Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
08FRANKFURT1588
2008-05-21 15:11:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Consulate Frankfurt
Cable title:  

Germany Says, Well, Hello Dalai: Spiritual Leader's Visit

Tags:  PGOV PREL PHUM CH GM 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHFT #1588/01 1421511
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 211511Z MAY 08
FM AMCONSUL FRANKFURT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6540
INFO RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L FRANKFURT 001588 

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/AGS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: (#####)
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM CH GM

SUBJECT: Germany Says, Well, Hello Dalai: Spiritual Leader's Visit
Stirs Debate and Party Dissension

Ref: May 19 Berlin Emboff Lee-EAP/CM Norris email exchange; May 13
China Emboffs Moeling/Kritenbrink-Berlin Emboff Bernstein email
exchanges

Classified by: CG Jo Ellen Powell for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

C O N F I D E N T I A L FRANKFURT 001588

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/AGS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: (#####)
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM CH GM

SUBJECT: Germany Says, Well, Hello Dalai: Spiritual Leader's Visit
Stirs Debate and Party Dissension

Ref: May 19 Berlin Emboff Lee-EAP/CM Norris email exchange; May 13
China Emboffs Moeling/Kritenbrink-Berlin Emboff Bernstein email
exchanges

Classified by: CG Jo Ellen Powell for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d).


1. (SBU) Summary. The Dalai Lama's visit to Germany sparked
political controversy over who would meet with him and highlighted
intra-coalition and, in the case of the SPD, intra-party disagreement
(see septel from Berlin). The Dalai Lama himself remained above the
fray, sticking to a message of cultural autonomy for Tibet and
emphasizing the importance of dialogue with the Chinese government.
In the end, the Dalai Lama's schedule during his five-day stay in
Germany was relatively full, as he met with Development Minister
Wieczorek-Zeul (SPD),CDU Ministers-President Koch and Ruettgers,
Bundestag President Lammert, several senior Bundestag
parliamentarians, and Ambassador Timken. The Dalai Lama also
attracted some 25,000 people to a public rally at the Brandenburg
Gate, where he spoke. End Summary.

--------------
TO MEET OR NOT TO MEET
--------------


2. (SBU) Already months before his arrival in Germany, the Dalai
Lama's visit here stirred up political debate over whether to meet
with the Tibetan spiritual leader or not. As CDU politicians lined
up meetings with him, the Social Democrats' (SPD) interest was
conspicuously absent, with Foreign Minister Steinmeier himself
announcing that he would not meet with the Dalai Lama. According to
press reports, Steinmeier justified his refusal to meet the Dalai
Lama in the context of his efforts to repair Sino-German relations,
which were upset last year when Chancellor Angela Merkel received the
Dalai Lama in a "private" meeting at the Chancellery.


3. (U) The surprise announcement by SPD Development Minister
Heide-Marie Wieczorek-Zeul to meet with the Dalai Lama, therefore,
drew strong criticism from within her own party. Over the weekend
SPD party chairman Kurt Beck was overheard by journalists criticizing
her decision in blunt (some would say vulgar) language, and Foreign
Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was also publicly critical of her

decision. Beck later explained his comments, noting he was not
critical of the fact that Wieczorek-Zeul met with the Dalai Lama, but
rather that he had not been informed about it. According to Beck,
the Dalai Lama had also asked for a meeting with him but withdrew the
request because his home state of Rheinland-Pfalz was not part of the
visit.

--------------
DALAI LAMA STRESSES CULTURAL AUTONOMY
--------------


4. (SBU) Contacts in Wieczorek-Zeul's ministry told us that the May
19 meeting between Wieczorek-Zeul and the Dalai Lama only briefly
touched on the issue of Tibet and focused instead on the effects of
globalization, ways to combat poverty, and last week's earthquake in
China. Our contacts stressed the Minister's public comments that the
dialogue with religious leaders was an important element of the
Ministry's development work.


5. (C) The Dalai Lama also had a series of meetings with Bundestag
officials, including appointments with Bundestag President Norbert
Lammert (CDU),who gave a strongly supportive speech introducing the
Dalai Lama in Bochum, CDU/CSU caucus leader Volker Kauder, Greens
co-party chair Claudia Roth, and members of the Human Rights and
Foreign Affairs committees. The Dalai Lama's common themes
throughout the meetings were an emphasis on cultural autonomy for
Tibet as well as for other ethnic groups and the importance of using
global attention on the issue and the upcoming Olympic Games to
maintain pressure on China to continue serious dialogue. He also
expressed his concerns that both public attention and China's
willingness to talk would diminish once the Olympics ended. He
stressed the importance of concrete progress over the next few months
that the Chinese cannot ignore after the Games are over.


6. (C) The Dalai Lama also received Ambassador and Mrs. Timken at
the Dalai Lama's hotel suite in Berlin on May 19. During this short
courtesy call at the Ambassador's request (see ref EAP email),the
Ambassador and the Dalai Lama discussed the United States'
relationship with Germany, the important role of religious leaders in
countering extremism, and shared concerns about the recent earthquake
in China. The Dalai Lama inquired briefly on Germany's relationship
with Russia, which the Ambassador characterized as a sensitive issue
that is somewhat divided along German political party lines. The
Ambassador highlighted the role that the Embassy has played in
Germany on Muslim outreach and ethnic integration, and stressed USG
support for the Dalai Lama's efforts to promote peaceful dialogue.


7. (C) Before arriving in Berlin, the Dalai Lama appeared at two

large public events in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and two in
Bavaria, and met with two CDU Ministers-President: Juergen Ruettgers
of NRW and Roland Koch of Hesse. His meeting with Koch at the
Frankfurt airport shortly after his arrival in Germany on May 15 was
particularly cordial, as the ties between the two men go back more
than a decade to Koch's days as a state parliamentarian. According
to a private read-out from a senior advisor to Koch, the Dalai Lama
reported that the Chinese had agreed to further talks in June with
his representatives, although neither the logistical details nor the
agenda had been arranged. The Tibetans were pleasantly surprised by
China's "open and benevolent offer," but the Dalai Lama stressed that
these talks must address at least some of the more difficult issues
and can not be, for example, merely talks about arranging more talks.
The Dalai Lama also asked for Koch's advice on how to handle the
political debate in Germany surrounding his visit. Koch counseled
him not to become personally involved and to stay neutral, advice
that the Dalai Lama appears to have followed throughout his trip.
Koch also traveled to Bochum and spent at least four hours with the
Dalai Lama's program there.


8. (SBU) According to a participant in the 45-minute meeting with
Minister-President Ruettgers, the Dalai Lama made many of the same
points on autonomy and the talks with the Chinese that he later made
in Berlin, and took a decidedly apolitical tone, with little
criticism of the Chinese government and much praise for its handling
of the earthquake. Ruettgers offered a spirited defense of his
decision to meet with the Dalai Lama, while avoiding direct criticism
of Steinmeier.


9. (SBU) Comment: The bickering over who would agree to meet with
the Dalai Lama was more about political jockeying and differing
diplomatic styles than policy differences, since none of the major
players disagree on Germany's "One China" policy or on support for
greater human rights in China. While the Tibet issue will
undoubtedly subside somewhat now that the Dalai Lama's visit is over
and attention is focused positive coverage of China's earthquake
response, it will not go away, given this summer's Olympic Games. In
addition, any further unrest in Tibet could increase the political
stakes, especially for the SPD, as Beck and Steinmeier appear to be
on the wrong side of public opinion on the issue. End Comment.

10. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Berlin and Congen
Duesseldorf.
POWELL