DE RUEHEG #1822/01 1650937
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 140937Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5672
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0183
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 001822
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/14/2017 TAGS: PREL PGOV KPAL EG IZ IR LY SUBJECT: DAS GRAY DISCUSSES ARAB ISSUES WITH MFA ASSISTANT MINISTER
Classified by Charge D'Affaires Stuart Jones for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
------- Summary -------
1. (C) During a June 13 meeting on regional topics with MFA Assistant Minister for Arab Affairs Hany Khallaf, NEA Deputy Assistant Secretary Gordon Gray discussed Egypt-Iraq relations, Iran, Libya, and the situation in Gaza. Khallaf said that Baghdad recently requested agrement from the GOE on a new (unnamed) ambassadorial nominee for Cairo, the assignment of whom would be linked to GOE action to name its own envoy to Iraq. Debt "rescheduling," vice "forgiveness" was more likely in the case of Iraqi debts, although an official decision remains under consideration. USG help to expand market opportunities in Iraq for Egyptian firms would assist efforts to strengthen Egypt-Iraq ties. On Iran, Khallaf counseled against U.S. military strikes, and said the Arab League was preparing to engage Tehran via the Arab Provisional Parliament based in Damascus. Egyptian-Iranian ties remain "tough" - mired in mutual suspicions and recriminations, despite recent steps to engage in talks via respective foreign ministries. On Libya, Khallaf welcomed improved U.S.-GOL ties, suggesting cultural exchanges as the key to sustained improvements in bilateral relations. Khallaf took on board Charge's request that the GOE publicly condemn recent Hamas armed attacks on Fatah forces in Gaza. End summary
2. (C) Asked about Egypt-Iraq relations, Khallaf told Gray that Baghdad recently gave Cairo the name of an Ambassadorial nominee, but linked action on the assignment to Cairo's naming its own envoy to Baghdad. Khallaf did not reveal the Iraqi candidate's name but denied reports that current Iraqi Charge Saad Ridha was the individual. Khallaf said the GOE was still considering who to name as its envoy to Baghdad, adding that one option was to name an ambassador who will remain in Cairo until the security situation permits long-term residence in Baghdad. Khallaf noted that Cairo would welcome "unpublicized" technical assistance from the U.S. and Coalition forces to ensure the safety of its envoy in the Green Zone.
3. (C) On the general state of Egyptian-Iraqi ties, Khallaf said the GOE continued to support PM Maliki, as communicated during the latter's late-April visit to Cairo, and during the Sharm El Sheikh conferences in early May. Khallaf said the GOE was looking "across the board" at ways to strengthen bilateral ties, including in the security, cultural/media, and commercial fields. The GOE, he said, six months ago proposed to the Iraqi Charge in Cairo to send media experts to Iraq to film the lives and stories of average Iraqis, in order to familiarize Egyptians with what is happening in Iraq. We think this can "give warmth" to the relationship, and help educate people about Iraq.
4. (C) Khallaf said that an Egyptian presence in Iraq could be increased if more commercial opportunities were available for Egyptian firms, beyond the two major telecom ventures there at present. The GOE is also looking to activate ministerial joint committees dealing with security, human resources, and commerce. Egypt is willing to send 500 farmers, for example, to work in the north of Iraq. On debt relief, although still under review by various government agencies, Khallaf doubted Egypt would forgive Iraq's debts, but may be willing to reschedule them. Egypt would also consider working with Jordan on refugee issues, within the context of the three sub-working groups of the Iraq Neighbors Group.
5. (C) Khallaf questioned whether "rumors" of an impending U.S. attack on Iran had merit, noting the dangers to the region inherent in such a policy decision. Gray reviewed USG policy toward Iran, as enunciated by the President and Secretary Rice, seeking to assure Khallaf that the U.S. was
SIPDIS focused on diplomacy, even though it would not remove the military option from the table. Asked about Egypt's current ties with Iran, Khallaf said the Arab League had recently decided to engage the Iranians via the Provisional Arab Parliament, based in Damascus. Cairo's ties with Tehran, however, remained "tough" due mostly, he said, to security
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concerns. While at Egypt's request the GOI recently decided to change the name of a prominent street in Tehran (named for the assassin of President Sadat), Khallaf said they changed the street name to something equally offensive. Khallaf did not believe a fundamental shift in relations was imminent.
6. (C) Khallaf requested an update on U.S. policy toward Libya, noting what he perceived was an overall positive trajectory in Washington's relationship with Tripoli. Libya was a tricky place, he commented, where the leadership greatly appreciated flattery and a "nice" approach. Khallaf (who served in Tripoli in his last posting as Egypt's Ambassador) complimented U.S. educational and cultural programs with the Libyans, saying these programs not only helped recently to "smooth" some problems in the relationship, but would also pay long-term dividends in the future among the Libyan elite. The Libyan Ambassador to Cairo, he said, was "unusually" sophisticated and urbane, appreciative and understanding of Egypt's policy vis-a-vis Israel and the Palestinians.
Violence in Gaza
7. (C) Turning to the latest surge in Gaza violence, the Charge acknowledged Egypt's work to shore up a cease-fire among the Palestinian factions and for its continued support to Abu Mazen and his Fatah forces. Noting USG concerns over what appears to be a push by Hamas to topple Fatah in the Gaza Strip, the Charge requested Egypt to publicly condemn the latest Hamas violence in Gaza and continue its work to end the violence there. Khallaf hinted that the Foreign Minister might make a public statement on the subject shortly. Khallaf also raised the topic of an upcoming U.S. Presidential speech (according to press reports, to be delivered on June 24) on the Arab-Israeli conflict, noting strong hopes in the region that the speech would reinvigorate the peace process.