Cablegate: Prm a/S Dewey Discusses Palestinian and Iraqi

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958:N/A

REF: Amman 4337

1. (SBU) Summary: During a July 16-17 visit to Jordan, PRM
A/S Dewey met with the Director-General of the GOJ's
Department of Palestinian Affairs and the Camp Improvement
Committee at Wihdat refugee camp, visited UNRWA
installations and met with UNRWA Deputy ComGen Karen
AbuZayd. The Palestinian refugees urged the U.S. to
continue its involvement in Israeli/Palestinian roadmap
implementation and support the right of return as outlined
in UN resolutions. AbuZayd reported that UNRWA would assist
in UNHCR's registration of Palestinian refugees in Iraq and
also hopes to register qualifying refugees with UNRWA. In a
separate meeting with GOJ Minister of State for Foreign
Affairs, A/S Dewey outlined U.S. views on the repatriation
of Iraqi refugees. The GOJ repeated previous assurances
that it would not organize Iraqi returns until conditions
improved inside Iraq but noted that its first priority for
returns would be the 2,000 Palestinian and Iraqi refuges
currently at the Jordanian-Iraqi border. Embassy-arranged
press interviews gave A/S Dewey an opportunity to highlight
U.S. humanitarian engagement. End summary.

2. (U) PRM A/S Gene Dewey visited Jordan July 16-17, prior
to beginning a joint tour of Iraq with the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees. PRM/ANE Deputy Director Larry
Bartlett, Charge d'Affaires David Hale, Regional Refcoord
Joan Polaschik and Refugee Assistant Ibrahim Bisharat
accompanied A/S Dewey in his Jordan meetings.

Palestinian Refugees Urge Continued
U.S. Humanitarian and Political Roles

3. (U) A/S Dewey began his meetings with a call on GOJ
Department of Palestinian Affairs Director General
Abdulkarim Abulhaija and the Camp Improvement Committee of
Wihdat refugee camp. Although the committee was grateful
for the United States' long-standing, strong financial
support to UNRWA, its members urged A/S Dewey to increase
U.S. support to the agency. With a rapidly growing
Palestinian refugee population and declining donor support
for UNRWA, the Wihdat committee worries that UNRWA will be
forced to cut services, leaving a vulnerable population
still further exposed. In Wihdat camp, for example, 500
families have an annual income of less than USD 80 and
depend on assistance from UNRWA and the Zakat committee.

4. (U) The committee told A/S Dewey that continued U.S.
political engagement on the peace process was just as
important as continued financial support to UNRWA. The real
solution to the refugees' humanitarian problems would be
full implementation of the right of return as outlined in UN
resolutions. A/S Dewey responded that the parties
themselves agreed that the right of return should be
addressed only in final status talks, eliciting several
impassioned interventions on the centrality of the right of
return to lasting, comprehensive peace.

5. (U) A/S Dewey also visited a women's program center in
Wihdat refugee camp, where he observed women's vocational
training programs and received a briefing on UNRWA services
from Jordan Field Director Bill Lee. Lee told A/S Dewey
that UNRWA services and standards (its historically superb
school exam scores, for example) were dropping due to
chronic underfunding. Lee added that UNRWA's 1999 staff
rules (which decreased staff salaries significantly) had
severely impaired the agency's ability to hire and retain
qualified staff. Lee then accompanied A/S Dewey on a visit
to UNRWA's Amir Hassan health center, a dilapidated,
overcrowded clinic in east Amman that treats 108 patients
per day. UNRWA seeks USD 214,000 in special project funding
to replace the clinic with a new, more accessible clinic.

--------------------------------------------- --------
UNRWA Deputy ComGen Addresses GAO Investigation,
Extraordinary Geneva Meeting and Palestinians in Iraq
--------------------------------------------- ---------

6. (SBU) In a separate meeting with UNRWA Deputy
Commissioner General Karen AbuZayd, A/S Dewey and Bartlett
briefed AbuZayd on the U.S. General Accounting Office's
ongoing investigation of UNRWA's compliance with section
301(c) of the Foreign Assistance Act. AbuZayd said UNRWA
would welcome a GAO field visit during the week of August 24
and was eager to facilitate the GAO's work. They also
discussed UNRWA's planned extraordinary meeting in Geneva
(ref). AbuZayd pledged that UNRWA would not include UNRWA's
future as an agenda item at the meeting. While UNRWA hoped
to address more strategic issues such as the international
community's crisis recovery plan for the West Bank and Gaza
or the impact of chronic underfunding on UNRWA operations,
the agency's leadership recognized that it could not take on
political topics in the extraordinary meeting. Refcoord
urged UNRWA to hold technical-level planning meetings before
the September major donors meeting, to ensure that all
stakeholders were aware of and comfortable with UNRWA's
plans for the extraordinary Geneva meeting.

7. (SBU) AbuZayd also briefed A/S Dewey on UNRWA's plans to
send a three-person technical team to Iraq, to assist UNHCR
-- at its request -- in the registration of Palestinian
refugees in Iraq. AbuZayd said the team's mandate initially
would be limited to assisting UNHCR in the registration of
Palestinians for UNHCR assistance but that the agency
ultimately would like to register as UNRWA refugees those
Palestinians in Iraq who meet the definition of an UNRWA
refugee (Palestinians who lived in British Mandate Palestine
between 1946 and 1948 and lost their homes and means of
livelihood as the result of conflict). Under UNRWA
regulations, however, UNRWA is able to conduct new
registrations only in its five fields of operations -
meaning that Palestinian refugees must physically be present
in Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Syria or Lebanon. AbuZayd said
UNRWA was considering how to handle the Iraqi population in
light of these regulations.

Iraqi Refugees and Return Programs

8. (SBU) A/S Dewey briefed GOJ Minister of State for
Foreign Affairs Shaher Bak on U.S. plans for large-scale,
assisted returns of Iraqi refugees to Iraq. Both the U.S.
and UNHCR agree that such returns should not be conducted
until conditions in Iraq improve. UNHCR's successful return
of several hundred stranded in Dubai had encouraged the U.S.
and UNHCR to resume planning for the first returns from
Saudi Arabia's Rafha refugee camp. Consideration would next
be given to organized returns of Iraqi refugees from Iran
and then from other neighboring states.

9. (SBU) Bak responded that the GOJ's first priority for
returns was to solve the situation at the border, returning
to Iraq the 1,000 Iranians Kurds and 900 Palestinians who
have been seeking in asylum in Jordan since mid-April (ref
b). However, the GOJ agreed with the U.S. and UNHCR on
their return policy and would not organize Iraqi returns
until conditions improved inside Iraq. Bak also reported
that initial post-war spontaneous returns had leveled off,
with Iraqis now "coming and going" but no general trend
toward returns. The GOJ continues to enforce its previous
halt on deportations but would review this decision on a
quarterly basis. Bak was very interested in U.S. plans to
improve security and socio-economic conditions in Iraq and
asked for a readout of A/S Dewey's upcoming joint trip to
Iraq with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The Charge
promised the Embassy would provide a briefing.

Press Coverage of A/S Dewey's Visit

10. (U) PA Amman arranged interviews for A/S Dewey with the
Arabic language daily "Al Dustoor" and the English-language
daily "The Jordan Times," providing an opportunity to
highlight for a wider audience ongoing U.S. support for
Palestinian refugees and other issues of interest in the
Middle East such as U.S. assistance to refugee communities
in Iraq and Afghanistan. On July 17, Al Dustoor ran its
interview under the headline, "U.S. Assistant Secretary of
State: Solution to the Issue of Palestinian Refugees Part
of the Road Map." The article emphasized A/S Dewey's
remarks urging progress on the Roadmap as the best means to
solve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians;
calling for greater support for UNRWA programs by European
and Arab states; expressing concern over the situation of
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon; and explaining that, with
regard to Iraqi refugees seeking to return to their country,
the U.S. goal is to improve the security situation and
strengthen UNHCR's capabilities, so that Iraqis can
eventually begin to return to their country in large
numbers. He noted that the international community learned
much from the Afghanistan experience, where the U.S.
campaign to bring down the Taliban regime led to the return
of over 2 million old-caseload refugees. A/S Dewey also
highlighted the relatively low numbers of refugees or
displaced persons as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom,
attributing it to U.S. and international efforts to prepare
for and head off such a humanitarian crisis.

11. (U) A/S Dewey took advantage of a question regarding
increased security measures directed towards Arab and Muslim
visitors and migrants to the United States to stress that
while the U.S. must take measures to ensure a safe homeland,
it will remain an immigrant nation and continue to welcome
and need the talents of immigrants from all over the world.
The Jordan Times ran a brief item 7/17 -- as did all
Jordan's dailies -- regarding A/S Dewey's visit to Whidat
refugee camp.

12. (U) A/S Dewey cleared this message.

13. (U) CPA Baghdad minimize considered.

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