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Cablegate: Egypt: Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit Discusses

VZCZCXRO0721
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHEG #0047/01 0131137
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131137Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7875
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000047

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV CVIS EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT: FOREIGN MINISTER ABOUL GHEIT DISCUSSES
AFRICA, PERCEPTIONS OF THE U.S. WITH CODEL JOHNSON

REF: 2006 CAIRO 3425

Sensitive but unclassified, not for Internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit
highlighted Egypt's "energetic" Africa policy in a January 6
meeting with the DCM and a CODEL led by Representative Eddie
Bernice Johnson (D-TX). Both Aboul Gheit and the CODEL
confirmed the importance of a good U.S.-Egypt bilateral
relationship. Aboul Gheit described the challenges to that
relationship as being an "agitated" U.S. policy since 9-11,
and mentioned visa restrictions as a particular problem for
the U.S. image in Egypt. End summary.

2. (SBU) Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit opened
his January 6 meeting with the DCM and a CODEL led by
Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) by thanking the
members for visiting Egypt as part of an African tour, as it
highlights that Egypt and North Africa are an integral part
of the African continent and not just the Arab world. CODEL
Johnson included Representative Johnson, Representative John
Boozman (R-AK), Representative Corrine Brown (D-FL),
Representative Jerry Costello (D-IL), Representative John
Duncan (R-TN), Representative Mary Fallin (R-OK),
Representative Tim Holden (D-PA), Representative Carolyn
Kirlpatrick (D-MI), Representative Laura Richardson (D-CA),
and Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-NY). Egypt was among
the first countries to participate in the African Union (AU)
and funds fifteen percent of its budget, Aboul Gheit said,
with North African countries together funding fully fifty
percent of the AU budget.

3. (SBU) Aboul Gheit went on to describe Egypt's "energetic"
African policy; Egypt operates 49 embassies and/or diplomatic
missions in Africa, second only to the U.S. and possibly
China. Over the past twenty years, Egypt has sent more than
seven thousand Egyptian dentists, professors, water resource
experts, and others to aid African countries under Egypt's
African Cooperation Fund, he said. Egypt has also
contributed to all UN and AU peace keeping efforts in Africa,
and most notably is sending 1300 - 1400 troops for Darfur
peace-keeping (reftel). Aboul Gheit noted that Al Azhar
University, the premier institution of Islamic learning which
is based in Cairo, works in African countries with
predominantly Muslim populations to educate African Muslims
about Islam.

4. (SBU) Representative Johnson confirmed that the CODEL's
visit to Egypt affirms the importance of good relations
between the U.S. and Egypt, and asked Aboul Gheit about the
U.S.-Egyptian bilateral relationship and anti-Americanism in
Egypt. Aboul Gheit described the U.S.-Egyptian bilateral
relationship as healthy and mutually beneficial, but said
that the Palestinian problem "affects our population" and
causes some Egyptians to see the U.S. in a negative light.
"America is appreciated," he said, and as an American in
Cairo "people will embrace you," but Egyptians are
nevertheless angry about U.S. policies. Aboul Gheit
attributed this attitude to an "agitated" U.S. policy since
9-11 and to a perception that the Bush administration has not
been active enough on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. He said
that even President Bush's new initiative for resolving the
Israeli-Palestinian problem is not enough unless "you show
respect, equality, tenderness, and the good nature of
America" to the world. For instance, Aboul Gheit praised
U.S. help to Muslims in Kosovo in the 1990s and contrasted it
with current policies, where "you attack villages in
Afghanistan and kill 50 children collaterally without
apologizing - you need to be more embracing."

5. (SBU) Aboul Gheit also seized on difficulties obtaining
visas to travel to the U.S. as a particular problem for the
U.S. image in Egypt. "You are losing the younger generation"
who previously would study at U.S. universities, but now do
not due to visa restrictions, he said. The CODEL
acknowledged issues with the U.S. visa system and noted that
even Switzerland, one of the most stable countries in the
world, faces visa problems. Asked if the situation has
improved over the last several years, MFA Deputy Assistant
Minister for American Affairs Mohamed Aboul Dahab responded
that it has, though Egyptians still face problems
particularly with quick-turn around issuances for emergencies.

6. (SBU) Asked about the Voice of America (VOA) and its role
in educating Egyptians about U.S. culture and values, Aboul
Gheit said that with satellite television, Egyptians would
rather get their news from an independent source, rather than
one known to be financed by the USG. Aboul Gheit said that
"we know more about you than you do about us," and that this
needs to change to further strengthen U.S.-Egyptian relations
and U.S.-Arab relations in general.

CAIRO 00000047 002 OF 002

7. (U) CODEL Johnson did not clear this message.
Ricciardone

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