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06ALGIERS757 2006-04-25 18:38:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Algiers
Cable title:  

GOA REJECTS SYG'S REPORT ON WESTERN SAHARA,

Tags:   PREL PGOV UNSC AG MO WI 
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1. (C) MFA Counselor and former UN Ambassador Abdallah Baali
convoked Ambassador April 25 to explain Algeria's rejection
of the recommendations in the UNSYG's report on the Western
Sahara, which Baali claimed "ignored the achievements of the
past" by abandoning the Baker Plan and the principle of
self-determination. Algeria, he stated, will not be a party
to direct negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario
based on a Moroccan autonomy proposal, since Morocco would
not offer genuine autonomy and the approach did not include
an element of self-determination. Ambassador noted he had no
instructions on the SYG report, but reiterated U.S. support
for a mutually acceptable political solution within a UN
framework, for direct talks between Morocco and the
Polisario, and for the development of an expansive autonomy
proposal by Morocco. Ambassador stressed the need for
creative thinking about how to proceed given the fact that
Morocco would always reject independence while the Polisario
would always reject integration. Autonomy therefore offered
the only possibility of common ground. Direct
Polisario-Morocco negotiations without preconditions could
create space to find common ground. Otherwise we risked
condemning the refugees to another thirty years in the camps.
Baali argued that time did not favor Morocco, and that
pressure from Sahrawi street demonstrations inside Western
Sahara could over time force Morocco to return to the idea of
a referendum. Baali asked that the U.S. support a "neutral"
UNSC resolution on MINURSO renewal that at most "took note
of" but did not "welcome" the SYG's report.



2. (C) Given the sharpness of both Algeria and the
Polisario's reaction to the SYG's report, we recommend
careful consideration be given to the idea of a neutral
resolution and technical rollover. Looking ahead, though, we
should continue to promote direct Moroccan-Polisario talks
without preconditions, with Algeria and Mauritania
participating as "interested neighbors," while looking for
creative ways to integrate an exercise in self-determination
into the autonomy framework. We should also seek to lay the
groundwork for a more private dialogue on creative ways to
reconcile autonomy with self-determination. We do not
believe, as Embassy Rabat has suggested, that double-teaming
with France at this juncture would be productive.
French-Algerian relations are at a particularly raw point
because of heated rhetoric over France's colonial rule and,
even in the best of times, Polisario and Algeria see France
as one-sidedly in favor of Morocco. Accordingly, a
U.S.-hosted framework as proposed by Ambassador Bolton
strikes us as a more productive way to proceed, or at least
to keep the pressure on for new thinking. Unlike Lebanon,
associating ourselves with France on this issue will not, in
our view, help advance our goals. End summary and comment.

GOA REACTS NEGATIVELY TO UNSYG'S REPORT


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





3. (C) MFA Counselor (and former UN Ambassador) Abdallah
Baali convoked Ambassador to MFA April 25. DCM accompanied
Ambassador. Baali explained the GOA had received an advance
text of Annan's report. Bouteflika had written a letter to
Annan requesting that Algeria's position be explained in the
report, but that did not occur, perhaps, Baali speculated,
because Bouteflika's letter would have undermined the
report's recommendation that there be negotiations to include
Algeria. Algeria will not be a party to negotiations on
Morocco's autonomy proposal, Baali stressed. In response to
Ambassador's comment that Algeria is certainly a concerned
neighbor if not a party, Baali agreed Algeria should have a
say as a neighboring state but would not play a role as a
party to the dispute. The negotiations must be between
Morocco and the Polisario. Pressed by Ambassador, Baali
acknowledged that Algeria and Mauritania had been involved in
the negotiations leading to the Houston Accords. Baali, who
participated in the Algerian delegation to Houston, said
their role had been limited to discussions of the cantonment
of military forces and the return of refugees.

BAKER STILL THE OPTIMAL SOLUTION


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





4. (C) Baali asserted that the Baker Plan was still on the
table. It provided for all options: autonomy, independence,
and integration. Algeria saw no need for a new plan. If
there were to be Moroccan-Polisario negotiations, they should
be aimed at the implementation of Baker. Ambassador asked if
it was correct that Algeria would not support negotiations
without preconditions? Baali said yes, Algeria supported
Baker, while recognizing there would be a need for
negotiations on the implementation of Baker. Foreign
Minister Bedjaoui was in New York April 24 to "make clear to
Annan that forgetting the achievements already made was not
the right approach." The concept of negotiations without
preconditions was unacceptable to Algeria.



5. (C) Reviewing the negotiations leading to the Houston
accords, Baali said the Algerian and Mauritanian delegations
had been present, but in separate rooms from the Moroccan and
Polisario negotiators. Algeria and Mauritania had only been
directly involved in discussions on cantonment of Polisario
forces on their territory and the return of refugees, while
the parties also discussed the voter list and referendum
electoral campaign. Baker had, however, provided regular
briefings to the Algerian delegation, and the Algerian
delegation remained in close touch with the Polisario
delegation throughout. Ambassador asked why this could not
be the format for negotiations now, with Algeria maintaining
its position of not being a party but rather a concerned
neighbor? Baali replied that Houston was meant to find a way
to implement the UN settlement plan. Now, however, Annan was
calling for negotiations without preconditions, a totally
different format and "logic." Algeria did not see the need
to start over from scratch, especially since autonomy was one
of the options included in Baker. All the elements were
present in Baker, the problem was that Morocco had lost
confidence that it could win a referendum after five years of
autonomy, even if the Moroccan settlers voted.

AMBASSADOR STRESSES NEED TO FIND COMMON GROUND


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

-



6. (C) Ambassador said that while he did not have
instructions on the SYG's report per se, the U.S. view was
that we sought a political solution in the UN framework.
There should be a direct dialogue between Morocco and
Polisario to create a political space in which a compromise
could be achieved. A solution must be mutually acceptable,
since neither the U.S. nor the international community would
impose a settlement. Since Morocco rejects independence and
the Polisario rejects integration, it made sense to focus on
autonomy as the only possible area of common ground. We did
not want to condemn the Sahrawi refugees to another 30 years
in the camps. We had therefore urged Morocco to come up with
a meaningful autonomy proposal with real self-government.
Ambassador noted that while he understood that Algeria was
unhappy with Annan's report, it did call for
self-determination to be part of the settlement.



7. (C) Baali said the problem with Morocco's approach to
autonomy was that it actually led back to the integration
track. It should be up to the Sahrawis to decide what they
wanted, as had been the case with all other cases of
decolonization. Noting he was speaking personally,
Ambassador commented there was a need to find a way to
implement the principle of self-determination creatively in a
way that would be acceptable to both parties. It was clear
we were at an impasse; there was a need for creative thinking
that could reconcile the legitimate concerns of both sides.
Algerians had voted in a referendum on independence in which
there was only one option. Since Algeria as well as we knew
that autonomy was the only possible basis for finding common
ground, why couldn't a similar approach be explored that
would bring a solution within a self-determination framework?
Ambassador added that the idea of mutually agreeing to
extend the 5-year autonomy period (until everyone was certain
a referendum would produce the desired result) -- an idea
that MFA SYG Lamamra and Baali himself had mentioned to him
in recent conversations -- was the type of creative idea that
should be privately explored. Baali responded that it should
be up to the Sahrawis to choose. Algeria's independence
referendum was not a good parallel because all the elements
of independence had already been worked out with France, he
argued. The bottom line was that Algeria could not accept
the SYG's proposed format.

TIME FACTOR NOT IN MOROCCO'S FAVOR


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





8. (C) Baali said there was also a time factor. Algeria saw
no need to rush into negotiations that would leave it up to
the parties to find a solution without reference to past
agreements. Ambassador pointed out that the parties would
not be on their own, the international community would help
them. Baali responded that there was a new situation on the
ground in the Western Sahara with the demonstrations held
since last fall. For many years the population of the
Western Sahara had been quiet, so both Morocco and Algeria
had been surprised by the new level of Sahrawi national
identity. This was creating a new situation in which changes
on the ground could speed up the process of holding a
referendum as Morocco and the international community felt
the impact of the new Sahrawi nationalism. Ambassador
commented that it appeared that Algeria's objection was not
to autonomy per se, but to a referendum with autonomy as the
only option. Baali said there was a need for a referendum
that offered options to the Sahrawis, not a plan imposed by
Morocco.

SEEKING A "NEUTRAL" RESOLUTION


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





9. (C) Baali said Algeria urged the U.S. not to support a
MINURSO extension resolution that referred positively to the
SYG's negotiations recommendation. Instead, Algeria wanted a
simple, technical resolution that at most would take note of
the SYG's report without endorsing it. Then we could see how
to proceed. Baali said he was sorry he could not be more
positive. The Algerian Ambassador to the UN had sent a
letter to Annan expressing Algeria's reservations. The
language in this letter had been carefully drafted. Noting
that he now had to demarche the French Ambassador, Baali
remarked that at the time of UNSCR 1495, the U.S. had wanted
the text as strongly worded as possible, while France had
managed to water it down. The French role was a key reason
why there was a stalemate.
ERDMAN