Cablegate: Ambassador Solomont's January 22, 2010 Meeting
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SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR SOLOMONT'S JANUARY 22, 2010 MEETING
WITH SPANISH PRESIDENT ZAPATERO
Classified By: Ambassador Alan D. Solomont, Reasons 1.4(b),(d).
1. (C) Summary: In a wide-ranging two-hour meeting with the Ambassador January 22, President Zapatero praised USG humanitarian efforts in Haiti, reiterated his personal commitment to resettle as soon as possible five detainees from Guantanamo, pledged Spanish support on Iran and Afghanistan, and endorsed the Ambassador,s efforts to promote job creation both in the U.S. and Spain through enhanced economic ties and investment. Zapatero told the Ambassador that his government considered him special and
would open "all doors" to him. He pledged to work towards concrete deliverables leading to a U.S.-EU Summit and said Spain was open to an expanded USG presence at the Rota Naval Base for Africom objectives. Zapatero made a strong case for Spain,s ongoing participation in the G-20, noting that he appreciated D/NSA Froman,s openness to Spain,s possibleparticipation if the EU reduces its institutional membership. Zapatero expressed sincere admiration for President Obama and his belief that the President's election had transformed the U.S. standing and image in the world. He also evinced a deep fascination with the U.S. political system and recent electoral developments, noting his life-long obsession with politics. End Summary.
2. (C) The Ambassador thanked Zapatero for receiving him so quickly after his arrival in Spain, and for the warm welcome by his cabinet, in particular NSA Leon, Foreign Minister Moratinos, and Interior Minister Rubalcaba. The Ambassador said President Obama, NSA Jones, and the USG appreciated Spains expressed desire to work closely and collaboratively with the United States. He welcomed Zapateros upcoming visit to Washington to participate in the forthcoming National the Prayer Breakfast as well as King Juan Carlos, mid-February visit to the White House. Despite the negative press Zapatero had received for attending a "religious" event, the Ambassador noted the close connection between religious and political values in promoting the cause of justice, compassion and service to a cause greater than
3. (C) The Ambassador said his priorities are to strengthen the GOS-USG partnership; explain USG policies to the Spanish public, particularly on our mutual interests in Afghanistan; and to promote job creation through enhanced investment and economic activity, both in the U.S. and in Spain. He thanked President Zapatero for publicly praising USG humanitarian efforts in Haiti, which are an important expression of American values. Zapatero said not only he but the European Parliament and the whole world recognized that the U.S. is
doing an exemplary job in Haiti. He lauded the U.S. military forces, and thanked the Ambassador for his condolences for Spanish casualties in Haiti. The Ambassador also welcomed ongoing law enforcement and counter-terrorism cooperation with Spain and thanked Zapatero for the warm reception DHS Secretary Napolitano had received during her three visits to Spain over the past year.
4. (C) In view of the mixed signals and confusing messages from Interior Minister Rubalcaba and other GOS senior officials, the Ambassador said he wanted to express clearly and concisely the importance of Spain following through on its commitment to take five detainees at Guantanamo. He welcomed Leon,s clarification that Spain would act quickly, including taking the detainee from Yemen which it had agreed to. Zapatero reiterated his personal commitment. The
Ambassador stressed the need for the GOS to follow through and to be consistent in its public messages. Zapatero acknowledged that Spain's desire to be helpful on Guantanamo was in response to its desire to have the USG close the facility, and said he would talk to Minister Rubalcaba to ensure the government was speaking with one voice on this important matter.
5. (C) On Iran, the Ambassador said we appreciated Foreign
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Minister Moratinos, public comments about the importance of
sanctions as a diplomatic tool. He briefed on U/S Burns recent meetings with EU Foreign Ministers to lay the ground for a UNSC resolution. While we were not closing the door to dialogue, Iran had not been responsive and the international community must stand together in bringing pressure to bear on Iran. Spain,s leadership in the EU is very important on these key foreign policy challenges.
Economy and Climate Change
6. (C) On the economic front, the Ambassador noted the great potential for investments in alternative energy, infrastructure, and banking both in the U.S. and Spain. Spanish companies had benefited from their investments in the United States, receiving significant USG support and tax credits. U.S. companies similarly wanted to compete on a
level playing field in Spain, with two companies in particular poised to make hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy investments in Spain. Ambassador noted his and Senator Menendez,s plans to reinvigorate the US-Spain Forum, which is an important vehicle for enhancing economic and investment opportunities. He also emphasized our desire to work closely with Spain on climate change, and noted his conversation with Teresa Ribera, Spain,s point person on
climate change, and her efforts to achieve Latin American support for a global comprehensive climate change agreement. Zapatero said he was pleased to learn of the Ambassador,s keen interest and direct involvement in promoting enhanced economic ties. He said we needed a model of cooperation to spur investment in both directions, and noted that he had proposed to the White House the establishment of a high level Forum for Trade and Investment to help U.S. and Spanish businesses. The Ambassador noted that there were already a number of vehicles for achieving progress on this front, including the US.-Spain Foundation chaired by Senator Bob Menendez.
7. (C) Regarding Spain,s desire for a U.S-EU summit during its EU Presidency, the Ambassador said the matter was under consideration at the highest levels of the U.S. government, but that no commitment had been made. We are hoping for a specific response soon. While it is a White House call, what matters most is coming up with deliverables to ensure the meeting was substantive rather than symbolic. He noted that a prospective E.U.-U.S agreement on data protection and information-sharing would be of great interest to Washington. Zapatero reiterated on several occasions the importance of having a Summit in Madrid, noting that Spain and the U.S. have many common interests and that there are many ways Spain can exert its leadership and influence in the world. He mentioned Latin America, North Africa, and Turkey's accession to the EU as key areas of cooperation. He said he
appreciated the U.S. expectation for Summit deliverables, recalling that President Obama during one of their first encounters had observed the cumbersome process of the many U.S.-European organizational architectures. Zapatero agreed that while regular meetings among U.S. and European leaders were important, concrete results needed to emerge from such meetings. He added that NSA Leon was working closely with the NSC on a Summit menu we could find attractive.
8. (C) Zapatero said that he was pleased to finally have the Ambassador in Madrid and promised that the Spanish government
would ensure he had a successful tenure. "All doors are open to you. I have told my team that the U.S. Ambassador to Spain and personal representative of President Obama is not just another Ambassador but rather someone special," he said. "We want to reinforce our excellent relationship with the United States and for you to know that my government is one you can count on and trust."
9. (C) On the Middle East, Zapatero said Spain appreciated the imperative of bucking up the Palestinian Authority leadership and getting them back to the negotiating table, notwithstanding Israeli,s unhelpful actions on settlements. The Ambassador briefed on Special Envoy Mitchell,s diplomatic endeavors, in particular his efforts to get the
Palestinians to return to the bargaining table. Although critical of Israel's settlements policy, Zapatero noted that
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if any Israeli leader could forge a peace agreement with the Palestinians, it was PM Netanyahu, who had little incentive for returning to power other than achieving a lasting, sustainable peace agreement.
10. (C) Zapatero said he was pleased the U.S., as the world,s leading power, wanted to nurture and strengthen its alliance with Europe. The West would do well to bear in mind our long term strategic mutual interests in dealing with emerging powers such as China and India. Zapatero expressed particular anxiety regarding China, underscoring that it was a huge player and the West should be watchful of its growing
influence on the world stage. He hoped the U.S. appreciated Europe's importance. The Ambassador reassured Zapatero the U.S. fully appreciated the importance of Europe as our partner.
11. (C) Zapatero praised President Obama,s leadership and influence throughout the world. The Ambassador agreed that President Obama had positively influenced America,s standing in the eyes of the world. He said the U.S. looks first to astrong, united Europe for assistance, and sees Spain as an essential partner. Europe is the most reliable partner for the United States, which cannot solve the world,s problems
alone. As President Obama said, now is the time for all of us
to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.
12. (C) Zapatero reiterated that Spain would continue its responsibilities in Afghanistan. He lamented that it has not been easy convincing Spanish public opinion about the objectives in Afghanistan, and welcomed the Ambassador,s assistance.
14. (C) In response to the Ambassador,s gratitude for use of
Spanish military bases, Zapatero acknowledged the strategic importance of the Rota Naval base, querying if the USG remained interested in basing Africom or one of its components there. Zapatero noted Spain,s continuing concerns about Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Maghreb (AQIM). Ambassador undertook to get a status report, underscoring the importance of the African continent. Zapatero thanked the USG for its intelligence support in Mauritania and Mali with a view to getting Spanish hostages released from AQIM.
15. (C) Zapatero emphasized Spain,s overriding goal to continue its participation in G-20 meetings. The Ambassador
relayed D/NSA Froman,s consideration in principle to accept Spain as the fifth European country if the EU reduces its institutional membership from two to one. He cautioned that this must be done in the context of what the EU is willing to accept and with the understanding that we do not want to open up G-20 membership. The Ambassador said that Froman believes that Spain understands that it cannot be a formal member of the G-20 but might be allowed to be a permanent participant, if the EU agrees. Froman also noted that it was important for Spain to have an effective G-20 Sherpa. Zapatero said he
appreciated Froman,s openness to Spain,s participation.
16. (C) Discussion then turned to Spanish and American domestic politics. Zapatero spent considerable time querying the Ambassador on the U.S. political system, including the January 19 Massachusetts senatorial election outcome. The Ambassador described the body politic's mandate for change and the public's impatience. In the U.S. as everywhere the political imperative of addressing everyday struggles people have, with respect to jobs, was paramount. Zapatero agreed,
describing himself as a passionate, life-long student of politics who continued to be impressed and fascinated by the American political scene. SOLOMONT