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Cablegate: Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugees Foley Meets

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PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHFR #0677/01 1021510
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111510Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2559
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0213
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 1122
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 0887
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0030
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 0540
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1108
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1768
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 0327
RUEHDO/AMEMBASSY DOHA 0163
RUEHKU/AMEMBASSY KUWAIT 0185
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 6859
RUEHMK/AMEMBASSY MANAMA 0165
RUEHMS/AMEMBASSY MUSCAT 0082
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 2226
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 1476
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2682
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS 2245
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2843

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 000677

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL PHUM FR IZ JO SY LE
SUBJECT: SENIOR COORDINATOR FOR IRAQI REFUGEES FOLEY MEETS
FRENCH MFA OFFICIALS, 31 MARCH 2008

REF: STATE 30028

1. (SBU) Summary: French MFA officials told Senior
Coordinator for Iraqi Refugees James Foley on March 31 that
France expects to receive perhaps 500 Iraqi refugees this
year via UNHCR referrals in Jordan and Syria as well as
processed directly by the French embassy in Baghdad.
Defining criteria for these and other refugees remains
problematic, however, as the French seek to balance pressure
from French religious groups to favor Christian Iraqis with
an ingrained tendency to apply an approach focusing on those
at greatest risk, who have existing ties to France, or who
would most easily integrate once resettled. Although FM
Kouchner intends to raise the refugee issue at the April 22
Iraq neighbors meeting in Kuwait, the response from this
group of MFA officials was tepid to the idea of increasing
bilateral assistance to refugees in the region and skeptical
in terms of increased EU assistance in the near term. End
summary

2. (SBU) Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugees James Foley
met with French MFA officials March 31 to discuss French
policy for dealing with Iraqi refugees and to request French
help in terms of increased bilateral and EU assistance for
Iraqi refugees in the region. French FM Kouchner's adviser
for crisis and humanitarian situations Eric Chevallier was
unable to attend at the last minute. Kouchner's adviser on
NEA affairs Christophe Bigot led the meeting on the French
side accompanied by deputy director of the IO bureau
equivalent Marc Giacomini and Iraq desk officer Olivier
Masseret. PolMinCouns and poloff joined Foley on the U.S.
side.

3. (SBU) Bigot started by saying that France expected to
receive perhaps 500 Iraqi refugees this year, including 100
from Jordan and Syria that France has already accepted based
on UNHCR referrals and 400 others drawn from refugee
populations in Jordan and Syria as well as Iraqis processed
by their embassy in Baghdad. (Comment: The MFA, when later
pressed for a more precise breakdown, including whether
Christians would be favored, declined to do so. End comment)
He explained the difficulty France has faced in defining
criteria for accepting refugees, noting that the GOF has
tended to favor refugees likely to integrate well into French
society, i.e., due to their language ability, the likelihood
they would find gainful employment, and family ties.
Giacomini added that the GOF and UNHCR had disagreed about
the applicability of the 1951 convention on refugees to many
who had fled to Jordan and Syria, with the net result that
France had agreed so far only to receive about 100. Masseret
said that the French embassy in Baghdad, because of personnel
and security-related constraints, was focusing exclusively on
those cases in which the applicants were "especially
threatened," had ties to France, and a demonstrated French
language ability. He suggested that the eventual opening of
the embassy office in Irbil could facilitate increased
processing in-country.

4. (SBU) Bigot underscored continuing French concerns about
singling out certain categories over others. This inevitably
raised the "problematic" of the Chaldean Christians. He said
the GOF has heard arguments that the Chaldean community was
"more or less" vulnerable but found these claims hard to
evaluate definitively, even in the wake of the kidnapping and
murder earlier this year of the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul.
Bigot referred to pressure on the GOF by Christian groups in
France to help the Chaldeans and other Christian communities
in the Middle East.

5. (SBU) Foley provided an overview of USG efforts
vis-a-vis resettlement in the U.S. as well as helping the

PARIS 00000677 002 OF 003


UNHCR and other international agencies/NGOs in the field cope
with the sizable refugee populations in neighboring
countries. He contrasted the infrastructure in place to
receive refugees in Jordan and Syria with Lebanon, where
until recently Iraqi refugees were faced with the choice of
repatriation or imprisonment. When Giacomini asked about
International Organization for Migration efforts to help
resettle returning refugees in "safe zones" inside Iraq,
Foley answered that the USG supports IOM and UNHCR efforts on
behalf of returnees but is not currently encouraging refugees
to return given the uncertainty of the security situation.
Foley reviewed U.S. refugee resettlement efforts, noting that
we had already admitted nearly 3000 of the 12,000 authorized
for FY 2008. This follows 1600 admitted in 2007. He also
recounted the history of our refugee processing efforts in
Syria, which have been hampered by the difficult state of
U.S./Syrian relations.

6. (SBU) Turning to the rationale for his latest trip to
the Middle East and Europe, Foley explained that he was
encouraging donor countries to respond to the estimated USD
900 million needed this year to deal with the Iraqi refugee
situation (per reftel, which embassy had already passed to
the MFA). UNHCR alone privately estimates it will need
nearly double the amount of its USD 261 million regional
appeal for Iraqi refugees. Foley spoke of a worsening
humanitarian situation, especially in Syria and Jordan, and
the unusual aspects of this refugee crisis, which involved a
middle class population living not in camps but in urban
areas. This makes it harder to count, track, and care for
the refugees. Many are inexorably becoming impoverished as
they exhaust savings and because of limitations on their
ability to work in the host countries. Foley underscored the
potential risk of instability to the hosting countries and to
Iraq should the refugees be forced to return home. In Syria
alone, the UNHCR expects a doubling of daily food assistance
from 150,000 to 300,000 persons.

7. (SBU) Convincing the Gulf states to increase or even
offer assistance has been a challenge, Foley continued. Many
of those governments opposed the 2003 war or have strained
relations with the current Iraqi government. They believe
the GOI should be able to do more itself with its oil
revenues. We hope that the increasing urgency of the
situation may motivate at least some of the wealthy Arab
states to contribute despite their misgivings about the
Maliki government. Foley noted our concern as well about the
EU response, which may in part be due to inaccurate
information about the refugee situation. The EU contributed
66 million euros last year, and we hope that will be
increased. In that context, we would welcome French support
for increased EU assistance in addition to any further
bilateral assistance it could contribute.

8. (SBU) When Bigot asked whether we wanted to see the EU
maintain its current level, Foley rejoined that we frankly
hoped to see the EU increase substantially its current level
of aid. Giacomini argued there was little current fiscal
room for maneuver in terms of French bilateral assistance
(currently one million euros for Iraqi refugees via UNHCR).
He pointed to other pressing needs at the moment like Chad.
Giacomini and Bigot said France would consult with RELEX and
ECHO, but there were budget problems across the board in
Europe among EU member states that will make any increase
problematic.

9. (SBU) Foley expressed appreciation for France,s help
and engagement on this issue, underscoring its importance to
the Secretary. He repeated concerns about how the refugee
situation potentially threatened regional stability as well
as security conditions inside Jordan and Syria. This had

PARIS 00000677 003 OF 003


terrorism and other potential implications. The USG would
welcome France using its weight in Brussels to obtain more
financial assistance. Foley also suggested that assistance
to refugees was a natural area where the GOF could realize
its desire to contribute on Iraq matters. Bigot concluded
that Kouchner is very aware of the situation and is likely to
raise it at the upcoming Iraq neighbors conference in Kuwait.

10. (U) Ambassador Foley cleared this cable.
Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm


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