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Cablegate: France and North Africa: Current State of Play

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PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHFR #0144/01 0391137
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081137Z FEB 10 ZFR ZFR ZFR
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8265
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARIS 000144

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/05/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL AG TS MO LY FR
SUBJECT: FRANCE AND NORTH AFRICA: CURRENT STATE OF PLAY

REF: PARIS 105

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Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Kathy Allegrone, Reasons 1.
4 (b), (d).
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10. (C) Rogeau was uncharacteristically stark and frank
about the current ""sad state"" of Franco-Algeria relations.
He employed words like ""frigid"" and ""frozen"" as well as
""rather bad"" to describe bilateral relations, which he said
were simply ""not moving."" ""All is blocked,"" he complained.
As the principle cause for the impasse, he cited a
precipitous deterioration since the August 2008 arrest of the
Algerian chief of protocol, Mohamed Ziane Hasseni, for a
politically-motivated murder he allegedly committed in Paris
in 1987. Hassenni remained under judicial supervision in
France until February 2009, but the judge has not yet
delivered a verdict in the case. While Rogeau was unclear as
to when this verdict might arrive, but said ""the sooner the
better."" In addition, he said the Government of Algeria
remains ""very vexed"" about allegations in France that the
Algerian army participated in the murder of Tiberine monks
murdered during the civil war of the 1990s. To distract
attention from itself, the Algerian regime often attacks
France or Morocco, noting the complicating factor that many
Algerian elites remain francofile at the same time. They
are, for instance, Rogeau argued, ""more shy"" in public about
cooperation with Americans than they are about cooperation
with the French, especially in the field of counter-terrorism
(see below).

11. (C) Overall, Rogeau described a pervasive pessimism in
the French MFA regarding Algeria: ""It will take another
general before normalization."" Remarking on how
""complicated"" relations remain, he said the Algerians always
focus on ""what's not going right."" For these reasons, among
others, Algerian President Bouteflika has not visited France
since President Sarkozy came to power in 2007. Nor has
Sarkozy returned to Algeria since his two visits during 2007.
Rogeau doubted that a visit will occur in either direction
before the Hasseni affair is resolved.

... BUT CLOSE COUNTER-TERRORISM COOPERATION CONTINUES

12. (C) Despite the problems, Rogeau insisted, Algeria has
remained a reliable partner on counter-terrorism (reftel).
He noted, however, that the French are surprised by the
continual Algerian refusal to expand their cooperation beyond
a bilateral setting. They will not, for instance, permit
""trilateral"" exchanges of information, among the U.S., France
and Algeria, or the U.K., France and Algeria. The Algerians
limit their counter-terrorism cooperation to bilateral
contacts because, Rogeau speculated, they seek to maintain
tight control over both their relationships and their own
counter-terrorism efforts. Still, he said this practice does
not make sense because the Algerians likely realize that we
-- French, British, and Americans -- exchange information
among ourselves about terrorism in the Maghreb and the Sahel.
The Algerians know that we all have the same enemy,
objectives, and interests in this issue.

FRENCH INCLUDE ALGERIA AND LIBYA ON TRANSPORTATION WATCH LIST

13. (C) France has had the same problems as the USG with the
fallout from announcements about new transportation
regulations that target Algerian and Libyan citizens. The
Ministry of the Interior (MoI) made a decision about which
countries to include on the list without consulting the MFA,
Rogeau reported. Then the French and Algerian press
announced the news before the MFA could inform the countries
concerned. As a result, the Algerians and the Libyans, among
others, have protested their inclusion on the watch list
vigorously in Paris, in their own capitals, and in the media.

--------------------------------------------
TUNISIA -- BILATERAL RELATIONS BACK ON TRACK
--------------------------------------------

14. (C) Rogeau claimed French relations with Tunisia have
begun returning to ""normal"" since the December 2009 visit to
Tunis of Frederic Mitterrand, French Minister of Culture and
Communication. After a series of public spats during 2009,
following the Government of Tunisia's strident reaction to
French criticism of their treatment of journalists,
Mitterand's trip reportedly helped diminish lingering
tensions. The French currently perceive Tunisia as the most
stable country in the Maghreb, according to Rogeau. Compared
to their North African neighbors, he argued, Tunisia has a
highly educated population (only a seven percent illiteracy
rate, versus 50 percent in Morocco), with the lowest
unemployment in the region, and a bureaucracy that functions
reasonably well. Tunisia's economy has a strong reputation
in the region, as exemplified by the investment it has
attracted from Gulf countries. Rogeau claimed Tunisians
appear to perceive a link between the practices of a police
state and successful economic development; as a result, they
accept a form of social contract: in exchange for stability

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and growth, the population keeps quiet. Moreover, apart from
Ben Ali's succession, the French do not believe Tunisia faces
destabilizing changes in the near-term. At the same time,
Rogeau observed, Ben Ali's approach entails significant
risks, including the growth of a middle class that demands
more political freedom, and the risk that economic growth
will slow or stop. If the government stops providing
financial and social security, it will have broken the
unspoken contract and the population may become less docile.

15. (C) As to one of the journalists whom the Government of
Tunisia has harassed and imprisoned, Taoufik Ben Brik, Rogeau
described him as ""not the best example"" of journalistic
integrity. Rogeau reported that French courts are also
currently pursuing Ben Brik, for having allegedly attacked a
Tunisian woman who has decided to press charges against him
in France. Ben Brik, according to Rogeau, is very well
organized, with many contacts in France whom he has activated
on his behalf. Nonetheless, the French no longer discuss his
case with the Tunisians, Rogeau said. (NOTE: After French
Foreign Minister Kouchner mentioned the case of Ben Brik in
an interview in November 2009, Ben Ali responded angrily,
accusing France, for the first time, of hypocrisy in light of
its colonial history in Tunisia, according to Rogeau and MFA
Tunisia Desk Officer Clemence Weulersse. See Paris Points,
November 13, 2009. END NOTE.)
--------------------------------------------- ------------
LIBYA -- DISAPPOINTED IN TRIPOLI'S COOLNESS TOWARD FRANCE
--------------------------------------------- ------------

16. (C) French relations with Libya are ""stable"" at the
moment, according to Rogeau, but the French are growing
increasingly frustrated with the Libyans' failure to deliver
on promises regarding visas, professional exchanges, French
language education, and commercial deals. ""We (and the
Libyans) speak a lot, but we've begun to see that actions do
not follow words in Libya,"" Rogeau lamented. ""The Libyans
talk and talk but don't buy anything (from us). Only the
Italians land any contracts."" The French have made many
gestures, Rogeau claimed, which they believe have not
reciprocated by the Libyans. He did cite one sign of
progress: during his U.N. speech, Libyan leader Qaddafi did
not attack either France or the U.S. directly. ""This
omission was rare. We took note."" Rogeau said France must
be patient, but they will move forward ""with less enthusiasm
than before.""
RIVKIN

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