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06PARIS1370 2006-03-03 19:17:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Paris
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1. (C) Summary: NEA/MAG Director William Jordan's February
27 meetings with MFA counterparts addressed the Western
Sahara conflict, Moroccan-Algerian relations, human rights
issues in Tunisia, and Libya. On Western Sahara, MFA
officials agreed with Jordan on the need for Morocco to be
more forward-leaning on automony, but suggested Algeria was
more to blame than Rabat for increased inflexibility. MFA
officials advocated preserving MINURSO, but offered differing
responses on prospects for joint action by France, Spain, and
the U.S., with FM Douste-Blazy's cabinet advisor on the
Maghreb more forward-leaning on the latter issue. MFA
officials, while expressing uncertainty and concern on
post-Bouteflika Algeria, expressed greater worry about
Morocco's future stability over the next five to ten years,
particularly given growing Islamist influence. On Tunisia,
MFA officials concurred with U.S. human rights concerns and
emphasized discreet GoF efforts to address the issue,
asserting that public pressure on the GOT tends to be
counterproductive. On Libya, MFA officials concurred on the
need for speedy release of the Bulgarian/Palestinian medical
personnel, and confirmed that five HIV-infected Libyan
children (out of an expected total of 150) had arrived in
France for treatment. End summary.



2. (C) MFA DAS-equivalent Christian Testot shared Jordan's
distress at the rigidity of Morocco, Algeria, and POLISARIO
in their positions on the Western Sahara dispute, and agreed
that the food shortages in Sahrawi camps required
international attention. Deploying the traditional argument
that Western Sahara is a "survival issue" for Morocco but not
Algeria, Testot described the Algerian government as having
the upper hand over Morocco, due to booming oil prices,
Algeria's increased leadership role in the Arab world,
improved relations with the West, and Morocco's concurrent
economic difficulties and weak leadership. This elevated GOA
confidence, in Testot's view, prompted a more rigid GOA
stance on Western Sahara, which in turn reinforced the
POLISARIO's refusal to accept anything less than
self-determination (to include the possibility of

3. (C) When asked prospects for joint efforts by the U.S.,
France, and Spain, Testot voiced reluctance, citing Algerian
unreceptivity to hearing any messages on Western Sahara from
France, given its perception that France was totally biased
in Morocco's favor. He also observed that although the
French and Spanish positions were not far apart, Western
Sahara remained an internal issue for Spain, which was not
the case for France. In the GoF view, the key to progress on
the Western Sahara remained dialogue between Algiers and
Rabat, beginning with bilateral issues other than the Western
Sahara, such as opening the border. Testot stressed that the
U.S. could play an important role in encouraging Algiers to
be more open to dialogue with Rabat, commending U.S. success
in securing GOA cooperation with the POLISARIO's 2005 release
of Moroccan POWs. For its part, the GoF had encouraged the
Moroccan government to enlarge its concept of autonomy and
not to present an offer in April which would be rejected out
of hand by the POLISARIO. Further on UNSC consideration of
MINURSO renewal in April, Testot stressed the need to
preserve MINURSO and avoid "electro-shock" measures which
could endanger the fragile cease-fire between the parties.

4. (C) In a separate discussion, MFA Cabinet Advisor for the
Maghreb/Arabian Gulf Francois Touazi stressed the threat
posed by the Western Sahara conflict to the stability of the
Maghreb region. Like Testot, Touazi stressed the
intractability of the Algerian position on Western Sahara,
noting he had attended recent GoF discussions with the GOA
and was taken aback by Algerian vehemence in refusing to
discuss the issue with Rabat. Touazi speculated that the
expected visit to Algiers by UNSYG Personal Envoy for Western
Sahara Peter Van Walsum would be very difficult, and
expressed his personal view that Van Walsum had little chance
of success unless France, Spain, and the U.S. considered
joint initiatives to support his efforts.

5. (C) Touazi echoed Testot's view that the solution to the
Western Sahara remained in direct dialogue between Rabat and
Algiers. He differed from Testot, however, in concluding
that it may be easier to solicit constructive gestures from
Rabat than Algiers, given the high confidence and increased

PARIS 00001370 002 OF 002

intractability of the GOA. Touazi described Morocco as in an
increasingly weak position vis-a-vis an ascendant Algiers,
and fearful of both U.S. and French efforts to "court"
Algeria. Morocco's 2007 elections and rising Islamist
influence also weakened the GOM's position, making it
impossible for the GOM to go too far on concessions on the
Western Sahara. Touazi nonetheless suggested informal
U.S.-French-Spanish brainstorming to consider ways to
encourage Rabat to pursue "creative" formulas on autonomy
which fall within its red-lines. Touazi also called for
further reflection on what incentives could be offered to
push Algiers towards accepting dialogue with Rabat. Jordan
agreed to consider possibilities for further informal
coordination between the U.S., Spain, and France at the
working-level, without making further commitments.

6. (C) Comparing the internal situations in Algeria and
Morocco, Touazi concluded that he was more worried about
prospects for instability in Morocco in the next five to ten
years, particularly due to the lack of capacity of the
government and rising Islamic extremism. While the GoF
remained concerned about Bouteflika's health, Touazi observed
that the Algerian president seemed to have retaken the reins
of power after his hospitalization and was continuing to
consolidate his power base within the GOA. Touazi declined
to speculate on who might succeed Bouteflika, noting the
total "opacity" of the Algerian system. He speculated that
possible instability after Bouteflika's demise would more
likely result from tensions within different spheres of power
in the government, rather than the "Islamist contagion,"
which had been contained by the GOA. Touazi also expressed
concern about the GOA's continued failure to address
socio-economic inequalities in the wake of booming oil prices
and a population prone to violence.



7. (C) Both Testot and Touazi agreed with NEA/MAG Director
Jordan that Tunisia's continued political repression was in
direct contradiction with the country's socio-economic
advances and threatened the longterm stability of the
country, particularly in the post-Ben Ali phase. Testot and
Touazi described the GoF as becoming more outspoken on human
rights in Tunisia, noting that FM Douste-Blazy, during an
October 2005 visit to Tunis, declared human rights to be an
important part of bilateral dialogue -- the first time a
French minister had made such a declaration. (As reported
ref b Douste-Blazy also met with Tunisian League of Human
Rights members during that visit, another first for a French
FM.) The GoF had also increased its private entreaties to
the GOT, expressing concern about the deteriorating human
rights situation. While conceding that GoF efforts have
brought no tangible results, Testot counseled against public
pressure on the GoT. Direct confrontation, he argued, would
be counterproductive, causing Tunisia to turn inward and
possibly increasive repressive measures.



8. (C) Testot and Touazi concurred with Jordan on the need
for a speedy release of the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian
doctor and stressed that FM Douste-Blazy, who is a physician
and former minister of health, has a strong personal interest
in the issue. Touazi described his efforts, on the FM's
behalf, to initiate contacts with the families of the some
400 children in Benghazi infected with HIV/AIDS. (Ref a
reports on Douste-Blazy's January 2006 trip to Libya, which
focused on the imprisoned medics issue.) Touazi confirmed
the GoF offer to treat some 150 of the children in France,
the first five of whom arrived in Paris February 27. While
Testot sought additional information on U.S.-UK efforts to
launch an international foundation to treat the Libyan
children, he reiterated that the GoF did not intend to make a
financial contribution to the foundation.

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