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Cablegate: Algerian Leadership Tows Western Sahara Line With

VZCZCXRO3499
PP RUEHTRO
DE RUEHAS #0261/01 0631552
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 031552Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ALGIERS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5393
INFO RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 8851
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 2604
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 2226
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 7079
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 6275
RUEHNM/AMEMBASSY NIAMEY 1514
RUEHBP/AMEMBASSY BAMAKO 0463
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 3309
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 ALGIERS 000261

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/01/2023
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER KDEM AG
SUBJECT: ALGERIAN LEADERSHIP TOWS WESTERN SAHARA LINE WITH
A/S WELCH

REF: 07 ALGIERS 1069

Classified By: Ambassador Robert S. Ford; reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (S) SUMMARY: In February 26 and 27 meetings with NEA
Assistant Secretary C. David Welch, President Abdelaziz
Bouteflika and Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem emphasized
their familiar line on self-determination for Western Sahara,
as well as the need to find a way out that would allow
Algeria to "save face." Bouteflika said that relations with
Morocco were "brotherly" and that Western Sahara was the only
issue standing between them. Because the U.S. was unburdened
by the colonial past of France in the region, Bouteflika felt
it was ideally placed to serve as an informal referee in
resolving the dispute. Although he said he understood
Morocco felt threatened by the prospect of Western Saharan
independence, Bouteflika said that Morocco only had itself to
blame for the current situation, as it had proceeded in a
"clumsy" manner. With a more "elegant" touch, he said,
Morocco could have encouraged "a Puerto Rico" outcome, where
Sahrawis would happily choose to remain a part of Morocco in
some form. Welch underlined to the Algerian officials that
the U.S. sought a practical approach that could help the
current negotiations make progress, and the Moroccan autonomy
proposal offered such a possibility. END SUMMARY.

LOVE FOR BAKER PLAN DIES HARD
-----------------------------

2. (S) In response to A/S Welch's assertion that the Moroccan
plan served to move a frozen situation forward in the absence
of any alternative, Bouteflika asserted that the plan of
former Secretary of State James Baker was such an
alternative. He told A/S Welch that if another option was
necessary, "self-determination is that alternative" and the
Baker Plan should be discussed. A/S Welch replied that the
Baker plan is dead because it, too, failed to generate
progress. In Bouteflika's view, Baker failed because it was
not given a chance, and he blamed the U.S. for "not taking
its UN Security Council responsibilities seriously."
Bouteflika said the Moroccan plan offered less autonomy for
Western Sahara than an Algerian province currently enjoys
(reftel). He conceded that Algeria does have influence in
Western Sahara, but swore he would not use it to violate what
he sees as international law.

MOROCCAN "CLUMSINESS" TO BLAME
------------------------------

3. (S) Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem told A/S Welch on
February 26 that the stability of Morocco was in Algeria's
interest, and that attempting "to transform an anti-colonial
issue" was not the right path to take and was potentially
destabilizing to the region. Bouteflika, meanwhile, said
that he understood Morocco felt threatened by the prospect of
independence for Western Sahara, but stressed that the
Moroccans only had themselves to blame for current Sahrawi
determination. Bouteflika explained, saying that Morocco
could have easily used a more "elegant" approach to produce a
Western Sahara independence that could be controlled or
supervised. Instead, he said, "they want Anschluss like
Saddam Hussein with Kuwait." Bouteflika said he easily could
have imagined an outcome in which Western Sahara chose to
remain a part of Morocco after seeing the benefits of
Moroccan rule, in much the same way "as Puerto Rico chose to
remain part of the U.S." According to Bouteflika, Morocco
needs to offer the Polisario something, since "you cannot ask
concessions from people who have nothing in their pockets."
Had it not been for Morocco's "clumsy" approach, Bouteflika
said "they could have gotten what they wanted."

ON FRANCE AND U.S.
------------------

4. (S) Burdened by its colonial history in the Maghreb,
France is unable to play a constructive role in resolving the
Western Sahara dispute, according to Bouteflika. France "has
never really accepted Algerian independence," Bouteflika
said, and he claimed that France was trying to settle scores
with Algeria by interfering in Western Sahara in support of
Morocco. In contrast, Bouteflika said the U.S. was an ideal
counterweight to balance Morocco, as none of the parties

ALGIERS 00000261 002 OF 002


involved had any bone of contention with the U.S. Bouteflika
complained that the U.S. treats Algeria as "second class"
compared to the preferential treatment it gives to Tunisia
and Morocco. He said the U.S. should understand Algeria
better, as "you also paid a price for your independence."
Belkhadem told A/S Welch of Algeria's admiration for U.S.
positions on the independence of East Timor and Kosovo. "Why
don't you share the same views on Western Sahara?" asked
Belkhadem, "it leaves us wondering what our U.S. friends
want." With both Algerians, A/S Welch underlined that the
U.S. sought practical approaches that would advance the
Western Sahara negotiations forward. The Moroccan proposal,
he noted, offered a possibility. He urged the Algerians to
consider what they could do to help the current negotiations
make concrete progress.

COMMENT: NEED TO SAVE FACE
--------------------------

5. (S) Bouteflika repeated to A/S Welch several times the
need for Algeria to get itself out of the Western Sahara
dispute in a way that allowed it to "save face." He
reiterated that Algeria "has no claim" at stake, and spoke of
looking towards positive future relations with Morocco, as
"one day we will need to get beyond this." In a February 27
meeting with Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci, A/S Welch
invited the Algerian delegation to visit Washington
immediately following the next round of negotiations at
Manhasset, to continue the discussions.

6. (U) This cable has not been cleared by A/S Welch.
FORD

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