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Cablegate: Swiss Foreign Minister May Visit Tripoli in "Last Gasp"

VZCZCXRO4123
OO RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHTRO #0926 3371706
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 021706Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4201
INFO RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 4723
RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN IMMEDIATE 0022
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1328
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 0688
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0832
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0778
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES

2008-12-02 17:06:00 08TRIPOLI926 Embassy Tripoli CONFIDENTIAL 08TRIPOLI851 VZCZCXRO4123\
OO RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSR\
DE RUEHTRO #0926 3371706\
ZNY CCCCC ZZH\
O 021706Z DEC 08\
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI\
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4201\
INFO RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 4723\
RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN IMMEDIATE 0022\
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 1328\
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 0688\
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 0832\
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT PRIORITY 0778\
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC\
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES C O N F I D E N T I A L TRIPOLI 000926 \
\
SIPDIS \
\
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG \
\
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/2/2018 \
TAGS: PREL PHUM ECON EAIR SZ LY
SUBJECT: SWISS FOREIGN MINISTER MAY VISIT TRIPOLI IN "LAST GASP" \
EFFORT TO MEND FRAYED BILATERAL TIES \
\
REF: TRIPOLI 851 \
\
CLASSIFIED BY: Chris Stevens, CDA, Embassy Tripoli, Department \
of State. \
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) \
1. (C) Swiss Consul Francois Schmidt told P/E Chief on December \
2 that Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey intends to \
travel to Tripoli on December 5 for talks with as-yet \
undetermined Government of Libya interlocutors in what he \
described as "a last gasp" effort to resolve the lingering \
Libyan-Swiss contretemps occasioned by the arrest in Geneva of \
Hannibal al-Qadhafi, son of Muammar al-Qadhafi, in July. (Note: \
Schmidt asked that we keep news of the possible visit close-hold \
as it had not yet been finalized. End note.) The Swiss Embassy \
submitted a diplomatic note to the Libyan MFA on December 1 \
requesting meetings for Calmy-Rey with Muammar al-Qadhafi and a \
number of lesser officials, including Foreign \
Minister-equivalent Abdulrahman Shalgham and National Security \
Advisor Muatassim al-Qadhafi. Schmidt said Swiss Ambassador to \
Tripoli Daniel von Muralt had advised against the trip, \
cautioning Calmy-Rey that she could be "badly humiliated" if she \
decided to come. Admitting that there was "no agreed strategy, \
message or approach" behind the proposed visit, Schmidt said the \
Swiss Federal Government had nonetheless directed her to make \
the trip in the hope that it could rejuvenate Libyan-Swiss talks \
that he characterized as "hopelessly stalled". \
\
2. (C) Schmidt said the situation had worsened since Libyan and \
Swiss members of a joint commission of inquiry exchanged copies \
of their respective drafts of a final report on November 14. \
The idea was that they would agree on language for a report that \
would be jointly issued to the public, which would detail the \
events attendant to Hannibal's arrest and mutually-agreed \
remedies. Ambassador von Muralt stressed in an earlier meeting \
with us (reftel) that the joint commission's report would likely \
be the next stumbling block in the effort to mend frayed ties. \
Schmidt confirmed that such had come to pass, saying the two \
reports were "miles apart" in terms of their interpretations of \
events and conclusions. Schmidt highlighted the fact that \
Libyan members had come away with completely different \
understandings of the testimony of key witnesses, and suggested \
that they had shaded their intepretations to bolster the key \
Libyan demand that the arresting police officers be punished. \
\
3. (C) Lamenting that the GOL had repeatedly shifted the \
goalposts in terms of its demands for redress, Schmidt said GOL \
officials' latest demands were that the officers be "banished" \
from Geneva to other cantonments and that the Swiss prosecutor \
be investigated for legal malpractice. They had also recently \
stipulated that a public apology to be issued by the Swiss \
government as part of a grand bargain admit that Swiss officials \
had conspired to "deliberately entrap" Hannibal al-Qadhafi. He \
attributed most of the creeping demands to the personal \
involvement of Aisha al-Qadhafi and Hannibal al-Qadhafi in the \
work of the Libyan committee tasked with resolving the issue. \
In a positive step, all but two of Switzerland's citizens \
remaining in Libya had obtained exit visas; the two remaining \
are under indictment for alleged crimes in cases brought right \
after Hannibal's arrest. Swiss Air's station manager, who had \
been prohibited for over a month from leaving, obtained a six \
month, multiple-entry visa and a one-year residency permit after \
Swiss officials linked her case to that of the gravely ill \
daughter of a senior regime official, whom the family wanted to \
take to Switzerland for specialized treatment. In addition, \
Swiss Air, which had threatened to cease operating its one \
remaining Zurich-Tripoli route (landing permits for two of its \
three weekly flights were cancelled by the GOL after Hannibal's \
arrest), has decided to continue flying until year's end and \
will assess then whether to shutter its operations. \
\
4. (C) Comment: Other EU missions have quietly questioned the \
Swiss approach to the ongoing kerfuffle, particularly Bern's \
decision to not/not solicit support from Brussels for a joint EU \
response to the GOL's pressure tactics. The fact that the \
reports of the Libyan and Swiss members of the joint commission \
of inquiry are so divergent with respect to what happened and \
who is at fault does not augur well. While high-level shuttle \
diplomacy with the GOL has worked in some cases in the past \
(witness French efforts with respect to the Bulgarian nurses), \
the consensus among the diplomatic corps here is that Tripoli \
believes it has the upper hand and will not concede much to the \
Swiss. The dispute highlights the extent to which the GOL \
remains a family enterprise, willing to go to extreme lengths \
over what amounts to a matter of face involving the abhorrent \
behavior of Hannibal al-Qadhafi. End comment. \
\
STEVENS \

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