|06RABAT557||2006-03-29 14:46:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Rabat|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L RABAT 000557
1. (C) Summary: Over lunch March 20, Spanish Ambassador
Planas Puchades told Ambassador Riley that Spain continued to
encourage Morocco to produce a credible autonomy plan for the
Western Sahara. He dismissed alleged splits within the
Polisario, suggesting the recently emerged faction "Line of
Martyrs" seemed to be made up of disgruntled or former
Polisario members living in the Canary Islands, and "it is
not significant." Planas pointedly did not reiterate Spanish
concern about Van Walsum's remarks on pulling the Security
Council back from the Sahara dispute or US interest in
downsizing MINURSO. On migration, Planas expressed
disappointment with Algeria's apparent decision not to
participate in the July regional conference in Rabat, which
Planas said enjoyed EU buy-in. Planas was interested in a
recent International Republican Institute (IRI) poll that
appeared in the March 18 issue of Moroccan weekly Le Journal,
which indicated strong support for Morocco's Islamist party.
The conversation touched briefly on the upcoming NATO
High-level event in Rabat, Spanish investment in Morocco, and
narcotics. End Summary.
2. (C) Continuing a series of reciprocal lunches, Spanish
Ambassador Planas Puchades hosted Ambassador Riley and
Polcouns to lunch at the Spanish residence on March 20.
Planas was accompanied by his new DCM and previously Spanish
Ambassador in Nigeria, Alfonso Portabales, who had arrived in
Morocco the previous week.
3. (C) Planas said the GOS was following with great interest
the King's much-anticipated visit to Western Sahara (March
20-25; see ref A). Ambassador Riley noted we were also
following the visit with interest. Planas said Spain's
primary message to Morocco at this point was one he believed
we shared: Morocco should present a credible autonomy plan.
Planas said Spain would need to review the plan before taking
a position on it, but in the meantime the GOS was providing
"comfort and support" to the GOM to produce a serious plan.
Planas was somewhat dismissive of the consultation process
with Moroccan political parties, saying he understood the
parties' meetings with Palace advisor Mohamed Moatassim were
"not really an exchange." He said, nevertheless, that
conferences such as that held by the PJD and FC several weeks
ago (Ref B) "were okay." Planas said the Spanish have been
clear with Morocco that the autonomy plan must be concrete
and not conservative. Ambassador Riley said this was a key
US message as well.
4. (C) Planas said the reported split within the Polisario
(the so-called Ligne de Martyrs, or Line of Martyrs) was not
significant. These were mostly individuals based in the
Canary Islands. While the split itself was not significant,
Planas believed there was growing frustration in Tindouf, but
it might not be related solely to pressure for negotiation.
Planas noted that the Polisario cause continued to resonate
with Spaniards, who visited Tindouf in large numbers every
year as families back in Spain opened their doors to
5000-10,000 Sahrawis for home stays.
5. (C) Planas did not echo GOS concern about the possible
backing off of the Western Sahara conflict by the Security
Council as advocated by UN Envoy Van Walsum; nor he did
express concern about a possible MINURSO drawdown.
6. (C) Planas said there continued to be good cooperation
between Morocco and Spain on migration issues, especially
after the unfortunate deaths on the frontiers of the Spanish
enclaves last fall. Planas said the GOS was pleased Morocco
had announced it was holding a regional conference on
migration in Rabat in July, but he regretted that Algeria had
apparently decided not to participate (he actually said
Algeria's non-participation was "dangerous.") on the ground
that the AU was already organizing migration conferences.
The Rabat conference, Planas said, enjoyed solid support from
France and the EU, as well as Spain. He was concerned about
the growth of trafficking networks in the region, noting that
some migrants bought "travel packs" (a package of movements
-- by road, car, ship, with a series of handlers at each
phase -- to get one to the desired destination), which from
his information cost thousands of dollars, with no certainty
that one would ever reach the destination.
7. (C) Planas had read with interest recent coverage in
Moroccan weekly Le Journal of an "American poll" on Moroccan
political attitudes (the poll was conducted by the
International Republican Institute but was not intended to be
shared with the press; according to IRI, one of political
parties that had helped with the poll likely leaked it. Full
details and embassy analysis of the results can be found in
Ref C). Planas said the results, purporting to forecast a
likely PJD victory in the 2007 parliamentary elections, were
very interesting. Planas said even if it won many seats the
PJD probably would not be able to govern without a
coalition. Other political parties are being slow to
democratize, Planas said; their leaders are old and there is
little dynamism in the ranks. The PJD seems to be following
the Erdogan path, he added (see Ref C).
NATO High-Level Event
8. (C) Planas raised Morocco's hosting of the upcoming NATO
High-Level Event (April 6-7 in Rabat) and said it was an
important event for Morocco, especially as it followed the
meeting of NATO and Med Dialogue Defense Ministers in
Taormina in February. Planas added that the upcoming 50th
anniversary of the Moroccan Armed Forces was also a showcase
event for Morocco, and he hoped the US would participate
robustly. (Comment: we are firming up a robust US
participation in the 50th Anniversary of the FAR celebrations
and have tentatively secured a DV embarkation onboard a U.S.
aircraft carrier as part of the event. End Comment).
Ambassador Riley thanked Planas for Spanish support for the
recent planning conference for an upcoming exercise, Phoenix
Express, which brought together Moroccan, Algerian, and
Spanish naval officers for a week in Rabat.
9. (C) Ambassador Riley noted Spain's announcement in
February of a 200 million Euro plan to facilitate small and
medium-sized enterprises in Morocco. (Spain is Morocco,s
second largest investor). Planas said he hoped the plan
would assist Spanish enterprises but said Morocco remained a
challenging place to do business given lack of transparency.
In terms of providing aid to Morocco Ambassador Riley said
there ought to be better coordination among donors and
suggested small meetings for donors for specific regions in
Morocco, not for all programs in the whole country,
especially given the MCA activities. Planas agreed and
pointed out that two thirds of Spanish aid to Morocco went to
the northern part of the country.
10. (SBU) Planas noted that Spain was developing plans to
promote tobacco production in Larache province (between Rabat
and Tangiers) as a way of promoting alternatives to narcotics
cultivation in northern Morocco.
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