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Viewing cable 09CAIRO1177, EGYPTIAN MFA ON ARAB LG MINISTERIAL; LEBANON; YEMEN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CAIRO1177 2009-06-23 12:12 2011-02-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO6749
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #1177/01 1741233
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231233Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2958
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 1356
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 001177 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NEA FOR FO; NSC FOR KUMAR 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/23/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV YE LE EG
SUBJECT: EGYPTIAN MFA ON ARAB LG MINISTERIAL; LEBANON; YEMEN 
 
Classified By: Minister-counselor William R. Stewart Reasons: 1.4 (B) and (D)
1.(C) Key points: -- MFA Cabinet Advisor for Arab Affairs Mahmoud Afifi does not expect the Syrian, Qatari or Saudi foreign ministers to attend the June 24 Arab League ministerial meeting in Cairo. He expects the focus to be on Middle East peace and the tone to be generally muted on intra-Arab disputes. -- Afifi said that Saad Hariri was very upbeat in a June 22 Cairo meeting with FM Aboul Gheit. Afifi assessed that Saad Hariri does not seem willing to compromise with Hizballah on the Hariri tribunal. Afifi expected that the opposition would need time to regroup and would not provoke a crisis, but worried that external factors (i.e. the tribunal and Iran developments) might affect the situation. -- Afifi said that Egypt remains worried about Yemen, noting that Al Qaeda continues to make gains throughout the country. AL MINISTERIAL --------------

2.(C) MFA Cabinet Advisor Mahmoud Afifi told us June 23 that he expects the Arab League ministerial of June 24 to focus almost exclusively on Middle East peace, including the President's June 4 speech and Israeli PM Netanyahu's June 14 remarks, as well as the internal Palestinian situation. Afifi said that Egyptian FM Aboul Gheit would brief the ministerial on Palestinian reconciliation, at Arab League SYG Moussa's request.

3.(C) Beyond Middle East peace efforts, Afifi expected the discussion to be muted, especially on intra-Arab disputes. He expected an anodyne reference to the Lebanon election, and was unsure how the ministerial would address the situation in Iran. Afifi said he had learned that the Qatari, Syrian and Saudi FMs were not planning to attend. Commenting on the Qataris, Afifi said that they are currently maneuvering in bilateral channels, e.g. with the French, and are losing momentum among the Arabs following the Lebanese election. Doha has been quiet, and regrouping, he assessed. LEBANON -------

4.(C) Afifi said that Saad Hariri was in Cairo, and had seen FM Aboul Gheit, and was scheduled to see President Mubarak that day (June 23). "He is in great spirits and is now a statesman," Afifi said. From Cairo, Hariri will go to Riyadh, where Afifi said he expects Hariri will receive "guidance" on formation of a Lebanese government. Hariri told the Egyptians he did not foresee too much difficulty in government formation. Afifi assessed that the Lebanese opposition "may not get the blocking third in the way that they want it," and that Hizballah was focused on a compromise position that would keep the issue of Hizballah arms out of the national dialogue and obtain some kind of assurance that some executive and judicial positions would be designated for opposition members.

5.(C) The major issue of contention, in Afifi's view, is the Hariri tribunal. Hizballah is very worried, he assessed, especially that the focus of the investigation will shift from Syria and onto Hizballah, something that would have a practical impact as well as on Hizballah-Syrian relations. Afifi said that Hizballah is seeking some sort of assurance from Saad Hariri on the tribunal, but it was unclear what Hariri could provide. More importantly, Hariri had told the Egyptians that it is "not appropriate to exclude any party" from the investigation.

6.(C) Afifi believed that Hizballah and the opposition will take time to regroup, and will pester the majority, but not in any way that approaches the discord in the run-up to the Doha meeting of May 2008. The bottom line is that the opposition's coalition is badly fractured, Afifi said. One contingency that concerns the Egyptians is that tension from the tribunal over the short to medium term could be coupled with an Iranian decision to divert attention from its domestic situation through destabilizing actions in Lebanon, or for that matter, Iraq. Afifi commented that Damascus' statement that it "stood beside" Ahmadinejad and the Iranian regime was unwise. YEMEN ----- CAIRO 00001177 002 OF 002

7.(C) Afifi expressed concern about the situation in Yemen. Al Qaeda is "flourishing," he said and gaining control of the mountain areas, and taking advantage of weak provincial authorities in both the north and south. Al Qaeda is now in the process of forming cooperative relationships with disaffected tribal leaders, and Al Qaeda operatives are flowing into Yemen from Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

8.(C) Afifi said that President Mubarak and FM Aboul Gheit are in touch with the Yemenis, as well as the Saudis, over the emerging crisis. He said that the Egyptians have counseled the Yemenis to stop resorting to tactical military operations in the south and adopt a more just, flexible approach to the southerners. He said that there has been billions pledged in assistance for Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia, but hardly any of these funds have been used on projects in the south. So long as the Yemenis approach the situation in this "heavy handed way," the south will remain a major problem, Afifi assessed. SCOBEY