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Cable en el que Argelia descarta un enfrentamiento con Marruecos

El presidente Bouteflika asegura, en una reunión en 2005, que la cuestión del Sáhara no derivará en 'casus belli'

ID: 38855
Date: 2005-08-19 11:35:00
Origin: 05ALGIERS1753
Source: Embassy Algiers
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Destination: This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/19/2015
TAGS: PREL, PHUM, PBTS, WI, AG, MO, Algeria-Morocco Relations, Polisario

Classified By: Ambassador Richard W. Erdman, Reason 1.4 (b) (d)

1. (C) Summary. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Chairman Richard Lugar, accompanied by Ambassador, Supreme
Allied Commander in Europe General James Jones, and members
of his delegation met with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika the
morning of August 18. Following the meeting, Senator Lugar
and his delegation departed for Tindouf to oversee the
release of the last 404 Moroccan POWs held by the Polisario.
Lugar expressed appreciation for Bouteflika's efforts to
create new momentum for resolving the Western Sahara
conflict. Bouteflika recalled his commitment to President
Bush in 2001 to support James Baker, noting that he had done
so and accepted the Baker Plan, but when Baker quit he had
left a vacuum that had not been filled. Bouteflika
reiterated his assurance that Western Sahara would not be a
casus belli for Algeria, but said the Polisario had the right
to resume fighting "on its own territory" if it chose to do
so. Bouteflika insisted that Algeria would respect the
outcome of a referendum no matter what it was, but would not
be a party to negotiations with Morocco on behalf of the
Sahrawis. Bouteflika sharply complained about Morocco's
last-minute cancellation of a planned meeting with King
Mohammed in Rabat in June by Prime Minister Ouyahia, saying
he could not accept "dealing with diplomatic relations in
such an irresponsible manner." Referring to advice from
Presidents Bush and Chirac that he bear in mind King
Mohammed's youth, Bouteflika said, "I am not Jesus Christ,
and will not turn my other cheek." Algeria was ready to
discuss "objective interests" with Morocco, but only if the
Moroccans were "serious." Senator Lugar noted that President
Bush had asked him to undertake this humanitarian mission,
adding that the U.S. wanted Algeria and Morocco to reopen the
land border and reengage at the highest level. Did
Bouteflika think the Moroccans understood his position on a
referendum? Bouteflika said the Western Sahara had been on
the UN's agenda since the 1970s. Algeria favored respecting
international law and was defending the right of
self-determination, but would not accept being a negotiating
partner on the fate of the Western Sahara with France, Spain,
Morocco or the U.S. End summary.


2. (U) Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Senator Richard
Lugar and his delegation, which included Supreme Allied
Commander in Europe General James Jones, visited Algeria
August 17-18 as part of a Presidential Mission to oversee the
release of the last 404 Moroccan POWs held by the Polisario
Front in Tindouf. Senator Lugar, Ambassador, General Jones,
and members of Lugar's delegation met with President
Abdelaziz Bouteflika for two and a half hours the morning of
August 18 before flying to Tindouf. NEA DAS Gray, EUCOM J-5
General Gration, NSC Director Pounds, and DCM also attended
the meeting, at which Bouteflika was flanked by Presidential
Chief of Staff Belkheir, Chief of Defense General Gait Saleh,
Council of the Nation President Bensalah, and Minister
Delegate for Maghreb and African Affairs Messahel. Septel
reports Lugar and Bouteflika's discussion of U.S.-Algerian
relations and a number of regional issues.


3. (C) Senator Lugar began by conveying the greetings of
President Bush, who fully supported the humanitarian mission
to secure the release of the Moroccan POWs. The initiative
taken by Bouteflika should create new opportunities for
Algeria and Morocco and develop momentum toward resolving the
Western Sahara conflict. Lugar noted the UNSYG's appointment
of a new personal envoy, van Walsum, as a positive sign of
the UN's support as well. Bouteflika warmly welcomed Senator
Lugar and his delegation, adding that he was aware of the
Senator's record of reaching consensus. Bouteflika said he
was aware that there were some concerns in Washington about
Lugar's planned meeting in Tindouf with Polisario leader
Abdelaziz, but commented that there was no need for concern
since this was a strictly humanitarian mission. The
Sahrawis, he said, would talk about their concerns, but this
should "not offend anyone from the land of Washington and
Wilson," the leader of a war for independence and the
founding father of the idea of self-determination.

4. (C) Bouteflika recalled his first meeting with President
Bush in 2001, at which the President had asked him if he was
ready to work with James Baker. Bouteflika promised the
President he would work cooperatively with Baker and had done
so (i.e., accepting the Baker Plan and getting the Polisario
to accept it as well) until Baker had resigned. Baker's
resignation had left a vacuum in the settlement process that
still had not been filled. Bouteflika praised Baker for
being able to see the needs of both sides, Morocco and the
Polisario's. Baker "represented the American values we


5. (C) Recalling the Houston Agreement negotiated by Baker
with Morocco and the Polisario, Bouteflika said he had still
been out of politics then. But at the time, he had thought
the agreement flawed because it did not set a deadline for
implementation. He said that if he had been the Polisario,
he would have signed the agreement but insisted on the right
to take up arms after six months or one year if it were not
implemented. The Polisario was now paying the price for not
insisting on a time limit.

6. (C) Bouteflika said that when he became President in 1999
he had taken a position that was not completely accepted at
the time by the army and intelligence services, i.e. that the
Western Sahara would never be a casus belli for Algeria. The
Polisario cannot drag Algeria into war, he stressed. But if
they decided to fight "on their own territory," that would be
their decision. If they did so, they would not be allowed to
fight in Western Sahara and then return to Algeria as a base.


7. (C) Bouteflika said he had urged Morocco to return to the
UN framework. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, the international
community mobilized itself, but the Western Sahara was
considered a "mere tribal issue" even though it had been a
Spanish colony. Bouteflika criticized Spain, saying the
Spanish Socialists had not been honest with the Sahrawis.
From time to time, Spain approached Algeria about entering
negotiations with France, Morocco and Spain to resolve the
conflict. Algeria, however, had no claim to the Western
Sahara and would not negotiate on the Sahrawis' behalf.
Bouteflika stressed that he was only advocating
self-determination, a principle enshrined in the UN Charter.
Morocco wanted improved relations with Algeria, but Algeria
would not respond until Morocco agreed to return to the UN
framework. The only thing Algeria asked of Morocco was to
accept UNSC resolutions and international law. That is my
sincerest hope, Bouteflika said.


8. (C) Bouteflika said he was ready to sign a document now
committing Algeria to accept the result of a referendum,
whichever way it turned out. He said he realized a
referendum was a "Pandora's box," but Algeria would accept
the outcome. Algeria would defend the right of
self-determination even if it was the last UN member-state to
do so.


9. (C) According to Bouteflika, bilateral relations with
Morocco had started to gain momentum earlier this year.
Prime Minister Ouyahia was ready to visit Rabat with a large
delegation. There were many bilateral agreements with
Morocco dating to the 1960s and they were in serious need of
review. The Moroccans informed Bouteflika that King Mohammed
would see Ouyahia and his delegation. Then, only an hour
later, the Moroccans said that "circumstances were not
favorable" for the visit, even though it had been prepared
months in advance. Bouteflika underscored that he could not
accept dealing with diplomatic relations "in such an
irresponsible manner." Morocco would always be Algeria's
neighbor, neither country would move and they had to get
along. But it was unacceptable to handle serious issues in
an "infantile manner." Bouteflika said that in his
discussions with Presidents Bush and Chirac, among other
leaders, he was told that the king was young while he was a
veteran diplomat. But, he said, "I am not Jesus Christ" and
will not turn the other cheek.

10. (C) Bouteflika recalled that he was born in Morocco and
knew that country very well. Morocco stood to gain a great
deal from reopening the land border, since north-east Morocco
depended on trade with the Oran region of Algeria. Even with
the border closed, Morocco makes three billion Euros a year
from smuggling, he claimed. Both countries have objective
interests in better relations, but if the Moroccans want to
discuss normalizing relations they must be serious about how
they treat Algeria.

11. (C) Turning to the Arab Maghreb Union, Bouteflika said
that if the Libyans organized a summit, he would attend in
order to make it a success, not to embarrass anyone. As soon
as Morocco returned to the UN framework for the Western
Sahara, Algeria would engage on bilateral relations and the


12. (C) Senator Lugar said the United States tried to act in
a manner consistent with democratic values of human rights
and respect for the right of self-determination that
Bouteflika had mentioned. The U.S. acted even when its own
national interests were not directly engaged when it was the
right thing to do. It was in this context that President
Bush had asked that the Senator undertake this mission. The
President respected Bouteflika's initiative to gain the
release of the prisoners and was looking for ways to improve
Algerian-Moroccan relations. The U.S. believed the two
countries should reopen their border and reengage at the
highest level. The U.S. wanted to work with Algeria to see
how we could make a difference.

13. (C) Senator Lugar asked whether Bouteflika thought the
Moroccan Government understood his position that Algeria
would support the results of a referendum no matter what they
were? Was the question of who would have the right to vote
still a significant issue? What were the other principal
issues? Bouteflika said the Western Sahara was not a new
issue for the UN. Baker had done very good work, and the
UNSYG had a complete list of voters in a referendum. Algeria
will accept the results of a referendum, but that did not
mean it would "condone Moroccan tricks." The Western Sahara
has been on the UN agenda since the 1970s, at the same time
as Brunei, Suriname, and Belize, all of which were long since
independent. Algeria supported respecting international law.
It would not accept being a negotiating partner on the
Western Sahara with France, Spain, Morocco or the United
States, but Algeria would defend the right of

14. (U) Senator Lugar did not have an opportunity to clear
this message.

15. (U) Minimize considered.
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