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Cablegate: Alliance of Civilizations Not Clash Of

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FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6343
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA PRIORITY 2269

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TAGS: PHUM PREL UN TU VT
SUBJECT: ALLIANCE OF CIVILIZATIONS NOT CLASH OF
CIVILIZATIONS

ISTANBUL 00002084 001.2 OF 002

1. (SBU) Summary. The UN Alliance of Civilizations
High-Level Group presented its final report on November 13 in
Istanbul to UNSYG Annan as well as the Turkish and Spanish
Prime Ministers. The report focuses on political
developments, rather than religious or cultural differences,
as a primary cause of tension between Western and Muslim
societies, specifically citing the Israel-Palestinian
conflict and its radicalizing impact across a broad spectrum
of observers.

2. (SBU) The UN Alliance of Civilizations High Level Group
was convened by UNSYG Annan in September 2005 to produce a
report on the root causes of tension between Western and
Muslim societies as well as an action plan for addressing
those problems. The report focuses on three "Western
policies affecting Muslim countries" as well as three "trends
in Muslim society" as politically-based root causes of
conflict. The report's overarching criticism of the West is
that it tolerates a status quo that is unfair and demeaning
to Muslims. The West is taken to task for the
Israeli-Palestinian issue with the report noting that it
"remains one of the gravest threats to international
stability." Western military operations in Muslim countries
(Iraq, Afghanistan) are blamed for contributing to a growing
climate of fear and animosity and helping swell the ranks of
terrorist groups. The report also accuses the West of
applying a double standard in international law and the
protection of human rights that increases resentment and a
sense of vulnerability among Muslims, as manifested in the
Israel-Palestinian conflict.

3. (SBU) The report acknowledges that foreign interference is
not the sole cause of the problems facing much of the Muslim
world today. It notes that an internal struggle between
progressive and regressive forces across a range of social
and political issues has generated deep divisions within
those societies and has in some cases led to extremism and
violence. It decries religious figures who advocate narrow,
distorted interpretations of Islamic teachings and
misrepresent as religious requirements cultural traditions
such as honor killings, corporal punishment and suppression
of women. Finally, the report notes that resistance to
reform and political repression have deprived many Muslim
countries of economic and social progress.

4. (SBU) The report makes seven principal recommendations:
--Seek a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based
on the establishment of two fully sovereign and independent
states.
--Develop a White Paper to objectively review past successes
and failures and establish the conditions needed to resolve
this crisis.
--Convene an international conference to reinvigorate the
Middle East peace process.
--Permit peaceful political groups, whether religious or
secular, to fully participate in politics throughout the
Muslim world.
--Political and religious leaders should promote
understanding among cultures and mutual respect of religious
belief and traditions.
--Appoint a High Representative.
--Establish a Forum for the Alliance of Civilizations under
UN auspices.
The report also makes a series of recommendations in the
fields of media, education, youth and migration designed to
widen understanding of critical issues, defuse tensions among
communities and increase cross-cultural understanding.

5. (SBU) The report was front page news in all major
newspapers on November 14, with essentially straightforward
summaries of the report and the Alliance's recommendations
translated into Turkish. Underlying tensions emerged,
however, at an evening event at the Consul General's
residence in honor of both Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a member of
the Alliance, and a visiting delegation from the U.S.
Commission on International Religious Freedom (CIRF).
Schneier's description of the Alliance's purpose as
demonstrating that there was no clash between Christian and
Muslim civilizations was applauded. CIRF Commissioner
Michael Cromartie's description of the CIRF's "mission" to
various countries to look at religious freedom generated an
aggressive response from one U.S. educated guest who
pointedly suggested that the CIRF should perhaps examine the
United State before looking overseas, a remark seconded by
others in the audience. At this point a young NGO leader
chimed in somewhat sarcastically noting that it was funny
that a country with "no problems" like Turkey was always
reforming its laws. Finally a South American Alliance member

ISTANBUL 00002084 002.2 OF 002


was prompted to challenge Turkey's sense of itself as a truly
tolerant and open nation by welcoming the Pope warmly thus
demonstrating to the West that the 'Muslim East' also
welcomed Christians as 'Christian Europe' had welcomed its
Muslim community.

6. (SBU) The Alliance member and several European observers
later told us they were very disappointed in Erdogan's
failure to mention the upcoming Papal visit to Turkey in his
remarks at the press conference following the Alliance's
presentation of its report. Characterizing it as "hostile
avoidance" they criticized Erdogan's planned absence during
the Papal visit as well as his failure to explain his absence
and to express his regret at missing the visit during his
remarks at the press conference.
JONES

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