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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09ADDISABABA1201 2009-05-21 14:53:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Addis Ababa
Cable title:  

PRIME MINISTER MELES ON REGIONAL CHALLENGES

Tags:   PREL PBTS PGOV ET ER SU SO 
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P 211453Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 
SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4839
INFO IGAD COLLECTIVE
HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
DIA WASHINGTON DC
CIA WASHINGTON DC
CJTF HOA
JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
NSC WASHDC
SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L ADDIS ABABA 001201 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/19/2019
TAGS: PREL PBTS PGOV ET ER SU SO
SUBJECT: PRIME MINISTER MELES ON REGIONAL CHALLENGES

Classified By: Ambassador Donald Yamamoto. Reasons: 1.4 (B) and (D).

Summary
-------



1. (C) Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told visiting USUN
Ambassador Susan Rice May 16 that over the long term
normalization of relations with Eritrea will guarantee a
peaceful demarcation of the border. Meles also acknowledged
to former U.S. mediator Rice that Ethiopia made mistakes in
handling the war with Eritrea. On Sudan, Meles said
Eritrea's involvement there and in Somalia were unhelpful.
Sudan will remain a challenge for Ethiopia's security and the
ability of the SPLM to remain a cohesive group will also
determine whether Sudan's stability can be preserved. End
Summary.

Hope for Eritrea's Future


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





2. (C) In a visit by the first Cabinet level official from
the new Administration, Prime Minister Meles underscored to
USUN Ambassador Rice during a six-hour meeting that the most
deadly phases of border conflict with Eritrea may have been
avoided. The outbreak of hostilities in 1998 between Eritrea
and Ethiopia was never about the border dispute in Badme and
Zelambessa It was about economic and political differences.
President Isaias was sending a message to Meles and Ethiopia
to comply with Isaias' view of the conduct of bilateral
relations which would make Ethiopian interests on economic
development, trade and political relations subservient to
Isaias' wishes. Meles said, if Ethiopia had made it clear to
Isaias that he had crossed a line which would drive both
countries to war and worked harder to force Eritrea to
respect the relationship, then all-out war might have been
averted. Both countries made serious mistakes and bitterness
on both sides forced positions to become unnecessarily
intractable. Meles noted that after conflict broke out and
the cessation of hostilities agreement was negotiated, a 26
mile buffer zone located in the Eritrean side was advocated
by hard-liners on the Ethiopian side only as a means to
humiliate Isaias. It was never an effective mechanism to
enhance security or to keep the parties separate in a
peaceful manner. The proof came in 2007, when Eritrea
eliminated the security zone, bringing Eritrean forces up to
the Ethiopian military positions. This indicated clearly
that the security zone was a useless measure and did not ease
tensions nor enhance efforts to avoid future conflict.



3. (C) Isaias has become vilified within his own country for
the hardships he has brought upon his people. Despite his
rogue actions supporting extremists in Somalia and
destabilizing Sudan, Isaias has calculated that the U.S. and
other countries would consider Isaias more of a headache than
a threat. Meles suggested the Isaias' calculations would be
shattered, if the U.S. and others imposed financial sanctions
on him and particularly cut off Isaias' funding from Qatar
and other countries and the important funding from the
Diaspora in the U.S. Isaias still imposes a mandatory 2
percent of salary tax on all Eritreans living overseas. Non
payment results in family members in Eritrea being denied
food ration cards. Meles suggested the U.S. could approach
Isaias privately to try to change his behavior, armed with
the threat of sanctions, and determine his response. Any
public statement or public threat would not work with Isaias.
These sanctions could be important to press Isaias on his
responsibilities to the international community, and to
indicate that his actions would not be tolerated.



4. (C) Meles said Ethiopia's military expenditures in 1998
accounted for 10 percent of GDP. It is now less than 1
percent of GDP which includes payment for the mobilization of
troops along the Eritrean border. Meles said he could
maintain such forces indefinitely. Isaias, however, is
expending a large amount of his GDP for Eritrea's military
posture. This constant military pressure along with
financial sanctions could be the effective pressure points on
Eritrea to compromise. Meles said that eventually Ethiopia
and Eritrea will need to normalize relations. This should be
the basis for the peaceful demarcation of the border. While
not stated in the Algiers Peace Accord, Meles said
normalization of relations must be a condition for
demarcation. Demarcation without the prospect of peace
negates the purpose of demarcation.

Sudan Challenges


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





5. (C) Meles has consistently stated that instability in
Sudan poses major threat to Ethiopia's security. Noting the
corruption within the Bashir regime, Meles said Sudan and
Ethiopia have an understanding that Ethiopia and Sudan will
not challenge each other nor interfere in each other's
internal stability. Meles noted, however, that Sudan could
deteriorate into internal conflict. One challenge is the
unity of SPLM. There can be no peace in Sudan without the
SPLM, and a divided SPLM will only contribute to greater
instability in Sudan. Meles commented that he did not
characterize the situation in Darfur as genocide, because
genocide depends on "intent." While Meles recognized the
massive human rights abuse in Darfur, he concluded that many
of the deaths in Darfur was from starvation. The far greater
genocide argument occurred in with the killings directed
against the south.

Comment


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





6. (C) Meles has consistently told us that Somalia under
Shabaab control poses a national security threat to Ethiopia;
however, the instability in the Sudan and the failure of the
CPA process would pose an even greater security threat to
Ethiopia. Ethiopia's leadership also recognizes that there
can be no permanent peace and security for Ethiopia without
final resolution of differences with Eritrea, since it is
Eritrea that is proving to be the regional spoiler in an
effort to stoke instability and undercut Ethiopian security.
End Comment.


YAMAMOTO