Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09BRUSSELS1581
2009-11-24 15:34:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Brussels
Cable title:  

AMBASSADOR GUTMAN'S NOVEMBER 9 MEETING WITH

Tags:  PREL EAID PGOV BE AF CG 
pdf how-to read a cable
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BRUSSELS 001581 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/WE, EUR/RPM, SCA/A AND AF/C

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2019
TAGS: PREL EAID PGOV BE AF CG
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR GUTMAN'S NOVEMBER 9 MEETING WITH
BELGIAN MINISTER FOR DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION CHARLES MICHEL

Classified By: Ambassador Howard Gutman, reason 1.4(b) and (d).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BRUSSELS 001581

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/WE, EUR/RPM, SCA/A AND AF/C

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2019
TAGS: PREL EAID PGOV BE AF CG
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR GUTMAN'S NOVEMBER 9 MEETING WITH
BELGIAN MINISTER FOR DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION CHARLES MICHEL

Classified By: Ambassador Howard Gutman, reason 1.4(b) and (d).


1. Summary: The Ambassador paid an initial courtesy call on
Charles Michel, Belgium's Minister for Development
Cooperation, on November 9. Michel's ministry creates policy
and oversees administration of a large part of Belgium's
official development assistance to Afghanistan, Central
Africa and other regions of interest to the USG. The meeting
was the first for the Embassy in more than a year with the
Minister. Michel expressed pleasure at the election of
President Obama and welcomed cooperation with the Embassy and
the USG in Washington. He agreed with the importance of
combating sexual violence in the Eastern Congo and noted that
elections in the region create opportunities to promote human
rights and development. He termed Belgium a "faithful
partner" of the U.S. on Afghanistan, calling on the U.S. to
ensure that the new Afghan government is more honest and
efficient, and expressed concern about the safety of
humanitarian aid workers there. Michel expressed hope that
the Obama administration can find a new path to peace in the
Middle East. The Ambassador urged Belgium to take on a
leadership role in Europe on issues such as Afghanistan,
Guantanamo, Central Africa and others. Michel ended the
meeting without a meaningful response to that idea, but said
he looks forward to continuing contact with the Ambassador.
End Summary.


2. (C) Michel said that while Belgium is a small country, it
is a comparatively wealthy one and as such can have an impact
on world economic development. For example, he said, Belgium
is playing a leading role in the EU, especially on Africa
assistance issues. Re-emphasizing the small size of Belgium,
he said that a multilateral approach is important. Michel
welcomed the election of President Obama and said that he has
high hopes for a better and more fruitful relationship with
the Obama administration. Belgium, he said, is impressed
with the President's achievements so far. Belgium is ready

to do its part in Afghanistan, in closing Guantanamo prison,
and in other areas, he concluded.


3. (C) Belgium has a special, historic relationship and
expertise in Central Africa, Michel said. A strong and
continuing conversation among the United States, Belgium, the
EU and the Central African countries themselves is necessary
for creating peace in the region. He added that he is
especially appreciative of Secretary Clinton's commitment to
fight sexual violence in the Eastern Congo and elsewhere.
Noting that the United States has a close relationship with
Rwanda and that Belgium has a good working relationship with
the Congo, he said that working together makes good sense.
One complicating factor in the region, he said, is that
elections are coming up soon in all four countries in the
region, the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Thus it is a
"fragile" but important time for promoting human rights and
development. He said he welcomes regular contact with the
U.S. Embassy in Brussels to share our analysis of the
situation there.


4. (C) Michel insisted that Belgium is a committed and
faithful partner of the U.S. in achieving security in
Afghanistan. Belgium's approach is coordinated among the
Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his
own Ministry of Development Cooperation. Although Belgium
has limited military and civilian resources, it wants to
continue cooperating with the United States. Michel said he
is interested to know more about the U.S. approach to
ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers in the country.
He is also concerned that even though more money is flowing
to Afghanistan, it is still hard to ensure that its benefits
reach the people who need it and achieves results that
Afghans can see. Michel will be waiting to see how the new
Afghan government establishes itself and how it performs.


5. (C) Michel said that the United States has a historic
role to play in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President
Obama has created the hope that a more effective path to
peace can be found. Michel is particularly concerned about
the settlements problem and its effect on relations between
the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority.


6. (C) The Ambassador told Michel that he is pleased to find
a number of areas where they share common views. He said

BRUSSELS 00001581 002 OF 002


that he too is concerned that there are 2300 rapes a month in
the Eastern Congo despite the presence of MONUC. Now that
Secretary Clinton has made the issue a priority, a new
approach is required, he said. He offered to transmit any
ideas that Belgium has to the State Department in Washington.
Similarly, he said, the current period is a historic time
and presents an opportunity for President Obama to get it
right and solve the problems in the Middle East. The
President's Cairo speech created a basis for a new approach,
he said.


7. (C) The Ambassador urged Michel to take advantage of
Belgium's strategic location in Europe and its hosting of the
European Union and show leadership on issues such as
Afghanistan, Guantanamo, Congo and others. He continued that
Europe was ahead of the United States in recognizing the need
to close the Guantanamo prison, and that the United States is
grateful to Belgium for taking the one detainee it has taken
so far. Unfortunately, he said, there is a possibility that
the President's deadline for closure of Guantanamo will not
be met because of the difficulties in finding suitable
destinations for the detainees. He suggested that Belgium
could, if it wished, call for European countries to work
together to close Guantanamo with a concerted effort.


8. (C) The Ambassador said that President Obama is now
studying the situation in Afghanistan and will soon announce
an agreed strategy. Already many coalition partners are
signaling their readiness to support an intensified effort
there, he said. The President recognizes that the problems
in Afghanistan cannot be solved by a military effort alone
and that the civilian development component is equally
important. Assistance must be appropriately targeted, he
said, and should help the Afghan government to gain the faith
of its people. He said that he sees Belgium at the head of
Europe, and looks forward to working with Michel and his
government on win-win strategies that will create a better
planet. Michel agreed with the Ambassador that they both
share many of the same views and concluded the meeting by
saying that he looks forward to continuing the contacts begun
at this meeting.


9. (C) The meeting with Michel was the first the Embassy has
been able to secure with the Development Minister, despite
the key role he plays in formulating policy on Belgium's
assistance to Afghanistan and Central Africa, two regions of
interest to the USG. Michel has the reputation of being very
closely associated with his father, Louis Michel, a
francophone politician, MR party leader, and a former Belgian
foreign minister and European Union Commissioner. Michel,
however, was self-confident, relaxed, friendly and adequately
briefed for the meeting on issues that the Ambassador could
be expected to raise. Although he seemed to understand and
to speak English well, he preferred to speak in French with
translation when speaking on substance. Although the
Ambassador laid out a vision of a Belgium that has the
capacity to take on a leadership role in Europe, Michel ended
the meeting without comment on that concept. Embassy is
hopeful that Michel will be more communicative with the
Embassy in the future so that a more active dialogue on
assistance, especially to Afghanistan, can be developed with
him as well as with his staff.

GUTMAN
.