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06USUNNEWYORK563 2006-03-23 00:53:00 CONFIDENTIAL USUN New York
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1. (C) Summary: The Secretary-General's Executive Director
for Political Affairs Carlos Lopes and Special Representative
of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for West Africa Ahmedou
Ould-Abdullah briefed Acting Polcouns on sensitive efforts
underway to resolve the Bakassi border issue. Lopes said SYG
Annan remained engaged on the issue and still intended to
organize a summit with Presidents Obasanjo and Biya in the
second quarter of this year. Lopes said planning was being
directed from the SYG's office. The SYG was pursuing a
proposal which would allow Nigeria to administer a portion of
the peninsula for less than the 20 years. Lopes and
Ould-Abdullah expressed hope that U.S. discussions with
Nigeria and Cameroon would complement the SYG's mediation.
They stressed the importance of persuading Nigeria to
withdraw all its military forces beyond the demarcated
international border. They also hoped the U.S. would accept
a role (together with the UK, France and Germany) as a
witness or guarantor to an agreement. End Summary.

2. (C) USUN Acting Polcouns and Poloff, drawing from points
in reftel, discussed the Bakassi issue with the SYG's
Executive Director Lopes and SRSG Ould-Abdullah on March 14.
Lopes expressed appreciation for USG support and offer of
assistance for SYG Annan's mediation. Lopes gave assurances
that the SYG had not abandoned his mediation. Although
distracted by other priorities in the fall, the SYG had
refocused attention on Bakassi in January. Lopes noted that
the Nigerians, despite acceptance of the ICJ ruling,
continued to delay its implementation. There was little
likelihood that the Nigerians would withdraw soon on their
own. The SYG remained committed to mediating what he hoped
would lead to a pragmatic solution that Presidents Obasanjo
and Biya would find acceptable and would ensure a transfer of
sovereignty before Obasanjo left office.

3. (C) Lopes emphasized the sensitivity of the mediation.
To ensure secrecy, the SYG had directed that planning for the
mediation be confined to a handful of officials led by Lopes
in New York and SRSG Ould-Abduallah. (Note: Department of
Political Affairs (DPA) officials confirmed that that
information related to Bakassi was closely held, so much so
that Under Secretary-General of Political Affairs Gambari was
not kept fully in the loop.)

4. (C) Lopes and Ould-Abdullah said the plan for a phased
withdrawal of the Nigerian military from Bakassi by July 2006
that was agreed upon within the framework of the Mixed
Commission was positive in that it fulfilled a pledge made by
the two sides at the tripartite summit in Geneva. However,
Nigeria's implementation without some additional
consideration had always seemed problematic because the plan
was subject to the approval of the two presidents. (The
SYG's approval was also required, but this was a formality.)
Given his prior experiences and political realities in both
Nigeria and Cameroon, the SYG was under no illusion that an
Obasanjo-Biya agreement was easily achievable. Nonetheless,
he thought it possible. He had directed Lopes and
Ould-Abdullah to plan for a tripartite summit, preferably in
the second quarter of the year, ie, by the end of June. No
date had been set as yet. However, Lopes said the SYG shared
Cameroon's concern that a further delay, with his own term of
office ending and Nigeria's presidential elections looming,
would reduce the chances of a resolution.

5. (C) Lopes did not go into much detail about how he was
proceeding with planning other than to describe the process
as a classic conflict-resolution exercise. He said there
would be no attempt to resurrect what may or may not have
been an agreement of the two presidents from their private
discussions with the SYG last year. Ould-Abdullah noted that
Biya had disavowed the agreement. Lopes also observed that
Cameroon had made crystal clear that it would not accept any
payments. Thus, he said a lease-back formula was not viable
and was no longer under consideration.

6. (C) That said, Lopes said the SYG's inclination was still
to nudge the two presidents to accept an interim arrangement
that would accelerate the withdrawal of the Nigerian military
from Bakassi. Current conceptual planning was on developing
a proposal that would allow the Nigerians to administer a
portion of Bakassi for a limited period. In general, he said

he was focused on two issues: a transitional arrangement and
the status of the Bakassi population. On the former, he said
any transition period would have be less than twenty years (a
period supposedly discussed by the two presidents last year)
and preferably less than ten years. Lopes stated that he
was making more headway "in narrowing the gap" on the issue
of the status of the villagers. Lopes and Ould-Abdullah
noted the importance of Nigeria fully withdrawing its
military to the international demarcated border, apparently
prior to any transitional period.

7. (C) Lopes did not shed much more light on the
transitional arrangement under consideration. He did confirm
that Cameroon would retain the full right to extract natural
resources from Bakassi during any transition period.

8. (C) Lopes and Ould-Abdullah said that if there was a
bilateral agreement, it was important to Cameroon that
certain "friendly nations"--notably the U.S., UK, France and
Germany--would be associated with this Bakassi agreement.
Cameroon preferred international "guarantors." If this was
not feasible, Lopes said the countries would be asked to
serve as "witnesses." He wondered, however, whether the U.S.
(and other countries) might consider some kind of a "witness
plus" role, though this was left undefined. Lopes and
Ould-Abdullah said they had briefed the UK and France on the
current status of the mediation and planned to do so with
Germany. Lopes said that Nigeria did not seemed concerned
about international involvement. He added that Cameroon had
made clear that it would object to any role for the African
Union or another African state or regional entity in an

9. (C) Finally, Lopes and Ould-Abdullah welcomed U.S. advice
and promised to stay in touch. They also expressed hope that
U.S. discussions with the parties on Bakassi would complement
the Secretary-General's endeavors. On specifics, Lopes said
only that it would be especially helpful if the U.S. would
impress upon President Obasanjo and his aides that the
Nigerians must withdraw their military completely from