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Cablegate: Argentina: Well-Received Visits by Shimon Peres and Mahmoud

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SUBJECT: Argentina: Well-Received Visits by Shimon Peres and Mahmoud
Abbas; CFK Asks U.S. to Do More for Middle East Peace

1. (SBU) Summary: President Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) received
separate visits from Israeli President Shimon Peres (November
16-18) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (November
23-24), and joined top GOA officials, and a wide range of
Argentines, in offering both very warm receptions. CFK rejected
the idea that Argentina should be concerned about Venezuelan ties
to Iran during a press conference with Peres. In her press
appearance with Abbas she suggested that the United States "could
do more than it is doing" for Middle East Peace. She generally
presented a balanced GOA policy toward the region, condemning
terrorism, questioning extremism among Palestinians, strongly
rejecting holocaust denial, and supporting a two-state solution.
Peres and Abbas gave heavily attended public speeches. Peres made
some headlines by lumping Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez together as unpopular and failing
leaders who would soon be dismissed by their people. End Summary.

Peres Visit: Champions Peace, Warns of Iran

-------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Israeli President Shimon Peres' visited Argentina November
15-17 at the head of a delegation including government officials
and business representatives. Peres had last been in Argentina in
1994. The Nobel Laureate was hailed as a leader for peace in
visits with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK), Chief
of Cabinet Anibal Fernandez, and Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana. On
receiving Peres, Taiana affirmed that Argentina's position was to
"contribute to the search for peace, which must be based on the
rights of the Palestinians to their own state and of Israel to live
within recognized and secure borders."

3. (SBU) In the joint press conference offered by Peres and CFK
following their meeting, Peres said that he had decided not to
raise Israel's concern about Venezuela's close ties with Iran and
instead focused solely on Iran. He said he shared his strong
concerns about Iranian President Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial and
his decision to name Ahmad Vahidi as Defense Minister. Vahidi, he
noted, was wanted by Argentina for his role in the 1994 terrorist
attack on a Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center, AMIA, which left
85 dead and hundreds injured. (Peres visited both AMIA and the
site of the Israeli Embassy destroyed in a 1992 car bomb in Buenos
Aires.)

4. (SBU) Asked by the press about Argentina's close ties with
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, CFK said that "Argentina will not
permit that anyone chose its enemies and neither will it presume to
choose the enemies of others." CFK said that Argentina was
"militant" in "viscerally and completely rejecting any act of
anti-semitism or xenophobia." She added a strong rejection of
those denying the holocaust and reiterated Argentina's condemnation
of terrorism.

5. (SBU) Peres spoke November 17 to an invitation-only crowd of
over five hundred organized by the Argentine Council on
International Relations (CARI), chaired by former Foreign Minister
and CARI President Adalberto Rodriguez Giavarini and introduced
warmly by Cabinet Chief Fernandez. Peres spoke briefly and then
took mostly friendly written questions. He described the difficult
process of making peace but concluded that "we are very close." He
had warm and friendly words about Palestinian Authority President
Abbas, though he spoke openly about the challenges Abbas faced
within the Palestinian community. He also spoke in positive terms
of President Obama's engagement in the peace process and in dealing
with the challenges of Iran.

6. (SBU) Peres addressed a litany of concerns about Iran and
President Ahmadinejad and then freely associated Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez with his Iranian counterpart. Although
Ahmadinejad was a threat, Peres insisted that "he was not nervous,"
suggesting that the Iranian President was "doing a great job" of


organizing internal opposition to his rule and external opposition
to his threats and his Holocaust denials.

7. (SBU) Peres concluded with strong comments taken up widely in
the press, including in Caracas: "I don't think they [Ahmadinejad
and Chavez] have a future and I don't think I have to respect them.
Their own people will take care of them. It won't take a long
time." "I am not nervous," he added, despite what he described as
the Iranian Government's desire not only to destroy Israel but also
to dominate its Arab neighbors via nuclear weapons. Peres, indeed,
was mocking of Chavez, adding that he did not reject all of the
Venezuelans initiatives, praising his condemnation of Jacuzzis and
his admonitions against wasting water by singing in the shower.

Abbas Follows: CFK Calls for Greater U.S. Effort

--------------------------------------------- ---

8. (SBU) Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visited
November 22-24 and was also warmly received by CFK, the GOA and a
cross section of Argentine society. In a joint press conference
following her November 23 meeting with Abbas, CFK spoke forcefully
of the importance of the Palestinian Constitution, questioning
"fundamentalists who do little for the Palestinian question." She
urged the international community to demand the complete cessation
of new Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas and said that
Israel must accept a return to pre-1967 borders. She called for
support for the roadmap and added that "the United States could do
more than it is doing." Abbas also requested that the United
States insist that Israel halt settlement activities.

9. (SBU) In a public speech also organized by CARI, Abbas spoke to
several hundred people overflowing a smaller venue, including the
Israeli Ambassador and members of the Argentine Jewish Community.
Abbas was warmly introduced by Foreign Minister Taiana who
reiterated Argentine support for an end to terrorism and a return
to 1967 borders. He also expressed concern about Israeli abuses in
Gaza.

10. (SBU) Abbas gave solemn remarks focusing on the evolution of
the peace process, including the Palestinian Authority's (PA)
acceptance of Israel. He rejected any return to violence and had
strong and critical words for Hamas. In particular, he scored
Hamas for blocking free electoral processes in Gaza to determine
future Palestinian leadership and policies. Abbas' first smile
during his remarks came when he was told that 15 of the 45
submitted questions referred to Hamas.

11. (SBU) Abbas expressed concerns about the current Israeli
Government's commitment to peace, but emphasized that over 70
percent of Israeli's wanted to move forward in the peace process.
He said that the PA could not pursue a unilateral declaration of a
Palestinian state but that they had supported an Arab league
proposal to bring the question to the UN Security Council. Asked
whether Argentina could usefully play a role in the peace process,
Abbas suggested it was possible, noting the GOA's good relations
with both the PA and the Government of Israel. He noted that
Norway, a small country well removed from the conflict, had played
an unexpected and decisive role in the 1990s and that another
country might do the same.

12. (SBU) Asked about the United States' role, Abbas said that he
perceived that President Obama had good intentions and that his
Administration had made positive moves. Still, he said, the USG
could put greater pressure on Israel over settlements. "No one can
pressure Israel except the United States," he added.


Comment

-------

13. (SBU) Peres and Abbas both sustained positive and well covered
visits to Argentina. Although Peres' comments on Venezuela
generated modest controversy, the GOA did not react with any real
irritation over his sharp treatment of Chavez. By and large, the
GOA came across just where it wanted to: as a friend of Israel,
supportive of certain demands against Iran and its President, and
as a strong advocate for Palestinian rights and aspirations. If
the Abbas visit was slightly overshadowed by Brazilian President
Lula's reception of Ahmadinejad (which earned an above-the-fold
photo on November 24 in daily "La Nacion"), the contrast was
probably not unwelcome by a government looking to be seen as
serious and balanced in foreign policy.
MARTINEZ

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