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Cablegate: Syria/Plo, Arab Summit, Peace Process, Iraq, Lebanon

VZCZCXYZ0031
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0299/01 0851244
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 261244Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3195
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 6662
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 4420
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 3036
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 7576
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 1642
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 4979
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 1187
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCPA//
INFO RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 7314

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000299

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

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/PLO, Arab Summit, Peace Process, Iraq, Lebanon
(3/26)

1. Summary: Papers on Mar. 26 reported the visit to Damascus by
Rouhi Fattouh, Special Envoy of Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the
Palestinian National Authority, and his meeting with VP Shara on
Mar. 25 conveying a message from President Abbas to President Asad
on the latest Palestinian developments. Talks dealt with the
forthcoming Arab summit in Riyadh and the need for the summit to
produce clear decisions to support the Palestinian national unity
government, to adopt a unified Arab position regarding lifting the
siege on Palestinians, and to reject the current Israeli maneuvers
which aim at undermining the Arab Peace Initiative. Fattouh also
met with FM Mouallem on Mar. 25.

On the issue of the Arab summit, papers reported FM Mouallem's
arrival in Riyadh on Mar. 25 to chair the Syrian delegation to the
preparatory ministerial meeting preceding the 19th Arab Summit
scheduled to begin in Riyadh on Mar. 28. A news report featured
Mouallem's statement upon arrival expressing hope that the summit
will result in resolutions that contribute to Arab solidarity. He
was quoted as saying, "Syrian-Saudi cooperation constitutes a strong
basis to make Arab joint action a success in facing the dangers and
threats to which the Arab nation is exposed."

Papers also reported that Saudi FM Saud al-Faisal reiterated
rejection of any amendments to the Arab peace initiative. In a
statement to reporters on
Mar. 25 following a tour at the media center in Riyadh along with
Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa, al-Faisal confirmed that
there can be no amendment or change of the Arab peace initiative
adopted in the Beirut summit in 2002.

Papers also reported that Osama el-Baz, advisor to Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak, reiterated on Mar. 25 the importance of
reviving the peace process in the Middle East, including the Syrian
track, and finding a comprehensive and just solution in the Middle
East. In a Symposium held at the Egyptian University Ein Shams,
el-Baz called for dealing with the Iraqi issue by boosting Arab
cooperation to restore stability and tackle security problems in
Iraq. He stressed the necessity of supporting the Palestinian
people in order to restore their legitimate rights.

End of summary.

2. Selected Headlines:

"President Asad receives a message from Chairman Abbas. Shara and
Fattouh discuss Israeli maneuvers to demolish the Arab peace
initiative" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 3/26)

"Agenda of the Arab summit reiterates commitment to the Arab peace
initiative. Mouallem: Syrian/Saudi cooperation is a strong factor
to make joint Arab action a success" (Government-owned Al-Ba'th,
3/26)

"Syrian optimism on the success of the Arab summit;
FM Saud al-Faisal: No amendment of the Arab peace initiative"
(Government-owned Tishreen, 3/26)

"The Lebanese opposition denounces the isolationist scheme to
establish a police-like state in Lebanon: No alternative to
escalation so long the governing team continues to be governed by
foreign powers" (Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 3/26)

"Egypt confirms persistence in support of the Arab initiative and
Rice rejects its amendment" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 3/26)

"Olmert preempts Rice's meeting with Abbas by stepping up criticism
of Abbas. Rice: The Arab initiative is an opportunity... We did
not request any amendments" (Government-owned Tishreen, 3/26)

"Ban Ki-moon promises to enforce UN's resolutions on the separation
wall and Israeli settlements" (Government-owned Al-Thawra, 3/26)

"Killing of five US soldiers in Baghdad. Senator Hagel: It is high
time to end US presence in Iraq" (Government-owned Tisheen, 3/26)

"Confrontation between Democrats and the Bush Administration enters

a advanced stage. Cheney: I will not allow an early withdrawal
from Iraq. Pelosi: Americans have lost confidence in their
administration" (Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 3/26)

3. Editorial Block Quotes:

--------------------------
"Rice Has Found the Knot!"

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

Maha Sultan, a columnist in government-owned Tishreen, wrote (3/26):
"What brings Rice to the region again and again, especially since
she does not accomplish the minimum, as is said...?

"Diplomacy and politics in general are the art of maneuvering and
feinting, rather than a direct style of confrontation. So it would
be wrong not to see that Rice returns every time with the blueprint
of a new maneuver to propose to the parties in the region. She gets
answers and reactions and returns to her country to study and
discuss, then comes back with a new approach that avoids the
shortcomings of the previous visit....

"Rice and her Administration in general have come to rely on a
policy of building on developments in order to adapt US plans and
divide them into phases....

"On every tour, Rice visits nearly the same countries with an agenda
containing multiple objectives and demands. But according to
Egypt's Foreign Minister, Ahmad Abu-al-Ghayt, the new tour has a
single item on the agenda, namely an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.
It should be noted however that the developments in the region,
especially the upcoming Arab summit, assume there are many
topics--unless they have been agreed upon on earlier tours.

"The settlement topic is not new to Rice's agenda. What is new is
the report by the Washington Post that Rice will adopt a new
diplomatic formula to implement it on the basis of combining what
the media dub as the Arab Quartet (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and
the United Arab Emirates) with Israel in order to circumvent the
HAMAS knot (to which is currently added the knot of the Palestinian
national unity government). This is the knot she runs into every
time, according to Rice's own admission some days ago before the US
House of Representatives. So, according to the newspaper, Rice has
finally discovered the knot. But with what saw is she trying to cut
it, assuming that this assumption is correct?

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

"Season of Confessions"

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

Ali Qasim, a commentator in government-owned Al-Thawrah, wrote
(3/26): "Former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton's
confessions regarding the US position during the recent Israeli war
on Lebanon show the direct American responsibility for that
aggression and Lebanon's right to take legal action against the
United States for the destruction that befell Lebanon and the
victims who fell in that aggression....

"The responsibility is not only ethical and political, but also
legal and requires serious follow-up....

"Lebanon's experience showed a new job for Israel.... In the past
the American role was to help Israel realize its objectives. Now
the situation is different: Israel has become a tool to implement
American objectives through the use of its aggression...."

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

"Bush's Veto against the US Will as Well"

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

Muhyi-al-Din al-Muhammad, a commentator in government-owned
Tishreen, wrote (3/26): "President Bush, through his threat to veto
the House of Representatives resolution on Iraq, took off his last
democratic mask....

"President Bush fully realizes that nothing can change in Iraq in
favor of his mad war. There can be nothing other than an increase
in the losses of the American Army, further immersion in the mud of
chaos and the pools of blood, and more hatred toward his
administration. Yet he insists on continuing with the mistakes and
trading in achievements that were not and will not be attained in
Iraq because the peoples of the world, who won liberation from
direct colonialism at the end of the first half and the beginning of
the second half of the 20th century, and who paid a dear price to
achieve independence, will not accept occupation once again in the
21st century...."

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

"The New Palestinian Government's Wager"

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

Adnan Ali, a commentator in government-owned Al-Thawrah, wrote
(3/26): "The way Israel dealt with the new Palestinian government
did not come as a surprise because Israel has always wanted to
tighten its siege on the people and government in Palestine as part
of its permanent strategy to weaken Palestinians and reduce -- and
if possible totally undermine -- their national ambitions. But what
was surprising was the position of the US Administration, which
announced that it will deal with only one minister in the new
government, although Israel itself is saying that it will deal with
part of the Palestinian Authority....

"US President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert are unable to
take any steps to activate the peace process in the region on any of
the negotiating tracks between the Arabs and Israel.... Olmert is
haunted by the failure in Lebanon and by domestic scandals, while
Bush is up to his ears in the Iraqi crisis....

"Palestinians must wager on enhancing their national unity and must
win over the world community, which has started to react positively
to the Palestinian position.... The Arab summit must make an
unambiguous decision to break the siege on Palestinians, as has been
done by Norway, which has taken a courageous decision in that regard
without permission from anybody."

Corbin

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