Cablegate: Unesco - Israel Ambassador's Visit 5 May


DE RUEHFR #0877/01 1271455
R 061455Z MAY 08






E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: UNESCO DG Matsuura is planning a trip to Israel
and Ramallah in mid-June. It will be the DG's first visit to
Palestine. The Israelis have asked the DG to send Deputy DG Barbosa
to Quebec in July to assist with the World Heritage Committee
negotiations on World Heritage sites in Jerusalem. Israel's
ambassador is not satisfied with UNESCO's work so far regarding the
Holocaust Education resolution, and wants an Israeli associate
expert to assist with the project, if possible. End summary.

2. (SBU) Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO, David Kornbluth, accompanied
by Embassy staffer, Yael Levy, met with Ambassador Oliver on 5 May
to discuss a number of issues of mutual interest.

World Heritage Committee - Quebec

3. (SBU) Ambassador Kornbluth told Ambassador Oliver that he had
spoken with Director-General Matsuura privately, and asked that he
send the Deputy Director-General, Marcio Barbosa, to Quebec for the
upcoming World Heritage Committee meeting in July. Kornbluth said
that Barbosa has been indispensable in recent months in facilitating
negotiations with Arab states in connection with the Mughrabi Ascent
and Jerusalem issues. Ambassador Oliver agreed that Barbosa's
presence would be a major plus, given the change of the WH
Committee's make-up, which now has five Arab members. (Note: On
May 6, Jordan's Ambassador to UNESCO, Dina Kawar, announced an
information meeting on the Mughrabi Ascent to the Temple Mount
scheduled for 22 May, the first time such a meeting has been called.
It would appear that Kawar is setting the stage for some political
theatrics regarding Mughrabi in Quebec. End note.) Comment: Deputy
DG Barbosa will likely try to derail this meeting, as he considers
his handling of the Jerusalem issues to be his and UNESCO's most
important success in recent months. End comment.

4. (SBU) Ambassador Oliver told Kornbluth that the museum-related
equipment held up in Israeli customs, an issue that surfaced briefly
as an element in a draft resolution during the 179th Executive
Board, is a problem that must be fixed before the Quebec meetings.
Ambassador Oliver said that otherwise, it will serve as a flashpoint
for the Arab members of the World Heritage Committee. She added
that if the problem were resolved and announced at the last minute,
it could throw the Arabs off balance, defusing any head-on attacks.

DG Election

5. (SBU) During a brief exchange on the 2009 DG election, both
Ambassadors compared notes on current rumors regarding announced and
unannounced candidates. Ambassador Kornbluth said that in his
discussions with the French, they now seem to be wavering on their
surprisingly early support for the Egyptian candidate, who had
reportedly lobbied President Sarkozy during the French president's
honeymoon in Luxor. Ambassador Oliver told Kornbluth that she had
heard that Executive Board President Yai is planning to send a
letter to all delegations in June outlining the procedure regarding
the election process. The next step will be a formal agenda item
during October's Executive Board, after which the campaigns will
begin in earnest.

6. (SBU) Ambassador Oliver mentioned that Deputy DG Barbosa
(Brazil) is a possible candidate for DG, and speculated that newly
appointed ADG Hans D'Orville could possibly become acting Deputy DG
at some point so that Barbosa could take a leave of absence and
campaign full time for the DG job. Kornbluth praised Barbosa,
saying that he would be an interesting candidate, given his help on
Middle Eastern issues.

International Conference on Palestinian Refugees

7. (SBU) When asked about the UN-New York organized International
Conference on Palestinian Refugees held at UNESCO last week (29-30
April), Kornbluth said that he had heard nothing at all following
the meeting. He did note that the Director-General had made a point
of being out of town during the meeting, and felt obliged to send
Deputy DG Barbosa, despite Kornbluth's request that no high-level
UNESCO representatives participate. Kornbluth said that the DG
stressed to him that it was not a UNESCO event. Ambassador Oliver
said that no Group I ambassadors attended, as far as she knew,
except for a five-minute fly-by by the Portuguese ambassador. The
US Mission is not aware of any communiqus or other reports coming
from the meeting to date.

Director-General to Israel and Palestine in June

8. (SBU) Ambassador Kornbluth said that the Director-General is
planning to visit Israel, and for the first time, will make a trip
to Palestine in mid-June. According to the Israeli Embassy, the
Director-General will arrive in Israel on June 14, spend June 15 in
Jerusalem, and will travel to Ramallah on June 16. (Note: Kornbluth
mentioned that the Director-General had purposefully avoided
visiting the Mughrabi Ascent during his previous visits to
Jerusalem. End note.) Kornbluth said that the Director-General's
office had asked him to comment on the planned schedule, but
Kornbluth said that he prefers not to sign-off on what the
Director-General is doing.

New French Ambassador to UNESCO

9. (SBU) Kornbluth said that he has already met the new French
ambassador to UNESCO, Ms. Colonna. He said that she is one of the
"very efficient" French "fonctionnaires"-types out of the Ecole
Nationale d'Administration mold. Ambassador Oliver suggested that
the French may be beefing up their presence at UNESCO in advance of
the EU presidency. Kornbluth, on the other hand, said that maybe
UNESCO is just a parking place for her until another job opens up.
Kornbluth doubted that the choice of Colonna is a sign of personal
interest in UNESCO by Sarkozy, but agreed that it is more likely a
decision taken by the Quai D'Orsay to increase French visibility at
UNESCO in the lead-up to the EU presidency.

Holocaust Education

10. (SBU) Kornbluth said that there have been two working group
meetings led by the Education Sector regarding Holocaust Education,
following the General Conference's decision on the subject last
October. Kornbluth added that Nick Burnett, the ADG for Education,
has taken over the chairmanship of the working group, at least in
name, to demonstrate his interest. At the same time, Ambassador
Kornbluth said that, so far, UNESCO's lack of passion about the
subject, and lack of money to do anything should a program be
devised, is troubling. He added that he would like to get an
Israeli in place as a associate expert to help guide Holocaust
Education in-house. It was suggested that any plan put forward by
an Israeli would be an inviting target for various Arab member
states, and that a plan designed by a group of international
graduate-level students and experts from various universities or
institutions might be better received.

11. (SBU) Ambassador Oliver mentioned that when the United Nations
Foundation (UNF) wished to put forward proposals on climate change
to UNESCO, it worked on its own to develop a complete list of
resources and ideas that ultimately were adopted and presented as
UNESCO recommendations. Ambassador Oliver suggested that perhaps a
similar approach could work in developing resources and strategies
on Holocaust Education to be presented to UNESCO. Both Ambassadors
agreed that whatever recommendations or reports were to be presented
to the 180th Executive Board, should be discretely tucked into the
"DG's Report on items agreed at previous Executive Board meetings -
Item 5", rather than be presented as a stand-alone agenda item.

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