Cablegate: Syrian Dfm Visits Ankara, Fm Gul Reportedly Feels "Used"

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

221607Z Jul 05

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 004260


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/22/2015


(U) Classified by CDA Nancy McEldowney, E.O. 12958, reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Syrian DFM al-Muallim met with FM Gul in
Ankara July 22 to discuss Iraq, the Israel Palestine peace
process, and a possible upcoming "unofficial" visit to Turkey
by Bashar Asad (reftel). One MFA official told us privately
that the discussions were difficult and inconclusive; another
emphasized the strong message Gul and MFA U/S Tuygan
delivered on Iraq. After the meeting, Gul expressed anger at
the way the Syrians are "using" the Turks and is looking for
an indirect way to turn off the Asad visit. How PM Erdogan
will react remains unclear. End Summary.

DFM Al-Muallim Comes With "Important Message"

2. (C) MFA spokesperson Tan confided to Charge privately
that the Syrians had insisted that DFM al-Muallim visit
Ankara July 22 to deliver an "important message." Tan
asserted to Charge that the MFA has been uncomfortable with
Syrian handling of the visit. Tan claims the MFA wants to
keep the visit quiet, but has been frustrated by Syrian press
leaks, which he said forced the MFA to announce al-Muallim's
visit. Al-Muallim plans a press conference at the Syrian
Embassy in Ankara later July 22.

FM Gul: "Syrians Are Using Us"

3. (C) According to Tan, who was present at the Gul meeting
with al-Muallim, the latter raised Iraq, Israel/Palestine
peace, and the Asad visit. On Iraq, al-Muallim gave Gul a
non-paper (e-mailed to EUR/SE July 22) detailing Syria's
supposed efforts to control the Syria/Iraq border. Tan
claimed Gul told al-Muallim to "listen to what the Americans
tell you," adding there would be serious consequences if
Syria did not. Al-Muallim protested that Syria was doing all
it could to control the border.

4. (C) Al-Muallim urged the Turks to play a more active role
in the Israel/Palestine peace process (NFI). (Tan's reaction
to Charge was "we do not need them to tell us that.") On the
Asad visit, Al-Muallim only told Gul it would be some time
over the next several weeks.

5. (C) Tan described Gul as "upset" after the meeting. He
told Tan he was angry, saying several times the Syrians are
"using" Turkey. Tan told Charge Gul wants the visit turned
off, but feels cornered and cannot directly say no. Tan
claims the Turks will try to propose arrangements they
believe the Syrians will not accept.

Another Take

6. (C) Under instruction from MFA U/S Ali Tuygan, Middle East
DDG Safak Gokturk provided a debrief of the al-Muallim's
meetings to PolMilCouns. After the Gul meeting (that Gokturk
also attended), Tuygan hosted a working lunch. Gokturk's
account of the discussion was largely consistent with Tan's:

-- On Iraq, Gokturk said Gul had asked al-Muallim that if
Syria desires a stable and united Iraq, it must choose
whether it wants to simply wait to blame the US if it doesn't
succeed, or to work for a successful political transition.
If the process in Iraq fails, Syria will also be blamed, Gul
warned. Both Gul and Tuygan argued strongly that no matter
what measures the SARG has taken on the border, it needed to
take more visible steps to allay both US and Iraqi
suspicions. Gokturk assessed that Damascus was open to
working with the ITG and the USG on a border cooperation
framework, but the Syrians were looking for some reciprocal
benefit for themselves.

-- On Israel/Palestine, Gul warned al-Muallim, who said Syria
wanted to restart negotiations with Israel, that Turkey is
ready to play a role but complained that Turkish efforts in
the past year when asked by one side or the other "have not
been utilized." If Turkey is asked again, Syria should come
up with "concrete responses." Al-Muallim tried to contrast
US pressure on Syria to expel Palestinian extremists and the
PA President's recent request that the SARG press these
groups to join the peace effort. Polmilcouns observed that
these approaches were consistent -- both the USG and the PA
believe Syria retains influence with these groups.

-- On Asad's visit, Gokturk said al-Muallim reminded the
Turks that PM Erdogan had extended the invitation last year.

7. (C) Comment: Despite this readout from two MFA sources,
we cannot predict how PM Erdogan will react to al-Muallim's
visit. We would note that Gul and PM Erdogan are locked in a
serious, if partially hidden, rivalry. Gul has consistently
used channels to foreigners to deprecate Erdogan and to make
himself appear more reasonable while continuing to rely
heavily on foreign policy advisor Ahmet Davutoglu, who has
been the catalyst for Turkey's rapprochement with Syria. End

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