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Cablegate: Emboffs Discuss Counter-Terrorism Cooperation,

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 PANAMA 001046

SIPDIS


DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/MEX, EUR/RUS, AND INR/B


E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/03/2009
TAGS: PREL ETRD EWWT PINR PM POL CHIEF
SUBJECT: EMBOFFS DISCUSS COUNTER-TERRORISM COOPERATION,
COMMERCIAL TIES, REGIONAL PRESSURE

REF: A. STATE 71826
B. PANAMA 0274


Classified By: DCM Christopher J. McMullen for reason 1.4 (b)


----------------
Building Bridges
----------------


1. (C) On April 22, PolOffs met with Russian Embassy
Counselor (DCM) Oleg Ostrovskiy and First Secretary Evgeny
Lebedev for our first tete-a-tete. Both GOR diplomats are
Americas specialists and have already served in Panama for a
year or more. Noting the good relationship between our
countries' heads of state and foreign ministries (Ref A) and
our mutual interest in the war against global terrorism, he
thanked PolOffs for reaching out to them regarding Ref A. He
offered to assist Embassy with the GOP in any
counter-terrorism (CT) component that we may identify. He
commented on the bilateral information-sharing agreement
between the GOR's Finance and Monetary Commission and the
GOP's Financial Analysis Unit (UAF) to fight money
laundering. (Comment: We believe that agreement may be
Russia's principal bilateral link with the GOP. End
Comment.) At a February 2 mini-CT Action Group (CTAG)
meeting, Ostrovskiy requested that the Embassy ask the GOP to
brief the group on terrorist threats to Panamanian
infrastructure. (See Ref B.)


--------------------
Making(-up) missions
--------------------


2. (C) Ostrovskiy admitted that the Russian Embassy has weak
ties with the GOP, saying that Russia-Panama relations still
were "under development". The embassy is relatively small
with only 15 personnel, all Russian nationals, including
eight diplomats. In the region, the GOR has embassies in
Costa Rica and Nicaragua and is establishing an embassy in
Guatemala, supposedly because of economic interests.
Ostrovskiy claimed no regional representational
responsibilities, though Lebedev stated that he and
Ostrovskiy travel to Mexico and Cuba on a regular basis.
When pressed, Ostrovskiy named growing export and investment
opportunities and natural-disaster response assistance as
Russian-Panamanian agenda items. However, their Embassy's
Economic Counselor position was just eliminated, and
Ostrovskiy could not elaborate on any recent aid projects.


----------------
New Embassy Site
----------------


3. Ostrovskiy confirmed Russia's plans to build a new
embassy on a parcel at former Fort Albrook. (Comment:
Contrary to local newspaper reports, it would not be adjacent
to our own new embassy compound in Clayton.) Also, he stated
that the GOR has yet to allocate funds for construction,
though a lease agreement on the land has been finalized.
Groundbreaking for the new embassy compound was held November
1, 2003, according to press reports, and would comprise 1.5
hectares (3.6 acres).


-------
Comment
-------


4. (C) We pursued this meeting with the Russians because of
comments made earlier to Ambassador Watt by former Russian
ambassador Nikolay Vladimir, to the effect that Russia has
plans to establish a Panama hub for its regional operations
to replace Mexico, and would scale down its commercial and
other activities in Mexico as it moves officers to Panama.
After speaking with Ostrovskiy, it does not appear that
changes in Russia's regional focus are imminent.


WATT

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