Cablegate: Syria/Venezuela, Syria/Norway, Syria/Italy, Syria/Iraq,
DE RUEHDM #0213/01 0641313
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051313Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3066
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 6614
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 4381
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 2994
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 7548
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RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 1157
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INFO RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 7284
UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000213
DEPARTMENT FOR PA, NEA/ARN, INR/IC/CD, INR/R/MR:STHIBEAULT AND
JMCCARTER, VOA NEWS CA, NEA/PPD:CBOURGEOIS, AZAIBACK, AND
AFERNANDEZ, IIP/G/NEA-SA MDAVIDSON
WHITE HOUSE FOR NSC
CENTCOM FOR CCPA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KMDR PREL KPAO OPRC SY
SUBJECT: Syria/Venezuela, Syria/Norway, Syria/Italy, Syria/Iraq,
Syria/US, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia/Iran (3/5)
1. Summary: Syrian papers on March 5 reported the March 4 visit to
Damascus of Venezuelan FM Nicolas Maduro and his meeting with Deputy
FM Faisal Miqdad. The purpose of the visit was to boost bilateral
relations and carry out agreements signed during the visit of
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Damascus last August.
In a second meeting on March 4, Deputy FM Miqdad discussed with
Norwegian Foreign Ministry Advisor for Middle Eastern Affairs Sven
Seveie the latest developments in the region, particularly in the
Palestinian arena, and efforts to form a Palestinian national unity
government. During the meeting, Miqdad underlined the importance of
the international community backing efforts to form the national
unity government by lifting the siege on Palestinians. The
Norwegian official expressed his country's appreciation for the
efforts of Syria to achieve Palestinian national reconciliation and
ease the suffering of the Palestinian people.
On Syrian-Italian relations, papers reported Information Minister
Mohsen Bilal's meeting on March 4 with an Italian media delegation
headed by Laura Boldrini, Senior Regional Public Information Officer
at the UN High Commission for Refugees in Rome. Bilal emphasized
that Syria is doing its best to help the Iraqi people restore
security and stability in order to realize a unified, free and
independent Iraq. Bilal said that what Syria has been offering
Iraqi refugees stems from its belief in its Arab role, and not from
a desire to please anybody. Minister Bilal reiterated the
importance of Euro-Mediterranean relations, particularly between
Syria and the EU, and the role that could be played by the EU to
extricate Iraq from its catastrophe. For their part, members of the
delegation expressed sympathy with the humanitarian situation of
Iraqi refugees in Syria, voicing appreciation for Syria's efforts to
help and ease their suffering.
Papers also reported the visit to Damascus by Iraqi Vice President
Tarek al-Hashemi scheduled for March 5. Mr. Hashemi will hold talks
with Syrian senior officials on the latest developments in the
region, particularly the situation in Iraq, and bilateral relations.
On Syrian/US relations, papers reported that Minister of Expatriates
Dr. Buthaina Sha'ban received on March 4 a delegation of US
intellectuals and businessmen headed by one Richard Miri. Sha'ban
confirmed to the delegation that Syria is doing its best to achieve
security and stability in the region in order to realize a just and
comprehensive peace in line with international resolutions. Dr.
Sha'ban criticized US policy in the region, saying that "It is based
on stirring up chaos in a manner that serves Israel's policy." She
indicated that "the Arab and American peoples are paying the price
for these policies and wars." For their part, members of the
delegation asserted the importance of their visit to listen directly
to the constructive viewpoints in Syria in order to convey them to
US public opinion. Mr. Miri said he hoped that dialogue with Syria
would continue in the interest of both sides and of security and
stability in the region.
End of summary.
2. Selected Headlines:
"The Arab League Council meeting in Cairo endorses agenda of the
Arab Summit and reiterates support for the Mecca Accord and the
reactivation of Iraqi reconciliation. It confirms Syria's right to
restoration of the occupied Golan and rejects US unilateral
sanctions imposed on Syria" (Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 3/5)
"Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad receives Nicolas Maduro,
Venezuelan Foreign Minister, and Sven Seveie, Norwegian Foreign
Ministry Advisor for Middle Eastern Affairs" (Government-owned
"Minister of Information Bilal to an Italian media delegation: What
Syria offers to Iraqi refugees is not for the purpose of satisfying
any other side" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 3/5)
"Minister of Expatriates Sha'ban to US intellectuals and
businessmen: US policy spreads chaos in the region to serve Israel"
(Government-owned Al-Thawra, 3/5)
"Iraqi Vice President al-Hashemi is due in Damascus today"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 3/5)
"Al-Maliki does not rule out that the Baghdad conference will be
basis for regional dialogues. Tehran expresses hope for the success
of the Baghdad Conference" (Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 3/5)
"An imminent reshuffle in the Iraqi government. Three US soldiers
killed in al-Anbar battles" (Government-owned Tishreen, 3/5)
"Israeli reinforcements along border with Lebanon. Lebanese national
powers warn the governing team not to seek power through aggression.
Parliament Speaker Berri sees an end for the Lebanese crisis"
(Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 3/5)
"The Arab League refuses to reconsider the Arab peace initiative.
Israelis arrive in the US to convince Washington to continue its
objection to the Palestinian government" (Independent Al-Wattan,
"Saudi-Iranian agreement to confront attempts that aim to partition
the Islamic world. Ahmadinejad: We realize the threats quite well"
(Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 3/5)
3. Editorial Block Quotes:
"An American Window"
Maha Sultan, a political editor in government-owned Tishreen, wrote
(3/5): "The US Administration has finally decided to stop its
intransigence and accept the calls upon it to open up diplomatically
and politically to Iran and Syria and sit with them at one table in
the Baghdad conference on 10 March, with the hope of containing the
Iraqi security nightmare that haunts Bush at home and abroad and in
his relations with the region and the world.
"But the various interpretations, whether positive or negative, do
not negate the high importance of the American step. All sensible
people in the world agree that this is absolutely a step in the
right direction, and that although it is coming late, it will have
its impact on the solution to the Iraqi crisis and the achievement
of security and stability for the Iraqi people.
"Whether the conference succeeds, achieves some success, or comes up
with nothing, its holding in and of itself opens a window in the
American wall not only with regard to Iraq but also with regard to
all the other issues of the region, especially since all the parties
in the region want and call for dialogue and express willingness to
make every possible effort to find solutions to the crises of the
region in cooperation with the United States. This would help the
United States rapidly improve its image in the region and the world
and thus achieve much better results than those achieved by its
experts who are assigned this job. This would be a gain for the
United States, just as it would be a gain for us....
"The optimism about this open American window does not remove the
pessimism to which we are accustomed in the region, as the talk is
about the Bush administration, the strongest supporter of Israel
among the American administrations. The president in the White
House is surrounded by his conservative advisers, who are strongly
loyal to Israel and who prevent him from seeing clearly, leaving him
to see only through Israeli eyes."
"Mosad's Claws between Lebanon and Iraq"
Sa'dallah Barakat, a columnist in government-owned Al-Ba'th,
commented (3/5): "There have been reports that a network working
for the Israeli Mosad, but under the name of a European country, was
unveiled in Lebanon....
"Israel's interference in the domestic affairs of other countries
and encroachment upon their sovereignty is nothing new. Also, it is
not new for the Israeli Mosad to disguise itself behind the
intelligence of other countries, because Israel is used to violating
sovereignty and disdaining its political friends and partners....
"We fear that the Lebanese governing team, which turns a blind eye
to such penetration, might be fooled by this exposed Israeli game
and believe, or try to make the Lebanese believe, that Israel is not
involved in this intelligence network....
"The aim of both Israel and the United States is to fragment Lebanon
and turn it into a hideout for conspiracies against Syria...."
Ahmad Dawwa, an editorialist in government-owned Al-Thawrah,
commented (3/5): "The United States is planning to obtain a
resolution accusing Hizbollah of using civilians as human shields
during the war in the summer.
"The Bush administration knows well who destroyed bridges, blocked
roads, targeted buses, and threatened civilians with air raids. It
also knows that despite all this, more than one million Lebanese
left south Lebanon during the war. This proves that the American
accusation against the resistance does not at all reflect American
concern for Lebanese civilians. On the contrary, this is another
aggression against them because they embraced the resistance....
"The party responsible for the death of a large number of civilians
during the July war is the US Administration, which prevented the
international community from stopping the Israeli aggression during
its first days, in the hope that it would give birth to the 'new
"Israel is behind this new US effort but we must not ignore the role
of the Lebanese who jumped on the American bandwagon and who are
appealing night and day for American financial, military, and
political help to weaken the resistance, which, along with the other
nationalist forces, is awaiting their plans, which seek to turn
Lebanon into a backyard for Israel and a barricade for the failed
American plan in the region....
"This American position dashes hopes that the Bush administration
might return to its senses and undermines the credibility of any
American move regarding the other issues of the region."