|06DAMASCUS3577||2006-07-20 13:48:00||SECRET||Embassy Damascus|
VZCZCXRO6332 OO RUEHAG DE RUEHDM #3577/01 2011348 ZNY SSSSS ZZH O 201348Z JUL 06 FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0476 INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0133 RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 DAMASCUS 003577
1. (S) Summary: On July 20, Syria's President Bashar
al-Asad met with Russian Middle East envoy Saltanov and,
separately, called Turkish PM Erdogan to discuss the
Israel-Hizballah conflict, according to media reports. The
Ba'ath party's most important policy-making body met for the
third consecutive day July 19 and called for the mobilization
of popular support and donations to "the Lebanese brothers
with the aim of boosting their steadfastness in facing the
Israeli enemy machine and its criminal war," official Syrian
media reported. On July 19, the Charge delivered a demarche
to Syrian MFA Protocol Director Amir Smadi, stressing the
SARG's responsibility to ensure the safe and successful
evacuation of Americans from Lebanon. Smadi responded that
Syria was fully aware of the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon
and was doing all it could to assist those fleeing the
conflict. The Consular Section received on July 19 an
estimated 200 walk-in requests for American Citizen Services
(ACS), similar to the previous day. The SARG and the Syrian
private sector were organizing to provide housing and other
assistance to those displaced from Lebanon, while reports
were emerging of profiteering in the hotel and transportation
sectors. End Summary.
2. (SBU) The following is an update of political/military
-- Russia's Middle East Envoy and Deputy FM Alexander
Saltanov met July 20 with Syrian President Asad to discuss
the Israel-Hizballah conflict, according to regional media.
Saltanov met July 19 with Syria's FM Walid Mu'allim, with
talks focusing on the situation in the Palestinian
Territories and Lebanon and ways to broker a cease-fire,
according to the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).
Saltanov arrived in Syria from Jordan.
-- Syria's President Asad called Turkish PM Erdogan July 20
to discuss the Israel-Hizballah conflict and "the slow-down
of the international community to impose a cease-fire and an
end to the crisis," according to SANA.
-- The Ba'ath Party's most important policy-making body, the
Regional Command, met for the third consecutive day July 19,
calling for the formation of a committee to mobilize popular
support and donations to "the Lebanese brothers with the aim
of boosting their steadfastness in facing the Israeli enemy
machine and its criminal war," SANA reported.
-- Syria's Ambassador to Washington Imad Mustapha told U.S.
News in a July 19 interview that Syria rejected U.S. and
Israeli assertions that Syria has been supplying Hizballah
with rockets or financial support. Mustapha said that
Hizballah was "an independent, autonomous organization," and
that Syria is a political supporter of such "national
liberation" movements such as Hizballah.
-- The DAO and RSO reported that a group of about 100 women
carrying candles approached the U.S. Embassy at around 1930
July 19 in what appeared to be a vigil or demonstration.
Syrian security kept the group under control until it moved
away from the Embassy after a short time. Another
demonstration was scheduled the evening of July 20 in
downtown Damascus, jointly organized by an organization to
support the Lebanese "resistance," Manar TV, and the Syrian
3. (S) The following is an update of consular issues:
-- In response to reftel, the Charge delivered on July 19 the
demarche to the Syrian MFA's Protocol Director stressing that
the SARG must take all possible measures to ensure the safe
and successful evacuation of Americans from Lebanon. Smadi
responded that Syria was fully aware of the humanitarian
crisis in Lebanon, that it was facilitating the entry of
those fleeing, and that it was providing relief for tens of
thousands of displaced persons "regardless of nationality."
Additionally, Smadi noted that the SARG was running its three
international airports at full capacity to allow displaced
persons to leave as quickly as possible.
DAMASCUS 00003577 002 OF 002
4. (SBU) Additionally:
-- The Consular Section received on July 19 an estimated 200
walk-in requests for American Citizen Services (ACS), similar
to the previous day.
-- Calls from American citizens in Lebanon were focused on
how to join the boat lift from Lebanon, although many people
were still seeking information about how to evacuate
themselves by road through Syria.
-- The Consular Section has not disbursed any repatriation
funds. It processed one Overseas Citizen Services trust on
-- A Canadian diplomat spent July 17 and 18 on the northern
border crossing of al-Arida between Syria and Lebanon, noting
that immigration officials are able to process a maximum of
3,000-5,000 departures per day. Unconfirmed estimates of the
number of total departures from Lebanon since the start of
the crisis are: up to 50,000 Lebanese nationals, up to
100,000 Arab foreigners and between 10,000-20,000 other
foreigners, according to the diplomat.
-- Reports indicate that commercial carriers out of Damascus
are fully booked through the end of the month, but airlines
have been adding new flights as possible or reconfiguring
existing flights to accommodate more passengers. Separately,
Lebanon's national airline carrier, Middle East Airlines,
announced it would resume international flights out of
Damascus International Airport after the destruction of the
Beirut airport, according to regional media.
5. (SBU) The following is an update of economic issues:
-- The public and private sectors continued to organize
themselves to provide housing and other assistance to those
displaced from Lebanon, according to several business
contacts. Several companies have teamed up with the Syrian
Arab Red Crescent to organize a call center that processed
4,000 calls and found housing for 600 people in the first 24
hours of operation.
-- There were increasing reports of profiteering,
particularly in the hotel and bussing sectors, according to