Cablegate: Under Secretary Dobriansky's Meeting with Egyptian


DE RUEHEG #2301/01 3081320
R 031320Z NOV 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary. On October 25, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed
Nazif met with U/S for Democracy and Global Affairs, Paula
Dobriansky, to discuss the strategic relationship between
Egypt and the United States, the significance of Africa in
the spread of avian influenza (AI), and the way forward for
collaboration on virus sample sharing and vaccine
development. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On October 25, on the margins of the International
Ministerial Conference on Avian and Pandemic Influenza in
Sharm El Sheikh, Prime Minister Nazif met with U/S
Dobriansky, accompanied by Amb Margaret Scobey, Amb John
Lange, Dr. Kent Hill (USAID) and emboff (notetaker). He
thanked U/S Dobriansky for the generous USG bilateral avian
influenza assistance to Egypt, totaling $23 million, which
she announced earlier that morning. He also highlighted the
importance of the strategic relationship between the two
countries as well as the strong trade partnership. U/S
Dobriansky noted that the U.S.-Egyptian bilateral
relationship would remain strong regardless of the U.S.
presidential election outcome, and that it would also endure
despite the current economic challenge. Nazif noted that
Egypt has never felt that a change in U.S. administrations
affected the bilateral relationship in a fundamental way and
expressed confidence that the global financial crisis will
bring people together to respond in the right way. He stated
that while Egypt has not been affected directly by the
financial crisis and Egyptian banks have remained intact, the
country will ultimately be affected by a slowdown in the
U.S., specifically in the export and tourism sectors as well
as by decreasing Suez Canal revenues. Nazif added that U.S.
elections are coming at a critical time and that the new
administration will inherit the positives and negatives of
the current administration.

3. (SBU) U/S Dobriansky commended Egypt's transparency in
providing AI virus samples for the purpose of research and
noted the challenge of addressing developing countries,
concerns about receiving benefits (such as vaccines) in the
event of a pandemic. The UN and WHO have been trying to
address that challenge in a balanced way. Minister of Health
and Population El Gabaly noted that countries that provide
samples, such as Indonesia, are asking for a fair
distribution of benefits in return. He stated that there is a
line of demarcation between the West and the rest of the
world in terms of the West providing technology/research and
others providing virus samples. Minister of Agriculture
Abaza added that countries are concerned with the lapse in
time between providing virus samples and receiving the
benefits of a vaccine. While Egypt has worked closely with
NAMRU-3 to share information, he understands other countries'
reluctance in sharing virus samples. Minister El Gabaly said
he would meet with the Indonesians and other countries later
that day to begin drafting an agreement of principles and a
way to move forward in tackling AI sample and benefit
sharing. (Note: after several inconclusive side meetings on
sample/benefit sharing during the conference, the GOE, in the
concluding document, Vision for the Future, highlighted the
importance of resolving the issue in the December meeting at
the World Health Organization. End note.)

4. (SBU) The Prime Minister underlined the importance of
Africa when addressing AI; Africa is affected but awareness
is low and information scarce. He cited Egypt's location on
migratory bird routes to and from Africa, noting that it is a
continuing cause for concern in Egypt. Minister El Gabaly
mentioned Egypt's offer to provide doctors and expertise to
Nigeria when they had an AI breakout and his surprise that
they did not accept the offer. He noted that African
countries focus on malaria and other diseases but do not
understand the risk of AI. U/S Dobriansky agreed that Africa
is critical and highlighted Egypt's being chosen as host of
the Sharm el-Sheikh conference as an indication of Africa's
growing importance. She noted the critical work of
institutions such as the OIE, WHO, FAO and UN in bolstering
networks in Africa, but agreed that more needs to be done. In
addition, she stated that religious concerns need to be taken
into consideration as well and that Egypt can play a pivotal
role in working with Muslim nations in Africa. Minister of
Agriculture Abaza agreed and said that increased awareness of
AI will lead to fewer outbreaks in Africa. Egypt wants to
align its efforts with those of the U.S. in combating AI
outbreaks throughout the continent.

5. (U) Earlier that day, just prior to the conference,s
opening session, U/S Dobriansky met with Prime Minister Nazif
along with UN System Influenza Coordinator David Nabarro, the
Cairo-based European Commission head of delegation, and Amb.
Lange (in recognition of the co-sponsors of the conference:

the USG, the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic
Influenza, the UN System and the EC). The Prime Minister
said that losses from AI had led the GOE to go to the root
cause of the problem and restructure its poultry industry on
a non-political basis. U/S Dobriansky noted how important it
was that the GOE was hosting this year,s international
conference to continue high-level focus on the threat from
avian and pandemic influenza.

6. (U) This cable has been cleared by U/S Dobriansky.

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