US embassy cable - 04CAIRO8456 (original version)


Identifier: 04CAIRO8456
Wikileaks: View 04CAIRO8456 at
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Created: 2004-11-18 13:18:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show redacted version] [Compare redacted and unredacted version]
O 181318Z NOV 04
C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 008456 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/18/2014 
Classified by Deputy Chief of Mission Gordon Gray for reasons 
1.4 (b) and (d). 
 1. (C) In a November 13 meeting at the Foreign Ministry, NEA 
Assistant Secretary Bill Burns and Egyptian Foreign Minister 
Ahmed Aboul Gheit recalled events surrounding Yasser Arafat's 
funeral the previous day and discussed the upcoming Iraq 
conference in Sharm El Sheikh. Aboul Gheit noted his desire 
to make the conference one of interaction and many bilateral 
discussions rather than focusing on formal group meetings. A 
primary goal was to "enable dialogue." He said the communique 
"went a little beyond UNSC 1546," which in his view was 
appropriate to draw attention to the roles of regional players, 
including the Arab League. He cautioned against the negative 
optic of Americans fighting in Falluja during the conference. 
He suggested an informal encounter between the U.S. and Iranian 
foreign ministers in Sharm El Sheikh. 
2. (C) Aboul Gheit stressed the need for Israel to help 
facilitate Palestinian elections logistically. Noting his plans 
to visit Ramallah on November 24, he was concerned that Israel 
would seek other reasons for not engaging now that Yasser 
Arafat was out of the picture. The Minister also cited the need 
for GOI "gestures" like prisoner releases to give Palestinian 
leaders credibility. Aboul Gheit said Syria was showing 
appropriate restraint. On Sudan, Aboul Gheit reiterated his 
desire to speak at the November 18 UNSC session to be held in 
Nairobi. He discussed the best timing for a trip to the U.S. in 
the spring. This message concludes with a few bio notes on Aboul 
Gheit, who has now been in office for 120 days. 
End summary. 
Arafat funeral 
3. (C) Aboul Gheit recalled the funeral services for Yasser 
Arafat the previous day, noting the "scary" experience of landing 
in Ramallah for the burial. The crowd did not concern him so much 
as the tight landing area, which he said had the pilot somewhat 
worried about a safe touchdown. Describing his ginger exit from 
the helicopter and 45-minute journey to a nearby building in the 
thick crowd, he commended the PA for going to their "fall back" 
position of a direct burial (without the anticipated viewing in a 
building full of dignitaries). He said Abu Mazen calmly received 
word that "it's done" when many were still anticipating a formal 
viewing. In sum, the funeral was "an experience." 
Sharm conference 
4. (C) The Minister described his intention to make the November 
22-23 Sharm El Sheikh conference an opportunity for interaction 
between delegations. Events, including a dinner and a lunch, would 
be available to all delegation heads, yet no one would be obligated 
to join any set event. The design is intended to "enable dialogue" 
by offering "just the setting." 
5. (C) As for a basic agenda, he cited a two-hour meeting of Iraq's 
neighbors plus the UN on November 22, followed by a dinner to which 
all foreign ministers were welcome. (A/S Burns also suggested a 
bilateral with Secretary Powell on November 22 if schedules 
permitted.) Breakfast on November 23 would be at leisure and 
bilateral meetings were encouraged. A 10:00 a.m. meeting would be 
an opportunity for delegations to give statements if they chose -- 
four minutes or so for each delegation who desired. Aboul Gheit said 
he would clarify at the outset, however, that not all delegations 
were obligated to speak. "We will not insist on hearing from 
everyone." After a luncheon on November 23, Aboul Gheit hoped the 
afternoon could be designed to "encourage interaction" between the 
various delegations rather than formal group meetings. Aboul Gheit 
said he would offer a statement to the press and take questions 
during the afternoon as well. 
6. (C) Aboul Gheit said the communique "went a little beyond UNSC 
1546," which in his view was appropriate since regional powers and 
regional organizations were meeting to engage more deeply on Iraq. 
A strong reference to the role of the Arab League, for example, 
could encourage Secretary General Amre Moussa ("oblige him") to act 
within an agreed framework. 
7. (C) Not wanting to "jump to conclusions" about how events in 
Falluja might turn out, Aboul Gheit said the issue was not "taking 
over the city" but preventing violence and terror from spreading to 
other cities. He said "Mosul today reflects Falluja six months ago." 
A/S Burns noted that Mosul was looking better then a few days prior, 
and that planning for Falluja involved extensive and immediate 
economic recovery assistance. The "day after" plans would help bring 
law and order to Falluja and would make life more hopeful for its 
residents -- including efforts at job creation. Similar programs in 
Najaf and Sadr City had emphasized hope and inclusion in rebuilding 
efforts, said A/S Burns; the upcoming conference in Egypt should 
stress a similar commitment to international engagement. Aboul Gheit 
said "your problem is not that the U.S. military fought well, but 
that they are on TV" too often. Iraqi forces should be in the 
limelight, he stressed. 
8. (C) Expressing his hope that the U.S. role would not leave "a 
bitter impression in the Sunni world," Aboul Gheit cited media scenes 
 of U.S. forces running through mosques while firing their weapons; 
"these are scenes one must be careful with." A better impression would 
result if "Mahmoud and Mohammed" were searching the mosque, not "John 
and Jack." 
9. (C) A/S Burns noted that Secretary Powell was considering a trip to 
Jerusalem around the time of the Sharm El Sheikh conference. A key topic 
would be practical support for Palestinian elections, including pressing 
Israel to cooperate. Aboul Gheit said he also planned to visit (likely 
Ramallah) on November 24. He lamented that President Bush and British 
Prime Minister Blair had "put everything on the Palestinians" instead of 
citing Israel's need to help facilitate meaningful elections. He asked 
how a people could elect a leader without having freedom of movement 
within their own cities. Aboul Gheit feared that the GOI might find 
further pretexts to avoid engagement with the Palestinians, 
continuing their "no partner" mantra with a new formula. Burns noted that 
meaningful Palestinian elections were "deeply in Israel's interest" and 
an opportunity to help stabilize the region if properly handled. 
10. (C) Aboul Gheit floated the idea of the U.S., Egypt, Israel, and the 
Palestinians getting together to "launch a process" toward reconciliation. 
A/S Burns said the idea may be premature, but was nonetheless worth 
keeping in mind. He said it was important to "make sure there is a 
practical commitment" on all sides first. Aboul Gheit's goal was to 
"implicate Israel in a process." The Minister and his staff also cited 
the need for GOI "gestures" like prisoner releases, in addition to 
logistical support, to make elections (and newly-elected leaders) a 
success. The lack of such gestures from Israel undercut Abu Mazen's 
authority as Prime Minister, they opined. Failure to capitalize on current 
opportunities to reopen negotiations could doom the conflict to continue 
into the next century, concluded Aboul Gheit. He said Intelligence Chief 
Omar Soliman would also be gathering Palestinian factions for cease fire 
talks in Cairo once again, but did not elaborate. 
11. (C) A/S Burns said the PA needed to demonstrate that it could govern 
responsibly, and deliver things for Palestinians. He had told Syrian 
President Asad (in a brief conversation at the Arafat funeral) that it was 
important for all parties to use their influence to keep things calm. Aboul 
Gheit said Syria had manifested that desire for some time and was showing 
restraint. The Syrian Foreign Minister had reaffirmed the same in Cairo 
the previous week, he asserted. 
12. (C) Asking how the USG might interface with the Iranians in Sharm El 
Sheikh, Aboul Gheit recommended that Secretary Powell approach the Iranian 
Foreign Minister in a "small group" and break off for a few seconds of 
private discussion. After mingling, a simple "Kamal, let's have a talk" 
might lead the way to a formal bilateral, said Aboul Gheit, who was certain 
that the Iranians would not make the first move. 
13. (C) A/S Burns expressed appreciation for Aboul Gheit's interest in 
addressing a UNSC meeting to be held in Nairobi November 18 and 19. Aboul 
Gheit said he wanted to deliver a statement early on November 18 (because 
he needed to return to Cairo) and asked for assistance in getting his name 
on the speakers list for a brief presentation. 
Bilateral Agenda 
14. (C) After a brief listing of pending bilateral issues, Aboul Gheit 
asked when might be the best time for him to visit the U.S. He agreed that 
an early February visit, when the Congress was back in session and a likely 
Mubarak visit was a month or two in the future, might be most appropriate to 
"bring to bear a certain impression" of the relationship. He also floated 
the idea of another visit after a Mubarak trip. A/S Burns encouraged Egypt 
to send other ministers in the meantime to keep the issues and personalities 
clear in the minds of USG interlocutors. 
15. (C) Referring to Armed Forces Chief of Staff Weheba's early December 
visit to Washington, Aboul Gheit said the Lantos amendment (to reassign 
portions of military aid to economic assistance) "will be defeated, I assure 
Bio notes 
16. (C) About Gheit volunteered during the meeting that he was "a grandfather 
for the second time." His daughter, Lara, had delivered a daughter, Tamara, the 
previous day while he was involved in Arafat's funeral. He also reinforced his 
protocol-conscious approach to diplomacy in describing an invitation from U.S. 
PermRep to the UN Danforth which he regretted because the invitation was not 
personalized. When the invitation was reissued with his name properly 
personalized, he was ready to accept the invitation; in the interim, however, 
he was called back to Cairo to begin his tenure as Foreign Minister. 
17. (C) Citing his 120 days on the job as very busy for him and for his staff 
(a comment confirmed in the fatigued faces around the room), Aboul Gheit said 
he looked forward to putting his feet up and enjoying a beer at his farm the 
following day (the beginning of the post-Ramadan feast). His staff later noted 
that having the minister away from the office offered some reprieve from a 
hectic pace, but that he would no doubt keep them busy from a distance during 
the next few days of holiday. 

18. (U) A/S Burns has cleared this cable. 
19. (U) Baghdad minimized considered. Visit Embassy Cairo's Classified Website: You can also access this site through the 
State Department's Classified SIPRNET 

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