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Cablegate: Assistant Secretary Shannon,S September 9 Meeting

P R 221405Z SEP 08
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY
INFO AMEMBASSY BELGRADE
AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
AMEMBASSY CARACAS
AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
AMEMBASSY PRISTINA
AMEMBASSY TBILISI

C O N F I D E N T I A L STATE 100929


E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/21/2018
TAGS: OVIP ETRD PREL PGOV CFED PBTS VE RS NU GG KV PM
SUBJECT: ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON,S SEPTEMBER 9 MEETING
WITH PANAMANIAN AMBASSADOR FEDERICO HUMBERT

Classified By: WHA A/S Thomas A. Shannon for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (U) September 9, 2008; 2:00-3:00 p.m.; Washington, DC,
USA.

2. (U) Participants:

U.S.
Assistant Secretary Shannon (WHA)
Skye Justice (WHA Notetaker)

Panama
Ambassador Federico Humbert

3. (C) SUMMARY: Assistant Secretary Shannon met with
Panamanian Ambassador Federico Humbert on September 9, 2008.
Humbert, who requested the meeting, previewed Panamanian
President Martin Torrijos' September 15-17 visit to
Washington, intended to encourage Congressional approval of
the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA). Ambassador
Humbert stated President Torrijos was under great pressure to
secure U.S. Congressional approval of the TPA before he
leaves office in May 2009, and hoped to secure it during a
lame duck session. Humbert briefly discussed the extradition
of Manuel Noriega, stating that Panama does not welcome his
return and encouraging his speedy extradition elsewhere. He
stated Panama was hesitant to recognize Kosovo while
condemning Russia's actions in Georgia on behalf of breakaway
regions, despite the differences between the two situations.
End Summary.

TORRIJOS' LAST PUSH ON TPA
--------------------------

4. (C) Ambassador Humbert stated this will be President
Torrijos' last visit to Washington during his presidency, and
that it will be difficult for him to return to Panama without
a plan for moving forward on the U.S.-Panama TPA. He noted
he had received mixed messages from within the Administration
regarding the possibility of submitting the Panama TPA to
Congress before the approval of the U.S.-Colombia TPA.
However, he stated President Torrijos did not want to stand
in the way of the Colombia TPA. Torrijos understands the
Panama TPA may not be approved until after Colombia, Humbert
said, but requests that the Administration submit the Panama
TPA as soon as possible. He added that Panama &has the
votes8 needed to gain Congressional approval, that
substantive labor issues have been addressed, and that former
National Assembly President Pedro Miguel Gonzalez is no
longer in office. (Comment: Gonzalez was indicted in the
United States for the 1992 murder of one U.S. serviceman and
attempted murder of another. Members of Congress have cited
Gonzalez, position as National Assembly President as the
major obstacle to considering the Panama TPA. End Comment.)

5. (C) Humbert stated Torrijos understands that U.S.
domestic politics play a significant role in the timing of
Congressional submission and approval, and Torrijos does not
expect the Panama TPA to be submitted before the U.S. general
election. The GOP is hopeful the TPA will be approved during
a lame duck session between the election and the inauguration
in January. Humbert noted the GOP has already reached out to
the Obama and McCain campaigns to advocate for the TPA. A/S
Shannon noted the Administration's continued support for
Congressional approval of the Panama TPA, and stated that
while he also hoped for a lame duck session, it was not clear
whether Congress will hold one.

RETURN OF NORIEGA TO PANAMA WOULD BE A REAL HEADACHE
--------------------------------------------- -------

6. (C) Humbert stated the return of Manuel Noriega to Panama
would be "a real headache" that the GOP did not welcome.
He also noted Noriega's possible return would arise as an
issue in Panama's upcoming presidential election. &The
sooner he leaves the States, the better,8 Humbert said,
requesting the USG ensure that Noriega,s extradition
elsewhere occurs as quickly as possible.

PANAMA HESITANT TO ACT ON KOSOVO, GEORGIA
-----------------------------------------

7. (C) Humbert stated that because the GOP had been
"hitting Russia hard" on Georgia, now was not the right
time to recognize Kosovo. Not recognizing Kosovo, he said,
gives the GOP firmer ground to stand on at the UN when
dealing with Russia. A/S Shannon distinguished recognition
of Kosovo from the issue of the breakaway regions of South
Ossetia and Abkhazia, noting that while Kosovo's independence
was a result of a comprehensive UN process, Russia,s actions
in Georgia were inconsistent with UN Security Council
resolutions and international law. A/S Shannon noted that he
looked forward to further discussing this issue with
Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis
during President Torrijos, visit to Washington.

8. (C) A/S Shannon stated Nicaragua would pay a high price
for its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and
Humbert responded that Ortega was merely continuing to
isolate himself. A/S Shannon stated while Nicaragua was
attempting to curry favor with Russia and emulate Venezuela,
re-introducing a relationship of Russian patronage with
Nicaragua would be very negative for the hemisphere. He
noted that in light of Nicaragua's action, the USG will have
to reconsider all aspects of our bilateral relationship,
including Nicaragua,s Millennium Challenge Compact.

RICE

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