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Cablegate: Qadhafi Works to Muster Arab Opposition to Sarkozy's

VZCZCXRO7641
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDU RUEHKUK RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHROV
DE RUEHTRO #0457/01 1641420
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 121420Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3521
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 4027

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000457

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/MAG AND INR

E.O. 12958: DECL: 6/12/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON PBTS PREF LY
SUBJECT: QADHAFI WORKS TO MUSTER ARAB OPPOSITION TO SARKOZY'S
MEDITERRANEAN UNION PROPOSAL REF: A) TRIPOLI 442, B) TRIPOLI 453 TRIPOLI 00000457 001.2 OF 002 CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 1. (C) Summary: In a strongly worded speech at what was characterized as a mini-Arab League summit, Muammar al-Qadhafi sharply criticized a French-backed Mediterranean Union proposal, claiming that attempts to incentivize southern Mediterranean states with investment schemes were insulting. Claiming that the new entity would undermine Arab and African member states' commitments to the Arab League (AL)and African Union (AU), respectively, he suggested that an alternative could be formal EU cooperation with the AL and AU, to be coordinated through the headquarters of the latter two organizations. A visit to Tripoli by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair coincided with the mini-summit; al-Qadhafi reportedly told Blair he was concerned that the Mediterranean Union proposal represented an effort by southern European states to create a de facto North African bulwark against illegal migration from sub-Saharan Africa, and to "further legitimize" Israel at the expense of Arab states. End summary. 2. (U) At a mini-Arab League (AL) summit meeting in Tripoli on June 10, Muammar al-Qadhafi made a strong case against a Mediterranean Union modeled on and linked to the European Union (EU), an idea championed by French President Nicholas Sarkozy that would comprise the 27 EU nations and a dozen non-EU countries located along the southern Mediterranean littoral. The meeting was attended by heads of state from Mauritania, Algeria, Tunis and Syria, and by Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas el-Fassi. Originally billed to some Arab diplomats in Tripoli as an Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) summit plus Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (ref A), late innings controversy about the refusal of King Muhammad VI of Morocco to attend reportedly prompted the Government of Libya (GOL) to recast the event as a mini-AL summit. 3. (U) Orchestrated by al-Qadhafi, the Tripoli meeting was designed to muster Arab opposition to the Mediterranean Union proposal in advance of a broader gathering in Paris on July 13 to formally unveil the plan. In a strongly-worded opening address, al-Qadhafi characterized the French proposal as an attempt to undermine the unity of Arab League and African Union member states. Describing Sarkozy's proposal as "a passing fad", he likened it to the failed Barcelona Process initiated in 1995, and said attempts to incentivize AL and AU states to join the new union with large-scale investment proposals were "an insult". Striking a populist tone, he stressed that Arab and African states were "not hungry to this extent; we're not dogs that they can wave a bone in front of and we'll run after it". Arab and African unity "should not be sacrificed for transient investment projects". Emphasizing that member states' commitments to the extant AL and AU trumped those to any nascent Mediterranean Union, he suggested that a viable alternative to a new structure could be formal cooperation between the EU and AL and AU states, to be coordinated through AL headquarters in Cairo and AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. Al-Qadhafi's sarcastic references to "my dear Sarkozy" took observers by surprise and has left some wondering whether the bonhomie engendered by the latter's visit to Tripoli in July 2007 has begun to ebb. French diplomats in Tripoli offered no comment, noting only that they had not yet received instructions from Paris on whether or how to respond. 4. (C) Al-Qadhafi was the only leader to offer public remarks before the meeting adjourned to a reportedly heated session of principals plus one. Egyptian and Algerian diplomats told us Morocco was isolated in its support for the Mediterranean Union proposal and by the fact that it was represented at the PM, vice head of state, level. Libyan MFA interlocutors conceded that a closing statement had been expected and desired by al-Qadhafi; however, the group was unable to achieve consensus on its position concerning the union, let alone language for a summary statement. In a further sign of discord, President Mubarak ultimately did not attend (he cited a heavy schedule), despite persistent efforts by al-Qadhafi to lure him to Tripoli to broker a truce with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. The Egyptian PolCouns told us al-Qadhafi called Mubarak twice - once while in the car with Asad on their way into town from the airport - to urge him to come to Tripoli (further details on Asad's visit were reported ref B) 5. (C) The mini-AL summit coincided with a visit to Tripoli on June 10 by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. U.K. Deputy Head of Mission Mark Matthews told P/E Chief June 11 that al-Qadhafi stressed to Blair in their private meeting concern that Sarkozy's proposal represented an effort by southern European states to create a de facto North African bulwark against illegal migration from sub-Saharan Africa. Recapitulating themes we've heard publicly here, al-Qadhafi insisted the key to mitigating illegal migration flows to Europe TRIPOLI 00000457 002.2 OF 002 was to reduce "push" factors by promoting greater development in source countries. The two specifically discussed the possibility of Libyan investment in Sierra Leone and Rwanda, countries in which Blair's charitable foundation has a strong interest (further details on Blair's visit septel). Al-Qadhafi also voiced suspicion that the Mediterranean Union could be used as a forum in which to encourage further Arab-Israeli rapprochement as a means by which to "further legitimize" Israel at the expense of the Arabs. 6. (C) Comment: Al-Qadhafi's speech offers a snapshot of Libya's unique vision of overlapping pan-Arab and pan-African aspirations. While striking vintage pan-Arab themes - "we are fully committed to the Arab League, which we hope will one day lead us to an eventual Arab union" - he was also careful to stress that Arab Maghreb states were African and had responsibilities to their sub-Saharan counterparts that trumped any notional partnership with Europe. End comment. STEVENS

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