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Cablegate: February 26-28 Bsec Senior Officials Meeting

Barbara J Miles 03/05/2008 08:48:23 AM From DB/Inbox: Barbara J Miles

Cable
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UNCLAS SENSITIVE ISTANBUL 00105

SIPDIS
CX:
ACTION: ECON
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DISSEMINATION: ECON /1
CHARGE: PROG

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RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/WHITEHOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000105

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/PGI AND EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECIN PREL TU
SUBJECT: FEBRUARY 26-28 BSEC SENIOR OFFICIALS MEETING

1. (SBU) Summary. Overt expressions of political discord
were notably absent from the February 26-28 meeting of the
Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation's (BSEC)
Committee of Senior Officials, despite on-going international
tension surrounding Kosovo's February 17 unilateral
declaration of independence. The Senior Officials meeting
was held in coordination with a meeting of the BSEC
Parliamentary Assembly that included the first-ever official
meeting between the Turkish and Greek speakers of parliament.
The BSEC senior officials reviewed the status of the Project
Development Fund, agreed to a formulation for Fast Track
cooperation and also discussed BSEC-EU cooperation, stability
and security in the Black Sea region. Detailed discussions
of BSEC's role in emergency response as well as strengthening
cooperation with the Black Sea Commission on environmental
protection were referred to the relevant working groups. End
Summary.

2. (SBU) All twelve BSEC member states as well as UNDP,
several observers (the U.S., Croatia, France, Poland, the
European Commission) and newly approved sectoral dialog
partner Hungary were represented at the February 26-28
meeting of the BSEC Committee of Senior Officials. Unlike
previous meetings where delegations exchanged sharp comments
related to political disputes in the region, comments
regarding Kosovo's February 17 unilateral declaration of
independence were notably absent. The Russian delegation
complained sharply about the timeliness of paper
distribution, a complaint echoed by the Greek delegation.

3. (SBU) The committee of senior officials meeting included a
joint session with the BSEC parliamentary assembly (PABSEC),
currently headed by Greek Parliamentary Speaker Dimitris
Sioufas. Sioufas and Turkish Speaker of Parliament Koksal
Toptan met February 26 in the first meeting ever between the
Greek and Turkish speakers. Sioufas reportedly invited
Toptan to attend the June 9-11 PABSEC assembly in Athens.
The Toptan-Sioufas meeting follows the January 23 visit of
Greek PM Costas Karamanlis to Turkey and received limited,
positive coverage in the Turkish press.

4. (SBU) The senior officials agreed to forward to the
Council of Ministers implementation modalities for "Fast
Track" cooperation. If approved this would permit sub-groups
consisting of at least six BSEC member states to cooperate on
projects that do not encompass all 12 BSEC members. The
senior officials also discussed in detail the Project
Development Fund (PDF) Three-Year review Assessment Report
but were unable to agree to require mandatory contributions
from members to the PDF, a failure secretariat staff warned
would threaten the sustainability of the PDF. The PDF is
essentially a small grants making organization currently
funded at approximately $55,000 via voluntary contributions
contribution from eight member states. The PDF offers small
grants for scientific/research projects, which staff have
attempted to link to income generating goals with limited
success. There is a consensus that "project orientation" is
desirable, but no agreement on how to achieve this goal.

5. (SBU) BSEC Secretary General Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos
recommended that BSEC work to engage the EU on three levels:
via the chairman in office, through the permanent secretariat
and at the working group level. The European Commission is
now a BSEC observer and has agreed to participate in Senior
Officials meetings as well as some, but not all working
groups. BSEC would like to see action on visas for truck
drivers and business travelers from the EU on an
institutional level, but the EU regards this as a bilateral
issue.

6. (SBU) The senior officials discussed BSEC's role in
strengthening security and stability in the Black Sea region
and concluded that progress had been made in recent years on
a number of "soft security" issues including trafficking in
persons, environmental protection and emergency response.
The International Center for Black Sea Studies was tasked
with preparing a review of progress in these areas for
presentation to the next meeting of the Committee of Senior
Officials. The Secretariat hopes to use this paper to
publicize BSEC achievements in this area. A representative
from the Black Sea Commission (BSC), the intergovernmental
body established to implement the Bucharest Convention on the
Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution, encouraged
closer coordination with the BSC on issues related to the
protection and rehabilitation of the marine environment.
Detailed discussion of this topic was referred to the March
18-20 meeting of the Working Group on Environmental
Protection (Istanbul). Consulate Istanbul intends to observe
this meeting.

7. (SBU) Secretary General Chrysanthopoulos noted the
difficulties in implementing the Agreement on Collaboration
in Emergency Assistance and Emergency Response in reaction to
the summer 2007 wildfires in Greece and the November 2007 oil
spill in the Kerch Strait. In both cases actions were
bilateral, not multilateral, he argued and efforts should be
made to raise member awareness. At the request of the
Russian delegation all discussion of this topic was referred
to the April 3 meeting of the Working Group on Emergency
Response (Odessa).

8. (SBU) Comment. BSEC remains focused on process at least
as much as content as evidenced by the two-hours plus of
discussion on modalities related to the PDF despite a clearly
evident lack of consensus on how to maintain funding at a
sustainable level (para 4). The Secretary General believes
Russian hesitation to discuss emergency response as well as
complaints regarding the timeliness of document distribution
are a reaction to BSEC "moving faster than they are
comfortable." The Russian delegation is typically large
(three-four participants from Moscow plus local consulate
staff) and well-briefed. The BSEC Secretariat appears to be
struggling with some organizational aspects of meeting
preparation, particularly the distribution in advance of
hundreds of pages of proposed/annotated agendas, draft texts
and other paperwork, but the Russian complaints seemed
disproportionate. End Comment.
OUDKIRK

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