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Cablegate: Israel and Egypt Reportedly Agree On African

VZCZCXYZ0017
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTV #2052/01 1841154
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031154Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2086
INFO RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 2452
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 0373
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 0010
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0146
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 7306
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0555

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002052

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL UNHCR IS EG SU
SUBJECT: ISRAEL AND EGYPT REPORTEDLY AGREE ON AFRICAN

REFUGEE PLAN

REF: A. TEL AVIV 2015 B. CAIRO 199 C. TEL AVIV 1704

1. (SBU) Summary: GOI contacts report that Prime Minister
Olmert and Egyptian President Mubarak agreed to a plan for
dealing with African refugees during a June 25 summit in
Sharm-al-Sheik, Egypt. The proposal, presented by Olmert to
a GOI inter-agency meeting on July 1, reportedly includes an
Egyptian commitment to accept the return of all future
Sudanese asylum seekers who transited Egypt en route to
Israel -- with an Egyptian promise not to send them to an
uncertain fate in Sudan -- and an expectation that Israel
would grant refugee status to some of the Sudanese from
Darfur that are already in Israel. This agreement has not
been put on paper, and questions have already arisen as to
whether Mubarak indeed sees the issue as Olmert believes, and
even if he does, whether Mubarak will be able to implement
the agreement in the face of expected opposition within his
own government. Israel has not committed to the granting of
refugee status to Darfurians either, and is unlikely to do so
until implementation of the other parts of the agreement is
assured. UNHCR told Regional Refugee Coordinator that the
GOI did not present a comprehensive plan to deal with African
asylum seekers currently in Israel, and that the GOI, in
coordination with UNHCR, will likely ask resettlement
countries to accept many of them. A GOI contact asked that
the request (reftel C) she forwarded for the USG to approach
the GOE with a similar proposal be put on hold until the
prospects for this proposal become more clear. End Summary.

2. (SBU) During a June 25 summit in Sharm-al-Sheikh, Egypt,
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Egyptian President Mubarak
reportedly agreed to a plan for dealing with African asylum
seekers that enter Israel via Egypt. The proposal that
Olmert presented to a GOI inter-agency meeting at the PM's
office on July 1 includes a reported Egyptian commitment to
accept the return of all future asylum seekers who transited
Egypt en route to Israel. The IDF would apprehend the
"infiltrators" and immediately return them to Egypt via the
border crossings, with Egyptian assurances of their safety,
i.e. that Sudanese would not be sent back to Sudan. The
Egyptians reportedly also agreed to work to prevent future
"infiltrations" from Egypt to Israel. The plan was supposed
to take effect July 2.

3. (SBU) An MFA contact said that Israel is "looking to
grant" refugee status to the approximately 220 Sudanese from
Darfur already in Israel, but did not indicate that any
formal plan had been approved. The contact emphasized that
she was sharing this information in "complete
confidentiality" and that "if any of this leaks out in

SIPDIS
definite terms" it would "open the floodgates" (for future
asylum seekers.) In sum, the GOI has not committed to
granting refugee status to Darfurians, and is unlikely to do
so until implementation of the other parts of the agreement
is assured. Press reports sounded a similar note, saying
Olmert announced that he would agree to absorb a small number
of refugees from Darfur, but only after the GOI is assured
that future "infiltrations" will be prevented. The contact
said that Africans from countries with which Israel "has no
problem," either "infiltrators" or those asking for status,
will be treated "like always" and returned to their home
country.

4. (SBU) The proposed agreement has not been put on paper,
and questions have already arisen as to whether Mubarak
indeed sees the issue as Olmert believes, and even if he
does, whether Mubarak will be able to implement the agreement
in the face of expected opposition within his own government.
Our contact said that Israel wanted "not just assurances"
but to be "100% sure it will happen" and that she was not
optimistic this would be the case. MFA DDG for Multilateral
Affairs Roni Leshno Ya'ar told Pol/C July 2 that it remains
unclear whether the Egyptian bureaucracy will actually
implement the agreement, but that he thought it would become
clear in a matter of days. Ya'ar said that Egyptian Foreign
Minster Abul Gheit is opposed to the arrangement.

5. (SBU) Regional refugee coordinator (RRG) reported that
UNHCR Israel head Michael Bavly said the plan would return
most of the current African asylum seekers (and every future
asylum seeker) to Egypt. He speculated that, if the GOI-GOE
agreement is successfully implemented, the GOI would likely
grant prima facie refugee status to those it believes are
from Darfur. RRG noted that UNHCR-HQ's position on the plan
was unclear. Comment: Given the lack of a formal agreement


between Israel and Egypt, as well as the lack of a concrete
plan on the part of the GOI to provide legal status to
Darfurians, it is hard to say exactly what will happen. End
comment.

6. (SBU) The GOI contact asked that the request (reftel C)
she forwarded earlier for the USG to approach the GOE with a
similar proposal be put on hold until the prospects for this
proposal become more clear.

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