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Cablegate: Meyer Optimistic On Helsinki Iraq Process

VZCZCXRO7918
RR RUEHBL RUEHDU
DE RUEHSA #3277/01 2571456
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 141456Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1785
INFO RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0078
RUEHHE/AMEMBASSY HELSINKI 0099
RUEHDL/AMEMBASSY DUBLIN 0085
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1296
RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 4825
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 9161
RUEHBL/AMCONSUL BELFAST 0010
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PRETORIA 003277

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/11/2017
TAGS: PREL KDEM IZ EI FI SF
SUBJECT: MEYER OPTIMISTIC ON HELSINKI IRAQ PROCESS

REF: HELSINKI 675 (NOTAL)

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Donald Teitelbaum. Reasons 1.4(
b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY. The August 31 - September 3 meeting of Sunni
and Shia Iraqi politicians, hosted by the Crisis Management
Initiative (CMI) in Helsinki, went "better than expected,"
according to South African conflict resolution consultant and
former SAG minister Roelf Meyer. Meyer was impressed that
the Iraqi parties themselves were able to reach agreement on
basic principles for future political reconciliation talks,
with little outside involvement, although he acknowledged
that the participants may not be able (or willing) to sell
the process to their political bosses at home. Meyer singled
out Irish academic and author Padraig O'Malley as the key
mover on the initiative, and said that O'Malley planned to
travel to Baghdad soon to brief the two Iraqi Vice Presidents
on the Helsinki meeting. Meyer and his fellow South African
and Northern Irish "facilitators" are prepared to continue
their involvement in the Iraq initiative. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) Roelf Meyer, former South African minister and
conflict resolution consultant, briefed A/PolCouns and PolOff
September 12 on the recent August 31 - September 3 meeting of
Iraqi parties held in Helsinki, Finland. Meyer, who played
an important role in South Africa's transition to democracy,
was one of the key players in the Iraq talks, along with
African National Congress (ANC) activists Mac Maharaj and
Rashid Ismail, and Northern Ireland politicians Jeffrey
Donaldson and Martin McGuinness. (NOTE: Meyer said the South
African/Irish group briefed the Finnish ForMin on the talks
before departing Helsinki. He understood that Donaldson and
McGuinness had also briefed -- or were planning to brief --
U.S. officials, likely in Belfast. END NOTE.)

------------------
Origins of Meeting
------------------

3. (C) Meyer said the idea for the meeting emerged from a
series of seminars held at Tufts University in Boston,
beginning in early 2003. Meyer himself participated in a
South African mission to Baghdad six weeks before the March
2003 U.S. intervention, in an attempt to convince Saddam
Hussein to cooperate with the IAEA, a venture Meyer now
acknowledges was "too late." Padraig O'Malley, an Irish
author and academic who now teaches at the John W. McCormick
Graduate School of Business at the University of
Massachusetts, participated in these seminars and has been
the prime mover behind the Iraqi reconciliation initiative.
O'Malley traveled to Iraq in advance of the Helsinki meeting
to gain the support of the two Iraqi Vice Presidents. Meyer
said the meeting was funded primarily by a Boston-based
private U.S. businessman, who is supporting the initiative
for humanitarian reasons (NFI).

4. (C) According to Meyer, once O'Malley had the buy-in from
the Iraqis, he identified Finland as an appropriate venue for
two reasons. First, Finland was willing to be "flexible" on
allowing entry to the Iraqis. Second, the Helsinki-based
Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) agreed to provide a venue
and logistical support for the talks. Meyer stressed that
the meeting was the personal initiative of O'Malley and that
CMI's role was largely administrative, even though CMI later
tried to claim credit for the success of the talks.

------------------
Surprising Success
------------------

5. (C) The initial goal of the meeting, Meyer said, was to
share the South African and Northern Ireland experiences and
"get the Iraqis talking." O'Malley invited six political
entities, representing the major Sunni and Shia parties.
Meyer characterized the participants as "middle managers,"
although he said that the Minister of State for National
Dialogue took part in the talks. He stressed that the
participants were there at the direction of their respective
political leaderships (vice participating in a personal
capacity) and that some consulted with their leadership in

PRETORIA 00003277 002 OF 002


Iraq during the meetings.

6. (C) Following talks on the South African and Irish
experiences and lessons learned, the South African/Irish team
invited the Iraqis to discuss possible conditions for further
dialogue. Much to their surprise, the Iraqis -- meeting on
their own -- developed twelve "recommendations to start
negotiations to reach national reconciliation," subsequently
termed the "Helsinki Agreement" (reftel). In drafting these
points, Meyer believes the Iraqis drew on the description by
the Irish politicians of the role the Mitchell Principles
played in their peace process. In a lengthy and sometimes
heated discussion, the parties produced a list of nearly four
dozen outstanding issues. They subsequently split into two
clusters to discuss these issues, one on political and
another on military/security issues. Out of these meetings,
the military/security group agreed on nine "Political
Objectives," including procedures for dealing with militias.
The parties agreed to release both the Helsinki Agreement and
Political Objectives to the public (see www.cmi.fi).

----------
Next Steps
----------

7. (C) Meyer reported that O'Malley plans to return to
Baghdad to brief the two Vice Presidents on the talks, and
had already discussed the meeting with one of them by phone
(NFI). At the end of the talks, the political entities
recognized they would have to "broaden the circle" to include
the militias and other actors if the initiative was to
succeed. Meyer acknowledged that he does not know if those
involved in the Helsinki talks will be able to influence
their political leadership in Iraq. Meyer and the other
South African and Northern Irish leaders are prepared to
continue their engagement in the initiative.

8. (C) Meyer said that in his view the international
community pushed the Iraqis to negotiate a new constitution
"before they were ready." He noted that South Africa took
six years to negotiate its new constitution, even though
there was general agreement on its outlines. Iraq also has
no history of democracy, Meyer observed, creating additional
challenges.

-------
Comment
-------

9. (C) While we cannot comment on the utility of this
initiative, we believe that Meyer is thoughtful and serious,
and is genuine in his commitment to promote reconciliation in
Iraq. Meyer is an experienced hand, having played similar
conflict resolution roles in Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka,
Bolivia, Spain, and Nepal, not to mention his role in South
Africa's transition to non-racial democracy. He is open to
further discussions with U.S. officials on this initiative,
and Post is prepared to pass on suggestions or background
papers to Meyer if deemed useful.
Bost

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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