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Cablegate: Syria/Uk, Arab Summit, Rice/Ki-Moon, Iraq (3/27)

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0304/01 0861346
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 271346Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3211
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 6678
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 4429
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 3042
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 7579
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 1645
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 4982
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 1190
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCPA//
INFO RUEHNC/AMEMBASSY NICOSIA 7317

UNCLAS DAMASCUS 000304

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/UK, Arab Summit, Rice/Ki-Moon, Iraq (3/27)

1. Summary: Syrian papers on Mar. 27 reported President Asad's
meeting on Mar. 26 with a delegation representing the British House
of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee headed by Deputy Chairman of
the committee, John Stanley. Talks focused on regional and
international developments and the political situations in Iraq, the
occupied territories and Lebanon. President Asad reviewed Syria's
positions regarding current events in the region, confirming Syria's
aim to cement security, stability and a just and comprehensive peace
in the Middle East. The President emphasized the rights of
countries to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The delegation was
also received by VP Shara on Mar. 26. Talks focused on the
difficult situation in Iraq, and on repercussions resulting from
occupation and the intensive displacement of people in and outside
Iraq. Members of the delegation raised a number of questions on
ways to deal with this situation and on Syria's constructive role
in restoring stability in Iraq.

On the Riyadh summit, papers featured a statement by FM Mouallem on
Mar. 26 that Arab Foreign Ministers in their preparatory meeting
discussed a number of issues, headed by the Palestinian issue, the
Arab-Israeli conflict, ways of activating the peace process,
combating terrorism, and clearing the region of WMD. Regarding US
sanctions on Syria, the Minister said "there was an Arab consensus
on rejecting the US stance, asserting the need to lift sanctions on
Syria." He described talks among the Arab FMs as very "positive and
held within a spirit of Arab solidarity."

Papers also reported that Saudi FM Prince Saud
al-Faisal said on Mar. 26 that "Arab Foreign Ministers discussed the
political developments in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia and
Darfur, in addition to other important issues related to economic,
cultural, educational and social fields." In a joint press
conference held with Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa
following the ministerial meeting, Prince al-Faisal added that the
ministers reviewed and prepared draft resolutions to be discussed at
the 19th Arab Summit. "The nature of the situation in the Arab
arena is very critical and delicate and requires a unified stance on
the official and popular levels to promote joint Arab action," he
added. On Lebanon, Prince al-Faisal expressed hope that the
Lebanese will not carry their differences to the Arab summit, but
"work to solve their problems by themselves free from any foreign
interference that may harm the interests of the homeland." The
Saudi Minister called for freeing the Middle East from WDM while
maintaining the right of each country to possess nuclear energy for
peaceful purposes.

End of summary.

2. Selected Headlines:

"President Asad stresses Syria's keenness for security and stability
in the region to a delegation representing the British House of
Commons Foreign Affairs Committee" (Government-owned Tishreen, 3/27)


"Arab Leaders arrive successively in Riyadh today.
Arab Foreign Ministers have prepared draft resolutions for the
agenda of the 19th Arab Summit, to be passed to Arab leaders for
discussion. FM Mouallem: There is an Arab consensus on rejecting
US sanctions on Syria" (Government-owned Tishreen, 3/27)

"Mouallem: No dispute between Syria and Saudi Arabia over Iran;
the Lebanese issue was not discussed" (Independent Al-Watan, 3/27)

"UN SecGen Ki-Moon and Secretary Rice endeavor to arrange for a
meeting that joins Israel, the Palestinian Authority and moderate
Arab states. Olmert: I will not hesitate to attend if I get a
visa" (Government-owned Al-Ba'th, 3/27)

"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claims rapprochement with Arabs
and resumes his contact with President of the Palestinian Authority
Mahmoud Abbas" (Government-owned Tishreen, 3/27)

"A missile attack shakes the US Embassy in Baghdad. Khalilzad speaks
of meetings with armed groups" (Government-owned Tishreen, 3/27)

"Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the
Middle East and North Africa warns against the increasing influx of
Iraqi refugees into Syria and Jordan" (Government-owned Al-Thawra,
3/27)

3. Editorial Block Quotes:

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

"The Riyadh Summit, Any Message?"

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

Sa'dalah Barakat, a commentator in government-owned Al-Ba'th, wrote
(3/27): "Syria has intensified diplomatic efforts to render the
Arab summit successful at this stage where the Arab nation is facing
new dangers and challenges, especially in Iraq, Lebanon, and the
Palestinian territories....

"A few years ago the convening of the Arab summit was an end in and
of itself. But this is not acceptable today. The Arab people in
all the Arab countries, as well as the friends of the Arabs --
peoples, governments, countries, and organizations -- want the Arab
summit to take a position to curb the schemes of sedition and
fragmentation and plans of hegemony, isolation, and usurpation of
national and pan-Arab sovereignty....

"Will the Riyadh summit address a clear message to the engineers of
those schemes to deter them from pursuing their objectives, which
are registered with the neoconservatives but bear an Israeli
certificate of origin?"

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

"The Summit and Causes of the Umma"

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

Muhammad Khair al-Jammali, a commentator in government-owned
Al-Thawrah, wrote (3/27): "The Arab summit needs to take clear,
transparent, and sound positions toward a host of pan-Arab issues to
prove that the Arab nation is able to effectively address its issues
and defend its interests free from foreign dictates.... The summit
must link a solution to the Iraqi problem to the removal of the
occupation....

"What helps Arabs take such a position and announce it openly is the
pressure that Americans and the world public are applying to end
this occupation within a timetable that does not exceed one
year....

"The siege on the Palestinian people is another issue on which the
Arab summit needs to take a clear and frank position....

"There is no time for hesitation, waiting, or postponement of brave
and courageous positions. There is an opportunity to declare such
positions at the Riyadh summit. Nothing will prove the success of
this summit other than talking with one language about all these
issues and working to resolve them with a unified and inclusive
vision...."

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

"Diplomacy of Confusion"

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

Omar Jaftali, an editorialist in government-owned Tishreen,
commented (3/27): "What Condoleezza Rice said at the beginning of
her tour of the region was no more than an attempt to 'soften'
feelings and absorb the shock created by the prevailing Arab
inclination on the eve of the summit that there be no amendment of
the Arab peace initiative and that there is no reason for such an
amendment while Israeli terrorist practices continue....

"What is interesting is that Rice's visit to the region has
coincided with the visit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon....
"It seems that Mrs. Rice wants to show 'temporary' sympathy with
Palestinians, as a message from the US Administration to Ki-moon
that the question is generally the subject of US concern and that he
need not bother himself much about it. Thus, it is possible to
explain the new US stand on dealing with the Arab peace initiative,
which has been and still is rejected by the United States, and which
the Bush administration has not taken seriously since its launching
in the 2002 Beirut Summit. This administration knows also that
Israel rejects it and that the United States colluded with Israel to
circumvent the Arab initiative by inventing the so-called Roadmap as
an alternate settlement process, which, in turn, was subjected to
the well-known procrastinations, which created the right
circumstances for Israel to violate rights and territory whenever it
wanted.

"What is the significance of the statements made by Rice about the
importance of the Arab peace initiative? The clear answer given by
Rice herself, that 'there are US solutions,' might express the real
prevaricating US stand.... Why this US 'positivism' now and not
several years ago? Is it not the US intention to confuse the Arab
summit amid the firm Arab conviction that Israel is not ready for
peace?"

Corbin

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