Cablegate: U.S.-Spain Council: Mod Bono Expresses "Personal

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 SECTION 01 OF 03 MADRID 001879


E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/16/2015

Classified By: Political Counselor Kathy Fitzpatrick; reason 1.4 (B)

1. (C) Summary. The U.S.-Spain Council, a private
bi-national NGO dedicated to strengthening U.S.-Spain
relations, held its tenth annual meeting May 13-16 in
Seville. Participants included U.S. Council Chairman Senator
Chris Dodd, EUR DAS Glyn Davies, Charge Manzanares, Spanish
Minister of Defense Jose Bono, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel
Moratinos, Spain Council Chairman Antonio Garrigues, regional
political officials, and business leaders from both
countries. Prince Felipe hosted a dinner for meeting
participants on the second evening of the event. The most
newsworthy development during the Council meetings was
Minister of Defense Bono's strong, but personal, public
support for maintaining the EU China arms embargo (while
making clear that FM Moratinos had the final word on Spain's
position on the arms embargo) and his acknowledgement that he
may have committed "errors" during his tenure as MOD, a
reference to his statements/measures that have upset
U.S.-Spain bilateral relations. Bono informed Charge that he
had made both comments at the request of Secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld. Separately, Moratinos urged the creation of a
U.S.-Spain bilateral commission to meet at the ministerial
level on an annual basis to discuss regional issues of mutual
concern, as well as recommending other measures to enhance
bilateral relations. While the comments of both ministers
were largely positive, veiled swipes at opposition support
for U.S. policy in Iraq reflected a continuing temptation to
drag the USG into domestic political debates. End Summary.


2. (C) Bono used a speech to participants in the tenth annual
meeting of the U.S.-Spain Council to announce his personal
opposition to the lifting of the EU arms embargo on China.
He said that it did not make sense to lift the arms embargo
now simply because "a particular EU country wants to sell
weapons to China." Bono told Charge privately that he had
made this statement to honor a request made by Secretary
Rumsfeld during their May 3 meeting in Washington that Bono
make public his views on the China arms embargo.

3. (C) While Bono was careful to note in his speech that FM
Moratinos had the ultimate word on the China arms issue
within the Spanish government, his comments nonetheless
created a stir during an otherwise routine meeting of the
Council. Charge learned that FM Moratinos and Socialist
Party Director for International Relations Trinidad Jimenez
called Bono after his speech to criticize the way he had
framed the issue. Bono's comments came just hours after
Moratinos' elaboration of a more nuanced position that tracks
with that of its EU allies (see para 9.) Bono's statement
apparently came as a surprise to members of his staff as
well; an MOD contact called Embassy's Spanish-national
political assistant (who was present for the speech) to
verify Bono's declaration.

4. (C) Separately, Bono said during his speech that he may
have committed "errors" during his tenure as Defense Minister
and attributed these mistakes to his lack of experience in
the MOD role. Bono told Charge that this admission, like his
comments opposing the lifting of the EU China arms embargo,
came at the urging of Secretary Rumsfeld. Bono made clear
that he wanted Secretary Rumsfeld to be informed that he had
complied with both requests.

5. (C) Bono's comments were not uniformly positive. He said
international peace could not be achieved "without the U.S.
or without the legitimacy (conferred by) the United Nations,"
an implicit defense of the Zapatero government's withdrawal
of troops from Iraq on the grounds that the intervention
lacked a UN mandate. Also, Bono made a general comment to
the effect that his Jesuit education had taught him that "the
ends do not always justify the means." (NOTE: Emboffs in
attendance interpreted this as a veiled criticism of the Iraq
conflict and of the opposition Popular Party's decision to
join the U.S.-led coalition. END NOTE.)


6. (U) Moratinos made a wide-ranging speech on U.S.-EU
relations and praised President Bush's expression of support
for a strong Europe during his February visit to Brussels.
He said NATO remained Europe's primary security organization
and argued that there was no contradiction between a strong
NATO and the elaboration of a common EU security and defense
policy. Moratinos recommended increased personnel exchanges
between the U.S. and the EU and the formation of an "EU
caucus" in the U.S. Senate as mechanisms for further
strengthening U.S.-EU ties. Moratinos lauded the USG role in
the international community, particularly its part in
resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

7. (U) The most notable element of Moratinos' speech was his
call for the establishment of a permanent U.S.-Spain
bilateral commission to meet at least once a year at the
ministerial level for discussions on regional issues,
particularly on Latin America, the Middle East, and the
Mediterranean basin. Moratinos suggested other measures for
strengthening U.S.-Spanish relations, including:

-- joint initiatives to promote shared democratic values in
North Africa and the Middle East;

-- the reinforcement of institutional contacts, for example
through events such as the June 6-10 visit to Washington by
members of the Spanish Parliamentary Commission on
International Relations;

-- increased education exchanges to promote mutual

-- the establishment of a joint scientific/industrial
research and development institution; and,

-- the formation of a joint business organization by private
sector members of the U.S.-Spain Council.

8. (U) Moratinos described current U.S.-Spain relations in
positive terms. He noted Spain's participation in
peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and
Afghanistan and said Spain could be an important partner for
the USG in other areas as well. Moratinos said Spain's
advantages included its place as the world's eight largest
economy ("bigger than that of G-8 member Canada"), its
influence in Latin America, North Africa, and the Middle
East, and Spain's role in the fight against terrorism.

9. (U) While focused on positive aspects of the bilateral
relationship, Moratinos' speech also touched briefly on
points of friction. He said Spain had "recovered the
capacity to engage" the Cuban and Venezuelan governments,
overcoming the tensions those relationships suffered during
the Aznar administration. He insisted that Spain was not
pursuing dialogue as an end in itself, but seeking increased
influence in order to advocate for improved human rights
practices on the part of the Cuban government and to preserve
the rights that still exist in Venezuela. On the EU China
arms embargo, Moratinos noted that any arms sales would be
governed by strict EU controls, but said Beijing had to take
steps to improve human rights conditions before this issue
could move forward.


10. (U) Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy declined an
invitation to participate in the Council meetings, but PP
Parliamentary spokesman on international relations Gustavo
Aristegui did attend and mounted a withering attack on
Zapatero's handling of U.S.-Spain relations. Aristegui said
the GOS was now taking steps to correct its early mistakes,
but without publicly acknowledging that it had committed
grave errors. His Socialist counterpart Rafael Estrella
(considered among the more pro-U.S. Socialist
parliamentarians) fired back, asking how the USG would view
it if a former president visited Europe to militate
unceasingly against the policies of an incumbent
administration. (NOTE: Both Aristegui and Estrella will be
part of the Parliamentary delegation that will visit
Washington June 6-10. They have invited Charge to meet with
them prior to their departure to review their agenda for the


11. (C) MOD Bono is among the most popular Spanish
politicians and his speech before the U.S.-Spain Council
demonstrated his rhetorical skills. He used the presence of
the media and USG officials to comply with assurances he had
reportedly made to Secretary Rumsfeld, while leaving to FM
Moratinos the unpleasant duty of clarifying Spain's official
position on the EU China arms embargo. For now, the GOS has
evidently opted not to clarify the matter publicly in order
to avoid the appearance of internal discord. More broadly,
we note that both Bono and Moratinos continue to fight a
two-front political battle with the opposition PP, on the one
hand claiming that relations with the USG are as strong as
ever, and on the other casting PP support for USG policies in
Iraq as somehow illegitimate and contrary to international
law. GOS officials have clearly tempered their public
statements on Iraq in the last five months, but our efforts
to keep them from dragging the USG into their domestic
political battles remain a work in progress.

© Scoop Media

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