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Cablegate: Anti-Cuban Embargo Resolution Passes Serbia's Parliament

VZCZCXRO1900
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHBW #1529/01 3122059
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 082059Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY BELGRADE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1750
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BELGRADE 001529

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV UN CU SR
SUBJECT: ANTI-CUBAN EMBARGO RESOLUTION PASSES SERBIA'S PARLIAMENT

Summary
-------

1. (U) The Serbian Parliament overwhelmingly approved a declaration
condemning sanctions against Cuba, in principle. The text of the
declaration reflects the vigorous debate between the democratic and
radical MPs that resulted in only one explicit mention of the United
States. While Serbia has voted before in the UN against USG Cuba
sanctions policy, this is the first time that parliament has adopted
a position on the matter. Recent trade and travel between Cuba and
Serbia suggest a deepening relationship. Serbia's own experience on
the wrong side of sanctions explains the nearly unanimous support
for this declaration, but the declaration may be nothing more than a
cheap shot at the USG in the midst of Kosovo commotion. End
Summary.

Declaration Condemns Sanctions, in Principle
--------------------------------------------

2. (U) Serbia's Parliament on November 5 adopted a declaration "on
the Necessity of Ending the Sanctions and Isolation of the Republic
of Cuba." The Radical-sponsored declaration won 209 of 250 votes,
with most of the remaining members of parliament absent or
abstaining. Approximately 10 MPs from the Liberal Democratic Party
(LDP) and the League of Vojvodina Social Democrats (LSV) opposed the
declaration (an exact count of nays was not available).

3. (U) The text declares Serbia's solidarity with the people of
Cuba "who have been living for decades in conditions established by
economic blockade and isolation" and opposes any policy that
"imposes force, sanctions, or isolation." The text explicitly
affirms Serbia's support of the UN General Assembly (UNGA)
resolution against the U.S. embargo of Cuba, but otherwise does not
mention the United States. The full text of the declaration appears
in paragraph 9.

A Matter of Principle or Spite?
-------------------------------

4. (U) The Radical Party (SRS) introduced the declaration, which
parliament nearly unanimously accepted for consideration on October
1. Only LDP MPs objected to putting the item on the legislative
agenda. The Radicals' sharply-worded text had accused the United
States of leading an economic war against Cuba, which amounted to a
genocidal crime and which had hindered the social, economic,
political, and democratic development of Cuban society. The LDP
reportedly attempted, unsuccessfully, to insert language condemning
the government of Cuba for undemocratic practices. While supporting
in principle the UNGA resolution, LDP questioned why the parliament
should, for the first time, adopt its own declaration. LDP MPs
accused the SRS of introducing the declaration on orders from Russia
and Cuba, in retaliation against the United States because of
Kosovo. SRS accused LDP of acting under orders of the U.S. Embassy.


5. (U) The ruling coalition secured the wording of the final text,
in large part thanks to Democratic Party (DS) and G-17 MPs who
wanted to focus only on condemning sanctions. Speaker of
Parliament, Oliver Dulic of DS, had previously told poloff that DS
would oppose the declaration if the party was unsuccessful in
removing the criticism of the United States.

Closer Relations with Cuba?
---------------------------

6. (U) Other recent activity signals development of Serbia's ties to
Cuba. Serbia's Minister of Agriculture, Slobodan Milosavljevic
(DS), announced in Belgrade on November 5 an agreement to export $50
million of agricultural products to Cuba as part of a plan to
develop the countries' economic cooperation. Milosavljevic had
recently returned from a trip to Cuba, with other officials and
Serbian executives, for the second meeting of the Non-Aligned
Business Forum, November 2 and 3. Current imports to Serbia from
Cuba consist of approximately $200,000 of cigars, and Serbia's
exports to Cuba are negligible.

7. (U) Cuba has apparently captured the interest of
parliamentarians. Approximately 11% (29 of 250) of Serbian
parliamentarians applied for inclusion in the nascent Cuba
Friendship Group, putting this group only second to the Russian
Friendship Group in popularity. (The United States pulled 25
applicants.)

Declaration Text
----------------------

8. (U) Following in unofficial translation of the Declaration
text:

Begin Text: Declaration of the National Assembly of the Republic Of
Serbia on Necessity of Ending Sanctions and Isolation of the
Republic of Cuba:

BELGRADE 00001529 002 OF 002

Proceeding from the fact that the economic sanctions are affecting
the population and leaving permanent devastating consequences to the
economy, social situation, and health of the citizens of the
countries exposed to international sanctions;

Acknowledging the internationally recognized principles of
tolerance, cooperation, peaceful resolution of problems without
pressure and through dialogue and mutual consideration;

Having regard to the fact that Serbia itself has also suffered
economic sanctions imposed by the international community:

-- The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia expresses its
full solidarity with the people of the Republic of Cuba who have
been living for several decades in conditions set by economic
blockade and isolation.

-- The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia opposes any
application of the policy of force, sanctions, and isolation to
countries, seeing that it consequently always leads to the suffering
of the population.

-- The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia supports the
efforts of the Republic of Cuba aimed at lifting of the blockade and
isolation and establishing full cooperation with the world.

-- The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia fully supports
the Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on necessity
of ending the economic, commercial, and financial embargo imposed by
the United States of America against Cuba.

End Text of Declaration.

Comment
-------

9. (SBU) The Radical-led declaration represents the considerable
political strength the party still enjoys in Serbia. As
right-minded Democratic Party and even Democratic Party of Serbia
officials assure embassy officials that Serbia wants to move quickly
toward European integration, the unproductive and overbearing acts
of the parliament portray Serbs more as unreconstructed
Cominformists. The waste of time spent on a resolution meaningless
to the Serb public agenda also shows the Radicals' intent to use
their parliamentary superiority to hijack the significant domestic
agenda for political posturing. The parliament remains mostly an
unformed institution in need of serious reform. The lack of ability
of rational-minded parliamentarians to prevent another "crazy Serb"
act also represents the serious work the serious parties must do to
build their electoral constituencies and educate the public. End
Comment.

MUNTER

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