wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09KUWAIT143 2009-02-18 16:04:00 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Kuwait
Cable title:  

SARKOZY'S VISIT TO KUWAIT: FRENCH REACH EXCEEDS

Tags:   PREL PGOV MASS KU IR IZ 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO5689
OO RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDIR RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV
DE RUEHKU #0143/01 0491604
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 181604Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY KUWAIT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2821
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1166
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
					S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 KUWAIT 000143 

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/18/2029
TAGS: PREL PGOV MASS KU IR IZ
SUBJECT: SARKOZY'S VISIT TO KUWAIT: FRENCH REACH EXCEEDS
ITS GRASP?

REF: PARIS 0239

Classified By: The Ambassador, reasons 1.4 (b) + (d)



1. (S) Summary: French President Sarkozy capped a four and
a half hour visit to Kuwait February 11 with wildly
optimistic statements to the press that France would provide
Kuwait with modern fighter aircraft (i.e. the thus-far poorly
selling Rafales), marine frigates and unspecified defense
systems. Sarkozy also declared publicly France's commitment
to Kuwait's security. Press reports noted the signing of two
cooperation agreements, one involving visa facilitation and
the other commercial relations. Immediately following
Sarkozy's departure, Ambassador was advised by Kuwait's
Ambassador to the US, Shaykh Salem Al Sabah, in town on
personal business and close to the PM, that Kuwait would
"never" purchase Rafales, although their "longstanding" naval
relationship with the French meant they might well purchase
additional frigates and other naval equipment and associated
weaponry (Note: to the deep consternation of the Italians
here, who have been trying without luck to sell two frigates
to the Kuwaitis for more than a year. End note.) Shaykh
Salem added that the "chemistry" between the French President
and the Amir had been "bad." Nonetheless, the Amir received
the Mayor of Paris the following day, who happened to be in
Kuwait "by chance." We understand the French Minister of
Defense, who accompanied Sarkozy, will return to Kuwait on
Monday, February 23. End summary.



2. (C) Arriving February 11 in a blinding sandstorm that --
combined with the French President's secretive and fluid
schedule, given his travel to Iraq -- nearly prompted the
Kuwaitis to cancel the visit within hours of his anticipated
arrival (according to the French ambassador here), Sarkozy,
accompanied by his ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defense and
Trade, had time for a 40 minute meeting with the Amir; a
"short" meeting with the Prime Minister, Shaykh Nasser
Mohamed Al Sabah; a press conference; and an hour and a half
long "state dinner," at which he appeared exhausted and
distracted, before jetting off again. Local press
characterized the visit as a "bilateral summit," highlighting
Sarkozy's public commitment to the defense of Kuwait's
security and his assertion that Kuwait was interested in
purchasing French Rafale fighter aircraft. Several media
commentators made positive reference to France's
participation in the 1991 liberation coalition.


3. (C) Briefing his EU, UK and US counterparts on February
18, French Ambassador to Kuwait Jean-Rene Gehan, was more
nuanced. Gehan explained that his President's visit to Oman,
Bahrain, Iraq and Kuwait was designed to highlight France's
commitment to reinforcing its presence in the region in line
with its "Defense White Book" designation of the Gulf as a
strategic "priority zone." Gehan said France sought to
reinforce the "operational cooperative" aspect of France's
1992 Defense Cooperation Agreement with Kuwait through the
sale of armaments such as the Rafale fighter. Gehan
underscored France's longstanding defense relationship with
Kuwait, manifest in regular exercises such as the "Pearl of
the West" joint maritime exercise planned for April. He
added that France's dependence on Kuwaiti oil meant a
significant trade deficit they wished to address, as well as
seeking to revitalize their long-standing Joint Commission on
nuclear energy. (Gehan acknowledged that this issue had been
raised with the Amir but "not in detail.") Gehan said he
could not discuss the"economic specifics" publicly but
allowed the two sides had reached "agreement on partnership
principles," and the need to identify compatible fields and
companies for cooperation; a Joint Economic Committee would
meet in June with the goal of improving France's current
trade with Kuwait of about $1.4b annually.


4. (C) Turning to regional issues, Gehan said, while Sarkozy
was enthusiastic about his visit to Iraq, the Amir had been
"pessimistic" on Iraq's stability following the US withdrawal
(reftel) but was short on specifics. Similarly, he expressed
pessimism on Iran's internal political situation, suggesting
that Khatami "had a chance" to beat Ahmadi-Nejad in the June
elections but also reporting that Khatami recently had been
attacked physically, beaten by someone opposed to his
candidacy (NFI), and that the Amir feared he might be
intimidated into withdrawing. On Gaza, the Amir expressed
gratitude for France's support for Egypt's leading role in
reconciling Palestinian factions. Gehan said the Amir had
alluded to Qatar's negative role only in general terms,
without naming Qatar. Contrary to press reports, Gehan said
Syria was not discussed.


5. (S) Comment: Kuwait has long pursued a policy of
multiple security partners, including the US, France, Russia

KUWAIT 00000143 002 OF 002


and China, generally giving priority to those nations who
participated in the 1991 liberation. While the French side
has been publicly enthusiastic about this visit and the
potential for Rafale fighter sales, privately they
acknowledge the glacial pace at which decisions are taken
here and the inevitable parliamentary obstructionism,
especially when it comes to large price tags. Our own
sources within the Ministry of Defense here expressed
surprise and consternation at the Rafale "announcement."
Most notably, the GOK leadership has remained publicly silent
on the matter, and all indicators are that the Amir listened
with polite receptivity, as is his wont, to a French sales
pitch that doubtless combined offers of protective presence
of one sort or another (perhaps specifically related to Iran,
given GOK concerns over what they perceive to be an overly
conciliatory US approach) without making any commitments. Of
course, given Kuwait's frustrations with our similarly
glacial FMS process, they never mind watching us squirm a bit
at the thought of competition. We will continue to track
these developments closely. End comment.

********************************************* *********
For more reporting from Embassy Kuwait, visit:
visit Kuwait's Classified Website at:

http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Kuwa it
********************************************* *********
JONES