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C O N F I D E N T I A L OSLO 000072 SIPDIS FOR D AND P E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/20/2016 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PINR, CE, SU, NO SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S CALL ON DEVELOPMENT MINISTER SOLHEIM Classified By: Ambassador Benson K. Whitney, Reason 1.4 b and d. 1. (C) Summary. The Ambassador made his introductory call on International Development Minister Erik Solheim January 19 and discussed Solheim's upcoming trip to Sri Lanka, the state of play in Sudan, and the Minister's development priorities. Solheim stressed that he is eager to cooperate with the United States, noting that there is only so much Norway can do to promote peace around the world. Ultimately, U.S. pressure is usually needed to consolidate any process, Solheim commented. Essentially, Solheim envisions Norway having a "complementary role" to U.S. efforts. Solheim spoke highly of Deputy Secretary Zoellick's in-depth knowledge of Sudan and praised the United States for achieving the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Solheim welcomed the Ambassador's suggestion that we not only continue the close cooperation on Sri Lanka and Sudan but also identify new areas where we can work together to advance peace and development, although he did not see an increased Norwegian role in the Caucasus. Solheim bluntly explained that Norway needs to be cautious in its approach to the Caucasus given that it is Russia's backyard. End summary. Sri Lanka: Expectations for Solheim Trip "Too High" - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 2. (C) Solheim, who is traveling to Colombo January 23-26 (with a planned stop in New Delhi on his way back to Oslo), commented that expectations in the Sri Lankan press have gotten way out of hand -- as if his visit would "save" the country. Solheim remarked that ironically, the same people who only two months ago were bad mouthing Norway and wanted to end the Norwegian mediation role were now counting on Solheim to get the peace process back on track. The Minister outlined two basic objectives for his visit: 1) "stabilize the ceasefire" and 2) meet the President in his new capacity with a view to getting him to fully understand how he can advance talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Solheim explained that he wants to get a recommitment to the cease-fire, reduce violations, and move the country away from the brink of war. He added, that while he knows the President well and thinks highly of him, Rajapaksa in his view is unfamiliar with the complexities of the ethnic issues and needs to learn how to best move the peace process forward. Solheim intends to provide Rajapaksa the "LTTE perspective." On the question of getting the Sri Lankan Government and LTTE to the table, Solheim said that he hoped the parties would agree soon to a venue in Europe. While not ruling out Oslo, Solheim said that places like Sweden, Finland or Switzerland would be better. Solheim noted that he looked forward to comparing notes and discussing how best to advance the peace process with U/S Burns when they meet in Colombo. Sudan: Norway Appreciates U.S. Role - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3. (C) Solheim was effusive in his praise for Deputy Secretary Zoellick. Not only was Solheim impressed with the SIPDIS Deputy's knowledge of Sudan but also that it was evident that he follows the issue day-to-day -- clearly reflecting the high priority the U.S. puts on Sudan. Solheim commented that without the United States, there would not have been a CPA and that now the U.S. and Norway need to continue to coax both parties, Khartoum and the SPLM, to continue to make progress. He remarked on the desperate state of the South, no roads, no infrastructure; noting that it was important that peace yield dividends. With the loss of Dr. Garang, the SPLM needs to consolidate its power and that is where Norway will focus its efforts. Solheim remains concerned about what he referred to as the "spoilers," i.e., paramilitary groups such as the Lord's Resistance Army, and the situation in Darfur. Solheim added that the situation in Sudan remains "dangerous," stressing that it will require continued intense attention. Solheim thanked us for supporting Tom Vraalsen for leader of the Assessment and Evaluation Commission, remarking that without the U.S. it would not have happened. Vraalsen is a good man, he added, and an expert on Sudan. 4. (C) On Darfur, Solheim believes the humanitarian situation has improved but that security remains a difficult problem. Solheim praised Deputy Secretary Zoellick for his efforts to force the various guerrilla groups to adopt serious positions in peace negotiations, noting that the situation will not improve until people feel safe to return to their homes. No Global Strategy - - - - - - - - - - 5. (C) Responding to the Ambassador's question as to where Solheim saw Norway concentrating its development efforts under the new Stoltenberg government, Solheim readily acknowledged that he did not have a global strategy. In fact, Solheim said Norway was prepared to help anywhere where parties in conflict would want Norwegian participation. The Ambassador suggested that perhaps Norway could do more to advance democracy and stability in the Caucasus. Solheim bluntly replied that Norway had to be careful about getting involved in the Caucasus for fear of upsetting the Russians. Solheim noted that as a neighbor to Russia, Norway needs to proceed carefully in the Russian sphere of influence and all but ruled out any significant engagement in the Caucasus. That said, the rest of the world is game and we should consider where we can do more together. Comment - - - - 6. (C) It is a ironic that despite being a minister from the far-left Socialist Left Party, Solheim (after FM Stoere), is the cabinet member most interested in working with us. One big reason for this is that his experience working with us on Sri Lanka has been extremely positive; another is that he realizes that he can do more as a peace broker if he has the U.S. as a closer. We believe Solheim can continue to be a good partner and that we should seize opportunities to engage him in areas where we think he can contribute, particularly given Norway's deep aid pockets. It is clear that Solheim sees himself more as someone who will push peace initiatives than run development assistance programs. 7. (C) We have been pushing Norway to do more in the Caucasus for some time but to no avail. Solheim's direct reply on concerns over alienating Russia is the first time we have been told the real reason. Norwegian officials are always quick to point to their excellent ties to Russia but rarely come out and say that they want to be careful not to irritate the bear. Privately, however, Norwegians acknowledge that they remain concerned over Russia and worry about some day returning to having an unfriendly neighbor -- hence the importance they place on NATO and their interest in making sure the United States becomes engaged on High North issues. Norway's objective is to ensure that the U.S. is available and ready to help reign in any Russian aggressiveness/misbehavior in the Barents region. Visit Oslo's Classified website: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/oslo/index.cf m WHITNEY NNNN
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