
had acknowledged publicly.

GOM Ready for a Solution


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





14. (C) Fassi Fihri closed by stressing that the US should
know that Morocco remained ready for a solution to the
Western Sahara conflict, including a solution based on
regional autonomy. Morocco had presented a paper on that.
King Mohammed had recently called for consultations with
political parties on the Sahara. A process was underway.
What more could Morocco do? Algeria took advantage of the
people of the Western Sahara, especially the youth, yet
Algeria was under no pressure to make a deal. Furthermore,
the GOA refuses a census. Algeria in the meantime exploits
the immigration issue to Morocco's disadvantage. A Spanish
journalist had recently visited migration camps in
northwestern Algeria and found them well-organized by
nationality, essentially run by mafias. No one talks about
that, Fassi Fihri said. Algeria continues to pursue a
conflict over a territory that has no phosphates, no oil, and
no minerals. All the Western Sahara has in terms of
resources is fish. (As outlined in Ref F, the economy of the
Western Sahara is based almost entirely on fishing for
export, which employs two-thirds of the workforce, along with
small bits of mining, agriculture, and tourism. Phosphates
in the territory represent less than two percent of national
reserves, and the industry employs only about 1900 people).
Taking a parting shot at the Spanish, Fassi Fihri said the
Spanish were the worst colonizers in the world; they left
nothing behind when they pulled out -- no electricity, no
development. And Polisario leader Abdelaziz called on
countries not to invest in the Western Sahara. Loulichki
noted the Polisario had recently threatened Kerr McGee.

CBMs


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





15. (C) As the meeting broke up, Loulichki noted his
satisfaction that family visit flights had resumed as part of
the CBM package negotiated with UNHCR.


Riley