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Cablegate: Aec Plenary: Vraalsen Urges Parties Toward Greater Cpa

DE RUEHKH #1861/01 3311330
R 271330Z NOV 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: At the November 27 monthly plenary session of the
Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC), departing Chairman Tom
Vraalsen used his farewell statement to warn of the dangers of the
current stalemate on implementation of the Comprehensive Peace
Agreement (CPA). He urged the AEC's working groups to begin working
immediately towards the mid-term report, and made one last plea for
greater independence for the chairmanship. True to form, the NCP
used its only statement to find fault with a minor technical point
involving the status of the minutes of the last meeting. The SPLM
rep expressed guarded optimism about ongoing talks between his party
and the NCP over Abyei and other CPA implementation issues. End

NCP continues nitpicking on technicalities

2. Chairman Tom Vraalsen opened the November 27 plenary with what is
usually a mere formality, the approving of the minutes. However,
true to form in its attention to legalistic details, the NCP spoke
up to challenge the status of the minutes. The NCO rep said the
minutes should not be made public as part of the AEC's two-year
status report, approved at the last plenary session. He was assured
by Vraalson that the minutes would not be part of the report.

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3. Comment: The NCP's objection was not merely nitpicking as part
of its general foot-dragging strategy on CPA implementation -
although it was that as well. In negotiations over drafting of the
Wealth Sharing Working Group, the NCP had persuaded the SPLM to
consign some of its concerns on implementation of the wealth sharing
protocol to the minutes. The SPLM did not object to not including
the minutes with the report: they may not have realized the
importance of the minutes in this case because their representatives
at this meeting had not attended previous meetings. End Comment.

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Chairman's farewell warning directed at both parties
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4. Vraalsen then gave what he noted was his final remarks to the
Commission, warning that he was "deeply concerned" about the pace of
CPA implementation. While Vraalsen is often harder on the NCP's
intransigence, his remarks were directed at both parties. Referring
to NCP-controlled media use of the status report, he said "The AEC
has never said that the CPA is 90% implemented. This is about the
future of the nation - it's not a percentage game." He continued,
"the alarm bells are ringing louder and louder. The parties claim
to be partners," but no spirit of partnership is evident to outside
observers. He noted that VP Ali Osman Taha had recently underscored
the importance of the CPA during his speech on the current SPLM
cabinet crisis. Neither of the two parties responded to Vraalsen's

SPLM guardedly optimistic about Abyei

5. When Vraalsen invited the two parties to brief the Commission on
"recent political developments," as the agenda phrased it, the NCP
declined comment. The SPLM representative, Malik Agar, Deputy
Secretary General of the SPLM and Governor of Blue Nile state, said

in a very low-key manner that a recent high-level meeting between
the two sides was "positive," and "so there is some reason for
hope." However, he warned that "we are now at the last call for
resolving some of these issues," chief of which was Abyei, and there
was still plenty of room for the talks to fail.

Coordinators report: ready to move ahead

6. Vraalsen urged Working Group Coordinators immediately to begin
drafting the mid-term evaluation and assessment report, due July 9,
2008. The AEC Coordinators each then gave a brief report on their
working groups. The Italian Ambassador said his Embassy has been
trying to arrange a power sharing working group meeting with the
Border Commission, but had not yet received a response to its
proposal. In his own farewell remark, he seconded the Chairman's
grave concern over CPA implementation. He urged the two parties to
move forward, saying that the CPA was a mainstay not just for Sudan,
but for the region.

7. The American CDA noted that the Wealth Sharing Working Group had
not met since the presentation of its two-year report, but was ready
to continue with meetings if the two parties agree. The Embassy is
trying to obtain agreement on the next meeting as a brainstorming
session to focus on transparency issues, he said. (On the margins
of the meeting, an NCP rep again put off giving Embassy PolOff a
response to this proposal.) Vraalsen expressed satisfaction with
this approach, and urged the other Coordinators to follow the U.S.

KHARTOUM 00001861 002 OF 002

8. The Norwegian Ambassador used his time to speak on the general
importance of the AEC, which he said was "now in a critical phase,"
as the only forum where the two parties could come together
regularly with representatives of the international community.
(Note: The Ambassador did not address the work of his Three Areas
working group. However, his Embassy is preoccupied with a December
visit by the Dutch Foreign Minister).

9. The UK DCM said the Security Working Group had also not met
since the two-year report, but noted some encouraging developments
in the area of Security. The Cease Fire Commission will soon be
meeting, he said. He added that his Embassy would be proposing
working group meetings on final deployments, and on support for the
Joint Integrated Units (JIUs), including training.

--------------------------------------------- -
Vraalsen urges more power for AEC Chairmanship
--------------------------------------------- -

10. Vraalsen concluded the meeting by making a strong pitch,
obviously directed at the NCP, for granting the post of AEC Chairman
more power and independence. The AEC has accomplished a great deal,
he said, but it has not been "visible in the public domain." While
he did not believe in "megaphone diplomacy," there was a valid role
in keeping the public informed. "The Chairman needs to be given
more freedom of expression," he said. "He must be able to speak the
truth, even if it could be construed as criticism of one party."
The work of the Commission should be transparent, and its documents
made available to the public.

11. Comment: Vraalsen concluded his frustrated tenure as AEC
Chairman by appealing to both sides for flexibility and by urging
the Coordinators to keep up their pressure on the two parties. We
will continue working with the other Coordinators to push both
parties toward progress on CPA implementation, to the extent
possible. The Coordinators will soon present their proposal to the
parties (and the NCP in particular) to allow greater independence to
the new chairman, though this will no doubt face resistance.


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