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Cablegate: Nea a/S Welch Meetings with Spanish Officials

VZCZCXRO9897
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHMD #1132/01 3050942
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 310942Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5492
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 3620

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 MADRID 001132

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/WE, NEA/RA, AF/RA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/30/2018
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL IR IZ SY SP MR
SUBJECT: NEA A/S WELCH MEETINGS WITH SPANISH OFFICIALS
OCTOBER 23

MADRID 00001132 001.2 OF 005


Classified By: DCM Arnold Chacon for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY. NEA A/S Welch, accompanied by DCM, met
with FM Moratinos, Director General for the Mediterranean,
Magreb and Near Orient Fidel Sendagorta, and Policy Planning
Director Andres Ortega on October 23 to discuss a wide range
of issues including the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), the
Magreb, and Western Sahara, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and
Mauritania. In response to Welch's overview on the MEPP and
the importance of a coordinated approach based on Quartet
principles, Moratinos offered to help with keeping the
process on track and said, "after her next trip, tell
Secretary Rice to call me so I can reinforce her points."
Policy Planning Director Ortega said that President Zapatero
planned to travel to the Middle East in the near future to
push for solutions, although he could not offer details on a
possible itinerary. GOS officials, most likely Deputy
Secretary-equivalent Angel Lossada, plan to visit Baghdad
soon and Welch welcomed efforts to help integrate Iraq into
the international community, adding that a Moratinos visit
would be helpful. Spain believes Syria will move in a
positive direction over the next few months, and that
Moratinos' consistent outreach to the Syrian regime creates
opportunities for it to align with the West rather than Iran.


2. (C) Presented with our views that the democratic process
should be restored in Mauritania, Sendagorta argued that
since its military gave the country form, we must work with
the military to accomplish our goals. Spain's priorities in
Mauritania were counter-terrorism, immigration, and to a
lesser extent, fishing rights, and Sendagorta urged a quick
solution that would prevent a political vacuum or armed
conflict. He said Spain wants to engage with USG officials,
especially the AF bureau, on the issue of Mauritania. Welch
encouraged additional cooperation, since the US and Spain
have different approaches, and reinforced that point with
Ortega as well. END SUMMARY.

3. (C) NEA A/S Welch, accompanied by DCM, met with FM
Moratinos, Director General for the Mediterranean, Magreb and
Near Orient Fidel Sendagorta, and Policy Planning Director
Andres Ortega on October 23 to discuss a wide range of issues
including the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), the Magreb,
and Western Sahara, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and
Mauritania. Moratinos' staff had warned in advance that
scheduling issues would allow only a brief meeting, but
Moratinos, effusive in his welcome, devoted 45 minutes to
reviewing multilateral issues. Sendagorta, accompanied by his
Deputy Director Alberto Ucelay, hosted Welch for a two-hour
lunch meeting at the MFA. Ortega, accompanied by two other
members of President Zapatero's policy planning team, met
with Welch at the Moncloa Presidential Complex. Ortega was
more in "receive mode" but asked many thoughtful questions
about U.S. policy developments, eager to take advantage of
the discussion. Welch also conducted a well-attended press
roundtable that resulted in several articles in the local
press and coverage by the wire services.

-------------
PEACE PROCESS
-------------

4. (C) A/S Welch shared information about next steps in
the peace process and appealed for European regional
cooperation in support of Quartet principles to create, "a
reality both sides can't back away from." FM Moratinos
agreed that the Arab community had not fulfilled its
potential to positively influence the situation and that it
was important to avoid a vacuum while a new Israel government
was being formed. In response to A/S Welch's point that Abu
Mazen needed to, "play it smartly," Moratinos said that the
EU wanted to engage with Arab states to encourage them to
explore new options; reconciliation efforts by Egypt could be
constructive. Welch noted that it was becoming difficult to
gauge the level of seriousness of the many proposals floating
around and it was essential to maintain coordination through
the Quartet Process to keep the focus on results. Moratinos
offered to help with keeping the process on track and said,
"after her next trip, tell Secretary Rice to call me so I can
reinforce her points." In response to Sendagorta's question
about the formation of a new Israeli government and its
impact on the process, Welch said that it was important to
show progress in the new year, e.g., slowdown in settlement
construction, fewer roadblocks, improved security, and
enhanced economic activity. He noted that is was important
to query the new Israeli government privately, without hard

MADRID 00001132 002.2 OF 005


stances that would force its hand. During the November
Quartet meeting, the Parties should address the structure and
goals of the full peace process, with a focus on expected
results by the end of the year. There should be no public
characterization of positions. Policy Planning Director
Ortega said that President Zapatero planned to travel to the
Middle East in the near future to push for solutions,
although he could not offer details on a possible itinerary.

---------
SYRIA
---------

5. (C) On Syria, Moratinos said, "we call it as we see it,
despite France thinking that we are too optimistic." When
Welch commented that we agreed with the results-based
approach contained in the EU letter to Syria, Moratinos said,
"I have taken risks reaching out to the Syrians, but I know
the personalities and the issues." He continued, "Syria
wants to be part of the West, rather than aligning with Iran
they want to be welcomed in Paris, and moreover, we need them
to conclude any comprehensive peace plan." "Walid
(al-Muallem) wants to normalize with the U.S.," Moratinos
emphasized. The other factor Moratinos noted was that
drawing Syria closer to the West would serve to marginalize
Iranian efforts to exert influence. A/S Welch remarked on
the Moratinos/EU letter on Lebanon that was sent to Syria,
spelling out benchmarks for improved behavior. He emphasized
that if Syria seeks further engagement with the international
community, it must take specific, demonstrable actions.

6. (C) Sendagorta claimed that Moratinos, engagement with
Syria paying off; others in the EU have come around to
Spain's position. Welch amplified his point, saying that
while the U.S. agrees with an approach based on quantifiable
results, a fuller assessment of Syrian actions is needed,
particularly with regard to Lebanon and foreign fighter
flows. Sendagorta thought that Syria would be more careful
in the future, given the dramatic, positive evolution of
situation in Iraq. He agreed foreign fighters can do the
Syrians lots of harm. Sendagorta added that Spain worried
for safety of its UNIFIL troops. In response to Welch's query
whether Spain talked to Syrians regarding border camps,
Sendagorta said "not recently," but that in July 2008 Spain
had secured a commitment from Syrian President al-Asad.
Welch said that Syria needed to hear more on this issue from
the international community. Overall, Sendagorta summarized,
Spain thinks Syria will move in constructive ways in the next
few months, in contrast to Iran. Welch reiterated to all
Spanish interlocutors that a vigilant UNIFIL was essential to
prevent Hizballah from reasserting itself and that Syria
shouldn't be allowed to dabble to gain concessions without
implementing real reform.

-------
IRAN
-------

7. (C) In response to Sendagorta's question, Welch said
there was no decision on opening an US Interests Section in
Iran. An Interests Section idea, especially if it was
empowered to issue visas, could be useful, but it must also
serve a broader purpose. Welch appealed for more effective
political approach/policy on Iran; the EU must be tougher on
Iran if our approach of calibrated response was to work.
Welch reviewed Iran's counterproductive efforts in Syria,
Lebanon and Iraq with all his interlocutors. He asked the
Spanish to consider if there are any creative options to add
to a coordinated set of incentives and disincentives for the
Iranian regime. He also called for more coordinated
financial actions, and ensuring that Iran would not benefit
from any new international financial instruments, e.g.,
excluding Iran from bank deposit protections.

-------
IRAQ
-------

8. (C) On Iraq, Sendagorta said GOS officials, most likely
Deputy Secretary-equivalent Angel Lossada, would visit soon
and Welch welcomed efforts to help integrate Iraq into the
international community, adding that a Moratinos visit would
be helpful. Sendagorta said Spain was ready to start a new
chapter in Iraq, focusing on commercial activity and CT
cooperation, issues that they had discussed with Iraq's
ambassador to Spain. Ortega also said that while it was
difficult for the PSOE administration, Spain would engage

MADRID 00001132 003.2 OF 005


with Iraq, in a non-military way, if it could protect its
personnel and address security concerns. Spain wants to do
its part to stabilize Iraq within the current political
context. Welch briefed on the pending Iraq SOFA, which needs
to be concluded before year's end, and explained that Russian
FM Lavrov's public remarks that Russia might consider renewal
of UN Iraq mandate were unhelpful because they served to
reduce pressure on Iraqi leaders to deal with SOFA issue.
The UN mandate was not ideal since it limited Iraqi
sovereignty and had negative financial implications. He
explained that the US SOFA was very forward leaning, aimed at
giving Iraq jurisdiction and room to maneuver. Welch also
noted that political involvement by Spain had its own merit
and might help protect against Iranian intrusions in Iraqi
domestic politics. Alberto Ucelay asked to be kept informed
of the date of the upcoming Iraq Neighbors Conference, as it
might be the logical point to arrange a Lossada visit to
Baghdad.

------------------------
MAGREB & WESTERN SAHARA
------------------------

9. (C) With regard to the Magreb, Welch described the recent
Libya settlement that would take the US-Libya bilateral
relationship to a new level, in addition to increasingly
strong cooperation with Algeria and Morocco. Recognizing
Spain's efforts, he said that given worrisome trends toward
violent extremism in the Magreb, it was ever more important
to encourage broader political reconciliation and foster
significant improvements in intra-Magreb cooperation. Welch
and Moratinos recapped counter-terrorism and stabilization
efforts in the Magreb. Moratinos said Spain believed former
Ambassador Ross could be an effective UNSYG Special
Representative on Western Sahara and that, "we are telling
the Moroccans to give him support." He acknowledged Moroccan
unhappiness with the dismissal of Van Walsum and said that
Ross would need to facilitate communications and build trust
among all parties to the negotiations. Moratinos suggested a
coordination meeting including Spain, France, Algeria,
Morocco and the U.S. on the margins of the NATO ministerial.
Welch replied that Secretary Rice had attempted a similar
meeting during her trip to the region but the Moroccans and
Algerians did not respond positively; timing would be a
factor for another attempt during the NATO Ministerial.

10. (C) Welch and Sendagorta reviewed Moratinos' idea of
arranging meetings of for Secretary Rice and her French and
Spanish counterparts with Morocco and Algeria to breath life
into Western Sahara issue. Welch encouraged the Spanish to
develop the initiative for further consideration. Ortega
related Spain's view that the Manhasset process itself was
critically important, apart from whether or not there were
any near-term chances of achieving an accord. While Spain
would officially support a referendum, a referendum would
only be useful it validated a solution rather than calling
for end results. Ortega suggested that the Algerians could
be moved forward in their thinking by engaging them
indirectly through the Union for the Mediterranean mechanism.
In addition, he agreed with Welch that the Western Sahara
dispute would not be solved while the border was closed. If
Morocco and Algeria could integrate their tourism sectors and
enhance economic ties, it would build a foundation of trust
that would facilitate other discussions. However, Ortega
admitted that the Barcelona Process had never been able to
impact the intra-Magreb or Morocco-Algeria dynamics.

-------------
MAURITANIA
-------------

11. (C) According to Sendagorta, Spain views Mauritania as
part of the Magreb, in contrast to the US and France who
manage the relationship within an African context. Asking
Welch to convey Spanish views that Mauritania was a fragile
country and therefore, a target for al-Qaeda, Sendagorta
argued that since its military gave the country form, we must
work with the military to accomplish our goals. Spain's
priorities were counter-terrorism, immigration, and to a
lesser extent, fishing rights, and Sendagorta urged a quick
solution that would prevent a political vacuum or armed
conflict. He opined that it would be ideal if the military
stepped back and allowed a "Turkish model" to emerge. Spain
doesn't want a failed state a few miles from its territory in
the Canary Islands.

12. (C) In response to Welch's points on the need to

MADRID 00001132 004.2 OF 005


reinforce the democratic process, Sendagorta clarified that
Spain was not weak on democracy, but wanted to find the right
balance to bring long term solutions. Sendagorta claimed
France was coming around to Spain's views on this matter.
Given ongoing consultations in Mauritania regarding the
presidential powers and the parliament's role, Sendagorta
believed an agreement was possible by year end. Also, Spain
thought there should be movement to liberate the ex-president
without putting him back in power. Spain's Ambassador in
Mauritania reported the ex-president was well treated and the
Parliament was still operational; hence there was a measure
of freedom of expression. Sendagorta said Spain wants to
engage with USG officials, especially the AF bureau, on the
issue of Mauritania with USG officials. Welch encouraged
additional cooperation, since the US and Spain have different
approaches, and reinforced that point with Ortega as well.

-------------------------
MULTILATERAL COORDINATION
-------------------------

13. (C) Sendagorta said the GOS was impressed with USG
administration's management of many interconnecting foreign
policy issues in the second Bush term. Welch reiterated our
desire for European cooperation across the board. Sendagorta
said the EU working toward an integrated approach to foreign
policy, despite many difficulties as decreasing sovereignty
among EU countries engendered competition among them, leading
to uncoordinated foreign policy initiatives (as Welch had
noted during his presentation on the MEPP).

-------
COMMENT
-------

14. (C) Sendagorta's insights on the competition among EU
countries to gain some sort of foreign policy prestige
certainly applies to Spain's efforts to position itself as a
key player in the Middle East. Spain has already announced
that it plans to initiate a major Middle East initiative
during its January-June 2010 EU Presidency. Apart from
Foreign Minister Moratino's long-term personal interest in
the issues, Spain also views itself as the most influential
Mediterranean country, serving as the primary link beween
Africa and Europe based on geography, population flows and
history. With Spain actively campaigning for support to have
Barcelona designated as the headquarters of the Union for the
Mediterranean, it is seeking broad support for its candidacy.
Spain emphasizes to Muslim countries that, given the
history of Andalusia, it can serve as an important bridge
culture and it has a unique understanding of Islam that
allows "strong fraternal ties." For example, King Juan
Carlos offered to host the Saudi-sponsored 2008 World Muslim
League Inter-Faith Conference. King Juan Carlos and Spanish
officials make regular swings through the Middle East to
promote commercial ties and investment opportunities.
Moreover, Spain "markets" itself to Gulf countries and other
states with funds to invest as the natural link to Latin
America, claiming that it has the special understanding and
technical skills necessary to successfully expand commercial
ties in Latin America. Apart from Spain's quest for foreign
policy prestige and commercial opportunities, it also
recognizes the potential challenges and opportunities of
increasing Muslim immigration to Spain, from the Magreb and
other regions as well.

-------------
SENDAGORTA BIO
-------------

15. (U) Fidel Sendagorta is a new contact for the Embassy
since he took over his portfolio in August 2008. This was
our first opportunity to hold an extended meeting with him.
His unclassified biographic information follows:

Sendagorta was born in 1956. He has a degree in Law. He
joined the Spanish Diplomatic Corps in 1984 and served in the
embassies in Japan (1984), Cuba (1988), and Morocco (Cultural
Counselor in 1996). Between 1993-96, Sendagorta was Advisor
to the Secretary of State for International Cooperation and
Latin America, and to the Foreign Affairs Minister. In
1999, as Counselor in the Spanish Permanent Representation to
the EU, he coordinated planning for the April 2002 EuroMed
Summit held in Valencia. In 2002 he served as MFA's Deputy
Director General of the Policy Planning and Analysis Bureau.
In October 2007 he was appointed Special Ambassador for
Mediterranean Affairs. In August 2008, he was appointed

MADRID 00001132 005.2 OF 005


Director General for the Mediterranean, Magreb and Near
Orient.

16. (C) Sendagorta was thoughtful in his comments on issues
in his portfolio, and did not present an ideological view.
He seemed to be trying to creater a better dialogue with us
on Middle Eastern issues, given strains in the past.

17. (U) Assistant Secretary Welch cleared this cable.

AGUIRRE

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