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Cablegate: Zagreb Weekly Activity Report - August 22, 2008

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
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DE RUEHVB #0615/01 2380910
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 250910Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8581
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

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FOR EUR/SCE, EUR/PPD, EUR/RPM AND EUR/ERA
OSD FOR POPOVICH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV HR
SUBJECT: ZAGREB WEEKLY ACTIVITY REPORT - AUGUST 22, 2008

1. (U) CROATIA COMPLETES PROCEDURES FOR ENTRY INTO FORCE OF
SOFA:
In a Diplomatic Note dated August 20, the Croatian Government
has informed the Department that all internal Croatian
procedures for entry into force of the bilateral US-Croatia
Status of Forces Agreement have been completed. This comes
after publicatin of the Croatian Parliament's proclamation
ratifying the agreement was published in Croatia's "Narodne
Novine" (Official Register) on August 13. The SOFA's entry
into force marks the successful conclusion of a several-year
long negotiating process is brought to a successful
conclusion. (RHoltzapple)

2. (U) INCREASED CROATIAN ISAF CONTINGENT DEPLOYS TO
AFGHANISTAN:
On August 20, the Ministry of Defense held a departure
ceremony for the 12th contingent of Croatian soldiers to
deploy to the ISAF Mission in Afghanistan. The deployment,
which was covered by the local press, is part of the
scheduled rotation that sees an increase of their contingent
from 200 to nearly 300 peacekeepers to ISAF in 2008. The
head of the Defense Policy Division, Pjer Simunovic, noted in
his remarks that the deployment was a continuation of
Croatia's successful engagement in Afghanistan and that the
efforts of the Croatian armed forces in ISAF are valued both
domestically and by the international community. The troops
are scheduled to physcially depart Croatia this weekend, with
US airlift assistance. (PD'Amico)

3. (U) MEDIA MOSTLY CRITICAL OF RUSSIAN ROLE IN GEORGIA, BUT
MORE INTERESTED IN CONTRASTING ATTITUDES OF PRESIDENT AND
GOVERNMENT:
The crisis in Georgia continues to receive prominent coverage
in Croatian media. The majority of Croatian coverage
condemned the Russian intervention, however, some recent
articles have also cast blame on Georgian President
Saakashvili for provoking the conflict. In addition,
Russia's local Ambassador has been in the press with
interviews arguing that "Georgia, Not Russia, is Guilty of
Aggression" and "It is Not Russia's Goal To Occupy Georgia."
Most recent reporting has been highlighting the perceived
differences in the approach of President Mesic and Prime
Minister Sanader's government to the crisis. Reports have
noted that, while FM Jandrokovic was attending the NAC
Ministerial this week and making statements in support of
Georgia's territorial integrity, President Mesic and his
office were writing letters to Croatia's UN Mission and
issuing press releases stressing the need not only to end
hostilities but to avoid isolating Russia and stating that
"instead of breaking off contacts, we should be working on
intensifying them." (KWetzel/RHoltzapple)

4. (U) PRESIDENT CRITICIZES OPPOSITION LEADER'S PLANNED VISIT
TO BLEIBURG:
Social Democratic Party (SDP) president, Zoran Milanovic,
announced plans last week to visit the town of Bleiburg,
Austria, as the head of a delegation which will include
prominent leaders and historians from the Croatian Jewish
community. The stated intent of Milanovic's trip is to show
balance in SDP's approach to crimes committed during WWII
regardless of the victim. Bleiburg is the city where fleeing
Ustasa prisoners of war (pro-fascist/pro-Nazi collaborators)
and other civilian refugees were handed over by British
allied forces to Yugoslav Communist Partisans at the end of
WWII. The returnees were forced to march from Bleiburg back
to Yugoslavia under harsh conditions. A large, though
disputed, number were executed or died along the way.
President Mesic, who has refused to attend Bleiburg
commemorations in the past, described the proposal as
"premature" and "rash," arguing that Milanovic's trip would
give Bleiburg -- many of whose victims were guilty of
atrocities against Jews, Serbs, and Roma -- an equal status
to that of Jasenovac (site of the largest concentration camp
in Croatia during WWII). Mesic called instead for more
research to be done to establish the identities of the
victims at Bleiburg and the circumstances of their deaths.
(JNCallahan)

5. (U) CROATIA SAYS GLOBAL TERRORISM TO BE UNSC THEME IN
DECEMBER:
According to press reports, the Croatian Foreign Ministry has
agreed that the theme of it's December Presidency of the UN
Security Council will be Global Terrorism. No further
details were available, but this theme was likely chosen as a
complement to Croatia's continuing chairmanship of the UNSC's
Counterterrorism Committee. Post will seek more details on
Croatian plans for December once senior policy makers have
returned from the summer break next week. (RHoltzapple)

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Bradtke

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