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Cablegate: Somalia: Egypt, Arab League On Contact Group,

VZCZCXRO7448
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0382/01 0571456
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261456Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8289
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO 0045

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000382

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA, AF/E (GAREY), IO/UNP (FITZGERALD)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL EAID PGOV KCRM UNSC EG SO
SUBJECT: SOMALIA: EGYPT, ARAB LEAGUE ON CONTACT GROUP,
ISLAMISTS VISIT, PIRACY

REF: A. SECSTATE 16168
B. SECSTATE 18101

Sensitive but unclassified, not for Internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: The Arab League and Egypt are supportive of
ref A proposal for restructuring the International Contact
Group on Somalia (ICG). However, the Arab League wants to
see better planning to make the group more effective, and
Egypt wants to ensure that there will be strong coordination
between the proposed sub-groups and the ICG plenary. Arab
League and Egyptian interlocutors say they encouraged Somali
Islamist leaders from the Alliance for the Reliberation of
Somalia (ARS) during their February 11 - 13 visit to Cairo to
begin direct talks now with the Somali Transitional Federal
Government (TFG), rather than first insisting on an Ethiopian
troop withdrawal. They assessed that ARS leaders would be
willing to talk directly to the TFG if it accepted in
principle a concrete plan for Ethiopian withdrawal, with
support from the international community. On countering
piracy in Somali waters per ref B demarche, Egypt supports
international efforts at the request of the TFG. End summary.

ICG reform
----------

2. (SBU) We delivered ref A demarche to Arab League African
Affairs director Samir Hosni on February 24 and Egyptian MFA
Cabinet Advisor for African Affairs Ahmed Abu Zeid on
February 26 jointly with Norweigian Embassy DCM Geir Sorenson
per instructions. Hosni offered to provide a more specific
response to the proposal to reform the International Contact
Group (ICG) on Somalia at a later date, but agreed that
reform is necessary to make the ICG more effective. In
particular, he criticized organization of the meetings,
saying that the U.S. and Norway as co-chairs need to plan
more specifically and consult members prior to meetings to
ensure that progress gets made on specific items. Currently,
he said, the Arab League is not even aware of which countries
will attend until the meeting actually happens, noting his
surprise that Ethiopia was invited to the most recent
meeting. Additionally, Hosni noted that the League plans to
operate in conjunction with the UN and AU regarding Somalia,
and that he sees those three organizations as the prime
international players on the Somalia crisis.

3. (SBU) Separately Abu Zeid said that Egypt has no objection
to the proposal to create cluster groups subordinate to the
ICG plenary. Egypt had requested through its embassy in
Washington to be part of the political cluster. Abu Zeid
thought that more clarification on the role of the cluster
groups was needed, stressing that mechanisms to ensure that
the plenary and proposed cluster groups all work together
toward the same goal are unclear. Additionally, the current
structure of the group was good in that it allowed the
members to address important issues directly at the top
level, and Abu Zeid worried that this capability would
disappear with the cluster proposal.

4. (SBU) Separately, Sorenson told us that Norway had also
suggested that the UN representative should chair the ICG,
and that there needs to be a better defined control mechanism
from the ICG plenary over the proposed cluster groups.

Somalia Islamists Visit Cairo
-----------------------------

5. (SBU) Both Hosni and Abu Zeid provided readouts on
meetings with Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS)
leaders February 11 - 13 in Cairo, including Sheikh Sharif
Sheikh Ahmad and Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan. Local press had
reported that the delegation led by Sheikh Sharif Ahmad was
visiting Egyptian officials and participating in a public
symposium, while Somali press also reported that they were to
meet "high ranking intelligence officials" (NFI). Hosni said
that he met with the ARS leaders to emphasize the need for
direct dialog between the ARS and the Transitional Federal
Government (TFG) in Somalia. He assessed the ARS is willing
to have "secret talks" with the TFG but not overt
discussions, insisting on a plan for Ethiopian withdrawal
from Somalia first. Hosni advocated pressing Ethiopia and
TFG President Youssef to talk to the ARS and propose a
withdrawal plan, in order to support the "moderate" ARS
versus the more "extremist" Shabaab Islamist group.

6. (SBU) Abu Zeid said that Egyptian interlocutors (NFI) also
emphasized the need for direct talks between the ARS and the
TFG, and that an Ethiopian withdrawal should be a point of

CAIRO 00000382 002 OF 002


discussion rather than a prerequisite to talks. Egypt
supports proposing an international community-endorsed plan
for Ethiopian withdrawal as a "road-map" to begin such
negotiations. Abu Zeid assessed that the ARS leaders would
be willing to consider direct talks with the TFG with such a
plan as a framework.

7. (SBU) Separately, Sorenson passed us a readout of a
meeting between the Nairobi-based Swedish, British, and
French ambassadors to Somalia with the ARS during their Cairo
visit. According to the readout, ARS leaders said that they
need an exit strategy for the Ethiopian troops to be
announced publicly before negotiating with the TFG. The
Europeans reportedly attempted to convince them of the
necessity of starting a dialogue between the sides, even
without an Ethiopian troop withdrawal, and assessed that the
ARS may be willing to negotiate with the TFG by "proxy" (NFI)
even before a published Ethiopian exit strategy.

Egypt Supports International Effort On Somali Piracy
--------------------------------------------- -------

8. (SBU) Asked about combating piracy off the Somali coast
per ref B demarche, Abu Zeid said that Egypt supports
international action on this issue as long as it is within
international law and at the request of the TFG.
RICCIARDONE

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