|06DAMASCUS3660||2006-07-26 11:04:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy Damascus|
VZCZCXRO1541 OO RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ DE RUEHDM #3660/01 2071104 ZNR UUUUU ZZH O 261104Z JUL 06 FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0568 INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 0144 RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DAMASCUS 003660
1. (U) Summary: Spain will present the Syrian position at
the July 26 Rome conference on the Israel-Hizballah crisis,
according to regional media, citing two visits this week by
the SARG's Minister of Information to Madrid. Palestinian
rejectionist groups in Damascus, including Hamas and
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, met in Damascus and agreed "to
place all of their capabilities and resources alongside
Hizballah and the heroic Lebanese people," according to Maher
al-Taher, deputy SYG of the Palestinian Liberation Front for
the Liberation of Palestine, in a statement quoted by Arab
regional media. The Consular Section received 168 walk-in
requests for American Citizen Services (ACS) on July 25, down
from 184 the previous day. Little immediate economic
fall-out has manifested itself here in reaction to the
ongoing conflict, although recent reports indicate a
20-percent spike in gasoline consumption and a continued
upward creep in the exchange rate of the Syrian pound. End
2. (U) The following are political updates:
-- Spain will present the Syrian position at the July 26 Rome
conference, according to press reports. Syrian Minister of
Information Mohsen Bilal traveled to Madrid, where he
recently served as the Syrian Ambassador, for the second time
this week to "explain the Syrian point of view over what is
taking place," according to one report in the Arab regional
press. Syria is calling for an unconditional halt to Israeli
attacks, a prisoners' exchange, and implementation of all
international resolutions regarding the Israeli occupation of
Arab territories, according to regional reports.
-- Leaders of the 10 Palestinian rejectionist groups based in
Damascus, including those of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic
Jihad, held a meeting and agreed "to place all of their
capabilities and resources alongside Hizballah and the heroic
Lebanese people," according to Maher al-Taher, deputy SYG of
the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in an
interview with Al-Safir newspaper. The groups also formed a
committee to support the Lebanese resistance in its battle
against Israel, in a statement quoted by Arab regional media.
A separate AP story on July 25 quotes a member of Hamas'
political bureau in Damascus, Mohammed Nazal, as raising the
possibility of teaming up with Hizballah to negotiate a
prisoners' exchange, while ruling out any military
coordination because of differences in the groups' agendas.
-- The Damascus-based office representative of Iraqi Shiite
cleric Moqtada al-Sadr met Syria's State Minister for Red
Crescent Affairs July 25 in Damascus to discuss the delivery
of humanitarian aid to Lebanon, including via the Syrian Arab
Red Crescent, according to the official Syrian Tishreen
-- Official Syrian media continued to criticize the U.S.
Administration for its regional policies and the absence of
support for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and
Hizballah. The official Syrian Al-Thawra newspaper said that
the U.S. Secretary of State's visit to the region incites
Israel to continue its aggression, while aiming to draw up a
joint U.S.-Israeli plan for a new Middle East "whose end
results will be another quagmire of death and destruction."
-- Syrian authorities banned earlier this week the
circulation of the Saudi-owned dailies, Asharq al-Awsat and
al-Hayat, according to the UPI news agency. Al-Hayat is
publishing a series of interviews with Arab intellectuals who
express views not in line with the SARG position on the
Israel-Hizballah conflict, while Asharq al-Awsat published
earlier this week an opinion piece that reiterated the Saudi
government's earlier criticisms of Hizballah adventurism.
-- The MFA has yet to respond to a demarche early July 25
(reported reftel) about steps the SARG must take to cut off
support for Hizballah.
3. (U) The RSO office reported that two small, non-violent
demonstrations occurred the evening of July 24 in Damascus.
In the first instance, about 200 women and children carrying
DAMASCUS 00003660 002 OF 002
Syrian flags and candles held a vigil on behalf of Lebanese
and Palestinian children in the Abu Roumaneh neighborhood,
later boarding buses for the UNDP office in the Damascus
neighborhood of West Mezzeh. In the second instance, about
20 men carrying Syrian and Syrian Communist Party flags held
a non-violent, 20-minute demonstration on behalf of the
Lebanese people in Rawda Circle a block from the Embassy.
4. (U) The following are consular updates:
-- The ACS unit received 168 walk-in requests for services on
July 25, down from 184 the previous day.
-- Most e-mail and telephone inquiries to the Non-Immigrant
Visa unit were from potential Lebanese applicants. The
Immigration Visa (IV) unit is receiving requests for
immediate-category IVs for Lebanese spouses of U.S. citizens.
Post is awaiting a response to an e-mail request to the
Consular Affairs task force for guidance on the issue.
5. (U) The following are economic updates:
-- Little immediate economic fall-out has surfaced here in
reaction to the ongoing conflict, although recent reports
indicate a 20-percent spike in gasoline consumption. The
SARG is reportedly trying to compensate by lifting quotas for
gas stations, and no long lines have been observed in the
-- The Syrian pound has crept up since the start of the
crisis, from its previous low of 50.20 to one U.S. dollar, to
where it now hovers at around 52 on the black market. This
upward trend may also be linked to a SARG decision earlier
this summer to allow the currency to move to a more