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Cablegate: Fdp Pressing for Germany to End Participation in Unifil

VZCZCXRO5513
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHRL #1480 3270708
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 230708Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5843
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 0161
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 0599
RHMFISS/CDRUSAREUR HEIDELBERG GE
RHMFIUU/HQ USAFE RAMSTEIN AB GE
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RHMFIUU/COMUSNAVEUR NAPLES IT
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BERLIN 001480

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MOPS PREL MARR NATO EUN GM LE
SUBJECT: FDP PRESSING FOR GERMANY TO END PARTICIPATION IN UNIFIL

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The new center-right German government decided at
a cabinet meeting on November 18 to seek a six-month extension of
the parliamentary mandate for the German Navy's participation in the
Maritime Task Force (MTF) of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon
(UNIFIL) when the mandate comes up for renewal in December.
However, members of FM Westerwelle's Free Democratic Party (FDP) are
already putting out the word that this will be the last extension of
the UNIFIL mandate. Westerwelle has long opposed German
participation in the UNIFIL MTF out of concern that the mission
could bring German soldiers into potential conflict with Israeli
soldiers and compromise German "neutrality" in the Middle East. But
even if Germany were to leave UNIFIL, Germany's bilateral training
assistance for Lebanon would likely remain in place. END SUMMARY.

UNIFIL UNDER REVIEW

2. (SBU) Now that the cabinet has decided on the mandate request, it
now goes to the Bundestag for approval, which is expected in early
December. MFA sources tell us that the original position of the
FDP-led MFA was to extend the UNIFIL mandate only until February,
just long enough to conduct an evaluation of the mission. The
Chancellery and MOD reportedly pushed back and the result was a
compromise for a six-month extension, until June 30, 2010. In the
past, the mandate was routinely extended to correspond with the
duration of the applicable UN Security Council resolution. The
current UNIFIL resolution is UNSCR 1884, which does not expire until
August 2010.

3. (SBU) The government proposes reducing the troop ceiling from
1,200 to 800, but this will have no operational impact since the
German contribution is far less than that (currently at 455) and has
been since the MTF was established in 2006. Germany currently leads
the MTF (as it has on several other occasions) and is scheduled to
be in that position until the end of November. It has four ships in
the MTF, the most of any single nation.

BUT FDP ALREADY COUNTING IT OUT

4. (SBU) While the MFA relented to the Chancellery and MOD on the
longer extension period for the mandate, FDP Bundestag staffers are
already asserting that this will be the last time it will be
renewed. They feel empowered by the coalition agreement negotiated
with Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social
Union (CDU/CSU), which says: "In the UN framework we will work
towards reducing and ultimately ending Germany's contribution to
UNIFIL's maritime task force."

WESTERWELLE: LONG-STANDING OPPONENT

5. (SBU) Westerwelle has strongly opposed Germany's participation in
UNIFIL from the very start, arguing that because of German history,
one has to avoid any situation in which German and Israeli soldiers
could come into a conflict with one another. He has also argued
that German participation in the mission could compromise Germany's
"neutrality" in the Middle East. Westerwelle may be willing to hold
other issues hostage in order to get his way on UNIFIL. One FDP
contact told us that Westerwelle could demand an end to German
participation in UNIFIL in return for supporting additional German
contributions to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, which will be
considered after the planned international conference in January.
Comment: We understand from the Israeli Embassy that the Israeli
Government has expressed its support to Germany for continued German
participation in UNIFIL. This may also have played a role in the
MFA decision allowing the longer extension period, as well as FM
Westerwelle's upcoming November 23-24 trip to Israel and the
Palestinian Territories. End comment.

BILATERAL TRAINING PROGRAM TO CONTINUE

6. (SBU) Germany's bilateral assistance to train and equip the
Lebanese navy and coast guard is likely to continue even if the FDP
prevails in pulling Germany out of UNIFIL. That program, which is
run by the CSU-led MOD, does not require a parliamentary mandate.

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