Cablegate: Gymnich


DE RUEHHE #0903/01 2510626
R 080626Z SEP 06




E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/06/2016


1. (SBU) Summary: EU Foreign Ministers held informal
consultations in Finland Sept. 1-2, focusing on the
Middle East, Iran and Russia. In response to a press
report that alleged an EU Presidency call for
increased contacts with Hamas, Finnish FM Tuomioja and
others made several very strong statements confirming
that there will be no changes in the current EU policy
of non-contact unless Hamas fulfills the three key
demands of the Quartet. The ministers issued no
formal conclusions on Iran (in keeping with GYMNICH's
informal nature), but announced that High Rep Solana
would travel to Tehran "very soon" to seek
clarifications on the Iranian regime's response to the
P5 1's package of incentives and to tell Iran that it
has "very little time" to stop its uranium enrichment
program and come to the negotiating table. On Russia,
the ministers gave preliminary authorization to the
Finnish Presidency to begin laying the groundwork for
a new PCA agreement. Formal conclusions on Iran and
other issues can be expected during the GAERC Sept.
14-15. End Summary.

2. (U) Finland hosted the EU foreign ministers'
informal consultations (the "GYMNICH" meetings) Sept.
1-2 in Lappeenranta, 25 km from the Russian border.
By limiting the agenda to only three topics -- Iran,
the Middle East, and EU-Russia relations -- the Finns
hoped to return the GYMNICH to its original purpose:
that is, an informal brainstorming session designed to
permit ministers to exchange ideas "off the record,"
without the pressure of adopting formal conclusions.
High Rep Javier Solana praised the GOF for achieving
this goal, noting that the frank exchange of views
that occurred would help the ministers as they seek to
find consensus and adopt formal conclusions on these
very tough issues at the upcoming General Affairs and
External Relations meetings (GAERC) Sept. 14-15.
Poloffs from Embassy Helsinki and USMission EU
traveled to Lappeenranta to follow the GYMNICH.

Strong Statements on Hamas
3. (U) At a press conference to open the GYMNICH,
Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja made
surprisingly strong comments regarding EU policy
toward Hamas. Noting that, for the EU, the Roadmap
and a two state solution remain the only way forward
for lasting regional peace, Tuomioja emphasized that
the EU will establish no formal political contacts
with Hamas until and unless it fully complies with the
international community's three key demands, as laid
out by the Quartet: (1) an unqualified renunciation of
terrorism; (2) full disarmament; and (3) recognition
of the State of Israel. He added that "the EU must be
available to talk to anyone and everyone" who can have
an impact on the peace process, but took pains to
explain that in the case of Hamas this would only
involve -- at most -- informal, low-level exchanges
and no change from the formal non-contact policy.
Separately, Tuomioja also said that the EU would
continue diplomatic contacts with Syria, and that at
the August 2 extraordinary GAERC High Rep Solana
(along with Spain, Germany, and the Finnish
presidency) had been given a clear mandate to
communicate to Damascus the EU's expectation that
Syria must play a positive role in the regional peace
process. In response to a reporter's question,
Tuomioja also noted that the idea of sending
peacekeepers to Gaza was not on the GYMNICH agenda,
but "more pronounced activities" there could not be
ruled out if they could positively impact the peace

4. (C) Tuomioja's surprisingly forceful comments on
Hamas came largely as an effort to clarify press
accounts (most notably in the Sept. 1 Financial Times)
alleging that he had earlier called for the EU to
establish contacts with Hamas. In addition to the
Finnish FM's public statements, other Finnish
officials stressed that in no way was Tuomioja calling
for such a shift in EU policy. U/S for Political
Affairs Markus Lyra assured Poloff that Tuomioja has
always stressed the need for Hamas to change before
the EU could consider formal contacts, and that
Finland fully supported strong EU pressure on Hamas to
accept the Quartet's three conditions. Nothing has
changed within the GoF or the EU on the issue, he

HELSINKI 00000903 002 OF 002

added. Likewise, on the margins of the GYMNICH,
Finnish Director General for Africa and the Middle
East Aapo Polho carefully explained that while
Tuomioja, Solana, and others believe that the EU must
talk to "anyone and everyone" who can positively
affect the peace process, there is a clear
understanding that upgraded relations with Hamas are
thoroughly out of the question. The EU will upgrade
relations with Hamas when it joins the unity
government that President Abbas has suggested, and "we
all insist" that Hamas cannot do so until it has fully
committed to the three requirements, Polho said.

Iran Has "Very Little Time"
5. (U) On Iran, Tuomioja, Solana and several other
ministers expressed deep concerns to the press about
Iran's poor response to the P5 1's package of
incentives and apparent unwillingness to negotiate.
They said that for the EU, diplomacy and negotiation
remain the preferred way forward, but they
acknowledged that it is now up to Iran to accept that
peaceful route, stop enriching uranium, and fulfill
the other requirements that will allow negotiations to
begin. When pressed by journalists as to why the
ministers had not issued forceful statements --
including demands for UN sanctions -- Tuomioja
explained that, by its very nature, the GYMNICH was an
informal event that did not involve formal
conclusions, and as such was "not the time or place to
take new decisions" regarding sanctions. However, he
explained, High Rep Solana would have "one or at the
most two" meetings in the next several days with
Iranian nuclear negotiator Larijani. The purpose of
these meetings would be not to negotiate or offer the
Iranians more time, but to seek clarifications
regarding the Iranian response, including conditions
for beginning actual negotiations. For his part,
Solana clarified that these meetings would not take
long, and that in terms of meeting the P5 1's demands
and coming to the negotiating table, Iran had "very
little time."

6. (C) Privately, members of Solana's staff and
Finnish MFA officials said that -- in addition to the
informal nature of the GYMNICH -- the ministers did
not say more on Iran because they did not wish to pre-
empt UNSYG Kofi Annan's trip to Tehran Sept. 3, or
Solana's trip the following week. Solana's
spokesperson told PolOff that the Sept. 14 GAERC in
Brussels was very likely the "time and place" at which
formal conclusions on Iran might be adopted, in light
especially of the Iranian response (or lack thereof)
to Annan's and Solana's outreach.

7. (C) The discussions on EU-Russia relations were
much more routine, with the GOF briefing the GYMNICH
on its efforts to pave the way for launching
negotiations aimed a forging a new EU-Russia
Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) either
late in the Finnish Presidency or early in the German
Presidency. While acknowledging that some tough
issues needed to be addressed (including "coming to a
common understanding on energy policy"), Solana told
reporters that Europe's goal is to see Russia "not
merely as a problem, but as a partner." He pointed to
President Putin's attendance at the EU Informal Heads
of State and Government Meeting, which Finland will
host in October, as a positive step in that direction
and praised Finland's leadership. Separately,
Solana's FSU policy advisor Pirkka Tapiola told PolOff
that the Ministers focused on the question of how to
engage a more confident Russia. Three areas of
particular concern included the risks of Putin-style
"managed democracy," Russian foreign and security
policy including toward Iran, the Middle East, and
"frozen conflicts" and energy security.

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