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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09PARIS1189 2009-08-31 12:40:00 SECRET Embassy Paris
Cable title:  

FRENCH MFA VIEWS ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Tags:   PGOV PREL FR 
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1. (C) Summary. France sees Syria as a conduit for passing
messages to the obstinate regime in Tehran and it believes
that Syria is the only country Iran trusts, according to
French MFA Middle East DAS Ludovic Pouille. Through its
rapprochement, Pouille explained August 20, the Government of
France (GOF) hopes to pry Syria away from Iran and help bring
Damascus back to a closer relationship with the rest of the
Arab world. The GOF also sees Syria as playing a
constructive role in Lebanon, Pouille claimed, and he
cautioned the USG and European Union (EU) not to make
negative statements about March 8 that could be twisted and
used against March 14. More broadly, Pouille said that
France is the only EU member actively pursuing peace in the
Middle East, and it would like the EU to demand additional
steps from the Palestinians. Pouille indicated that the GOF
will continue to push its plans for a Middle East peace
summit and for additional high-level meetings with the USG.
Pouille was quick to point out the GOF's activist posture in
the Middle East and portrayed France as a leader in solving
the region's problems. End Summary.

SYRIA: SARKOZY'S PLAN


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2. (S) Pouille said the GOF sees Syria as an important
regional player that can help pass messages from France and
other countries to Iran that they could not otherwise
deliver. He felt Syria had the distinction of being the only
country that Iran trusted. He reported that Syria had played
an important role in the release of French citizen Clotilda
Reiss from prison in Iran, but added that the lobbying
efforts for her release from other countries were also
helpful (reftel). Pouille said "Sarkozy's Plan" for Syrian
rapprochement was to 1) distance Syria from Iran to help
reintegrate it into more normal relations with the rest of
the Arab world, and 2) to use Syria to pass messages to Iran.
Pouille felt Iran had the upper hand in its relationship
with Syria, but Syrian President Assad was trying to change
this, as evidenced by his reaching out to Saudi Arabia. The
GOF wants to reward and encourage this behavior by Syria.
France does not want to threaten Al Assad in any way because
it does not want to see a militant regime replace him,
Pouille explained.

LEBANON


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





3. (C) The GOF is very disappointed in Michel Aoun's
obstructionist behavior, and Pouille referred to him three
times as a "puppet of Hizbollah." Still, he said the GOF is
largely staying out of the political impasse in Lebanon,
which he described as "worrying, but not a crisis." Later,
Pouille added that France would continue to send messages to
key Lebanese parties through Syria, Turkey and other
countries. However, he added that he doubted Lebanon could
form a government before the end of Ramadan and if President
Sleiman goes to the United Nations General Assembly without a
government in place, the country will be a in very weak
position. Pouille warned the USG and EU against making
negative comments about March 8 because it could strengthen
the party by being twisted to accuse March 14 of being a
puppet of the west. He said France seeks to keep the
situation stable in Lebanon and discourage any foreign or
regional influence there -- especially from Iran because the
nuclear issue was set to escalate again. Pouille added that
Syria has been helpful with Lebanon and the Syrians told the
GOF they were comfortable with Saad Hariri as Prime Minister.
He added that Syria trusts Sleiman and the Syrians are "not
uneasy" with the current political situation in Lebanon.

PEACE PROCESS


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4. (C) Pouille described France as the only EU member
actively pursuing peace in the Middle East and he said the
Quartet Group is not effective because it only issues one
statement every three months. By contrast, the GOF wants to
add four new points the Quartet's established three goals: 1)
Hamas must accept a cease fire, 2) Palestinian Authority
President Abbas is the sole negotiator for the Palestinians,
3) any peace agreement must be voted on in a referendum, and
4) the Palestinians must have a unified security service.
Despite the fact that these points made greater demands on
Hamas than on Fatah, Pouille argued that Hamas has political
legitimacy. Upon questioning, he said the rest of the EU had
not (yet) concurred with the four new points. Pouille said
the Israeli-Palestinian peace process requires proper timing,

PARIS 00001189 002 OF 002


sequence and priorities to be successful and the GOF would
like ideas on this from the USG -- hopefully at the G-20
meeting in September. Regarding coordination, he said the
GOF would like to meet with Special Envoy George Mitchell in
Paris, have FM Kouchner visit Washington and have lower level
meetings as well. He said Egypt was the key to getting the
peace process reinvigorated and that later Syria could play
an important role. He also added that the U.S., France and
Egypt would need to be the drivers of the process, followed
by the Quartet, the Arab League and finally international
donors.
RIVKIN