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06RABAT1280 2006-07-03 16:52:00 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

DAS GRAY DISCUSSES WESTERN SAHARA WITH FASSI FIHRI

Tags:   MO PBTS PHUM PREL 
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1. (C) SUMMARY: During a June 29 meeting with DAS Gray,
Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs Taieb Fassi Fihri
provided a frank discussion on the Western Sahara and
Morocco's path to an autonomy plan. Commenting on future
activities for CORCAS, Fassi Fihri explained that starting in
July President Khalihenna Ould Er Rachid will not travel
abroad to build support for CORCAS, but will focus CORCAS'
efforts on preparing the autonomy plan. Gray encouraged
Morocco and CORCAS to have a dialogue with the Polisario as
it formulates an autonomy plan to lend the plan more
credibility in the region and internationally. Ambassador
stressed it is time for CORCAS to make good on its statements
that CORCAS is ready to reach out to the Polisario.
Discussing Algeria, Fassi Fihri argued that with the change
in Prime Ministers, upcoming elections, and talks of revising
the constitution, Algeria will increasingly turn its
political weight inward and not focus on finding a solution
to the Western Sahara conflict. While highlighting what the
GOM sees as positive steps on human rights, Fassi Fihri asked
that claims of human rights abuses on Algerian soil be given
the same treatment as claims of Moroccan abuse in the Western
Sahara. END SUMMARY.



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CORCAS And The Road To An Autonomy Plan


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2. (C) Gray met June 29 with Minister Delegate for Foreign
Affairs Taieb Fassi Fihri to discuss the Western Sahara and
Morocco's progress towards an autonomy plan. Ambassador and
Poloffs joined DAS Gray for the two-hour meeting, while Fassi
Fihri was accompanied by MFA Director of Bilateral Affairs
Youssef Amrani, MFA Director of American Affairs Salaheddine
Tazi, and MFA Director of UN and International Organizations
Nasser Bourita. Fassi Fihri said that King Mohammed VI has
reaffirmed Morocco's commitment to an autonomy-based solution
to the Western Sahara conflict based on a broad consultative
process, as demonstrated by the work of political parties and
the Royal Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS). With respect
to political parties, Fassi Fihri said he's "not
disappointed, but" none of the parties provided details on
the content of an autonomy plan in their submissions to the
palace in late March. Each party tried to define the content
of a viable autonomy plan without providing specific details,
he said. On CORCAS, Fassi Fihri noted that starting in July
CORCAS president Khalihenna Ould Er Rachid and other members
would discontinue traveling abroad to build support for
CORCAS and would work on something "more precise."
Elaborating, Fassi Fihri said CORCAS will focus its efforts
on producing an autonomy plan and will hold workshops on such
topics as transition periods and natural resources to make
its plan as comprehensive as possible. These steps are in
line with King Mohammed's view of CORCAS as a "dynamic and
inclusive" entity, he added. CORCAS, as it is sanctioned by
the King, is the perfect organization to produce the new
autonomy plan, according to Fassi Fihri, and, he has complete
confidence in the organization.



3. (C) Following up on CORCAS activities, Gray encouraged
CORCAS to have contact, whether formally or informally, with
the Polisario as it formulates its ideas on an autonomy plan
to ensure its credibility within the region and
internationally. In response, Fassi Fihri said there are no
formal contacts between CORCAS and the Polisario, but the
intention is there, adding that in his opinion there is
certainly low-level communications between CORCAS members and
Tindouf camp occupants concerning family or personal matters,
but these exchanges are not formal. This is logical and
normal, he explained. Reiterating his message, DAS Gray
explained that for Morocco to maximize the chances of success
for its autonomy proposal, the plan should incorporate
Polisario input. This would help it to be viewed as robust
and accepted internationally. Gray added that without
diverse input, and if it appears to offer nothing new,
Morocco's autonomy plan could likely be immediately dismissed
by other parties.



4. (C) Explaining that informal contacts could lead to the
formal tabling of a durable initiative, Gray urged the GOM to
include Polisario perspectives as much as possible.
Ambassador added that the GOM and CORCAS have stated that
CORCAS is ready to reach out to all parties; now is the time
to reach out to the Polisario. The Ambassador stressed that
the more Morocco's autonomy plan reflects diverse views, the
more credibility the plan will have with the international
community. Fassi Fihri agreed, saying Morocco is open to
this possibility. When asked if views supported outside of
Morocco will be included in the plan, Fassi Fihri replied
that it is important to explore alternative views, but "we
can not forget the large majority." Fassi Fihri hoped to work
with the US. over the next several weeks to find a way to
incorporate Polisario input, but said the difficult question
for Morocco is "how?"



5. (C) Despite what he called rumors and speculation in
Morocco and abroad, Fassi Fihri insisted that the 2007
parliamentary elections will not impede Morocco's efforts to
produce an autonomy plan for the Western Sahara. In
addition, he underscored that Morocco is doing its "homework"
on the Western Sahara independently of the Algerian and
Polisario positions on the Western Sahara.



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--
Western Sahara Not At The Forefront For Algeria


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--



6. (C) Turning to Algeria, Fassi Fihri outlined 3 areas of
concern for Morocco regarding their relationship with
Algeria. First, Fassi Fihri referenced the aggressiveness of
the Algeria delegation at the recent Non-alignment Movement
(NAM) meeting. Second, he said that Algerian Ambassador to
Morocco Belkheir had convinced Algerian President Bouteflika
to send a Minister to Morocco, but to date a Minister-level
official has not visited. Third, and most important in Fassi
Fihri's view, the appointment of Abdelaziz Belkhadem as Prime
Minister means that Algeria's political attention will be
focused domestically on the changes in the government and
revisions to the constitution, not on working towards a
solution to the Western Sahara conflict. Fassi Fihri argued
Algeria's priorities increasingly will be focused inward,
which will make Moroccan efforts toward dialogue more
difficult. As in previous discussions, he said Morocco is
ready for normalization with Algeria on bilateral issues.



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Human Rights: "Peaceful Expression or Provocation"


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7. (C) Recognizing the importance placed on human rights,
Fassi Fihri noted that there have been many high-level
discussions in the GOM on this topic, and Morocco has
decided, although there is still progress to be achieved, its
human rights record is the best in the region. Peaceful
activities in Laayoune are respected much more than they were
two years ago. He highlighted instances where law
enforcement officials have been investigated after claims of
abuse or mistreatment. Gray underscored the importance of
having a professionally trained and responsible police force
in the Western Sahara to minimize the possibility of
overreaction to provocation. Fassi Fihri added it is
sometimes difficult to find the limit between peaceful
expression and provocation or manipulation. Gray responded
that Moroccan security forces must show restraint because as
in soccer, it is often the retaliator, not the provocateur,
who gets seen and penalized by the referee. Fassi Fihri also
asked that claims of human rights abuses on Algerian soil be
given treatment similar to claimed human rights abuses in the
Western Sahara.



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Comment


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8. (C) While Fassi Fihri discussed the autonomy plan and
human rights issues broadly, he seemed unable to come up with
any concrete suggestions regarding Gray's offer to provide
"behind the scenes" support in discussions with the
Polisario. Fassi Fihri appeared to understand the importance
of a new autonomy proposed fully, but continued to discuss
"territorial integrity" and the significance of the Western
Sahara as part of Morocco.



9. (U) Gray has cleared this cable.
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RILEY