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Cablegate: Nasa Hythirm Project: Nicaragua Denies Overflight Clearance

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0868 2451307
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 021307Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4518
RUEANAT/NASA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO IMMEDIATE 5939
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS MANAGUA 000868

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/PPC AND INR/IAA
DEPT ALSO FOR OES/SAT - JACKSON
UNVIE FOR UN SPACE AFFAIRS OFFICER
SOUTHCOM FOR GEN FRASER AND POLAD
OES PLEASE PASS TO NASA - JUDY GROSS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TSPA TSPL PREL NU
SUBJECT: NASA HYTHIRM PROJECT: NICARAGUA DENIES OVERFLIGHT CLEARANCE

REF: SECSTATE 77073

1. (U) ON Thursday, August 27, we were informed by the Office of American Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Relations (MINREX) that Nicaragua would not grant a flight or transit clearance for the U.S. Navy P3 operating in support of the upcoming DISCOVERY shuttle mission as sought per REFTEL.

2. (U) The American Affairs Director explained that the Nicaraguan Army had refused to concur with the clearance request for two reasons. First, the Army noted that there was a bilateral agreement in place governing blanket overflight clearance for P3 aircraft, but it was specific to counternarcotics (CN) operations. The Army argued that since this request was for a non-CN mission, the GON could not grant approval under that bilateral CN agreement. Second, the Army noted that the request was for a "military aircraft." The Army argued that under Article 92 of Nicaragua's Constitution, any foreign military craft, vessel or person could not enter or operate inside Nicaragua's territorial space without prior, express permission from the National Assembly (NA). The Army noted that this "military aircraft" did not have prior NA approval, therefore would not be authorized to enter Nicaraguan space.

3. (U) COMMENT. We find it disappointing that the Government has rejected this request for a NASA science mission. The Army has chosen to focus on the type of aircraft, rather than on the underlying reason for the mission. We note that the National Assembly is in session and could have been consulted or notified of this request. We also note that the 2009 bilateral Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) does contain language that permits "other military operational activities as mutually agreed"; however, the Army chose not to invoke this clause in this instance.

4. (U) COMMENT (CONT'D). We understand from NASA personnel that this is an ongoing mission and clearance likely will be required in the future. We request that Department suggest that NASA work with U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) to develop language specific to the P3 shuttle support flights that could be included in the annual roster of anticipated military activities that is sent by the Embassy's U.S. Military Group (MLGP) to the Nicaraguan Army each year, and is in turn sent by the Army to the National Assembly for approval each year.
CALLAHAN

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