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Cablegate: Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugees Foley Meets

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PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHFR #0681/01 1021527
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111527Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2567
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0220
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 1130
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 0895
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0038
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 0546
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1116
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1774
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 0335
RUEHDO/AMEMBASSY DOHA 0170
RUEHKU/AMEMBASSY KUWAIT 0193
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 6867
RUEHMK/AMEMBASSY MANAMA 0173
RUEHMS/AMEMBASSY MUSCAT 0089
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 2233
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 1483
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2690
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS 2253
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2849

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 000681

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.


PARIS 00000681 002 OF 003


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

PARIS 00000681 003 OF 003


refugee situation potentially threatened regional stability
as well as security conditions inside Jordan and Syria.
This had 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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