Cablegate: Iraqi Refugees: Ambassador Foley Asks Arab League To


DE RUEHEG #0596/01 0861508
R 261508Z MAR 08






E.O. 12958: N/A

Sensitive but unclassified, not for Internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues James
Foley pressed Arab League Chief of Staff Hisham Youssef on March 24
for Arab League member states to pledge financial commitments for
Iraqi refugees at the March 29 Arab League Summit in Damascus. He
noted that refugees, particularly in Syria and Jordan, are facing
worsening conditions and could pose stability issues for the hosting
countries, Iraq itself and the entire region. Youssef replied that
Gulf countries, specifically Kuwait and the UAE, are ready to
provide funds, but are waiting for the Iraqi government to do so
first. Youssef noted Foley's suggestion of encouraging Gulf
countries to announce "matching" pledges - conditional on
commensurate pledges from the GOI - as a point of pressure. Youssef
reported that the Arab League has an initiative to provide funding
for education and health services for Iraqi refugees, and that
resettlement of 2000 Palestinians from Iraq to Sudan was delayed due
to Sudanese "exaggeration" of the costs involved. End summary.

Foley Presses For Arab Pledges

2. (SBU) Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugee Issues James Foley met
with Arab League Chief of Staff Hisham Youssef on March 24 to push
for Arab League member states pledges of financial support to Iraqi
refugees at the March 29 Arab League Summit in Damascus. Ambassador
Foley underscored that the almost two million refugees, mostly
middle class Iraqis currently in Syria and Jordan, are depleting
their savings and face a growing financial burden, causing social
problems such as prostitution and child labor. He noted that, if
unchecked, this trend could pose stability issues for host
countries, Iraq itself, and the entire region. Although the number
of refugees is not growing, as countries have closed their borders
to new cases, current refugees are in dire need of assistance.

3. (SBU) Foley pointed out that the U.S. has contributed USD 200
million out of the total of USD 900 million in UNHCR, ICRC and other
appeals for Iraqi refugees, but that except for USD 10 million from
the UAE, the Arab world has contributed very little. He said that
he would be seeking more funds from Gulf states and from Iraq itself
in his trip during the coming week. In particular, the GOI should
give more than the USD 25 million it has pledged for its neighbors
for refugee assistance. Foley noted that he would also be seeking
assistance from the EU and European governments, but that there is a
growing false perception among Europeans that Iraqi refugees' needs
are being adequately met.

Gulf Arabs Ready, But Waiting For Iraqi Leadership
--------------------------------------------- -----

4. (SBU) Youssef responded that Iraqi refugees will be discussed at
the Arab Summit but downplayed expectations. He said that Gulf Arab
states, in particular Kuwait and the UAE, are already poised to make
substantial contributions, but are waiting for the GOI to lead by
example. He was concerned that Foley planned to visit the Gulf
prior to Iraq in Foley's upcoming trip, as the Gulf countries were
not prepared to contribute without firm commitments from the GOI to
also do so. He also confirmed that the prevailing view among Arab
publics was that Iraqi refugees are not in need (given GoI
resources), particularly when compared to Palestinians and
Darfurians, and that requests for contributions often fell on deaf

5. (SBU) Foley countered that the USG would seek commitments from
the Gulf as leverage to obtain movement from the GOI. He suggested
the Arab League support the idea of "matching" pledges - where Gulf
or other member states would announce substantial pledges at the
Arab Summit conditional on commensurate pledges from Baghdad - to
put the GOI on the spot.

6. (SBU) Youssef was interested in the idea, but said that the GOI
"is not serious" about the refugee issue and noted that Iraqi Prime
Minister Maliki remains the key person to convince. Youssef
commented sympathetically that Maliki - who will not be attending
the Arab Summit - faces "bigger problems" at home. However, he said
that the Iraqi Foreign Minister had admitted that the previously
pledged USD 25 million for Iraq's neighbors was not enough - indeed
Jordan had refused its USD 8 million as not even worthwhile given
its "USD 2 billion" in expenditures on Iraqi refugees. The Foreign
Minister pledged on a separate occasion only an additional USD
25,000 from Iraqi MFA available funds, Youssef said, an insulting
offer greatly exceeded by one Saudi woman who privately pledged USD
100 thousand.

Arab League Working On Alleviating Social Ills
--------------------------------------------- -

7. (SBU) Youssef said that the Arab League is attempting to support
health care and education for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, and

Egypt, with funding particularly from Gulf states. The Syrians have
expressed growing alarm over increasing social ills among Iraqi
refugees, he explained, and are particularly keen as Iraqi refugees
have increased Syria's population by a full ten percent.

Delays in Resettling Palestinians from Iraq to Sudan
--------------------------------------------- -------

8. (SBU) Youssef reported a delay in resettling 2000 Palestinians
from Iraq to Sudan, as the Sudanese government had "exaggerated" the
costs, requiring the Arab League to make an independent assessment
of costs before moving forward. Youssef mentioned a separate effort
to resettle some additional Palestinians in Iraq to Yemen (NFI).
Foley also encouraged Youssef to press the Syrians to accept 300
Palestinians in the border camp of "Al Hul" into Syria.

9. (U) Ambassador Foley cleared this message.

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