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Cablegate: Respected Finnish Ngo Holds Iraq Peace Conference

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHHE #0675/01 2481200
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 051200Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY HELSINKI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3718
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0039

C O N F I D E N T I A L HELSINKI 000675

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/05/2017
TAGS: IZ FI PREL PGOV MARR MOPS PINR
SUBJECT: RESPECTED FINNISH NGO HOLDS IRAQ PEACE CONFERENCE

REF: THOME-ANDERTON/DONEGAN/BISHARAT EMAILS 4
SEPTEMBER 2007

Classified By: POLCHIEF GREGORY THOME FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

1. (U) The Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), a respected
NGO headed by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari,
hosted a seminar at an undisclosed location in Finland
Sept. 1-4 aimed at reducing the violence in Iraq.
Participants included leading Iraqi Sunni and Shiite civil
society leaders, as well as South African and Northern
Irish representatives. After examining reconciliation
experiences in other parts of the world, Iraqi participants
produced a document entitled the "Helsinki Agreement,"
which calls on the participants (inter alia) to resolve
political disputes in Iraq through non-violent means and to
build support among their respective religious, tribal and
ethic constituencies for that goal (ref A). The GOF funded
the seminar, but did not participate in it.

2. (C) For security and political reasons, CMI did not
disclose the location of the conference and distributed to
the press very little information about the gathering's
substance or participants. Even the Embassy's own contacts
at CMI, who are normally very forthcoming, apologized for
what they described as the need to be extremely careful
about sharing information. They were willing to confirm
that representatives from Iraq's Sunni and Shia communities
who may be parties to the violence participated; that
President Ahtisaari himself did not participate; and that
talks centered largely on looking at if and how Northern
Irish and South African experiences might offer lessons
learned that could be of use in reducing the violence in
Iraq. Beyond that, however, our CMI contacts were
unwilling to confirm press reports that claimed that
representatives of Moktada al-Sadr, Humam Hammoudi or Adnan
al-Dulaimi attended, just as they were unwilling to confirm
any other participants' identities. (COMMENT: CMI's
unwillingness to confirm participants does not necessarily
mean that those individuals did not attend the conference.
Many conference participants apparently demanded that no
information -- substance of talks, participants, even
travel arrangements -- be made public without the express
agreement of all participants, and CMI intends to honor
this request.)

3. (C) Although he did not participate directly in the
seminar, MFA Director General for the Middle East and
Africa Teemu Tanner was briefed and offered PolChief a
wider readout. The event was "more academic than
political," he said, both in terms of participants and
substance. Like CMI, Tanner would not confirm media
speculation about who actually attended, but said he
understood that it included largely academics and civil
society types. He characterized the event as "quite
positive," in the sense that the Iraqi participants
themselves came up with the points in the "Helsinki
Agreement" and agreed that the next step was for them to
take responsibility for returning to Iraq and building
support for the agreed-upon measures within the groups they
represent or are affiliated with. If the participants are
able to build support for the Helsinki Agreement among
their constituencies in Iraq, Tanner said CMI would welcome
the opportunity to host a follow-on event and that the GOF
would fund it. However, no follow-on meetings are
currently scheduled.

4. (C) The GOF and CMI were also pleased with the
conference because any forward movement toward stemming
violence in Iraq is a positive thing. And if the Iraqi
participants, upon their return, deploy the good ideas and
same spirit of cooperation they evinced while in Finland, a
series of follow-on meetings either in Iraq or here could
help in moving some sort of constructive process forward.
Tanner did caution that it is too early to call this a
"peace process." The media -- and particularly the Finnish
press -- have been "overblown in their expectation of what
can be achieved at a first meeting," he noted; if a
"process" for peace is to emerge from CMI's effort, this
was simply a first good step.

5 (C) COMMENT: Tanner is realistic and correct when he
notes that it is too early to call CMI's initiative a
"peace process" (as some in the press were quick to do).
However, it is indeed a welcome first step that could
produce helpful results in improving stability down the
road, if the Iraqi participants live up to their
commitments. CMI gained worldwide recognition for its
effectiveness in conflict resolution after it successfully
brokered a settlement to the decades-old conflict between
Aceh rebels and the Indonesian Government in 2005. While
Iraq is a far different situation, we are encouraged by the
Finns' willingness to play a role in helping to create an
environment in Iraq from which stability might emerge.


HYATT

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