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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07RABAT362
2007-02-26 09:00:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

AMU INCREASING CT FOCUS, ADVANCING TRADE DIALOGUE,

Tags:  PREL PTER KISL ETRD MO LY AG TS XA XF 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO7345
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHRB #0362/01 0570900
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 260900Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5922
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RABAT 000362 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/23/2017
TAGS: PREL PTER KISL ETRD MO LY AG TS XA XF
SUBJECT: AMU INCREASING CT FOCUS, ADVANCING TRADE DIALOGUE,
BUT POLITICAL CHASMS REMAIN

REF: 06 RABAT 1764

Classified by DCM Wayne Bush for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

-------
Summary
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1. (C) Foreign Ministers from Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania,
Tunisia, and Libya gathered in Rabat February 10-11 for the
26th Ministerial Council meeting of the Arab Maghreb Union
(AMU). A senior AMU contact told us discussions among the
Ministers reflected increased focus in AMU fora on stemming
extremist thought and expanding practical CT cooperation.
The Ministers also agreed to increase efforts to establish a
North African Free Trade Zone and to work to harmonize
agricultural and water policies. The AMU Ministers welcomed
the Mecca Agreement, voiced concern about Darfur, and even
expressed solidarity with Libya in the face of criticism of
the Bulgarian nurses' trial. AMU officials said there is
tentative planning to hold a summit in Tripoli in June.
Despite the recent flurry of activity, outside observers are
skeptical that AMU initiatives will have a tangible impact
absent broader political rapprochement among member states.
End summary.



--------------------------


CT's Rising Profile in the AMU


--------------------------





2. (C) Zoheir Merchaoui, Political Minister-Counselor at the
Arab Maghreb Union Secretariat in Rabat, briefed poloff on
February 20 on the outcome of a recent flurry of meetings in
AMU fora, punctuated by the February 10-11 Ministerial. A
Tunisian diplomat and long-time aide to AMU Secretary-General
Habib Ben Yahya, Merchaoui said that the Ministers, building
on preceding experts' discussions, agreed on the outlines of
an initiative to form a "comprehensive, joint policy" on
youth affairs - primarily an effort to counter the spread of
extremism. Participants recognized that existing efforts to
foster youth through education and social programs were
insufficient to counter the spread of extremist thought, and
agreed that their respective governments should pool
resources and coordinate efforts to promote "enlightened"
visions of Islam and society.



3. (C) Merchaoui also offered that technical cooperation on
counterterrorism is increasing in AMU fora. Discussions
among experts from AMU states, meeting to prepare for the
Ministerial, included consideration of regional trends in
terrorism, he noted. Interior Ministers from AMU states are
scheduled to meet in May, according to Merchaoui, and working
level MOI officials will gather in Tripoli in March to lay
the groundwork. The MOIs' meeting will be an important
opportunity for regional governments to expand practical
cooperation in the face of evolving terrorist threats,
Merchaoui opined.



--------------------------


NAFTA - North African Style


--------------------------





4. (C) Again building on preceding consultations among
experts, the AMU Ministers also agreed in Rabat to step up
efforts to establish a North African Free Trade Zone. From a
technical perspective, the trade talks have reached an
advanced stage, Merchaoui maintained. The principle of a
regional FTA has been agreed upon for more than a decade, he
noted, remarking that trade officials from AMU states were
currently considering technical questions involving
compensation for industries that would be negatively affected
by an end to trade barriers, and other technical questions
for member states' customs departments. Acknowledging
skepticism that a regional FTA process could move forward in
the current political environment, Merchaoui believed
regional governments were now, more than in the past,
recognizing the linkages between economic development and
internal stability, and appreciating regional free trade as
an option that can not be ignored.



5. (C) Other economic initiatives taken up by the AMU
Ministers were projects to harmonize regional agriculture and
water policies. The Tunisian delegation also made a strong
push for the formation of a Maghreb Development Bank, which
would be headquartered in Tunis with initial capital of USD
500 million. Though all AMU states had agreed in principle,
an Algerian diplomat told poloff, there was disagreement on
timing - the Tunisians sought to fast-track the effort, while
the Algerians wanted to ensure the structure and modalities
of the bank were well-conceived before the bank was
operationalized. Just after the Ministerial's conclusion,
private sector leaders and sundry government officials from

RABAT 00000362 002 OF 002


across the AMU region convened in Marrakech, where they
agreed on February 17 to form the Maghreb Business Union,
intended to bolster the private sector's role in regional
development.




--------------------------


Positions on Regional Issues


--------------------------





6. (C) The AMU Ministers' discussions also took up current
conflicts and issues facing the greater region. The
Ministers welcomed the Mecca Agreement, hoping that it
represented a break in the intra-Palestinian stalemate and an
opportunity to move forward with the peace process. The
Ministers expressed concern about continuing strife and
humanitarian crisis in Darfur, but adhered to the current
Arab League position on the way forward. The Ministers even
released a communique expressing solidarity with Libya in the
face of criticism of the Bulgarian nurses' trial, calling on
European media to cease its attacks on the integrity of the
Libyan justice system.



--------------------------


Summit


--------------------------





7. (C) Merchaoui said there is tentative planning to hold a
summit of AMU heads of state in Tripoli in June, though
allowed that this date could slip. The last AMU Summit was
in Algiers in 1994.



--------------------------


Can the AMU Move From Theory to Practice?


--------------------------





8. (C) In a recent discussion of the AMU, Moroccan academics
Abdallah Saaf and Mohammed Haddy, each specialized in
regional security affairs, told us that the need for security
cooperation among member states appears greater than ever.
Though the AMU's founding document, the 1989 Treaty of
Marrakesh, focused more on conventional military/security
threats, the real threat in the region today obviously comes
from unconventional indigenous terror groups like the GSPC,
which recently publicized its merger with the Al-Qaida
network.



9. (C) Ironically, Haddy opined, the prospect that
instability could spill across borders could increase mutual
distrust between states even as it highlights common danger.
Both emphasized that political rapproachement among the
states was prerequisite to any significant progress for the
AMU process, even in innocuous technical fields. The Western
Sahara dispute, which has fueled a sort of cold war between
Morocco and Algeria since the 1970s, is only the most obvious
of a number of political obstacles.

******************************************
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/rabat
******************************************

Riley