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Cablegate: Defmin Tantawi Says Egypt Ready to Meet Israel And

VZCZCXYZ0023
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #0255/01 0421525
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 111525Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8116
INFO RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 000255

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ELA AND PM
NSC FOR PASCUAL
SECDEF FOR OSD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2018
TAGS: PREL PTER MARR KPAL EG IS
SUBJECT: DEFMIN TANTAWI SAYS EGYPT READY TO MEET ISRAEL AND
PA ON GAZA

Classified By: DCM Stuart E. Jones for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Minister of Defense Tantawi told A/S Welch
February 7 that he would welcome a visit by Israeli Defense
Minister Barak or Amos Gilad to discuss moving forward with
solving the Gaza border crisis. Tantawi said that he
personally would not object to four-way talks involving the
PA, Egypt, Israel, and U.S., but that was a "political
decision" and would need final approval from others,
including EGIS Chief Omar Soliman and Foreign Minster Aboul
Gheit. End summary.

2. (C) NEA Assistant Secretary David Welch and Ambassador
Ricciardone met February 7 with Egyptian Minister of Defense
Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi. (Joining Tantawi were
Assistant Minister of Defense for Policy MG Ahmed Al Assar,
Assistant Minister of Defense for Armament MG Fouad Abdel
Halim, and Director of Military Intelligence MG Murad Mowafy.
OMC Chief MG Collings, L/FO Jonathan Schwartz, NSC Michael
Pascual, and ECPO Min-Couns William Stewart, notetaker,
joined A/S Welch and Ambassador Ricciardone.) Tantawi began
the hour-long meeting by reporting that the situation at
Rafah on the Gaza border was "calm." "But we must do
something to stop Hamas."

3. (C) A/S Welch said that the U.S. has three goals in Gaza,
which we hoped Egypt shared: denying Hamas any political
advantage, and ensuring that the victory clearly goes to the
PA and President Abbas; ensuring that the sovereignty and
security of Egypt and Israel are protected; and regulating
the border between Egypt and Gaza in a better way. While
Hamas' breaching of the border wall was not good, it
nevertheless presented an opportunity to move forward, and
for Egypt to strengthen its position on the border and
improve its image in the United States.

4. (C) Tantawi stressed that the Gaza problem did not belong
to Egypt alone -- it affects Israel and the United States,
too. Thus, the effort needed to address it should not come
only from Egypt, but from all those affected. You must try
to convince Israel to stop cutting off humanitarian supplies
to the Palestinians, Tantawi said. "Not all Gazans are
Hamas." The trouble is that when Israel tightens the siege
around Gaza, "thousands of innocent men, women, and children
suffer." As the pressure increases, the inevitable explosion
of people will be against Egypt, Tantawi said, not Israel,
because "the Palestinians know the Israelis will shoot them
but we won't." And this is exactly what happened when Hamas
breached the border wall and tens of thousands Palestinians
flooded into Egypt, creating chaos. "This is what Hamas
wants."

5. (C) A/S Welch asked Tantawi if he had been in
communication with the Israelis on this issue. We talk all
the time, Tantawi said, "but they do not always respond."
What we need, he continued, is not a military solution, since
we do not face an army on the other side of the border, but
civilians. Instead, the three of us -- the U.S., Israel, and
Egypt -- need to sit together and find a political solution.
If terrorists are able to exploit this situation, Tantawi
said, all of us will be losers.

6. (C) A/S Welch responded that there would be four losers --
including the Palestinians. Tantawi agreed. The Egyptians
have tried to get the PA and Hamas to work together to
address the Gaza border issue, but they have very deep
divisions. We are forced to deal with Hamas on the tactical
level, Tantawi said -- they are the ones on the other side of
the border. A/S Welch stressed that the United States
believes in dealing only with the PA; we do not believe in
dealing with Hamas. It is very important that Hamas not be
seen as the authority. All the political credit for solving
this crisis must go to Egypt, Israel, the U.S. and the PA --
not Hamas.

7. (C) A/S Welch stressed that it was important for Egypt,
Israel, and the PA to come out of the border crisis stronger,
and in a better position politically. For example, Egypt's
image in the U.S. before the border crisis had been one of
not doing enough to stop the tunneling and smuggling under
the border into Gaza. To change that image, Egypt should
strengthen the border wall and tighten up its border
controls. Tantawi noted that the U.S. also had border
problems; "Can you control your border with Mexico one
hundred percent?" It is important to understand that
smuggling is dangerous for Egypt, too, Tantawi said. The
real reason for Egypt's poor image in the U.S., Tantawi
continued, is that some people -- "you know who" -- spread
false stories that distort the true image of Egypt. The fact
is that we are doing our best. But we need help. We have
asked many times to increase our border guard forces. Now we
only have 750 men to guard a border that is 14 kilometers
with Gaza, 20 kilometers on the coast, and 20 kilometers
deep. But the Israelis will not allow us to increase our
border guard forces, and then they blame us for smuggling and
tunneling.

8. (C) Nonetheless, Israel respects you, A/S Welch stressed.
"And we respect Israel," Tantawi said. If we did not respect
each other, it would be a disaster. Dialogue with Israel is
the key to resolving these issues, A/S Welch offered. You
both have a common interest in maintaining security in the
region, an interest the U.S. shares. We all have a chance
now to change the situation for the better; we need
higher-level political dialogue now. A/S Welch said he
thought the Israelis would be willing to participate in a
four-way meeting, and offered to propose it to them. He
added that if Israeli DefMin Barak visits Egypt or sends
someone such as Amos Gilad, he should talk to Tantawi and
Director of Military Intelligence MG Mowafi. Tantawi agreed.
Ambassador Ricciardone clarified that Egypt would not object
to the PA attending such a meeting. That is a political
decision, Tantawi said, and you should discuss with EGIS
Chief Omar Soliman Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit first. A/S
Welch said he would do so, underscoring that it was important
for everyone that Hamas not be handed a victory.

9. (U) A/S Welch did not have the opportunity to clear this
cable.
RICCIARDONE

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