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Cablegate: Unesco Director General Succession: Conversations With

C O N F I D E N T I A L   UNESCOPARI   12042202

DE RUEHFR #2202/01 3391701
R 041701Z DEC 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L PARIS FR 002202


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/04/2018

REF: (A) PARIS FR 2144
(B) PARIS FR 2153

Classified by Ambassador Louise V. Oliver, reason 1.4 (b).

1. (C) Summary: The Mexican and Swedish UNESCO Ambassadors told
Ambassador Oliver that their respective countries will oppose the
candidacy of Egyptian Minister of Culture Farouq Hosni for the
position of Director General of UNESCO. The Mexican Ambassador also
expressed misgivings about the possible candidacy of UNESCO's
Brazilian Deputy Director General, Marcio Barbosa. The French UNESCO
Ambassador told Ambassador Oliver that she expected that France would
soon inform the Egyptian Government that France would be unable to
support Hosni, but that it had not done so yet. The Turkish
Ambassador to UNESCO told Ambassador Oliver that Turkey was also
uncomfortable with Hosni's candidacy, but, since Turkey was not on
UNESCO's Executive Board, it would not become very involved in the
campaign for Director General. The Brazilian Ambassador told
Ambassador Oliver that Brazil will very likely put forth a candidate,
but they have not decided who that candidate will be. Thus far,
Ambassador Oliver has not spoken with anyone at UNESCO who is
positive about Hosni. End Summary.

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2. (C) Ambassador Oliver met with the Mexican Ambassador to UNESCO,
Homer Aridjis Fuentes, on December 1 to discuss the campaign for
UNESCO's next Director General. Ambassador Fuentes said that Mexico
had been lobbied by the Egyptians, but that the Mexican Government
had refused to endorse Hosni. The Mexican Ambassador said that they
do not think Hosni is the right individual to lead UNESCO, because
they think he is too controversial and provocative. Ambassador
Fuentes said that Hosni's comments on burning Israeli books, and his
accusations that UNESCO's Moroccan Ambassador is an agent for the
Jew, are evidence of Hosni's tendency to say things that are highly
inappropriate. Mexico feels that UNESCO needs a Director General who
is capable of calming tensions and is able to work with all
countries. The Mexican Ambassador added that these qualities are
particularly important after the terrorist attacks in India.

3. (C) Ambassador Fuentes also told Ambassador Oliver that the Saudi
Ambassador to UNESCO, Ziad bin Abdullah al-Drees, agrees with these
sentiments. Many of the more moderate Arab countries feel the same.
The Mexican Ambassador was very pleased to be informed about the U.S.
opposition to Mr. Hosni, as it would help Mexico resist Egyptian

4. (C) When Ambassador Oliver asked Ambassador Fuentes about the
other candidates for Director General, he responded that he thought
that neither the Ambassador of Lithuania nor the Ambassador of
Bulgaria had the stature to lead UNESCO. He also said that Mexico
would not support UNESCO's Brazilian Deputy Director General Marcio
Barbosa. He said the Barbosa had not shown leadership qualities, and
that he did not seem to be committed to raising the importance of
Latin America within UNESCO. He said that during Barbosa's recent
visit to Mexico, none of the senior government officials would meet
with him. The Mexican Ambassador said that other Latin American
countries, such as Chile and Argentina, agreed with this assessment,
and that Brazil had said that it would not go ahead with Barbosa's
candidacy without Mexico's endorsement of Barbosa. Ambassador
Fuentes also said that the next Director General does not need to be
from Latin America, but that he or she does need to be sensitive and
supportive of Latin American issues. (Comment: The Latin American
countries are unhappy about the fact that Africa, and increasingly
the Arab region, seem to be getting most of the UNESCO's attention.
His comments may also explain why Barbosa just announced that UNESCO
would start to focus on the issue of bio-fuels, a top priority for
Brazil. End Comment.)

5. (C) Ambassador Fuentes ended the meeting by saying that Mexico
had not given much thought to identifying an alternative candidate,
because it felt it was first necessary to end Hosni's candidacy.
When Ambassador Oliver asked him what the most effective way to do
that might be, Ambassador Fuentes said that he thought a few articles
in the press, preferably not the American press, that discussed the
Director General race, reviewed the current candidates, and
highlighted Hosni's flaws, would accomplish that goal. (Comment.
Mission agrees with the suggestions. End Comment.)

6. (C) Ambassador Oliver also met with the Swedish Ambassador to
UNESCO, Mats Ringborg, on December 1. Ambassador Ringborg was very
pleased to hear that the U.S. would not support Hosni's candidacy.
Sweden does not think that Hosni is the right man for the position of
Director General, especially as it has doubts that Hosni would keep
freedom of expression and the press as a top UNESCO priority.
Ambassador Ringborg was not very informed about the Director General
race, and asked many questions about the process. The Swedish
Ambassador said that it was obvious that the African countries would
play an important role in the election, and offered to speak with the
other Nordic Ambassadors to develop a strategy to approach some of
the African countries. Ambassador Ringborg also said that he had
expressed his doubts on Hosni's candidacy in an EU meeting the
previous week. He added that he approved of the U.S. strategy to
keep the U.S. position quiet for now, as it would not be good to turn


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/04/2018

the Director General race into a public contest between Egypt and the

7. (C) Ambassador Oliver spoke with the Turkish Ambassador to
UNESCO, Ali Tinaz Tuygan, on December 1 about the campaign for
Director General. Tuygan said that Turkey is not happy with Hosni.
The Turkish Ambassador specifically mentioned Hosni's interview in
the November 27 issue of Egyptian magazine al-Ahram, and said that
the allegations of corruption are disturbing. He added that, since
Turkey is not on UNESCO's Executive Board and, therefore, cannot
participate in the September vote, he will not become actively
involved in the campaign.

8. (C) Ambassador Oliver engaged France's UNESCO Ambassador,
Catherine Colonna, on December 1. The French Ambassador said that
she had met with the Egyptian Ambassador to UNESCO, Shadia Kenawy, on
November 28 at the Egyptian Ambassador's request. When asked about
French support for Hosni, Ambassador Colonna responded that France is
looking for the best candidate possible, one with a real vision for
UNESCO. Ambassador Colonna told Ambassador Oliver that since she had
been told to be imprecise, she could not say anything more direct
than that. The French Ambassador went on to say that the real French
message on Hosni's candidacy is supposed to be delivered at a much
higher level. She said that France's position will be that despite
their excellent bilateral relations, France will not support Hosni's
candidacy. Ambassador Colonna also said that France will say that
because of French support for an Egyptian for a high level post at
the IMF; France has paid its debt to Egypt and does not owe them
anything more.

9. (C) On December 3, Colonna telephoned Ambassador Oliver to say
that the French Ambassador in Cairo is trying to push back on the
French decision not to support Hosni by saying the French have
already made a commitment to Egypt. She also said that the French
Ambassador in Cairo had said that there seemed to be some doubt about
the U.S. position as he understood that it is not yet "official."
She asked if the U.S. could speak to a high level member of the
French government to encourage them to stick to their decision not to
support Hosni. (Comment: Mission strongly supports this suggestion,
which we feel should be done as soon as possible. End Comment.)
Ambassador Colonna added that it would be a very good idea for the
U.S. Ambassador in Egypt to speak directly to the French Ambassador
in Cairo to clarify the U.S. position, if she has not already done
so. (Comment: Mission also supports this suggestion, which should
also be done as soon as possible. End Comment.)

10. (C) Ambassador Oliver met the Brazilian Ambassador to UNESCO,
Joao Carlos de Souza-Gomes, on December 3. Ambassador Souza-Gomes

said it was very likely that Brazil would submit a candidate for the
Director General position, although Brazil has not decided who that
candidate should be. One possibility is UNESCO's Director General
Marcio Barbosa, but many countries are not enthusiastic about his
candidacy. Barbosa recently lost support at UNESCO when he said that
UNESCO should focus on bio-fuels, a top priority for Brazil. Another
possibility is Cristovam Buarque, President Lula da Silva's first
Minister of Education, who is mobilizing the Brazilian Senate in
support of his candidacy. The Brazilian Ambassador said that he
thought that Senator Buarque wanted to force Lula into supporting his
candidacy, as it would be difficult for the Brazilian President to
oppose the Brazilian Senate on this issue.

11. (C) Ambassador Souza-Goumes told Ambassador Oliver that he had
met with many UNESCO ambassadors, and that he had learned that there
was a lot of support for a Brazilian candidate. He also said that
there was enthusiasm in a number of African states. Ambassador
Souza-Gomes said that a number of Arab states, especially the Gulf
states, are uncomfortable with Hosni, but that the situation is very
awkward for them, given the statement by the Arab Foreign Ministers.
The Brazilian Ambassador added that the Saudi Ambassador to UNESCO
had said that the Americans would probably oppose Hosni. When
Ambassador Oliver told him that the U.S. had in fact formally
notified the Egyptians that it would not support Hosni, Ambassador
Souza-Gomes was very pleased. He also agreed that the U.S. should
keep its position quiet for the moment.

12. (C) Comment: The Egyptians seem to have exaggerated the number
of countries that they claim support Hosni. It also seems that many
countries that supposedly support Hosni are doing so very
reluctantly, and would like to see an alternative. The problem is
that the U.S. and other countries from the North, must continue to
move quietly and carefully in order to prevent Egypt from turning the
election into a North-South battle, which would allow Egypt to rally
support not on the basis of having a good candidate but on political
grounds. Ensuring that the French communicate their opposition to
Hosni is the most important thing that the U.S. can do at this time.
Encouraging the Brazilians to submit a candidate is also important,
as it will send a strong signal to the rest of the UNESCO community
that Hosni's election is not inevitable. This would threaten the
entire Egyptian strategy, as the Egyptians do not want more
candidates to enter the race, since they know their candidate is
weak. Egypt is trying to use its power as an influential Arab
country to force countries to endorse Hosni. It is quite significant,


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/04/2018

however, that Egypt has not formalized Hosni's candidacy. French
opposition, combined with an additional candidate, would make it more
difficult for the Egyptians to move forward with Hosni, and to claim
that it is simply the U.S. that is opposing him.


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