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Cablegate: Secretary Rice's September 16, 2008 Conversation

O P 221423Z SEP 08
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY PANAMA IMMEDIATE
INFO AMEMBASSY BELGRADE PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY LA PAZ PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY PRISTINA PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY TBILISI PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L STATE 100946

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/21/2018
TAGS: OVIP ETRD PREL PGOV CFED PBTS RS GG KV BL PM
SUBJECT: SECRETARY RICE'S SEPTEMBER 16, 2008 CONVERSATION
WITH PANAMANIAN PRESIDENT MARTIN TORRIJOS

Classified By: WHA A/S Shannon for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (U) September 16, 2008; 9:30-10:00 a.m.; Washington, DC,
USA.

2. (U) Participants:

U.S.
The Secretary
Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon
Assistant Secretary Sean McCormack
Ambassador Barbara Stephenson
Skye Justice (WHA Notetaker)

Panama
President Martin Torrijos
First Vice President and Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis Navarro
Ambassador Federico Humbert
Luis Melo (President's Notetaker)

3. (C) SUMMARY: Secretary Rice and Panamanian President
Martin Torrijos discussed the pending Congressional approval
of the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA), Bolivia,
recognition of Kosovo and Georgia's breakaway regions,
counternarcotics and security cooperation, and proposed a
cooperative educational initiative. Both commented on the
excellent state of U.S.-Panama relations, and the Secretary
expressed U.S. commitment to Congressional approval of the
TPA, but stressed that agreements be submitted to Congress in
the order they were signed. Torrijos agreed only to
coordinate policy on Kosovo and Georgia at the UN Security
Council. End Summary.

US COMMITTED TO PANAMA TPA
--------------------------

4. (C) President Torrijos began the meeting with a
description of his efforts to promote commercial ties between
the United States and Panama and to advocate for
Congressional approval of the U.S.-Panama TPA, adding that he
had been well-received on Capitol Hill. The Secretary
assured Torrijos the Administration remains committed to the
ratification of the TPA, while noting that the Congressional
calendar is complicated and the order of submitting
agreements is important to ensure positive relations with all
our trading partners. Torrijos expressed hope that if there
is a trade vote, Panama would not be forgotten, and the
Secretary responded that when there is a vote, Panama will be
moved forward.

EVO MORALES, A ONE-MAN WRECKING BALL
------------------------------------

5. (C) Responding to Torrijos' statement that U.S.-Panama
cooperation had been excellent in a not-so-boring
neighborhood, the Secretary stated that we look forward to
continued good relations with Panama, with Central America,
and with all our neighbors. To the south, we have done
everything we can to reach out to sustain relations with
Bolivia; they have not reciprocated. The current situation
cannot continue. The Secretary stated that Morales needs to
act to stop confrontation, adding that Morales cannot govern
without his governors. We don't want to see violence or
challenges to territorial integrity in the hemisphere, but
Morales has done all the wrong things. Comparing Morales to
a one-man wrecking ball in a fragile place, she noted her
hope that regional leaders would send him a strong message
that the status quo must change.


NO PROMISES ON KOSOVO AND GEORGIA
---------------------------------

6. (C) The Secretary encouraged Panama to recognize Kosovo,
and noted that both Kosovo and Georgia needed to be brought
closer to other European nations. She expressed great
concern that Russia did not appreciate the gravity of the
mistake it had made in invading Georgia, or of its bigger
mistake of recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia. She
asserted that there is no state of South Ossetia and no state
of Abkhazia, and that other states cannot be allowed to treat
the two breakaway regions as anything other than Georgian
territory. She added that the United States considers such
recognition a real challenge to our national security, and to
world order. Torrijos responded only that Panama would
coordinate with the United States on these issues in the UN
Security Council.

PLANS FOR PATHWAYS MEETING
--------------------------

7. (C) President Torrijos asked about plans for the
September 24 meeting of free trade partners in New York, and
the Secretary responded that President Bush believes this is
an excellent way to demonstrate the importance of free trade
and coordinate more closely with our trade partners. She
clarified that the intent of the meeting is not to create a
closed club or formal organization, but rather to see how
countries with free trade agreements can use them to grow
their economies and promote opportunity. Torrijos added that
he hoped President Bush and this group could outline a path
for the next U.S. administration to move forward on free
trade issues. Assistant Secretary Shannon suggested
statements from the September 24 leaders meeting on the need
to ratify the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama
would help the Administration demonstrate international
concern to Congress. Torrijos responded that he would work
with the group to draft a joint letter to this effect to
Congressional leaders.

DEVELOPING ACADEMIC EXCHANGE PROGRAMS
-------------------------------------

8. (SBU) Torrijos suggested that a good way to enhance
long-term relations between our countries was to focus on
educational exchange programs. He noted that, while Panama
has over 200 doctoral students abroad, many do not study in
the United States because they lack English skills. Vice
President Samuel Lewis noted that this was an area where he
hoped Panama and the United States could cooperate, and the
Secretary expressed her support for educational initiatives
as both an academic and as Secretary of State. She proposed
that she and Lewis sign a document, perhaps during UNGA,
acknowledging our intent to cooperate on such an initiative.

MERIDA A GOOD STEP TOWARD IMPROVING SECURITY
--------------------------------------------

9. (SBU) Torrijos praised our bilateral counternarcotics
coordination, and the Secretary noted it was important to
continue actively addressing narcotics trafficking. Torrijos
noted that the Panamanian people are deeply concerned about
insecurity and organized crime. He added that while all
Central American countries would like increased funding via
the Merida Initiative, it will make a good step toward
improving security, and demonstrates that the United States
listens to its Latin American neighbors' security concerns.

RICE

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