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Cablegate: Latvia Jewish Property Restitution: Hope but No Change So

VZCZCXRO3093
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHRA #0094 0561309
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 251307Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0083
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS RIGA 000094

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KNAR LG
SUBJECT: LATVIA JEWISH PROPERTY RESTITUTION: HOPE BUT NO CHANGE SO
FAR

1. (SBU) While discussion of restitution of Jewish property in
Latvia continues, little progress has been made. Earlier this
month, the Prime Minister requested an additional 90-day review by
a GOL Working Group, which has been studying the question of
restitution of communal property since September, 2008, before
accepting a report on their findings. Chances of any movement on
the issue during 2010 are limited, particularly against the
backdrop of October Parliamentary elections, but representatives of
the Jewish community see some cause for hope. While the PM has not
demanded a quick turnaround on his inquiries, it appears his
questions were serious, and not solely a delaying tactic. The
government has yet to discuss restitution of heirless property.

2. (SBU) MFA contacts explained a plan to split the properties in
question into four categories of difficulty, based on the factors
complicating each case. Representatives of the Jewish community
expressed reservations about this approach, preferring one solution
that deals with all properties concerned. In addition, MFA State
Secretary Teikmanis said that the political risk of being tied to
work on the project before elections would prevent even preparatory
efforts, let alone actual return of property.

3. (SBU) On February 22 and 23, David Peleg and Elie Valk of the
World Jewish Restitution Organization visited Riga for meetings
with GOL officials and representatives of the Jewish community.
Peleg and Valk expressed satisfaction with the relatively positive
attitude on the part of the PM. However, they shared our concerns
about the GOL's slow progress and apparent lack of willingness to
start laying any groundwork now for action after the elections.
Peleg also expressed continued concern about the Jewish community's
exclusion from the working group process, and urged greater
transparency and consultation with the Jewish community. They
further note that the GOL appears unlikely to send a high-ranking
official to upcoming meetings in Prague to follow up on last year's
Conference on Holocaust Era Assets - perhaps due to budget
constraints, or perhaps an indicator of GOL lack of dedication to
the issue. Peleg and Valk were in broad agreement that the best
strategy moving forward is to stress the underlying principle of
justice in order to reach a comprehensive solution, rather than
focusing on single properties or even a tranche of supposedly
"easier" properties.

4. (U) We will continue to press the government on Jewish property
restitution in meetings with senior officials, pressing for
consultation with the Community and a legislative framework for
communal and heirless property restitution.
GARBER

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