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Cablegate: Hints of Minor Progress in the Swiss-Libya Standoff

VZCZCXRO1994
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL
DE RUEHTRO #1024/01 3551504
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 211504Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5614
INFO RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN PRIORITY 0065
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 6164

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 001024

NOFORN SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/MAG E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2019 TAGS: PREL PHUM SZ LY

SUBJECT: HINTS OF MINOR PROGRESS IN THE SWISS-LIBYA STANDOFF REF: TRIPOLI 942 TRIPOLI 00001024 001.2 OF 002

CLASSIFIED BY: Gene Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, U.S. Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1.(S/NF) Summary: The Swiss Charge in Tripoli, Stefano Lazarrotto, expressed cautious optimism that the bilateral crisis with Libya had seen measured improvements. On December 15, the GOL issued a visa to a Swiss diplomat assigned to work in Tripoli, and in exchange, Switzerland issued a visa to a Libyan diplomat assigned to work in Bern, as part of a "deal" struck between the Charge and Libyan MFA. Lazarrotto told us that Switzerland was now pursuing a dual-track approach in an attempt to resolve the crisis, a bilateral MFA dialogue based in Bern and a new Tripoli-based dialogue with the Qadhafi Development Foundation. The Libyan Government insists that a third party (Austria, Germany, France, or Spain) mediate discussions in both tracks. Although Lazarrotto no longer expressed an immediate fear that he would be declared persona non grata, he maintained his December 1 request that the Embassy support the detained Swiss in the event that Swiss officials are asked to leave the country. End summary.

POSITIVE SIGN BUT REQUEST FOR SUPPORT STANDS

2.(C) Swiss Charge Stefano Lazarrotto said that the GOL had granted a visa to a Swiss diplomat who will be assigned to Libya to serve as "Head of Chancery" (the equivalent of a Management Officer). The diplomat arrived on December 19. Simultaneously, the Swiss Government issued a visa to a Libyan diplomat assigned to work at the Libyan Embassy in Bern. Lazarrotto said the "deal" was struck after three weeks of negotiation on the issue.

3.(S/NF) Due to this positive development, Lazarrotto said the Swiss were less concerned than they were a few weeks ago about the possibility that the Charge would be asked to leave the country for allowing the detained Swiss citizens, now sentenced in a Libyan court, to continue to reside at the Swiss Embassy (reftel). However, Lazarrotto noted that the request still stands for possible U.S. assistance in providing food to the detained Swiss in the event that the Swiss diplomats are declared persona non grata. Lazarrotto also said the Swiss Embassy had stockpiled food and water for the detainees, which somewhat lessened the need for humanitarian assistance in the event of further political difficulties. He said that he had made the request for humanitarian assistance to several embassies but that none had responded yet. Separately, the UK Embassy told us on December 16 that they had received the Swiss request but had not responded, and indicated that the UK Government was unlikely to respond positively.

SWISS PURSUE DUAL TRACK STRATEGY

4.(C) Lazarrotto confirmed that an appeals trial was still scheduled to take place on December 22 in the immigration court. The Libyan lawyer working on the case is trying to clarify whether the two men have to be present for the trial to take place. Separately, the hearings before the "economic court," which handles tax issues and other matters, have been pushed back to January 2, 2010 for Max Goeldi and to January 3, 2010 for Rashid Hamdani. The Swiss do not plan to attend. The lawyer is still trying to obtain in writing the list of specific charges.

5.(S/NF) The Swiss are now proceeding along two tracks to negotiate a solution to the situation. The first track, being led by the Swiss Government in Bern, consists of bilateral MFA talks to reopen discussions on political reconciliation. Lazarrotto reported that a Libyan MFA representative (the name of whom he could not remember) traveled to Bern last week for informal discussions of how to move forward. Libya is now insisting that any formal discussions include a third country "mediator." Bern agreed to allow Austria, Germany, France, or Spain to serve as the third party, as those countries had previously agreed to facilitate negotiations on behalf of the Swiss.

6.(S/NF) The Swiss have initiated a second track recently, through Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi's Qadhafi Development Foundation (QDF). Lazarrotto explained that the Libyan lawyer representing the detained businessmen had approached the QDF to intervene with the GOL on the issue, and that the QDF had also insisted that a third party be involved in the discussions (namely, one of the countries mentioned above). According to Lazarrotto, Human Rights Watch met with the Swiss during the group's recent visit to Tripoli and noted that in previous discussions they had had with Saif al-Islam in London, Saif had articulated his interested in "solving" the Swiss issue soon.

SWITZERLAND CONTINUES TO APPLY VETO POWER TRIPOLI 00001024 002.2 OF 002

7.(S/NF) Lazarrotto said that he had faced pressure recently from "a few EU embassies," regarding Switzerland's decision to veto the issuance of Schengen visas to Qadhafi family members. He specified that the Portuguese Ambassador (strictly protect) had been particularly vocal in accusing Switzerland of abusing its veto power. Lazarrotto defended his nation's stance, stating "Imagine that this situation were to happen to another Qadhafi family member? Switzerland could not afford that. It is better that we take precautions." Lazarrotto stressed that the veto policy was only being applied to Libyan officials and Qadhafi family members -- "average Libyan citizens are still able to apply for Swiss visas in Cairo," he said.

8.(S/NF) Comment: Lazarrotto's previous fears regarding his status seem to have been greatly allayed by the GOL's issuance of a visa for a Swiss diplomat assigned to work at the Swiss Embassy. The introduction of EU mediating parties and a new negotiating track under the auspices of the Qadhafi Development Foundation strike us as positive developments though the Swiss remain angered and frustrated by the Libyan refusal to state what they truly want to settle the dispute once and for all. . End comment. CRETZ

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