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Cablegate: Estonian Mps On Iraq and Afghanistan

VZCZCXRO7462
OO RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTL #0851 2621340
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 191340Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9029
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS TALLINN 000851

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV EU NATO AF IZ EN
SUBJECT: ESTONIAN MPS ON IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN

1. (U) Summary: On September 14, the Ambassador hosted a
luncheon discussion of Afghanistan and Iraq with four
members of Parliament: Jarno Laur (Social Democrats), Janno
Reiljan (People's Union), Ela Tomson (Res Publica) and Ain
Seppik (Center Party). The discussion focused on the
upcoming debate in Parliament over extension of Estonia's
Iraq Mission mandate. The debate reflected the clear
trends we have seen in Parliament's position on these key
missions - firm support for Afghanistan and division over
Iraq. End summary.

2. (U) All four MPs reaffirmed Parliament's strong support
for Estonia's mission in Afghanistan and highlighted the
mission?s two-year mandate. They emphasized the importance
of the NATO framework for the Afghan mission and said
Estonia's participation demonstrates its commitment to
being a good NATO ally. Reiljan (People's Union) expressed
concern over the prospects for "success" in Afghanistan.
Given the tribal culture, lack of democratic traditions,
and history, he noted, it will be very difficult to bring
together the Afghan peoples. The Ambassador emphasized the
need for more NATO troops in Afghanistan emphasized that
establishing a secure environment is critical to success.

3. (SBU) Discussion on Iraq was significantly less unified.
With parliamentary elections next year, all the MPs agreed
that extending the Iraq Mission Mandate (which expires at
the end of 2006) will be more difficult than it has been in
the past. The debate in Parliament is likely to take place
in November, Tomson said. Discussions among MPs has not
yet started, she added, although there is some talk "in the
corridors" on this issue. All of the MPs asserted that it
will be impossible for Parliament to approve an extension
without a new UN mandate.

4. (SBU) Seppik (Center) voiced his support for the Iraq
mission, while Reiljan and Laur (Social Democrat) noted
their concern that coalition efforts in Iraq lacked a
finite timeline. "What is the exit strategy?" Laur asked
several times. "The [Estonian] Government hasn't given us
any indication what our long term plans are in Iraq."
Seppik also noted the sensitivity of the term "occupation"
in Estonia and said that he did not think the optics
concerning coalition forces sit well with the average
Estonian. Laur added that the lack of a UN mandate at the
start of the war continues to have a negative effect on
public opinion in Estonia.

5. (SBU) Comment. Although three out of four of these MPs
(all but Laur) voted for extension of the Iraq mandate last
year, they represent parties that, for the most part, are
opposed. How the vote plays out in Parliament will depend
significantly on how the issue is presented by the GOE.
The Prime Minister has told us on several occasions that he
is confident the mandate will be extended, but two of the
three parties in the governing coalition are lukewarm at
best about the Estonian commitment in Iraq. In the coming
weeks we will liaise closely with the GOE on its strategy
for winning the vote in Parliament.

WOS

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