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Cablegate: Mubarak in Italy: Greater Middle East Initiative

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L ROME 000902

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/08/2019
TAGS: EG IT PREL XE ITALIAN POLITICS
SUBJECT: MUBARAK IN ITALY: GREATER MIDDLE EAST INITIATIVE
AT CENTER OF DISCUSSIONS

REF: FBIS EUR20040305000019

Classified By: POL MINCOUNS THOMAS COUNTRYMAN, REASONS 1.5 (b) & (d)

1. (C) Summary: The Italian PM and President urged Mubarak to
take a more open stance towards the Greater Middle East
Initiative, noting Italy's support and the likely endorsement
of the EU and NATO for the concept. Mubarak was careful not
to rule out Arab participation in the initiative, but argued
that Egypt, Iraq and other Arab states would elect extremist
governments if they moved too rapidly to democratic
elections. Mubarak also linked the success of any initiative
to a prior resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, and
spoke of only limited hopes for a breakthrough in the peace
process. END SUMMARY

2. (U) Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak visited Rome March
4-5. He met Prime Minister Berlusconi and FM Frattini for
dinner Thursday, then met with President Ciampi and MFA U/S
Mantica on Friday. Press coverage was limited, overshadowed
by the same-day visit of UK PM Blair. Mubarak gave an
interview to daily La Repubblica (FBIS reftel), in which he
struck many of the same themes as in his private meetings.
The Italian government official statement following the visit
is contained in para 11 below.

3. (C) According to Berlusconi's deputy diplomatic advisor,
Francesco Talo, Mubarak was talkative and frank during his
dinner with the PM. Talo said that Mubarak came in a
skeptical mood on the GME initiative and the Peace Process,
but seemed to relax as he listened to Berlusconi. The PM
told Mubarak that Italy shares the US determination to make
the GME initiative into an inclusive, bottom-up process.
Neither the US nor Europe want to dictate reform from
outside, nor to impose a single model on such a diverse group
of countries. Most importantly, nobody wants to sideline the
peace process.

4. (C) Mubarak told Berlusconi that Egypt, like other Arab
countries, faces a difficult situation from domestic public
opinion. For Egypt, Iraq or other countries to move
immediately to completely open elections would only result in
an extremist government coming to power. Mubarak said he
wanted the Arab League to address the issue at its summit
this month, but that he was willing to discuss the initiative
with the US and Europe. Talo said Mubarak left the
impression he was definitely ""not closed"" to the US
initiative.

5. (C) Frattini then elaborated on the speech he had given at
NATO the previous day on a political role for NATO in the
Middle East. He described NATO's Euro-Med Dialogue as one
contribution to the broader GME initiative. Mubarak listened
with interest and with positive words about the Euro-Med
process.

6. (C) On the peace process, Mubarak said there were only a
few hopeful signs. Sharon's willingness to pull out of Gaza
was positive and may lead to Israel taking additional forward
steps under the Roadmap. Mubarak said he would discuss,
during his Washington visit later this month, how to get
Israel to do more. Berlusconi replied that we need BOTH
sides to take more steps under the Roadmap. There was no
discussion of a new European or Arab initiative on the peace
process.

7. (C) There was a true meeting of the minds on Libya. Both
leaders agreed that Libya's recent steps were positive, and
that Italy and Egypt deserved the greatest credit for
softening up Qadhafi. They then got a few laughs from
swapping stories of their meetings with that wacky Qadhafi.

8. (C) President Ciampi's deputy dip advisor, Giuseppe
Peroni, gave POLMC a similar readout of the Ciampi meeting.
Mubarak started with absolutes: no reform without the
involvement of the Arabs themselves, and no reform with the
Palestinian issue still unresolved. Mubarak listed reforms
in education and human rights already undertaken by Egypt and
said he doesn't need outside advice. Fundamentalism is a
great risk for Egypt, and would be exacerbated if extremists
could claim that the Egyptian government was bowing to
foreign pressure. In reply, Ciampi noted that he had spoken
of the need for democratic and economic reform in every one
of his state visits to Arab countries (Tunisia, Morocco,
Algeria) in the last year. He agreed that there could be no
permanent stability in the region until the Palestinian issue
was resolved. Peroni said that Mubarak had not been terribly
agressive or closed-minded in discussing the GME.


9. (C) On the peace process, Mubarak was more skeptical than
optimistic, though he said the same positive words about a
potential withdrawal from Gaza. He went on at length about
the important role played by Arafat and claimed that Arafat
is fully supporting Abu Alaa.

10. (C) The same day that Mubarak was in Rome, Italian Senate
President Marcello Pera gave Ambassador Sembler a readout of
his just-completed visit to Cairo. (Prior to his trip, Pera
had solicited from the Ambassador points to use to persuade
Mubarak on the GME). Pera said his scheduled twenty-minute
visit with Mubarak March 3 went on for 55 minutes (leaving
Javier Solana to wait outside). Mubarak again made the point
to Pera that free elections would only cause terrorists and
fundamentalists to come to power. He wanted the US to be
more specific about its GME proposal, and not seek to impose
it on the Arab world. Pera said he gave Mubarak a copy of
President Bush's November speech, saying it was clear that
the US was not seeking to impose anything. Mubarak said the
mood in Egypt today is very anti-American (Pera told the
Ambassador he felt the same after his meetings in Cairo).
Mubarak said he is interested in the initiative, but fears
the consequences of its current direction. The US should
take a step back, and allow the Arabs themselves to be the
protagonists in reform. Pera pressed Mubarak to keep the
door open on the initiative, and seek to shape it by engaging
now on its content. To the Ambassador, Pera commented that
Mubarak is one of the Arab world's most pragmatic leaders,
and his concern about the GME initiative undermining regional
stability should at least be taken into account.

11. (U) ABRIDGED TRANSLATION OF ITALIAN GOVERNMENT STATEMENT:
During the long and cordial conversation, Mubarak illustrated
Egypt's assessment of the situation in the Middle East. He
expressed the hope in a strong European action to promote the
resumption of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian
Authority and, expressing concern with the deteriorating
economic conditions in the territories, hope, together with
Berlusconi, in innovative proposals from both sides.
Berlusconi, underscording the importance of Egypt's role in
searching for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, agreed
on the importance of relaunching the Palestinian economy and
confirmed Italy's commitment, both within the EU and the G8,
for a Plan for Palestinian Economic Reconstruction. He
underscored the importance of promoting a reform process to
modernize and develop countries in the ""Greater Middle East"",
noting that this process must use to advantage those process
that have already been promoted with the EU's involvement,
such as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. Berlusconi
agreed with Mubarak that all developments in this sector must
directly involve the countries that are involved in this
process.
Both Mubarak and Berlusconi believe the solution of the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict is crucial to the security and
stability of the entire region.
In conclusion, both Berlusconi and Mubarak expressed their
mutual satisfaction with the excellent progress of
Italo-Egyptian economic and trade relations and stated their
wish to consolidate and enhance those relations further.
END TEXT
SEMBLER

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