Cablegate: South Africa: Gauging Sag's Commitment to Open

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





E.O. 12958: N/A

B. SECSTATE 138074

1. (SBU) Summary. South Africa's Chief Director for Civil
Aviation Godfrey Selepe told Econoffs on August 16 that that
he believed that any negotiations should include the U.S.
concept for Open Skies as just one of the options to be
discussed, and not the only one. Selepe said, "If there were
an open minded discussion that led to Open Skies, then we
could discuss the modalities of a possible Open Skies
agreement." Later the same day, however, Selepe called the
Embassy to say that Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe was
keen to have negotiations and that one needed to "approach
talks with an open mind." Selepe and his delegation are
planning to arrive in Washington on August 23 for talks on
August 25-26. South African delegation members are listed in
Paragraph 7. End Summary.

Open Skies
2. (SBU) Econ M/C and Econoff met with Chief Director for
Civil Aviation Godfrey Selepe about upcoming civil aviation
negotiations in Washington on August 25-26. Econ M/C
explained to Selepe that the United States wanted to make
sure that the ultimate objective of the talks was Open Skies,
rather than incremental changes to an already liberal
bilateral agreement. Econ M/C also indicated that the United
States would be willing to talk about transition periods and
phasing for certain Open Skies obligations.

3. (SBU) Selepe replied that this appeared to be the same
position of the U.S. delegation that visited South Africa in
2001, i.e., that the only liberalization option was Open
Skies. If that were the case, he said, "We (would) be
confronted with the same situation that we were four years
ago." He went on to say that he "had serious problems with
this approach," which he viewed as an "imposition" rather
than a negotiation. "What I will not allow is imposition,"
he added.

4. (SBU) Selepe then said, "If there were an open minded
discussion that led to Open Skies, then we could discuss the
modalities of a possible Open Skies agreement." He went on,
"It (was) not possible, to be directed toward Open Skies
without other (available) options," he said.

5. (SBU) After Minister Radebe met with Secretary Mineta in
January, Selepe explained, there was a frank discussion about
what was and what was not possible. If the United States had
shut the door to entertaining other options during this frank
discussion, then South Africa would never have agreed to
aviation negotiations with the United States. However, "If
Open Skies (were just) one of the options, then I (would be)
perfectly willing to talk." he said.

"I Won't Do That"
6. (SBU) By way of elaboration, Selepe said that the problem
with the U.S. model was that it "was not open enough." At
this point, he pulled out a fax from the Office of Aviation
Negotiations sent in May that discussed the U.S. position on
the application of safety and security requirements, the fly
America program, ownership and control issues, the "big bang"
issue, cabotage, double disapproval pricing regime, and the
2010 World Cup event (Ref C). Selepe said that if the United
States wanted to negotiate Open Skies on its own terms, then
South Africa "had better get another negotiator to do that,
because I won't do that."

"Er, I Guess I Will"
7. A few hours later, Selepe called Econoff to say that he
had just spoken to his Minister, Jeff Radebe. Selepe said
that Radebe was "keen that the talks should go ahead."
Selepe told Econoff that with the flexibility that the
Minister had given him, he believed that progress would be
made. The meeting should go ahead as planned. Selepe
specifically stated that he did not believe that the U.S.
side would view the talks as a disappointment. When asked if
he wanted to revise what he had said to us earlier that day,
however, Selepe said that he did not. "My position is
clear," he said. However, it was also clear that Selepe did
not want to be seen as preventing the meeting End Comment.
In fact, he later sent an e-mail stating: "Following my
meeting with Messrs. Ripley and Hartley (from the U.S.
Embassy) this morning, I have had a discussion with our
Minister. He is keen that the talks should go ahead. We
will, therefore, approach the discussions with flexibility
and (an) open mind."
Delegation List
8. (U) At the end of the day, Selepe's office asked about
hotels near the State Department and provided us with the
following delegation list:

Mr. Godfrey Selepe, Head of Delegation
Chief Director, Civil Aviation
Department of Transportation

Ms. Thande T. Maswanganye
Acting Director for Bilateral Licensing, and Permits
Department of Transportation

Ms. N. Bella Sithole
Assistant Director, Bilateral Affairs
Department of Transportation

Mr. D. Hay
Manager, International Affairs
South Africa Airways

Mr. A Balazzi
Group Manager, Route and Traffic
Airport Company of South Africa

The South African delegation will depart on August 22 and
thus arrive on August 23, two days before the negotiations.

9. (SBU) Comment: Post believes that Washington negotiators
should go ahead with talks next week, but should approach
Selepe with care. Given his reversal with the Minister,
Selepe may find himself in a vulnerable position right now.
If he discovers that an Open Skies agreement with the United
States fits within the negotiating parameters that his
Minister has provided, he may be quick to accept this
negotiating course and talks may ultimately be successful.
We recommend that the U.S. chief negotiator meet with Selepe
on August 24 to discuss the agenda for the next two days and
to ask Selepe what he needs to move forward on an Open Skies

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