Cablegate: Unesco - World Heritage Bandarin Debrief


DE RUEHFR #0669/01 1011601
R 101601Z APR 08







E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Preah Vihear and Jerusalem were the key subjects
in an hour-long discussion with World Heritage Director Bandarin,
noting several issues that could provide difficulties during the
World Heritage Committee meeting in July. End summary.

2. (SBU) State Department IO Deputy Assistant Secretary Gerry
Anderson and Ambassador Oliver met UNESCO's World Heritage Center
Director Francesco Bandarin on April 9 for a debrief on current
issues during Mr. Anderson's presence in Paris for the 179th
Executive Board.

Bombs and Mines

3. (SBU) Mr. Bandarin opened the meeting by describing several
blocks of issues that will shape July's World Heritage Committee
(WHC) meeting in Quebec. They include issues dealing with the State
of Conservation of WH sites, Sites in Danger, Nominations, and
Policy issues. Bandarin noted that while there are certain issues
that are already sure to spark intense debate, which he called the
"bombs", his concern is trying to identify the unseen "mines" which
have not yet been anticipated.

4. (SBU) Bandarin mentioned that some possible sites that could be
put on Danger List, based on the recommendations of the advisory
bodies now under review, include the Tower of London and Riga. He
added that, in the past, the very act of proposing a site for the
Danger List creates enormous political pressure, prompting the
Member State to take action, and has proven to be a greater
motivator than actually putting a site on the List. He also said
that Machu Picchu is a candidate for the Danger List, due to the
general lack of control of the site, illegal habitats and overall
sprawl. Bandarin mentioned that no US sites have been identified as
candidates for the Danger List.

Urbanization and Outstanding Universal Value

5. (SBU) Ambassador Oliver said that the problem of balancing the
natural growth of cities and maintaining outstanding universal value
(OUV) is going to be a complicated problem for the WHC in the
future, given the cases of London, Riga, Florence, St. Peterburg and
other cities. Bandarin said that there is a new initiative on the
subject of problematic urbanization of WH sites. The issue is now
being referred to as the "contemporary role of historic urban
areas". Bandarin said that the WHC is asking the Director General
to help develop proposals that will go through the Executive Board
and ultimately to the General Conference as the WHC is in need of
some guidelines on difficult cases in this context.

6. (SBU) Ambassador Oliver warned that we must be careful in moving
forward to ensure that we clearly define as to what aspect of WH
issues is appropriate for the Executive Board to engage in, what is
appropriate for the WHC, for the Culture Sector, SHS, and all of the
different players in this area where roles overlap.

Buffer Zones and Periodic Reporting

7. (SBU) Bandarin then talked about the issue of "buffer zones", and
the fact that there is an enormous backlog of work to be done in
making a "retrospective inventory", as many sites do not have
identified buffer zones, (e.g., the pyramids in Egypt). Bandarin
went on to say that the debate regarding buffer zones as "regulated
territories" always returns to the question of what is the OUV of
each site, adding that in the case of many of the older sites the
World Heritage Center must help them "invent" their OUV's, as they
were inscribed when less exacting guidelines were in place.

8. (SBU) He added that this retrospective inventory, as a part of
the WH Center's desire to launch a periodic reporting system of WH
sites, is causing a problem in itself, as a decision taken in the
1990's to begin with the Arab states is now raising questions, as
they do not wish to be the "guinea pigs" for the process.


9. (SBU) Bandarin then turned to Jerusalem, and the fact that the
Arabs are again complaining about the Israelis having put
"Jerusalem" on their tentative list, which means extending
boundaries to include Mount Zion. While this is not a new issue, as
Israel's Jerusalem candidature, dating from 2000, is clearly marked
with the footnote, "... to postpone further consideration of this
nomination proposal until an agreement on the status of the City of
Jerusalem in conformity with International Law is reached, or until
the parties concerned submit a joint nomination..." (The Old City
of Jerusalem and its Walls was inscribed on the WH List in 1981 by


A Problem Bigger than Mughrabi Gate ?

10. (SBU) Bandarin then spoke about Mughrabi Gate, noting that he
hopes the WHC will appreciate the progress made by all parties,
demonstrating the success of UNESCO's role as mediator. He then
turned to a problem which he feared could potentially be much more
serious than the Mughrabi Gate for the Arabs. He described a
synagogue now under construction in the area of the Western Wall
where the Israelis are planning to create a large underground area
for prayer which, while next to the Temple Mount walls, also lies
beneath the Moslem quarter. Bandarin fears that this could
potentially become a problem far larger than Mughrabi Gate. The
State of Conservation report on Jerusalem being prepared for Quebec
will touch upon the synagogue construction, potentially leading to a
difficult discussion in Quebec.

Cities and Urban Landscapes

11. (SBU) Bandarin also talked about another problematic nomination:
Buenos Aires. He said that this is part of a new trend in
nominations, where cities and urban landscapes are being proposed
for inclusion on the WH List. The difference, he said, is that
there is a heavy focus on "intangible" elements, (e.g., citing a
neighborhood where the tango was born), potentially broadening the
meaning of OUV to the point of losing a clear sense of what the
definition stands for. He noted that ICOMOS has not accepted the
nomination, but expects to see similar nominations in the future,
including Rio de Janeiro.

12. (SBU) Ambassador Oliver mentioned the problem of "pre-approved
nominations", like the case of the Baha'i's, where intangible
elements, like religion, are brought into the mix, raising the
viability of nominations of sites that under current guidelines,
wouldn't normally pass muster.

Preah Vihear

13. (SBU) This opened the discussion to the policy of "anticipating
nominations" and "pre-inscriptions", which Ambassador Oliver
believes are dangerous practices. In the case of Preah Vihear,
Ambassador Oliver said that the WHC in 2007 had left Cambodia with
the clear impression that if serious progress were made regarding
certain gaps in its management plan, the WHC would very likely
approve the site during the Quebec meeting.

14. (SBU) Bandarin described Preah Vihear as a "total stalemate",
where the Cambodians are "playing with words and facts". He said
that, while there are many technical problems, in fact, the issue is
a political one between Thailand and Cambodia.

15. (SBU) Ambassador Oliver raised the possibility of having the
Cambodians accept the creation of a separate International
Coordination Committee (ICC) for Preah Vihear in the event the site
is inscribed on the WH List. She noted that the Cambodians had
suggested an ICC for Preah Vihear, but only as an adjunct of the
existing Angkor Wat ICC. This solution, she said, would not give
the Thais a sufficiently strong voice, making the solution
unacceptable. The question of how to "institutionalize" Thailand's
voice in such a structure, if resolved, could lead the way to
resolution of the current problems.

Recentralizing Discussions at UNESCO

16. (SBU) Bandarin indicated his concerns that the Cambodians are
moving in a direction that would effectively cut the Thais out of
any serious "joint" management of the site. It was noted that the
Thais did not attend the recent "technical meeting of experts"
organized by UNESCO's Culture sector in late March. Bandarin said
that that meeting was part of ADG Culture Francoise Riviere's effort
to "recentralize" discussions in Paris, as certain players in the
field have taken positions too closely aligned to the two host
countries. Ambassador Oliver suggested that any "public" meetings
on Preah Vihear would be doomed to failure, and that private
negotiations would be the only way to advance.

Future Events

17. (SBU) At the close of the meeting, Bandarin mentioned a recent
visit to Bahrain, where he saw the largest pre-historic "mound"
necropolis of some 50,000 burial mounds. He also informed us of
UNESCO's plans for a major ceremony next September 10 in connection
with the re-erection of a monumental obelisk in Ethiopia (financed

by Italy), timed to mark the end of Ethiopia's millennium
celebrations. OLIVER

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