in Stories

Egypt told US it was not taking sides on Zimbabwe

 Egypt told United States ambassador Margaret Scobey to Cairo that it was prepared to help resolve the Zimbabwe crisis but would not take sides.

Assistant Foreign Minister for American Affairs Hatem Seif al Nasser said Egypt’s approach to Zimbabwe was to support continued talks between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition, and urged both sides to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.

He noted that President Hosni Mubarak, during his July 28-30 trip to South Africa, received opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai:

“This fact alone is a good sign, as there is a sitting president, Mugabe.”

Pressed by the ambassador that there should be a transitional arrangement that respected the will of the Zimbabwean people, Nasser replied that Egypt wanted to be helpful, but “we will not take sides …. We can offer a role that you cannot, treading the middle ground”.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 08CAIRO1716, SENIOR MFA OFFICIAL ON ZIMBABWE AND EGYPTIAN

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08CAIRO1716

2008-08-07 11:20

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Cairo

VZCZCXRO5460

RR RUEHROV

DE RUEHEG #1716/01 2201120

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

R 071120Z AUG 08

FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0173

INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 001716

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR PASCUAL

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/06/2018

TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM KIRF PHUM ZI EG

SUBJECT: SENIOR MFA OFFICIAL ON ZIMBABWE AND EGYPTIAN

DOMESTIC POLITICAL ISSUES

 

REF: A. STATE 79617

B. CAIRO 1193

C. CAIRO 1679

 

Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey, for reasons

1.4 (b) and (d).

 

1. (C) Summary: In a July 31 meeting with Hatem Seif al

Nasser, Assistant Foreign Minister for American Affairs, the

Ambassador pressed the GOE to play a constructive role with

Zimbabwe, to help ensure that March 29 election results are

respected. A wide-ranging discussion on Egyptian internal

political, sectarian, and human rights issues followed,

during which Nasser assured the Ambassador that a substantive

debate will occur before the planned new media broadcasting

law is passed, that the government and the Coptic Church are

working constructively to resolve the Abu Fanaa monastery

issue, and urged the USG to “just leave the Ayman Nour issue

alone, and then it will solve itself.” End summary.

 

2. (C) The Ambassador, per ref A instructions, delivered

talking points on Zimbabwe. Nasser replied that Egypt’s

approach is to support continued talks between President

Mugabe and the opposition, and urge both sides to reach a

mutually acceptable resolution. He noted that President

Mubarak, during his July 28-30 trip to South Africa, received

opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai: “This fact alone is a

good sign, as there is a sitting president, Mugabe.” The

Ambassador pressed that there should be a transitional

arrangement that respects the will of the Zimbabwean people,

to which Nasser replied that Egypt wants to be helpful, but

“we will not take sides …. We can offer a role that you

cannot, treading the middle ground.”

 

3. (C) Queried by the Ambassador as to why several Facebook

activists had been detained on July 23 (ref C), Nasser

professed ignorance of the issue, and promised to look into

the details. The Ambassador also raised a possible new media

broadcasting law, which has been mentioned in the Egyptian

press recently as likely to be put before parliament in the

late fall. The Ambassador urged that the new law not

restrict Egypt’s lively and burgeoning press. She said that

the new communications technologies used by Egypt’s youth and

others are positive, and that Egypt’s young people should be

encouraged to express themselves through these “healthy”

means, rather than left with only extremism as an outlet. The

Ambassador stressed that rather than broadly defining illegal

actions, the new law should instead very narrowly delineate

banned media activities, such as pornography. Nasser assured

her that there will be a “long debate on this law, and it

will certainly change from its current draft.”

 

4. (C) The Ambassador inquired about the latest developments

in resolving the Abu Fanaa monastery dispute (ref B), in

which monks at the monastery and local Muslims claim the same

land as theirs. Nasser said that the GOE has been working

constructively with Coptic Pope Shenouda on the issue, who is

playing a “very positive role” and is helping to forestall

similar problems in the future. Noting that “there have been

mistakes on both sides,” Nasser said that the issue is “being

handled, but is not yet solved.” Nasser emphasized that the

issue is fundamentally a land dispute, which is normal in

Egypt: “Confrontations over property happen every day here.

The only reason this one got attention is because it involves

Muslims and Christians.”

 

5. (C) After the Ambassador queried him regarding the state

of play on the “Unified Building Law for Religious

Buildings,” which would create uniform regulations for the

construction of mosques and churches, rather than the

separate procedures which currently apply, Nasser said that

the law is “very much on the agenda” and is “being debated

intensively internally.” He termed the law, and overall

Christian-Muslim relations, as “Egypt’s most important

challenge, because it is about who we are.”

 

6. (C) In response to the Ambassador’s expressing USG

disappointment that former opposition party leader Ayman Nour

was not released from prison in a July 23 amnesty, Nasser

said that “this matter is better left alone. If you leave it

alone, it will solve itself.” The Ambassador parried that

the USG had indeed remained quiet publicly for some time

regarding Nour prior to July 23, to no apparent effect.

Musing about the “regrettable” likelihood that Congress will

in 2009 again place conditions on some of the ESF assistance

for Egypt, Nasser said that the Egyptian internal political

and human rights issues that the USG raises are “important,

but are crowding out bilateral discussion of more strategic

issues. They take up so much of our time and energy, and the

end result is that we are distracted from talking enough

 

CAIRO 00001716 002 OF 002

 

 

about our mutual vision for the future.” The Ambassador

agreed that a broader USG-GOE strategic dialogue should be

re-invigorated, but stressed that a discussion of domestic

Egyptian political and human rights issues would be a

necessary part of that discussion.

SCOBEY

(5334 VIEWS)

Don't be shellfish... Please SHAREShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page

Write a Comment

Comment