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Cablegate: Austrian President Fischer to Meet Assad December 17 In

VZCZCXRO1050
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHVI #2945 3471537
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131537Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY VIENNA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9158
INFO RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS PRIORITY 0191
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES

UNCLAS VIENNA 002945

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EUR/AGS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PTER PGOV AU SL
SUBJECT: AUSTRIAN PRESIDENT FISCHER TO MEET ASSAD DECEMBER 17 IN
AMMAN


THIS MESSAGE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PLEASE PROTECT
ACCORDINGLY. NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.

1. (SBU) Austrian President Heinz Fischer's Chief of Cabinet,
Susanne Gaugl, informed Embassy Charge December 12 that Fischer will
meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad December 17 in Damascus,
following a visit to Austrian peacekeeping troops in the Golan
Heights "this coming weekend." Gaugl confided that Fischer
understood the sensitivities surrounding any Western high-level
visit to Syria. However, she noted that the Syrians had been "at the
table" during the recent Annapolis Middle East summit and had acted
with "restraint" recently in Lebanon. Gaugl said that Fischer's
main objective with Assad would be to encourage a constructive
Syrian stance toward developing Middle East peace talks.

2. (SBU) Gaugl added that Fischer had already informed EU CFSP HR
Javier Solana, the Portuguese EU presidency, as well as External
Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner of his plans. She
further noted that the MFA's Middle East Director, Ralph Scheide,
would raise Fischer's plans during a scheduled meeting in the
Department with NEA A/S David Welsh this week.

3. (SBU) Gaugl said the main purpose of President Fischer's trip to
the region is to pay tribute to Austria's 370-man-strong UNDOF
peacekeeping contingent on the Golan Heights at Christmas time. In
the past, Austrian Presidents (the nominal Supreme Commander of the
Austrian armed forces), and/or Austrian Defense Ministers, have
traditionally sought to show solidarity with the country's longest
running peacekeeping mission on the Golan Heights -- as well as the
Austrian KFOR troops on the Balkans -- at Christmas. The visits to
the Golan Heights routinely have included a side-trip to Damascus
with a bilateral meeting with the respective Syrian counterpart.

4. (SBU) Gaugl recalled that Syrian President Assad, to reciprocate
a 2001 visit by the late Austrian president Thomas Klestil to Amman,
had been slated to come to Vienna in March 2005. However, Assad
"postponed" his visit to Vienna as the "Cedar Revolution" was
unfolding in Lebanon. She noted that the Syrians had repeatedly
pressed Austria since to set a new date for the visit, which Vienna
had until recently been unwilling to do for political reasons.

Kilner

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