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Cablegate: Jordan and Palestinians Welcome U.S./Israeli

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 AMMAN 004244

SIPDIS

CAIRO FOR AG COUNSELOR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR PREL TSPL KPAL EAID IS JO
SUBJECT: Jordan and Palestinians Welcome U.S./Israeli
Overture on Agricultural R&D Cooperation

1. SUMMARY: The Board of Directors of the U.S.-Israel
Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD)
visited Jordan May 23-24 to discuss including Jordan and the
Palestinian Authority in an expanded version of BARD dubbed
MARD. A wide range of Palestinian and Jordanian officials
and academics, including the Palestinian Minister of
Agriculture and the Jordanian Minister of Agriculture (both
of whom have scientific PhDs) warmly welcomed the concept.
The next step is for the Chairman of the BARD Board (and
USDA/ARS Administrator) Dr. Edward Knipling to write a
letter to the Ministers of Agriculture in Israel, the
Palestinian Authority and Jordan asking for official points
of contact so that the parties can begin looking for
funding. END SUMMARY.

Background: Successful Science Cooperation Since 1977
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. BARD, operating since 1977, has a strong track record of
supporting top-notch science. BARD is funded by income from
a $110 million endowment from the governments of the United
States and Israel, and from additional annual contributions.
In 2003, the BARD Board passed a resolution expressing its
interest in augmenting its bilateral U.S.-Israel BARD
program with a multilateral (U.S.-Israel-Jordan-Palestinian
Authority) program, christened MARD (Multinational
Agricultural R&D). MARD would not affect any operations or
funding of BARD, although the administrative machinery and
conceptual framework of BARD would be used for MARD. MARD
would have a Board separate from the BARD Board. There was
a BARD-sponsored scientist-to-scientist meeting in Turkey in
2004 to discuss the possibilities of collaboration between
the four parties and to identify priorities. Numerous areas
of common interest were identified, all having potential
benefits to all four partners in the agricultural and
environmental sectors. The May 23-24 discussions in Jordan
thus represent the third step towards creating MARD.

Israelis Pony Up Their Share
----------------------------

3. At the May 22 BARD Board meeting in Tel Aviv, Israeli
board members pushed to start MARD with a total of $2
million, $500,000 from each of the four parties. At the May
23 meeting in Jordan, Dr. Knipling said that this would be
sufficient to fund three projects at $200,000 each per year
for three years. There was support from the participants
for this approach, and recognition that finding the money
was a difficult but not impossible task. The Israeli
Ministry of Finance has already committed Israel's $500,000
share, and there is partial USDA-ARS commitment, subject to
match. (COMMENT: Israel has been seeking to expand BARD's
endowment, and while wishing to protect the bilateral nature
of BARD itself, sees MARD as an opportunity to attract new
funding and carry out useful work with its immediate
neighbors. END COMMENT.)

BARD Board Visits Jordan
------------------------

4. Dr. Edward Knipling, Administrator (chief) of the USDA's
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and newly-elected
Chairman of the BARD Board, led a BARD Board delegation to
Jordan on May 23-24 for discussions with Palestinian
Authority and Jordanian officials and academics about the
MARD concept. He was accompanied by the two other U.S.
members of the BARD board: Purdue Vice-Provost for
Engagement Dr. Vic Lechtenberg and Dean of the University of
California Davis' College of Agricultural and Environmental
Sciences Dr. Neal Van Alfen. Also participating were two
Israeli BARD Board members: Ministry of Agriculture Chief
Scientist Dr. Dan Levanon and Agricultural Research
Organization (Volcani Institute) Director Dr. Eli Putievsky.
The third Israeli member of the BARD Board is Ms Sivan
Hector from the Israeli Ministry of Finance. Ms Hector
participated in the May 22 BARD Board meeting in Tel Aviv
but did not visit Jordan.

Wide Range of Parties Support MARD
----------------------------------

5. The host for the Jordan visit was Dr. Abdel Nabi
Fardous, Director General of the National Center for
Agricultural Research and Technology Transfer (NCARTT), the
research arm of the Ministry of Agriculture. Dr. Fardous
and Dr. Knipling co-chaired a five-hour meeting on May 23 at
NCARTT at which representatives of USDA/ARS, the University
of California Davis, the Agricultural Research Organization,
NCARTT, Hebron University, the Jordan University of Science
and Technology (JUST), and BARD gave brief presentations on
their respective organizations and their views on MARD.
Palestinian Authority Minister of Agriculture Dr. Walid Abed
Rabboh, a graduate of the University of Arizona, made an
unscheduled intervention to express his support of MARD and
for regional collaboration on agricultural issues.

6. While these organizations have different specialties and
needs, presenters representing a wide range of Jordanian and
Palestinian academe and officialdom stressed the value of
cooperation and their desire to see MARD take shape. The
May 23 meeting concluded after a proposal from the floor
that BARD Chairman Dr. Knipling write a letter to the
Ministers of Agriculture in Israel, Jordan and the
Palestinian Authority asking them to help bring MARD to life
by appointing an official point of contact for MARD.
7. In a May 24 meeting with Jordanian Minister of
Agriculture Yousef Shuraiki, Dr. Knipling summarized the
plan for identifying official points of contact and moving
quickly to identify funding for $500,000 from each party for
a four-way match so that projects can begin. Dr. Shuraiki
endorsed the MARD proposal, saying it was "a good idea." He
added that Jordanian scientists from the Ministry of
Agriculture are already collaborating with Israeli
colleagues on topics of mutual interest.

"We Are Committed to the United States"
---------------------------------------

8. COMMENT: The meeting and site visits went a long way
towards convincing the Israelis not only of the depth of the
Jordanian and Palestinian commitment, but also of their
ability to work productively with Israeli and American
colleagues. The peace-making aspects of scientific
cooperation were never far from peoples' minds, despite the
focus on science. Palestinian PhD holders from Washington
State University, the University of Kansas, UC-Davis and
other U.S. universities will take the lead in creating
research and reconciliation with Israel. Many of these
people already have personal connections in the region; MARD
will capitalize on that by broadening and institutionalizing
these contacts. The U.S. role, as usual, will remain
pivotal.

9. USDA/ARS Administrator Knipling and Embassy Tel Aviv
cleared this message.

HALE

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