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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06RABAT442 2006-03-09 18:32:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

DEPUTY FM FASSI FIHRI VENTS ON THE WESTERN SAHARA

Tags:   MO PBTS PHUM PREL 
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1. (C) Ambassador telephoned Deputy FM Fassi Fihri midday on
March 8 to inform him about the cancellation of A/S Welch's
planned March 13-14 visit to Morocco. A fifty-three minute
conversation ensued. Fassi Fihri pressed regarding the rest
of the trip, and the Ambassador said A/S Welch still might
keep the Algeria and Tunisia stops, but only because he had
not visited those two countries since taking his current job.
Fassi Fihri reacted strongly that this would send a signal
that GOM had nothing to add to the discussion on the Western
Sahara.



2. (C) Fihri spoke for some minutes about what he said is a
disturbing trend to let the GOA off the hook and focus on the
Polisario. He referred to a letter from UN Special Envoy Van
Walsum to UNSYG Kofi Annan on February 18 saying that the
Western Sahara is a problem between Morocco and the
Polisario. Fassi Fihri commented that the DCM had similarly
told MFA Director of Bilateral Affairs Amrani during a March
2 meeting between Amrani, DCM, and Polcouns (Ref A) to
"ignore Algeria." (Comment: the DCM told Amrani that
Morocco should be prepared to negotiate with the Polisario
but did not suggest the GOM should ignore Algeria. End
Comment). The Ambassador corrected Fassi Fihri's perception.




3. (C) Fassi Fihri pointed out that two Algerian ministers
participated in the Polisario anniversary celebrations,
including the minister in charge of the Maghreb, in Tifariti
on February 27. Tifariti, according to Fassi Fihri, is part
of Morocco. The GOA keeps saying "we refuse to be a part of
the Western Sahara issue." Fassi Fihri continued that in the
meantime, Morocco was working very hard to try to move
forward without creating a domestic problem. He said we are
talking to the cabinet, parliament and the political parties
in order to prepare them and get their support for our
autonomy proposal. This is not easy. Algeria is trying to
create a "piege ("booby trap"), a military piege, and we
don't want to fall into it."



4. (C) Fassi Fihri said the GOA asked Morocco to place the
berm away from the border to ease friction, and now the GOA
is taking advantage of Morocco's absence from the east side
of the berm. Fassi Fihri emphasized that the GOM has to be
very careful about making a public proposal, and it does not
"feel" that Washington is confident that Morocco will follow
through. Fassi Fihri assured the Ambassador "but you know we
will as we always do."



5. (C) The Ambassador said that the USG is hoping to see a
dramatic new proposal that could be the basis of really
moving things in a new direction, and that he thought this
was a real window of opportunity for Morocco. The Ambassador
continued by saying that he had recently met with Yassine
Mansouri (Ref B); Fassi Fihri said he was aware of the
meeting. The Ambassador reinforced the point, saying that no
one at the UN has ordered the Baker Plan to be shredded. No
one has taken a vote to say it should never be discussed
again. Take advantage of this opportunity, the Ambassador
said, and give it your best.



6. (C) Fassi Fihri digressed back to the GOA,s "theater"
SADR celebrations, orchestrated by the GOA, and said the GOA
now believes there are six countries in the Maghreb. It was
fortunate, Fassi Fihri said, that nothing bad happened during
the anniversary events, and he thanked the Ambassador for US
assistance in calming the situation. Fassi Fihri went on to
say that the GOM was very serious, and had made progress
domestically for an autonomy proposal, and would move forward
very soon, but that it had to be careful. Fassi Fihri
mentioned the conference the Islamist party PJD is hosting on
regionalization (Ref C) March 10-11, and said this was a good
sign of support and the progress the GOM had made with the
political parties.


7. (C) Fassi Fihri then asked the Ambassador what was wrong
with the GOM's last autonomy proposal? Was it architecture,
delegation, detail? Ambassador said certainly detail was
lacking for it to be a real basis for discussion. Fassi
Fihri then went on a long monologue saying Morocco could give
the US the details of what we are willing to do, but we
cannot make that part of our public offer, since this is a
negotiation. As the King had mentioned in late 2005, we are
consulting the political side and the Sahrawi people (he did
not elaborate) and since then even having discussions with
NGOs and others. So we are almost ready to go forward and we
can be counted on. But if necessary, we will give you the
full plan in detail privately so you can see where we're
going and give us your support. We would do this with you
and no more than two other countries (which he did not name,
but he was presumably referring to France and Spain).



8. (C) The Ambassador responded with an analogy, apologizing
for the crude comparison, but wanting to be sure he
understood clearly what Fassi Fihri was proposing. "So if
you were making an offer on a car," the Ambassador began,
"and you were willing to offer 30,000 dirhams, you would make
your first offer 10,000 dirhams but let us know you were
willing to go to 30,000." Yes, Fassi Fihri confirmed, and
the market price for the car is 30,000 dirhams, he added.
Maybe, Ambassador said. Fassi Fihri continued that he was
concerned that the other side would come back with 50,000 or
100,000 dirhams and keep raising it. And, he added, warming
to the car talk, Algeria doesn't even want to sell at any
price. And in the spirit of taking the analogy way too far,
he added, "and they are getting new expensive cars from
Moscow!" Anyway, he confirmed that yes, this was his idea.
He also raised the role of MINURSO, and his concern that it
should not be cut back.



9. (C) Fassi Fihri said these were his personal comments,
not official, and he did not want them shared. He was just
venting. Ambassador asked, though, whether he could relay
Fassi Fihri's proposal to share more detail with the US?
Fassi Fihri said yes.



10. (C) Before closing, Fassi Fihri said he was hearing
through several channels that the US was not confident that
messages were getting through to the "boss." Fassi Fihri
clarified he was speaking about his boss, i.e. the King.
Ambassador said he really had not heard anything like this.
Ambassador said that whenever we had any message to deliver
to the GOM from the President or Secretary, we had a very
efficient and effective channel and complete confidence it
was getting to "the boss."



11. (C) Fassi Fihri apologized for the length of the call
and suggested a meeting before the Ambassador's travel to the
US (he seemed very pleased to know Ambassador would be in
Washington with PM Jettou). When Ambassador said he was
leaving the following day, Fassi Fihri responded that we
should talk as soon as the Ambassador returned to Rabat.
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Riley