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Cablegate: Media Reaction to U.S. Special Envoy Scott Gration: The

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O 121241Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4729
INFO IGAD COLLECTIVE
UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001277


NSC FOR MGAVIN, LETIM
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PREL PHUM KPAO OIIP SU
SUBJECT: Media Reaction to U.S. Special Envoy Scott Gration: The
NCP-SPLM Deadlock

1. SUMMARY: Visible "shuttle diplomacy" between officials of the
National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation
Movement (SPLM) failed to produce a break-through by the U.S.
Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration on his recent visit to Sudan.
Media followed the impasse on two-party progress toward outstanding
issues of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) implementation. By
mid-visit, local pro-government and independent print media
reproduced the Special Envoy's assessment that "failure is not an
option." By the visit's end, however, hope for an NCP-SPLM
compromise diminished. The media gave credit to the Envoy's efforts
but highlighted U.S. inability to bring the parties to an agreement.
Statements in favor of secession by SPLM Chairman and Government of
the Southern Sudan (GOSS) President Salva Kiir Mayardit as well as
an impassioned public speech by Foreign Minister Deng Alor in
Khartoum overtook most of the week's headliner stories and prompted
journalists to inquire whether such statements could be seen as a
violation of the CPA. END SUMMARY.

-----------------------------
Tactical, Yes - Strategic, No
-----------------------------

2. Tension was already high on October 31, when the Special Envoy
arrived in Sudan. The media widely reported remarks by GOSS
President Salva Kiir that Saturday in Saint Teresa's Catholic
Cathedral, Juba, indicating that a vote for unity was a vote for
second-class citizenship. Headlines ricocheted from criticizing the
new U.S. strategy on Sudan to anticipation toward mediation efforts
of the U.S. delegation. Pro-government "Al Rai Al-Aam" announced,
"Fresh Sudanese-American Round of Talks on Tuesday." Independent
newspapers on November 2 were expectant: "The Opposition Intends to
Submit a Complaint against the NCP to the Special Envoy"
("Al-Sahafa") and "Opposition Parties Write a Petition to Scott
Gration" ("The Citizen"). In a same-day editorial in pro-government
Al-Rai Al-Aam, entitled "Dr. Ghazi: The U. S. Deals within a Retail
Sale System," the piece drew extensively from statements by
Presidential Advisor Ghazi Salah Eldeen to accuse the U.S.
Administration of not being "brave enough to face the active
political lobbies." Combining the recent strategy roll-out and
Special Envoy's visit, the article declared, "America is capable of
being a negative or a positive force ... Gration's personal stance
is different [from U.S. policy] and ... strives to be just within
the limits of American policy." The paper quoted Ghazi on the new
U.S. strategy on Sudan -- "tactical" rather than strategic -- and on
America as "a selfish emperor thinking only of itself, despite
Obama's claims [to the contrary] in his Cairo speech." It included
Ghazi's characterization of Kiir's call for secession as the "real
stance of the SPLM."

--------------------------
"Failure Is Not an Option"
--------------------------

3. In "Al-Raed," of November 8, journalist Khalid Yousif embellished
on responses to an "interview" [press stakeout] with Special Envoy
Gration: "I am optimistic ... we hope to see some progress. There
are positive indicators. I am optimistic about unity, and there is
a solution to every problem. Failure is not an option in the
elections or in the referendum because the remaining time is short.
I will continue to communicate with NCP and SPLM to solve disputes.
The choice of the people in the elections and referendum must be
respected peacefully. We are not putting pressure on any party yet.
We are going to give talks a chance." Al-Tayyar and Al-Ayaam also
used the "failure is not an option" quote. Other press reports
equally picked up on the Envoy's outlook of optimism early in the
week and his dismissal of failure as an option. In pro-government
daily "Al-Ahdath," on November 4, political analyst Mohamed Osman
Omer observed that "the enthusiasm with which American Presidential
Envoy to Sudan, Retired General Scott Gration, displayed towards his
mission, which he started in July, is fading out in spite of his
success in reducing his opponents in Washington ... The political
atmosphere in Sudan, where he arrived last Friday, is not the same
atmosphere he had experienced during his previous visit. The
political reality has been affected by a political paralysis ...."
The article is titled, "Washington's Strategy between Realistic
Ghazi and Optimistic Gration." In addition to quoting the Special
Envoy's confession of eternal optimism, the writer noted: "While the
American General was on his way from Juba to Khartoum following
consultations with SPLM, the First Vice President and President of
the South hammered another nail on the coffin of the delicate
relationship when he asked southerners to vote for separation in the
referendum. These statements generated much reaction, and the NCP
considered it a violation of the CPA." "Al-Ahdath," too, reported
Ghazi's "frank" remark to Gration that what the United States was
calling strategy "is rather just tactics, with no connecting thread
between them," adding, "if the United States took seven months to
pass its strategy, we will need two to three week to reply to it."

--------------------------------
Making Secession Less Attractive
--------------------------------

4. The visit took place amidst an uphill battle against SPLM public
statements, such as that of Salva Kiir regarding how southerners
might cast their votes, followed by Foreign Minister Deng Alor who,
on November 4 at a United Nations symposium, added his commentary
into the mix, accusing the NCP of "making secession attractive" not
unity. In this climate, November 8 Paris-based online publication
SudanTribune.com noted, "U.S. Envoy Departs Sudan Amid Growing
NCP-SPLM Tension." The article reported that "retired General
Gration left on Friday after failing to bridge differences between
the two major partners in the government of National unity (GoNU)"
although there had been indications earlier that the NCP and the
SPLM "were close to agreeing on disputed item[s] of referendum and
the census through Gration's mediation." SudanTribune.com spelled
out the difficulty of defining next steps "for both parties and the
U.S. administration, which is working hard to prevent the 2005
Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) it helped broker from
unraveling." Independent daily "The Citizen," on November 9,
printed a UNMIS/Fondation Hirondelle-funded Miraya FM news report
from the previous week stating that the U.S. Envoy "wraps up Sudan
visit with no breakthrough in NCP-SPLM deadlock." "The Citizen"
refered to "failed" mediation efforts to "resolve the deadlock
between NCP and SPLM over the census results, South Sudan
referendum, and national security bills." Miraya FM quoted SPLM
Deputy Chairman Yassir Arman that talks would resume between the two
parties on November 7 "after failure to reach compromise on
Gration's proposals." A quote by leading NCP member Abdel Rahman
Al-Khalifa confirmed an "understanding" on the referendum between
NCP and SPLM, who were "considering proposals made by U.S. Special
Envoy to resolve contested issues."

---------------------------------
Putting the Cart before the Horse
---------------------------------

5. Straight news articles of November 7 acknowledged attempts by the
Special Envoy to move the two partners toward compromise and
flexibility. A pro-government Al-Ahdath headline on page 2 that day
read, "Gration leaves without settling partner's disputes," and
followed with, "Gration proposed compromising suggestions with
regard to several portfolios but received no acceptance from NCP or
SPLM. Both decided to go back to their parties for more
consultations." Independent "Al-Tayyar" of November 7 incorporated
a comment by the Special Envoy that time is limited, as "we are just
few months away from elections and the referendum, and things change
rapidly." The daily defined his visit focus as "easing tension
between CPA partners in preparation for 2010 elections." Yet
editorials that came out after his visit were critical. "Al-Ahdath"
columnist Mohamed Abdel Hakam wrote on November 7, "It is clear that
NEC [National Elections Commission] is carrying out its commitment
to conduct elections on April 5-12, and to release the results in
mid-April. This makes the practical rejection of the American
proposal clear ... The Popular Congress Party (PCP), refused the
American proposal of postponing elections until after the
referendum. This came after Special Envoy General Scott Gration met
with PCP Deputy Secretary-General Abdalla Hassan Ahmed, who said,
'we reiterated to the American Envoy that a government could not be
established with technocrats only and no judiciary.'" The article
is titled "The American Proposal of Postponing Elections ... A
Dialogue of Putting the Cart before the Horse." A same-day article
on the back-page of Al-Tayyar labelled the American proposal to
postpone parliamentary elections and proceed with presidential
elections "monkey's thinking," a waste of resources and of dubious
outcome. Journalist Osman Mirghani opined, "It is better to conduct
all elections and to give the people the best chance to express
themselves. Presidential seats in the center [Khartoum] or the
states would have limited effect on the masses, given that the
Parliament would be appointed." Independent "Al-Ayaam" reproduced
on November 5 a piece by Imad Hassan, originally published in the
United Arab Emirates daily "Al-Khaleej," headlined
"Sudanese-American Relations: The Long Way to Settlement." The
journalist assessed the state of play between the two countries:
"There is a general agreement in Washington that the United States
should turn a new page with Sudan. This consensus is due to
Gration's efforts to put the stick down and to wave the carrot at
Khartoum. The carrot is well wrapped in stipulations and conditions
that Khartoum has overlooked, concentrating instead on the cup half
empty, which depends on diplomatic work and not aggressive action."


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