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Cablegate: Steering Group for Middle East and North Africa

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
SUBJECT: Steering Group for Middle East and North Africa
Investment Program Meets to Prepare for November 17


This message is Sensitive but Unclassified - not for
internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: The steering group of the MENA OECD
program met on October 3-4 in Istanbul. Key developments
included advancing work on a ministerial declaration,
discussing individual national reform agendas that would be
presented at the ministerial, reviewing funding needs for
the program in 2006, discussing the private sector role in
the program and the ministerial, and reviewing plans for
participation at the ministerial. Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon,
Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, and the
UAE/Dubai participated in the steering group meeting.
Syria and Algeria had initially indicated they would
attend, but were not represented. From OECD, France,
Japan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, U.K., and the
U.S. were represented. The IFC, European Investment Bank,
Lebanese Transparency Association, Business and Industry
Advisory Committee of OECD and UNIDO were also represented.
Following, the meeting delegates from U.S., UK, Japan,
Jordan and Saudi Arabia and OECD secretariat met on October
4 and discussed coordinating diplomatic contacts in MENA
and OECD countries to encourage participation at the
Ministerial and to encourage broader support for the
program. They also discussed and refined the details of
the agenda for the Ministerial meeting. OECD also
explained the need for additional funding support form MENA
and OECD countries. Copies of the draft declaration,
recommendations of the 5 working groups, drafts of
individual reform agendas, and lists of ministers invited
and confirmed will be emailed to posts from Washington.
Guidance for contacts with host government officials in
MENA and OECD countries will follow Septel from Department.
End Summary

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2. (SBU) Substantial progress was made in preparing a
ministerial declaration that would support the program,
welcome the recommendations of the working groups, welcome
the reform objectives announced by MENA countries for the
year following the ministerial, and pledge support for the
MENA OECD program and call on OECD countries and other
international institutions to provide support. In
particular, it would invite other organizations to a
subsequent meeting to discuss strategic cooperation between
OECD MENA program with other organizations activities to
support economic reform. MENA participants were anxious
for the text to be circulated by the OECD secretariat by
the following week to ensure adequate time to inform
appropriate officials. OECD officials noted that letters
of invitation had been sent to Ministers in OECD countries
by the Jordanian host, and another letter would be sent
shortly with the draft declaration agreed to at the
steering group meeting.

3. (SBU) Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia
and the Palestinian Authority presented their respective
plans for their national reform agendas organized around
the recommendations of the 5 working groups of the program.
These plans will be refined further for presentation at the
Ministerial with particular emphasis on providing specific
time frames for action on individual items during the year
following the ministerial.

4. (SBU) Plans for the business day preceding the
ministerial were also discussed and approved. The
Business and Industry Advisory committee of OECD and OECD
secretariat presented the draft business statement that

would be discussed and adopted by business participants.
BIAC will be working through its affiliated organizations
to encourage participation by their members. The Arab
Business Council / G-8 Investment Task Force was unable to
attend the steering group meeting at the last minute, but
Shafiq Gabr had contacted OECD to reassure them of their
plans to participate at the ministerial and their support
for the approach to the business day.
5. (SBU) The need for additional funding to support the
program was discussed and OECD provided its detailed budget
for 2006. OECD countries stressed the importance of
financial support from some of the MENA countries to
compliment the support form OECD countries, principally the
US, UK, and Japan. In the discussions on the 4th, US, UK
and Japan emphasized that formal decisions on further
financing may not be made before the Ministerial. They
also noted the importance of funding from MENA countries to
their decisions. Saudi Arabia noted that the proposal for
Saudi contribution was before the Finance Ministry and they
expected approval, but that the final decision on their
budget would not be made before the end of November. As
Bahrain was not present at the meeting on the 4th, the OECD
secretariat agreed to follow-up with them on their plans

for a contribution that they had announced at the meeting
of working groups 1 and 2 in Bahrain two weeks earlier.
OECD noted that funds were tight and they might need to
obtain a bridge loan for 50K Euros or more from within the
organization for additional funds to support the
ministerial based on letters of intent that Saudi Arabia
and Japan said they would try to provide. In response to
Jordanian concerns, they explained that the remaining 80K
Euros would be devoted primarily to supporting ministerial

6. (SBU) The agenda for the ministerial was discussed on
the meeting on 4th as well. It was agreed that the press
would be allowed to attend all but the final discussion and
adoption of the Ministerial declaration. In addition to
the opening session, this would include break out
discussions of the themes of 4 of the 5 working groups of
the program. The themes of Working Group 2-3 would be
covered in three break-outs in a first session followed by
a coffee break and second session with break-outs on the
themes of Working Groups 4-5. Following another coffee
break, the theme of working group 1 would be reserved for
the closed session to be addressed together with discussion
and adoption of the declaration. The open sessions and the
coffee breaks would provide ample opportunity for press
coverage and opportunities for interviews of participants.

7. (SBU) Jordan and OECD will arrange for briefings of MENA
and OECD ambassadors in Jordan and Paris respectively on
preparations for the ministerial in the next two weeks.
One concern is that a few MENA ministers that were invited
have a conflict with their attendance at the World Summit
on Information (WSIS) and there is a desire to do as much
as possible to encourage participation by ministers or
other appropriate senior officials. OECD will provide
participants in the Oct 4 meeting with the list of invitees
and confirmed participants shortly. US, UK and Japan
representatives agreed to encourage their respective
Embassies in MENA and OECD countries to keep the other's
Embassies abreast of their efforts to encourage
participation at the ministerial.


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