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Cablegate: Meeting of Libyan, Italian and Maltese Foreign Ministers Likely to Lead to Resolution of Schengen Visa Crisis

VZCZCXRO5947
OO RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDH RUEHFL RUEHKUK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV
RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHTRO #0137/01 0481651
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O P 171651Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5813
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0267
RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0123
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 6371

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000137

SIPDIS
STATE FOR NEA/FO, NEA/MAG, EUR/CE AND EUR/ERA; NSC FOR S. AGUIRRE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2/17/2020 TAGS: PREL PHUM CVIS PINR LY SZ IT MT

SUBJECT: MEETING OF LIBYAN, ITALIAN AND MALTESE FOREIGN MINISTERS LIKELY TO LEAD TO RESOLUTION OF SCHENGEN VISA CRISIS

REF: Tripoli 134 TRIPOLI 00000137 001.2 OF 002 CLASSIFIED BY: Joan A. Polaschik, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1.(C) Summary: According to an Italian diplomat, today's meeting between Libyan FM Musa Kusa and his Italian and Maltese counterparts will lead to a resolution of the current Schengen visa crisis "within days." In his view, the Libyans invoked the visa ban on Schengen states as leverage in their negotiations with the Swiss, a move he deemed successful as it had elicited strong public criticism of Switzerland and exacerbated already tense relations between Switzerland and the EU. Germany is the only country supporting Switzerland in the current situation, as it feels snubbed by Libya's reneging on a commitment to provide Germany with advanced warning of any retaliatory measures in the Swiss case. The situation improved today, with no deportations of Schengen visa holders. End Summary.

2.(C) The Italian DCM analyzed the current Libya-EU standoff over visas as near resolution and expected the visa ban to be lifted "within days." He told Pol/Econ Chief February 17 that he believed the Libyan action had achieved its desired goal of provoking public statements from Schengen states, condemning Swiss actions and calling on Switzerland to lift its unilateral ban on Schengen visas for Libyan officials. The diplomat thought that the timing of the Libyan ban coincided with the impending release of one of the Swiss businessmen from Libya, which would have conceded Libya's leverage with Switzerland in the political reconciliation process. The diplomat suspected that the Libyan leader knew that once the Swiss were released, Switzerland would lift its ban on Schengen visas for Libyan diplomats, and then cut virtually all ties with Libya, including abandoning the political reconciliation process. Qadhafi apparently still demands the establishment of an arbitration council to investigate the circumstances surrounding the 2008 arrest of Hannibal al-Qadhafi in Geneva, a demand the Swiss have refused. "Libya needed to maintain its only instrument of power -- the two Swiss -- without them, Libya knew that Switzerland would never compromise on the political issues, " the DCM said.

3.(C) According to the Italian diplomat, the only way for the Libyans to delay the release of the businessmen was to publish the alleged Swiss "blacklist" of Libyan officials that it would not allow to receive Schengen visas, and then to make good on threats to retaliate against Europe. The diplomat did not believe Libyan allegations that the Swiss had published the "blacklist," but suspected that the Libyans had drafted the list themselves.

4.(C) Thus far the Libyan strategy has been successful -- most European nations have expressed, whether publicly or privately, their frustration with Switzerland's unilateral visa ban on Libyan officials, which has served to exacerbate Switzerland's already negative political standing with the European Union. Germany is the only country that is backing Switzerland in the current situation, as the Germans feel personally affronted that Libya reneged on a commitment to provide Germany with advanced warning of any retaliatory measures it would invoke in the Swiss case. The Germans themselves, according to the Italian diplomat, were frustrated with the reconciliation process and assessed the situation as at a stalemate, with the Swiss unwilling to negotiate until the two businessmen were released. The diplomat did not believe that Switzerland would ever give up its veto right by allowing the other European nations to issue "Schengen minus Switzerland" visas, for the same reason that the Libyans needed to keep the Swiss businessmen in the country -- leverage. He confirmed that European FMs would meet February 18 to discuss the situation.

5.(C) The Italian diplomat expected the scheduled February 17 meeting between Libyan Foreign Minister-equivalent Musa Kusa with his Italian and Maltese counterparts in Rome to lead to Libya's easing of its new visa policy. However, he expressed continued Italian concern that new visas may be even more difficult for Europeans to obtain, due to the Libyan leader's possible paranoia about allowing too many European workers into the country and taste for maintaining control by routinely shifting the balance of favors -- domestically, from one official to another, and internationally, from one country to another. He reported that the Libyans were fulfilling the terms of their visa ban -- namely, that no diplomats or official travelers would be affected. No new deportations took place on February 17 and of the 25 individuals deported since the ban took effect, ten are Italian General Managers resident in Libya and 15 were of other European nationalities. (Note: As reported reftel, it is likely that European consular warnings TRIPOLI 00000137 002.2 OF 002 advising citizens of the visa ban, as well as airline refusals to board Europeans traveling to Libya, contributed to the lack of deportations. End note.) CRETZ

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