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Cablegate: Argentine Fm Taiana Meets with Codel Engel

VZCZCXYZ0013
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #0226/01 0561513
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251513Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0298
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1052
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1237
RUEHPS/USOFFICE PRISTINA SR

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 000226

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL OREP EFIN KDEM PHUM PBTS KV IR VZ BL AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINE FM TAIANA MEETS WITH CODEL ENGEL

REF: BUENOS AIRES 0225

1. (SBU) Summary and introduction: Codel Engel enjoyed a
warm meeting with Argentine FM Taiana on February 21.
Meeting participants discussed Argentina's economic recovery
and political progress, the bilateral relationship, and
regional and world issues. The codel conveyed concern about
Iranian activities in neighboring Bolivia, and Taiana thanked
the USG for its support in thwarting Iranian efforts to block
Interpol capture notices for suspects in the 1994 AMIA
bombing. Rep. Engel urged the GOA to recognize Kosovo's
independence, and Taiana explained the GOA's reluctance to do
so. Taiana explained Argentina's support for Bolivian
President Morales, and Rep. Weller thanked Argentina for its
assistance in rebuilding Haiti. End summary.

2. (SBU) Argentine FM Taiana met in his office on February 21
with Rep. Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on
the Western Hemisphere, Rep. Jerry Weller, Rep. Gene Green,
Rep. Maurice Hinchey, and Rep. Virginia Foxx. The Ambassador
escorted the delegation. FM Taiana was accompanied by Hector
Timerman, the newly appointed Argentine Ambassador to the
United States, and members of his staff.

Shared Values and Other Similarities
------------------------------------

3. (SBU) FM Taiana welcomed the codel, noting the value he
places on parliamentary participation in foreign policy and
inter-parliamentary contact. He extolled the values shared
by Argentina and the United States, particularly our
commitment to democracy and human rights. Engel noted this
was not his first visit to Argentina, and that he considered
Argentina one of the most important countries in his area of
responsibility as Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western
Hemisphere. He said he was pleased to lead a bipartisan
delegation.

4. (SBU) Rep. Hinchey said he was looking to see bilateral
relations become more amicable and cooperative, and solicited
FM Taiana's suggestions for what the U.S. Congress could do
to build on the strengths of the relationship and areas of
mutual interest.

5. (SBU) Rep. Green said he was struck by similarities in the
histories of Argentina and the United States as immigrant
nations and melting pots. He said he was pleased to learn of
successful business ties and productive areas of cooperation
in law enforcement. Due to the importance of the energy
sector to his district in Texas, he said he was particularly
interested in this area.

6. (SBU) FM Taiana agreed that Argentina and the United
States are similar in many ways, including Argentina's
federal system of government, with a constitution modeled on
the U.S. constitution. He pointed out that Argentina's
development since 1930 had been frustrated by protracted
periods of instability, political violence, turmoil, and
economic decline. Today, however, after 25 years of
uninterrupted democracy -- the longest such period in
Argentine history -- the country was enjoying sustained
economic growth and political stability and would continue to
do so. He attributed the recent progress to the non-orthodox
policies which the Kirchners had pursued and said their
success in fostering greater social progress was key to their
strong political support.

Iranian Inroads in the Region
-----------------------------

7. (SBU) Rep. Weller noted his longstanding interest in
regional affairs as head of the Republican caucus on Latin
America. He welcomed news of the impending transfer to
Washington of newly-appointed Ambassador Hector Timerman
(present at this meeting). Weller noted that the codel had
just visited Ecuador and Bolivia, and in the latter country
there was concern about increased Iranaian activity,
including plas to launch an Iranian-sponsored television
station.

8. (SBU) Taiana said he was not aware that the Iranian
television station was so close to beginning operations. He
stated the GOA had "almost no relations with Iran," stemming
in large part from their dispute over Iran's lack of
cooperation in investigating the 1994 bombing of the AMIA
Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85
persons. Taiana said the GOA remained committed to pursuing
investigation (and prosecution of) Iran's role in this
incident and the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy that
killed 29 persons. He praised the interest and support of
recently deceased Rep. Tom Lantos in bringing the
perpetrators to justice, and he thanked the USG for its
discreet assistance in getting the Interpol General Assembly
to approve the issuance of capture notices for several
suspects indicted by the Argentine courts.

Sea Change in Latin America
---------------------------

9. (SBU) Rep. Foxx thanked FM Taiana for receiving the codel
and offering his insights. She said she greatly appreciated
the trip as a learning experience about South America, and
she emphasized her desire for stronger, more productive
relations. Taiana took this opportunity to observe that
Argentina's progress should be viewed in the context of
"groundbreaking shifts" in the region, including integration
efforts and confidence-building measures that had yielded
unprecedented levels of peace and security throughout Latin
America. He added that countries in the region still needed
to foster greater social inclusion internally to give greater
legitimacy to their democratic institutions.

Overcoming Tyranny
------------------

10. (SBU) Rep. Engel noted that he felt at home in Buenos
Aires, which reminded him of New York City in many ways, and
that he enjoyed reading Argentine history. He said many of
those serving today in the GOA were "heroes" for having stood
up to the tyranny of the 1976-83 military dictatorship,
citing Ambassador Timerman's exile as an example. He said
Americans appreciate the valiant struggle for freedom
undertaken by so many Argentines. Engel noted the United
States would soon have a new president, but in any case, he
planned to ensure that the U.S. Congress would make a
priority of U.S.-Argentine relations. Taiana thanked the
chairman and acknowledged that as a society, Argentina
learned the importance of democracy, human rights, and
respect for civil liberties -- particularly the importance of
tolerating different points of view in a civilized manner.

Venezuela
---------

11. (SBU) Rep. Engel offered that USG differences with Hugo
Chavez should not determine Argentina's ability to maintain a
relationship with the BRV. Argentina should not consider
good relations with Caracas and Washington as mutually
exclusive, as an "either/or proposition." Engel said nations
were multi-faceted, with different issues, needs, and
problems.

Kosovo
------

12. (SBU) Rep. Engel urged the GOA to consider early
recognition of Kosovo, which was in a unique situation. Due
to its special circumstances, Kosovar independence should not
be considered precedent-setting. Taiana said the Ambassador
had already raised the issue with him. He recalled that
Argentina was on the UN Security Council when it approved
Resolution 1244, and for the GOA the two key elements of
UNSCR 1244 were its insistence on territorial integrity and
its call on the two parties to reach an agreement. Kosovo
was not easy for Argentina. Taiana agreed that we should not
compare situations which are very different, but he insisted
that Argentina had "certain sensitivities" about
self-determination and therefore needed to tread very
carefully, because Argentina's claim on the
Malvinas/Falklands was based on "territorial integrity" and a
UN call for a negotiated settlement between Argentina and the
UK.

Debt Repayment
--------------

13. (SBU) Rep. Green praised Argentina's remarkable economic
recovery and asked whether, under such favorable conditions,
the GOA had a plan yet for debt repayment. Taiana
acknowledged that Argentina's debt-to-GDP ratio had fallen
greatly, that the GOA had paid off the IMF and met all other
IFI obligations. He said the GOA had stated its interest in
normalizing relations with the Paris Club. He noted the
codel would be meeting later that day with Economy Minister
Lousteau, and deferred to him on the details of Argentine
debt strategy.

Haiti and Bolivia
-----------------

14. (SBU) Rep. Weller thanked Argentina for its assistance in
rebuilding Haiti, and Taiana noted that Argentina's
contribution was part of a regional commitment shared with
eight other Latin American partners. The Haiti PKO was the
only UN mandate in the region, and it was impressive to see
how the region was assuming responsibility for building
"Haiti's institutions, state, economy, and peace."

15. (SBU) Taiana turned to Bolivia and urged support to keep
its first indigenous government from failure. He called for
goodwill and patience in keeping this experiment from going
under, noting that the Morales government marked an important
historical phase for democratic consolidation in Bolivia.
Failure in Bolivia would be a catastrophe for the region, he
warned. Engel noted the delegation had met with Bolivian
opposition leaders in Santa Cruz, who had voiced much concern
about Evo's attempts to suppress all dissent. Taiana
acknowledged the complexity of the situation, but argued that
the indigenous had a "compelling argument" when they pointed
out that after five centuries of racist, discriminatory
mistreatment, they deserved a turn in office. Taiana said he
had spoken extensively about Bolivia with A/S Shannon, who
"understands the situation there and the need for goodwill,
patience, and understanding." Argentina, for its part, would
continue to monitor the situation closely.

16. (U) Codel Engel cleared this message.

WAYNE

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