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Cablegate: Egypt's Ambassador Shoukry and His Aggressive

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DE RUEHGV #0504/01 1841712
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 021712Z JUL 08
FM USMISSION GENEVA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6675
INFO RUEHZJ/HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1980
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2777

2008-07-02 17:12:00 08GENEVA504 US Mission Geneva CONFIDENTIAL 08USMISSIONGENEVA256|08USMISSIONGENEVA495 VZCZCXYZ0008\
RR RUEHWEB\
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DE RUEHGV #0504/01 1841712\
ZNY CCCCC ZZH\
R 021712Z JUL 08\
FM USMISSION GENEVA\
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6675\
INFO RUEHZJ/HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL COLLECTIVE\
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1980\
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2777\
C O N F I D E N T I A L GENEVA 000504 \
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SIPDIS \
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/19/2018 \
TAGS: PHUM PREL PINR UNHRC EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT'S AMBASSADOR SHOUKRY AND HIS AGGRESSIVE \
DELEGATION IN GENEVA \
\
REF: A. GENEVA 256 \
B. GENEVA 495 \
\
Classified By: Ambassador Warren W. Tichenor. Reasons: 1.4 (b/d). \
\
1. (C) SUMMARY: Led by Ambassador Sameh Shoukry, Egypt's \
delegation in Geneva has stood out for its activist and at \
times aggressive approach to Geneva multilateral diplomacy, \
in pursuit of goals the U.S. does not support. This has been \
most noticeable in the Human Rights Council, where Egypt has \
been arguably the most difficult delegation from our \
perspective, pushing hard -- and often effectively -- for \
many troubling Organization of the Islamic Conference's (OIC) \
resolutions and amendments, such as one that subverted the \
mandate on freedom of expression. Egypt's heavy-handed \
approach toward the Council's African Group, of which it is \
regional coordinator, has become sufficiently resented that, \
despite its efforts, that Group selected Nigeria rather than \
Djibouti to assume that body's presidency. In the World \
Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Egypt also pursued \
an unhelpful stance in seeking the extension of the term of \
the corrupt incumbent Director General. Such behavior \
contrasts with Shoukry's polished Western veneer. With \
Shoukry reportedly slated to become ambassador to the U.S. in \
the fall, we offer this snapshot of him and his delegation's \
conduct in Geneva fora. END SUMMARY. \
\
2. (C) When word spread in Geneva that the Egyptian \
government planned to make Sameh Shoukry its ambassador in \
Washington, it raised eyebrows in many quarters here. As \
Egypt's ambassador in Geneva since September 2005, Shoukry \
had established himself as an active, well-spoken, and \
effective figure in informal diplomatic settings, but as a \
tough negotiator known for pursuing goals often at variance \
with U.S. policies. On two occasions in recent years when \
working level officials of the U.S. Mission brought visitors \
to the Egyptian Mission to meet Shoukry, he was curt and \
rude, in both cases rising to his feet after a short time to \
signal that the meeting was over. \
\
AGGRESSIVE PRO-OIC STANCE IN THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL \
--------------------------------------------- -------- \
\
3. (C) The Egyptian delegation has thrown its weight around \
most aggressively, perhaps, in the Human Rights Council, of \
which Egypt is a member. Its stance has often tracked with \
that of other more hard-line OIC states, but Egypt has \
usually taken the lead and assumed a sharp tone that has \
occasionally earned its officers the "attack-dog" moniker. A \
few key examples: \
\
-- Egypt has been in the forefront in pressing aggressively \
for many of the most troubling OIC initiatives in the \
Council. In the March Council session, Shoukry joined with \
his counterparts from Pakistan and Cuba to engineer \
amendments to the Freedom of Expression mandate that lay the \
groundwork to subvert that mandate (ref a). As on numerous \
other occasions, Egypt's diplomats worked the plenary hall \
with impressive effectiveness to get the required votes in \
the end-game to that resolution's amendment, out-hustling and \
outmaneuvering those, most notably Canada and Slovenia, that \
sought to resist the OIC's initiative. \
\
-- Shoukry and his delegation have been sharply critical of \
Israel during the Council's discussions of that subject, and \
their tone has sometimes diverged from that of the Egyptian \
government as it engaged in Middle East peace process \
discussions. Just days after his foreign minister was quoted \
as urging Palestinian restraint to avoid harming the peace \
process, for instance, Shoukry's March 6 Council intervention \
centered on Palestinians resisting foreign occupation and \
exercising their right to self-defense, without mention of \
the efforts toward peace. \
\
-- With the Council still defining the informal modalities \
for much of its functioning, Egypt has taken the lead in \
seeking to limit the voice given to NGOs during both the \
plenary sessions and the newly-formed Universal Periodic \
Review process. Although Shoukry himself has often abstained \
from direct involvement in the effort, his officers have \
repeatedly called points of order and otherwise challenged \
the statements of NGOs, asserting, for instance, that those \
statements do not directly address the topic at hand. The \
Egyptian interventions have sometimes been disrespectful in \
tone, not only to the NGOs but on occasion to the Council \
President as well. \
\
-- Most recently, Egypt led the charge against a pro-Israel \
NGO's statement linking Islam with human rights abuses such \
as female genital mutilation and honor killings of women. \
\
Beyond aggressively attacking the NGO, announcing that "Islam \
will not be crucified," Egypt pressed to establish a general \
principle that Islam and other religions should not be \
criticized in the Council on the grounds that their tenets \
might encourage human rights problems (ref b). \
\
4. (C) Egypt also has shown its aggressiveness in its \
handling of the Council's Africa Group, of which it has been \
and continues to serve as coordinator. In Council sessions, \
it has on occasion staked out positions on behalf of the \
Group that other African states have privately told us they \
had not signed on to or even been informed of in advance, and \
we understand that it has at times sought to run roughshod \
over opposing views during the Group's internal meetings. \
\
SOME SETBACKS FOR EGYPT \
----------------------- \
\
5. (C) On a number of occasions, this has succeeded. Partly, \
this is because many African delegations lack the manpower in \
the Council to be fully engaged and because some of those \
delegations prefer not to rock the boat in their Group, \
several African diplomats have told us. Partly, it is \
because some African delegations see Egypt as ensuring that \
the West does not push Africa around. Egypt's \
heavy-handedness fell short, however, when it sought to send \
a list of candidates, allegedly supported by the Africa \
Group, to become the new High Commissioner for Human Rights. \
That list would have included at least one former Egyptian \
diplomat, Ibrahim Salama, who is an important figure in the \
Office of the High Commissioner but also maintains close ties \
with Egypt's delegation in Geneva. Ethiopia and Algeria were \
among several African delegations that successfully objected, \
arguing that UN SyG Ban Ki-Moon had solicited nominations \
from individual countries rather than from regional groupings. \
\
6. (C) Such efforts by Egypt, as well as its often \
heavy-handed approach to its Africa Group colleagues, have \
elicited resentment from some in that group. That resentment \
apparently contributed to Egypt's failure to get the Group to \
select Djibouti, which the Egyptian delegation strongly \
supported, to assume the Council presidency last month, when \
the Group exercised its right, by virtue of regional \
rotation, to select the president for the coming year. \
Djibouti was defeated by Nigeria by an 18-15 vote in an \
Africa Group vote on the issue, and Nigeria's Ambassador \
Martin Uhomoibhi became the president. Although other \
factors, such as rivalry between predominantly Muslim and \
non-Muslim states, also came into play, Djibouti was widely \
seen as a proxy for Egypt. (Egypt itself had initially \
expressed interest in the presidency, but reportedly backed \
away because of Shoukry's planned departure from Geneva.) \
\
AN UNHELPFUL POSTURE IN WIPO \
---------------------------- \
\
7. (C) In WIPO, Egypt has been at the forefront of efforts to \
obstruct the U.S.-led campaign to remove the corrupt Sudanese \
Director General, Kamil Idris. Shoukry worked closely with \
the Algerian PermRep to coordinate the Africa Group's \
opposition to taking any action on an internal WIPO audit \
report that documented misconduct by Idris. Many in Geneva \
believe that Shoukry was in part motivated by the fact that \
Idris had hired his son to work at WIPO through a \
non-competitive appointment. (Idris had similarly given \
lucrative appointments to the children of other key member \
state representatives, including the Algerian PermRep.) \
\
8. (C) During the year-long campaign that eventually resulted \
in Idris' agreeing to leave a year early and elections to \
choose a successor, Shoukry apparently locked horns with \
Nigeria's Uhomoibhi, who was serving as the president of \
WIPO's General Assembly. At one point, Shoukry even went so \
far as to state that Uhomoibhi's conduct as president did not \
comport with being "a good African." By some accounts, \
Shoukry decided to seek revenge in the Human Rights Council \
by encouraging Djibouti's ambassador to run against Uhomoibhi \
for the Council presidency. \
\
SHOUKRY'S WESTERN VENEER \
------------------------ \
\
9. (C) Shoukry's behavior in multilateral fora contrasts \
sharply with his behavior in social settings, at least when \
dealing with Western diplomats. In such situations, he can \
be charming and is comfortable socially, as is his wife. At \
his home, which is furnished in Western style, he is a \
gracious host. He has an excellent command of social \
protocol. He knows the U.S. well, can speak about American \
sports and culture, and reminisces fondly about his years in \
\
grade school in the Washington, D.C. area. Yet even in his \
personal comportment, he reveals moments of heavy-handedness, \
as in the derisive way in which he treats his driver. \
\
BIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION \
---------------------- \
\
10. (SBU) Born in 1952, Shoukry and his wife Suzy have two \
sons, and became grandparents for the first time recently. A \
career diplomat, he has served in Vienna (where he was \
ambassador), New York, London and Buenos Aires in addition to \
stints in Cairo. He speaks fluent English -- probably the \
best command of English among all the OIC ambassadors in \
Geneva -- and we understand he also speaks Spanish. \
\
COMMENT \
------- \
\
11. (C) Shoukry's confrontational approach in Geneva has at \
times undermined U.S. interests in a number of Geneva-based \
organizations. Apparently the Egyptians calculate that they \
can pursue goals at odds with U.S. policies without much fear \
of bilateral retribution. Indeed, as one Ethiopian diplomat \
commented to us, Shoukry has behaved in the Council in ways \
that do not reflect the huge support the U.S. provides Egypt \
or the good bilateral U.S.-Egyptian relationship. The \
Geneva-based multilaterals, and most particularly the Human \
Rights Council, provide opportunities for the Egyptians to \
burnish pro-OIC and G-77 policies to please domestic and \
regional audiences. Egyptian diplomats themselves have \
occasionally acknowledged that point to us, saying that \
Shoukry is simply implementing orders from Cairo and that he \
will change his ways when he moves to Washington. That said, \
it is clear that despite a charming veneer in social \
settings, Shoukry can be harsh and aggressive, and he allows \
his delegation to act that way, sometimes with a vengeance. \
TICHENOR \

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