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Cablegate: Codel Hastings' Cairo Meetings

VZCZCXRO7054
RR RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHEG #2578/01 3651340
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 301340Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1241
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 002578

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR NEA/ELA, G/TIP, AND H (PLEASE PASS TO REP. HASTINGS)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/12/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PBTS OSCE PHUM KCRM OREP EUN PREF
PTER, IZ, JO, EG
SUBJECT: CODEL HASTINGS' CAIRO MEETINGS

Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey, for reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d).

Sensitive but unclassified. Not for Internet release.

1. (C) Summary: In December 6 meetings, senior Egyptian
government officials told Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) that the
incoming U.S. administration should focus on the
Israeli-Palestinian peace process "from day one." FM Ahmed
Aboul Gheit told Hastings that the Barcelona Process has been
completely displaced by the Mediterranean Union, which he
said is currently working on forming a secretariat. Hastings
asked that Egyptian parliamentarians participate in an
upcoming Washington meeting of OSCE and Mediterranean partner
MP's, but received no assurances from either the FM or the
Speaker of the People's Assembly regarding Egyptian
participation. End summary.

--------------------
MINISTER OF INTERIOR
--------------------

2. (SBU) Minister of Interior Habib al Adly began the meeting
with warm praise for USG-GOE security and CT cooperation.
Queried by Hastings on smuggling rings, Adly discussed the
increase in Egyptians' use of human traffickers to illegally
migrate to Europe, commenting that, "after the Europeans
enacted more restrictive visa requirements, many Egyptians
have turned to these smugglers." Discussing the increase in
African migrants being shot on the Egyptian border as they
attempt to illegally enter Israel, Adly said that many are
killed in the exchange of fire between Egyptian security
forces and Bedouin smugglers, or by shots from the Israeli
side of the border. He lamented the loss of life on the
Sinai border, but emphasized that Egypt was committed to
controlling the border.

3. (SBU) Queried by Hastings on port security, Adly averred
that Egypt maintains "high control" of its ports, but that
"faster mechanisms" were needed for better identifying
passports and potential criminals/terrorists. He said that
the GOE has "good cooperation and coordination" with the
Embassy, highlighting cooperation regarding the inspection of
U.S.-bound containers. Adly predicted that the global
financial crisis would result in increased crime and
"possible unrest" in Egypt.

---------------------------
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
---------------------------

4. (SBU) When queried by Hastings regarding Egypt's views on
the Barcelona Process and the Union for the Mediterranean, FM
Aboul Gheit said that Barcelona was "obviated" by the launch
of the Mediterranean Union in July 2008, and that with the
November Mediterranean Union ministerial in Marseilles, "the
words 'Barcelona Process' have been formally deleted from the
agenda - we are all focused now on the Mediterranean Union."
Aboul Gheit said that the Mediterranean Union's secretariat
is currently being formed, and that a multilateral meeting
will be held "soon" to discuss joint projects in various
sectors (for instance, environment, development, and energy).
Aboul Gheit opined that if the Mediterranean Union obtains
"sufficient resources" it will prosper, but if not, "it will
become stagnant, like Barcelona." Emphasizing the importance
of the OSCE's Mediterranean partners, Hastings asked that
Egyptian parliamentarians participate in an upcoming meeting
of OSCE and Mediterranean partner parliamentarians he is
organizing in Washington. Aboul Gheit did not respond.

5. (SBU) Turning to the peace process, Aboul Gheit urged that
the new U.S. administration help Palestinian president
Mahmoud Abbas "ensure reforms and improve the quality of life
for Palestinians in the West Bank, so they see that the
government offers services." He recommended that the
administration "lean on the Israelis - push from the first
day - and not get distracted by the financial crisis."

------------
MOD GENERALS
------------

6. (SBU) In a subsequent lunch with Assistant Minister of
Defense MG Mohamed Said Al-Assar and several accompanying
senior generals, the military officers expressed deep dismay
at Congress' conditioning of $100 million in assistance
(either ESF or FMF) to Egypt in the 2008 Foreign
Appropriations bill. Al-Assar stressed repeatedly the
"success story" of military cooperation between Egypt and the
U.S., and that political issues should not be mixed with
military issues: "By doing so, you are really hurting the
strategic relationship between us." When Hastings raised
Iraq, Al-Assar noted that his staff is arranging a visit to
Egypt by the Iraqi Minister of Defense, and that he expects
bilateral relations to "grow." The generals all urged that
the new U.S. administration focus on the Israeli-Palestinian
peace process - "that is the backbone of all other problems
in the area, and it must be solved."

---------------------
SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT
---------------------

7. (SBU) Speaker of the People's Assembly Fathi Surour
stressed that the Egyptian government is very "sensitive":
"If you attack us, we attack you. If you humiliate us
publicly, we get nervous, and we respond in kind." He said
that he did not ask the incoming U.S. administration for
"everything ... just not to be hypocrites with regard to
human rights. How can you criticize us for human rights
violations, but be running Guantanamo, and killing thousands
of innocent Iraqis and Afghans?" Warming to the subject,
Surour asserted that "U.S. rhetoric on human rights distorts
the bilateral relationship." He questioned why President
Bush is "only listening to the enemies of Egypt. Why does he
meet with Saad Eddin Ibrahim? Why are these people your
advisors on Egypt?"

8. (SBU) On regional issues, Surour advised that the Obama
administration focus on the Middle East peace process, "but
do not begin from zero. Start from the basis of the Roadmap."
Hastings raised the upcoming Washington meeting of OSCE and
Mediterranean parliamentary partners. Surour did not respond
to Hastings request that Egypt send a delegation of MP's to
participate.

--------------------
JORDANIAN AMBASSADOR
--------------------

9. (SBU) In a wide-ranging December 7 discussion with
Jordanian Ambassador to Cairo Hani El Mulki, Mulki pledged to
contact the Speaker of the Jordanian parliament after the Eid
al Adha holiday, to urge him to send MP's to the OSCE
parliamentary meeting in Washington.

10. (SBU) CODEL Hastings did not have the opportunity to
clear on this cable.
SCOBEY

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