|Wikileaks:||View 05CAIRO2487 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||OREP ETRD PREL KIRF EG Visits|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 002487 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2015 TAGS: OREP, ETRD, PREL, KIRF, EG, Visits SUBJECT: CODEL SMITH MARCH 21-24 VISIT TO CAIRO: MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER NAZIF Classified by Acting DCM Michael Corbin for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). ------- Summary ------- 1. (C) In a cordial March 23 meeting, Senator Smith and Egyptian Prime Minister Nazif discussed political reform, bilateral trade, religious freedom, and Iraq. The Senator welcomed President Mubarak's move to open the field for competitive presidential elections, congratulated Egypt on the QIZ agreement, and urged further economic reform that could build toward an eventual free trade agreement with the U.S. Smith regretted the tenuous status of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) in Egypt and cautioned that issues such as religious freedom could impact bilateral progress on other fronts. Nazif endeavored to look into the LDS issue and affirmed that the GOE would continue to press forward with political and economic reforms. End summary. ---------------- Political Reform ---------------- 2. (C) Senator Smith praised the steps President Mubarak had taken in calling for multi-candidate presidential elections, noting that Egypt was the center of the Arab world and Mubarak,s steps would have a big effect throughout the region. Mubarak would likely be re-elected, and be even more powerful as a result of winning a real election, Smith opined. He noted that legitimacy comes from a hard fought election campaign and victory. Nazif agreed and said that Egypt took seriously President Bush,s comments in the State of the Union address. Egypt was now leading the way on political reform in the Middle East, just as it had led the way on peace. Egypt,s last parliamentary elections were the best in its history, free and fair, as certified by international observers. He believed that holding a multi-candidate presidential election this year would foster further political development throughout the region and help Mubarak be seen as a wise leader. According to Nazif, Mubarak saw eye to eye with President Bush that political reform was key to overall development and the fight against terrorism. He noted that democratic development takes time and that a major challenge would be getting eligible voters to the polls. ----- Trade ----- 3. (C) Senator Smith congratulated Nazif on signing the QIZ agreement. Nazif replied that signing the agreement was not an easy step for his government, as relations with Israel were not ideal. He believed that taking steps such as signing the QIZ agreement could move the relationship with Israel toward closer ties. He pointed to other steps Egypt had taken to advance the peace process, such as returning its ambassador to Israel and sponsoring the Sharm el Sheikh conference. The Sharm conference would help the Palestinians see the benefits of making peace with Israel. The meeting of Palestinian factions in Cairo the prior week and the London conference were also important components of this multileveled approach to the peace process. The London conference was particularly important, he said, as funding was needed for development. 4. (C) On the issue of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Nazif affirmed that the U.S. was an important economic partner for Egypt, just as Egypt was an important partner for the U.S. He thanked Smith for U.S. assistance on economic reform, noting that Egypt wanted to move from aid to trade. Egypt,s economy was diversified and had a great deal of capacity, but further development was needed. An FTA would be a key component in fostering further economic development. Nazif noted that the Minister of Foreign Trade had just returned from the U.S., and Nazif said he would be visiting the U.S. himself in May. He added that he hoped FTA negotiations could be opened soon. 5. (C) Smith replied that he was on the Senate Finance Committee and was in a good position to support an FTA with Egypt. He agreed that trade was important for development, especially growth of the middle class. Nazif agreed and noted that Egypt still faced challenges, such as high unemployment and religious extremism. Despite extremism, he believed that religion was, in general, a positive force for the country. 6. (C) Smith said that he wanted to keep Egypt and the U.S. working together on the whole range of issues facing the two countries. Nazif agreed and said he was optimistic about the future of the bilateral relationship. He noted that not everyone in Egypt was behind the reforms his government had taken. He joked that recent tariff and tax cuts had caused his administration to be seen as Republicans, and the effect of those cuts was a large decrease in revenue. Smith replied that reducing taxes and tariffs ultimately increases revenues and pointed to the example of Europe,s economy, which had high tariffs and taxes, yet was running a higher deficit than the U.S. 7. (C) Smith observed that Europeans wanted to increase the efficiency of their economy and were now using the U.S. as a model. He noted that people, not corporations, ultimately pay taxes. Corporations were just conduits for people, who would lose jobs if corporations had to pay high taxes. Nazif said that although his government,s reforms were beginning to work, it would take 18-20 months for the economy to turn around. History was also against his government,s reform efforts. Egypt had always had a big government and it was difficult now, with high unemployment, to cut back on government. A social safety net was still needed. Smith noted that despite stereotypes, Republicans, as well as Democrats, understand the need for a social safety net. ---- Iraq ---- 8. (C) Turning to Iraq, Smith shared insights from his recent trip to Baghdad and Kirkuk, and noted that Iraqis with whom he met did not want the U.S. to leave. He said that the U.S. would only leave Iraq after ensuring that the Iraqi security forces could maintain stability. The U.S. would, however, pull back in the next year and a half, in order not to be perceived as occupiers. He stated that the U.S. would also put the necessary funds behind rebuilding Iraq. 9. (C) Nazif agreed that building Iraq,s political infrastructure was the most important objective, and that all factions in Iraq needed to have a stake in the political process. He agreed that the U.S. should not pull out until the job was finished. He noted that Egypt had its own battle with terrorists starting in the 1990s. Despite its success in combating terrorism since 1997, the risk of new incidents, such as the Taba bombing in October 2004, was always present. ----------------- Religious Freedom ----------------- 10. (C) Turning to a matter of personal interest to the Senator, Smith expressed to Nazif concern about the status of the LDS Church in Egypt, which is allowed to operate but not legally recognized. Smith advised Nazif that the LDS Church in Cairo has been forced to turn away Egyptians who wanted to participate in services, out of concerns that allowing Egyptians to participate would prompt intervention by Egyptian State Security. Nazif replied that the Egyptian constitution ensured religious freedom and said he would look into it. Smith noted that when things like FTA legislation come before the Senate, seemingly small issues like this one could be brought up and impede the process. He said he did not want that to happen to an FTA with Egypt and noted that he would ask the same favor for any religious group. Nazif said that he had visited Utah, which not a lot of Egyptians had done. 11. (C) Also on the theme of religion, Smith noted that he had met with religious leaders at Al Azhar, and was impressed with their views, which he saw as the true face of Islam. Nazif agreed with this assessment, but pointed out that Al Azhar needed to work on its public relations. Smith noted the U.S. also has more work to do in the area of public diplomacy. 12. (U) CODEL Smith did not have an opportunity to clear this message before departing Egypt. Visit Embassy Cairo's Classified Website: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/cairo You can also access this site through the State Department's Classified SIPRNET website. GRAY
Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04