Cablegate: Embassy London
DE RUEHLO #2909/01 3641728
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 301728Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4530
INFO RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0054
C O N F I D E N T I A L LONDON 002909
STATE FOR WHA/CCA E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/30/2019
TAGS: PHUM PREL SOCI CU UK
RESPONSE: EU ENGAGEMENT WITH CIVIL SOCIETY IN CUBA REF: SECSTATE 131637
Classified By: Political Counselor Robin Quinville for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.(C/NF) Summary: Poloff delivered reftel demarche to Sujeevan Satheesan, Head of the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America Team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), on December 30. Satheesan expressed continued UK support for the EU Common Position toward Cuba and downplayed the possibility that the position would be scrapped when it comes up for renewal in June. Satheesan said that UK-Cuba bilateral relations were "up and down" and that, after the events of December 10's UN Human Rights Day, relations had entered a new trough. Satheesan noted that no UK minister has visited Cuba since 2005 and said that no ministerial visits would occur until Cuba allows visiting officials to meet with members of the opposition. He said, however, that FCO heads of section or team may visit Cuba in the future without being allowed to meet members of the opposition. Satheesan said that the UK mission to Cuba is constantly engaged with civil society, including political dissidents, at both the Deputy Head of Mission (DHM) and Second Secretary level. The UK Ambassador to Cuba does not meet with dissidents. End Summary.
2.(C/NF) Poloff delivered reftel demarche to Sujeevan Satheesan, Head of the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America Team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), on December 30. Satheesan thanked Poloff for the update on U.S. policy towards Cuba and asked about the subject matter of A/DAS Williams' visit to Cuba in September. Satheesan then turned to the EU Common Position toward Cuba, which he called a "good policy." Satheesan said that Cuba saw the Common Position, which sets out that "full cooperation with Cuba will depend upon improvements in human rights and political freedom," as the EU meddling in Cuba's affairs. Satheesan said that Cuba had been lobbying multiple EU member states to scrap the Common Position, and he said that the Cubans had finally found some traction with the Government of Spain, which will assume the EU Presidency in January 2010. While admitting that Spain and a few other EU member states supported replacing the Common Position with bilateral treaties, Satheesan downplayed the possibility that there would be sufficient support to scrap the Common Position when it next comes up for renewal in June 2010, saying that not enough member states supported such a change.
3.(C/NF) Satheesan said that since the EU Common Position was set out in 1996, the EU had seen very little progress on human rights or democratic institutions in Cuba. Satheesan said that the lack of Cuban progress makes the Common Position all the more necessary and said that it would be silly to change the position simply because the Cubans were failing to engage. According to Satheesan, "If we have to scrap Common Positions because a third country is annoyed, what is the point?" Satheesan said that scrapping the Common Position would have implications for positions on other countries, such as Zimbabwe and Burma, and expressed full UK support for keeping the position intact.
4.(C/NF) Satheesan characterized UK-Cuba bilateral relations as "up and down" and said that after the events of December 10's UN Humans Rights Day, during which a Second Secretary at the UK Embassy was harassed by a State-organized mob, relations had entered a new trough. Satheesan said that the events of December 10 had resulted in the Cuban Government calling in the UK Ambassador to scold the UK for failing to meet its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations; the UK Ambassador responded that the UK saw the Convention as allowing diplomats to go where they pleased and associate with whomever they wanted. Satheesan said that Cuba knew that the UK was on "one side of the EU spectrum with regard to Cuba's record on human rights" and cited this as a strain on UK-Cuba relations. Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez also recently publicly accused Prime Minister Brown as being one of the major obstacles to a climate change deal in Copenhagen; Satheesan called this statement "odd."
5.(C/NF) Satheesan said that UK-Cuba bilateral relations were quite good in other areas, such as in cooperation on technical issues and in the arts. Satheesan noted that the Royal Ballet, which currently has a Cuban performer, traveled to Cuba this past summer for a performance that was watched by much of the country on television. Satheesan also said that Cuban artists and musicians traveled to London to mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution and said that their visits had been well-received. E
6.(C/NF) Satheesan said that the UK would continue its policy of not allowing UK ministers to visit Cuba unless Cuba allowed ministers to meet with members of the opposition; this policy has kept UK ministers from visiting Cuba since 2005. Satheesan said, however, that the UK was thinking of allowing FCO heads of section or team (such as Satheesan himself) to visit Cuba even if they were not allowed to meet with members of the opposition. Satheesan noted that the UK's current visit policy put it on the extreme of the EU.
7.(C/NF) Satheesan said that the UK conducts constant outreach with Cuban civil society, including members of the opposition and political dissidents, through its Embassy in Havana. Satheesan noted that the Second Secretary at the Embassy, who also serves as Press Attache, is responsible for outreach to civil society, including dissidents. The Deputy Head of Mission (DHM) also conducts such outreach; however, Satheesan said that the Ambassador did not meet with dissidents, saying that doing so would be "one step too far" and "too much of a provocation." Satheesan gave the example of the Queen's birthday, when the Ambassador held a party for Cuban government officials and the DHM and Second Secretary held a party for members of the opposition.
8.(C/NF) Satheesan said that the UK did not provide internet access to Cuban citizens at its Embassy but expressed interest in rolling this out in the future. Satheesan also said that the UK would like to create publications to distribute to Cuban citizens but cited lack of funding for such an initiative. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX