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Cablegate: Costa Rica Recognizes Palestinian "State"

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0129/01 0501551
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 191551Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9446
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN PRIORITY 0232
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT PRIORITY 0041
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 0014
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 0048
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0017
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0769

C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 000129

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA, WHA/CEN AND NEA/IPA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/14/2018
TAGS: CS KPAL PGOV PINR PREL IL
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA RECOGNIZES PALESTINIAN "STATE"

Classified By: Classified by ADCM David E. Henifin per 1.4(d)


1. (C) SUMMARY: Costa Rica recognized the "state" of
Palestine in an exchange of notes in New York on February 5.
The MFA quietly announced the move in San Jose hours later,
taking local diplomatic missions (including Post) by
surprise. The MFA,s public explanation stressed Costa
Rica,s and the Palestinians, shared commitment to the
"purposes and principles" of the UN Charter, and described
the recognition as part of the Arias administration,s
overall effort to broaden contacts with Arab nations.
Privately, MFA contacts insisted (somewhat defensively) that
Costa Rica had taken a "sovereign, independent" decision,
that President Arias had been personally involved, that the
intent was to push the Peace Process forward, and that the
decision reflected "more balanced policy" in the Middle East.
The Israeli Embassy has protested the move, and canceled
GOI-GOCR UNSC consultations/political dialogue planned for
February 26. In our view, the GOCR,s decision brings
little tangible benefit to either side (or the Peace
Process), but it is in keeping with Arias,s goal of
maintaining the broadest possible diplomatic relations. The
no-notice, no-consultation way this decision was announced is
also in keeping with the foreign policy decision making style
of this second Arias administration. END SUMMARY.

======================================
NO-NOTICE RECOGNITION ANNOUNCEMENT
======================================

2. (SBU) On February 5, GOCR Permrep Jorge Urbina exchanged
notes in New York with Palestinian representative Riyad
Mansour, formalizing Costa Rica,s recognition of the "state"
of Palestine. The MFA in San Jose issued a release eight
hours later confirming the news, which came as a complete
surprise to most local diplomatic missions (including Post).

3. (U) The MFA,s statement (emailed to WHA/CEN) and
companion media interviews by FonMin Bruno Stagno stressed
Costa Rica,s and the Palestinians, "common support and
commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of
the United Nations and the norms of international law." The
MFA statement continued that the recognition "deepens our
gradual normalization of diplomatic relations with the Arab
and Islamic world in general, as part of a foreign policy of
opening borders and mind, which reinforces Costa Rica,s
intelligent engagement with the world." The statement closed
with a list of the 16 nations or entities -- eight in the
Middle East -- with which the Arias administration had
established relations since 2006. These include Egypt,
Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, "Palestine," and
Yemen. The MFA also announced that the GOCR would establish
a "political consultation mechanism" with the Arab League.
The announcement attracted little media coverage (the MFA
seemed to play it down deliberately).

=====================================
MFA EXPLAINS, CLARIFIES (AND DEFENDS)
=====================================

4. (SBU) As soon we heard the news, we sought clarification.
MFA Director of Foreign Policy Christian Guillermet
confirmed that the GOCR had deliberately recognized the
"state" of Palestine, but he seemed uncomfortable saying any
more, adding that only Stagno or his COS, Antonio Alarcon,
could discuss the issue in detail.

5. (C) On the margins of a UNSC issue briefing to the
Diplomatic Corps on February 8 (during which Stagno said
nothing about Palestine), Guillermet further explained to us
privately that a) the GOCR had taken a "sovereign,
independent" decision to recognize the "state" of Palestine;
b) President Arias had been personally involved in the
decision; and c) the GOCR,s intent was to push the Middle
East Peace Process forward. When pressed, Guillermet said
the GOCR was willing to protect Israel,s interests as well,
but he maintained that the recognition of Palestine reflected
Costa Rica,s new, "more balanced policy" in the Middle East,
which contrasted with its "more one-sided" (i.e., more
strongly pro-Israel) approach in the past. Guillermet
offered no specifics as to how Palestinian recognition would
move the Peace Process forward, however. Somewhat defensive,
he insisted that Costa Rican recognition of Palestine was no
different from USG support for Kosovo independence.

================================
ISRAELIS SURPRISED (AND INCENSED)
================================

6. (C) On February 12, Israeli Ambassador Ehud Eitam
(protect) called on Charge and Pol/C to discuss the
Palestinian issue. (Eitam had alerted us to the recognition
on February 5, a few hours before the MFA statement was
released.) Still fuming, Eitam recounted how the GOI,s
permrep in New York suspected that the GOCR may have been
planning something when GOCR Permrep Jorge Urbina referred to
the "state of Palestine" in recent remarks. When Eitam
approached the MFA for clarification on February 4,
Guillermet dismissed the idea as an earlier proposal that had
not been followed up. When Stagno called Eitam the next day
to alert the GOI, it was clear to the Israeli that the
recognition decision had already been made. In response,
Eitam said the GOI immediately canceled the UNSC
consultations/political dialogue planned for February 26 in
San Jose. The Israeli Vice FonMin was to have lead that
delegation.

7. (C) When he protested to Stagno under instructions from
Jerusalem, Eitam heard an explanation similar to
Guillermet,s. The GOCR believed that recognition would help
the Peace Process, by among other things, now enabling Costa
Rica to press the newly-recognized Palestine to live up to
its international obligations. Tacitly acknowledging that
the announcement had stung Israel, Stagno promised Eitam that
this would be "the last surprise" in Costa Rican-Israeli
relations, although he added that San Jose and Jerusalem
would not always be in agreement on UNSC or UN issues.
(Eitam had just taken up his new post here in August 2006
when the GOCR announced that it was moving its embassy from
Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.) NOTE: True to Stagno's comments to
Eitam, the MFA did issue a statement on February 11
condemning the latest round of rocket attacks from the Gaza
Strip on the Sderot area. Although it received little media
attention, this is the first such statement we can recall
from during the Arias administration.

=========
COMMENT
=========

8. (C) The Israeli Ambassador theorizes that Costa Rica,s
puzzling recognition decision must have been a quid pro quo
for Palestinian support of Costa Rica,s UNSC election. This
may be true, but we can see little practical benefit for
either side. Stagno has already told the media that the MFA
lacks the funds to open an embassy in the Palestinian
territories. (In fact, the GOCR has only opened one embassy
-- in Beijing -- in the 16 countries/entities recognized
thus far by the Arias administration.) We suspect that the
Palestinians are similarly unable to open anything in San
Jose. The move thus remains mostly symbolic, but is in
keeping with President Oscar Arias,s goal of Costa Rica
maintaining diplomatic relations with the broadest possible
array of nations. The way this decision was announced is
also in keeping with the major foreign policy moves in this
second Arias administration. Like the 2006 embassy move
from Jerusalem and the 2007 recognition of China, Arias and
Stagno acted quickly, without coordinating broadly within the
MFA, with little/no public notice, and without truly
consulting all the interested parties in advance.
BRENNAN

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