Ref ID: 09BERLIN1467
Date: 11/18/2009 9:20
Origin: Embassy Berlin
C O N F I D E N T I A L BERLIN 001467
DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS TO AF/E GEETA PASI
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/18/2019
TAGS: PREL PHUM PTER PHSA SENV DJ ER ET GM KE SO
SUBJECT: EUROPEANS TRACK U.S. ON EAST AFRICA BUT REMAIN
RELUCTANT TO SANCTION ERITREA
Classified By: Minister Counselor for Political Affairs George Glass fo r reasons 1.4 (b,d).
¶1. (C) Summary: During a German MFA experts level meeting in Berlin to discuss the challenges facing East Africa, it was clear the Europeans saw eye to eye with the United States on most Horn issues but differed on the advisability of sanctions against Eritrea. We agreed Ethiopia’s role in the region was key and on the need to support and observe its May 2010 elections. On Somalia, the EU and United States were of like mind on challenges facing the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG), agreeing on the importance of continuing to support it. On Kenya, there was consensus on the need to push for greater political reform, including on the constitution, and acknowledgment that next year would be critical. Participants saw the need to support regional organizations, including the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). End Summary.
¶2. (SBU) MFA A/S equivalent for African Affairs Matthias Muelmenstaedt hosted the day-long conference on the Horn of Africa in mid-October with a focus on Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and Kenya. The European Commission ((Henriette Geiger, Deputy Head of Unit, relations with the countries and the regions of the Horn of Africa, Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean), the European Secretariat (Guillaume Lacroix), France (Stephane Gompertz Director for Africa and the Indian Ocean for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Italy (Guiseppe Morabito, DG for Sub-Saharan African Countries for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Sweden – EU presidency (Marike Fahlen, Ambassador and Special Envoy, Division for Africa, Ministry for Foreign Affairs), the U.S. (AF Deputy Assistant Secretary Wycoff and AF/E Office Director Pasi) and the UK (Jonathan Allen, East Africa and Great Lakes Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office) attended. We met separately with German representatives – Muelmenstaedt and Deputy Head of the East Africa Division Karsten Geier earlier (other meeting topics will be reported septel).
¶3. (C) Ethiopia is an “indispensable partner” to stability in the region, the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea is “frozen” for the foreseeable future, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles is intent on retaining power, and the political opposition is weak, disunited, and out of touch with the average Ethiopian, partners agreed. Stressing the importance that the U.S. and Europeans track our messages to Meles, Wycoff noted the Carter Center was considering sending observers to the May 2010 elections and that the U.S. would work to promote a democratic track for Ethiopia.
¶4. (C) The EU presidency stressed the importance of Meles as a regional leader, pointing out he would represent Africa on climate change in Copenhagen. Climate change, stressed the Europeans, particularly Italy, would have a huge impact on food security in the region. MFA Africa Advisor Muelmenstaedt described Meles as “a guy you can do business with.” (NOTE: In our separate bilat, Muelmenstaedt said Ethiopia was the third largest recipient of German development assistance.) The EU believed the key to Ethiopia was to understand its long-term strategic interests – stability and economic development, acknowledging the conflict in Somalia was the Ethiopian government’s main preoccupation. Echoing EU views, the U.K. highlighted excellent cooperation between EU and U.S. missions in Addis.
¶5. (C) Regarding the May 2010 elections, participants welcomed the possibility of Carter Center observers, calling on the EU to send some as well. Acknowledging the difficulty of being associated with a likely imperfect process, they nonetheless agreed on the importance of international involvement in the elections. Muelmenstaedt said that “it would be a mistake not to send an observer mission.” According to the EU, the Ethiopian government has not yet made a formal request for election observers, but Ethiopia was on a priority list for EU election observer assistance. The EU confided that the likely head of the observer mission would be Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid. (NOTE: In response to a question about whether Michel was viewed as a neutral figure given his involvement in Eritrea, the EC claimed Michel had a “good rapport with all the (region’s) leaders.” In communications with the Ethiopians, the EU reporting having already warned Addis they would not accept any Government of Ethiopia pre-conditions for the mission, something the Ethiopians have hinted at already.
¶6. (C) The EU suggested the EU and U.S. concentrate on the elections for now as well as on a post-election scenario for Ethiopian-Eritrean re-engagement on the border conflict. The EU called for a comprehensive package from the EU, U.S. and Arab countries with economic incentives and perhaps a deal on the Asaf port. The EU expressed concern that Ethiopia continued to pursue an aggressive policy toward Eritrea within the Organization of African Unity. Wycoff observed that Eritrea’s behavior was the core problem that needed to be addressed. Regarding conditions for the observer mission, the French agreed observation needed to be “no strings” but added there was a possibility of a “gentlemen’s agreement” with Ethiopia on details.
¶7. (C) Germany reported addressing Ethiopia’s economic situation, namely hard currency and the poor investment climate, with Meles directly and being struck by what they described as Meles’ poor understanding of economics. The French (Gompertz had served there as Ambassador recently) challenged the German assessment, clarifying that Meles actually had a good understanding of economics, but claiming it was hampered by his ideological beliefs, especially regarding privatization.
¶8. (C) In our bilateral meeting, Wycoff raised the question of whether Ethiopian training of Somalis met UN standards and thus allowed for UNDP support after their return. Muelmenstaedt agreed there were legitimate questions and said that Germany intended to resolve this issue. East Africa Division Deputy Geier noted that the Germans were surprised about the development as the UNDP had not mentioned the issue before the training. Muelmenstaedt dismissed the UNDP, noting it did not have a very positive image anywhere in the world. In Somalia, the UNDP was making a real effort to be effective.
¶9. (C) Whether to engage or isolate Eritrea as a spoiler was what the quint group addressed. Germany reported not being encouraged by its efforts to engage with Eritrea and noted that the German government had decided to freeze its support for the Bisha mining project, which he predicted would paralyze the project. DAS Wycoff outlined the U.S. position, highlighting the USG’s efforts to reach out to Eritrea. So far this effort had not brought results, and Eritrea continued to serve as a spoiler, continuing its support of violent extremists, including those who promote publicly and implement violent attacks against the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). After noting the strong and clear positions of IGAD and AU vis a vis Eritrea, Wycoff noted that the U.S. would support our African partners in addressing this issue.
¶10. (C) European participants generally did not support sanctioning Eritrea, opining that the threat of sanctions would hold enough sway with the Asmara government. They acknowledged, however, the argument that the Asmara government played a “spoiler role” with regard to Somalia and also supported elements hostile toward the West. Italy described Eritrea as governed by a “brutal dictator,” and noted that Italy had not gotten results from its efforts at engagement. He cautioned, however, against “creating another Afghanistan” by applying Eritrea-focused sanctions. The Italian representative questioned whether the sanctions should be focused on spoilers in general and include others beyond Eritrea. The French said that while engagement was “useless,” France would continue on this track as there was no other option. Recent discussions between Asmara and French Foreign Minister Kouchner had been inconclusive, and he pointed to the UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions committee list of 10 names for possible sanctions, including three Eritreans. The Swedish representative agreed that pressure would be more useful than sanctions, reasoning that Eritrea could still act as a spoiler even under sanctions. The UK representative agreed, adding that while the UK was still considering sanctions, “a way out” for Asmara would have to be included. The EU representative saw the “long arm of Ethiopia” behind the sanctions initiative and cautioned against this action because the “paranoid” mentality of the Eritrean leadership should be taken into account to make sure we do nothing that makes them feel “cornered.”
¶11. (C) DAS Wycoff pointed out the inconsistency between the private acknowledgement that Asmara was not only playing a spoiler role with regard to Somalia but also supporting violent, anti-West elements and the provision by some countries provided assistance packages to Asmara. He also noted that strong actions, including sanctions, were needed to have a chance of changing Isaias’s behavior. The UK representative said London has already made clear to Asmara that the UK was aware Eritrea was supporting anti-Western groups that threatened British security. In a separate bilat earlier, Muelmenstaedt told Wycoff that while Asmara has assured Germany of its interest in a stable Somalia, Germany views that statement as empty rhetoric.
¶12. (C) Participants expressed frustration with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia in general but agreed that there was no other choice but to work with the TFG. The UK and others underlined there was no military solution in Somalia but there was consensus on the essential need to address the security needs of the country. Sweden noted mounting frustration that the TFG ministers were not performing, adding that the TFG had not defined any strategy whatsoever. The TFG should not be asking AMISOM to do its job, she said. Sweden also commented that the International Contact Group needed attention and suggested that a preparatory meeting take place soon in Brussels.
¶13. (C) DAS Wycoff noted we had to support efforts to make TFG forces more effective, including expanded training, better logistical support, ensuring proper pay, and possibly providing mentors for Somali troops as well as described USG support for AMISOM. Wycoff stressed again that there was conclusive evidence that al Shabaab militants continued to be backed by Eritrea, undermining Somalia’s security, and contributing to attacks on AMISOM. While some participants questioned the focus on military support, all agreed on the need to strengthen security in the country as a first step toward moving forward on other goals.
¶14. (C) The Italian representative agreed on the need to focus on the security situation. He noted that Italy had tried to send a mission to Mogadishu to search for a building suitable for an embassy right before the May 17 suicide bombing. Italy is still considering whether to open an embassy in the capital city, he said. The EC representative agreed, saying that while there was no military solution, there was also no solution without the military. All agreed the TFG needed to be seen as a government by the Somali people. In response to a question about recent fighting between Hizbul Islam and al Shabab in Kismayo, German MFA Geier said a recent TFG visitor had explained it as a local phenomenon, noting the view that Hizbul Islam was trying to distance itself from extremist groups and get closer to the TFG.
¶15. (C) During the separate bilat, Muelmenstaedt said “it was a miracle” that the TFG was still in power and al Shabab had not succeeded in chasing out the TFG. He attributed this to two factors: the change in U.S. policy on Somalia and U.S. support, and the new relationship between Somalia and Ethiopia. Muelmenstaedt said Germany was currently supporting various TFG projects and doing police training as well as humanitarian assistance. Once the situation was appropriate, Muelmenstaedt added, Germany is ready to provide 90 million Euro in development assistance.
¶16. (C) Agreeing that avoiding a recurrence of the violence that followed the 2007 election was critical, participants were of one mind on the importance of reform. The group suggested that the U.S. and EU speak with one voice on what needs to be done and combine carrots and sticks to ensure progress. The UK stressed the importance of allies working together to push the reform process forward, particularly on institutional reform. Like the U.S., he said, the UK enforced visa exclusions for corrupt officials. DAS Wycoff detailed U.S. efforts in the wake of post-election violence, including additional funding for civil society and youth with the purpose of building pressure for reform from the ground up, a strong message condemning violence, stressing accountability, and pushing for full implementation of the agreed reform agenda.
¶17. (C) In the earlier bilat, Muelmenstaedt confided that while the UK and The Netherlands were pushing Kenya hard on reforms, Berlin was less enthusiastic about this approach since Germany needed Kenya’s help in prosecuting pirates. “We don’t want trials against pirates in Germany,” he added, explaining the difficulty in preventing asylum applications. While Germany sees the need for Kenya to make progress, “we need them,” he said, limiting the role that Germany would play in this area.
¶18. (C) Discussion touched on the role of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa. Participants viewed IGAD’s capacity as limited, although they agreed it has the potential to play a greater role. IGAD should also be viewed as a peer organization of other regional organizations, including the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The EC warned against overtaxing IGAD, suggesting its role should be limited to non-controversial areas that build up IGAD’s technical capacity. DAS Wycoff noted IGAD has not figured prominently in Washington although the USG supports regional organizations. He explained that the USG was working on several major initiatives – Food Security and climate change – both of which have a regional dimension. The USG will continue to support IGAD as it seeks to become a more effective organization. Muelmenstaedt pledged Germany’s support of IGAD, but at a low level, opining that were IGAD to collapse few would notice. Even though its effectiveness is limited, Sweden said IGAD’s collapse would send the wrong signal. The fact that IGAD promotes interaction between countries in the Horn is essential. Participants questioned why Eritrea left IGAD, with the EU clarifying that they did so because they could not politically support IGAD positions.
¶19. (C) Participants questioned EU attendance at the next EU-AU summit to be held in Sirte, Libya in July 2010 and chaired by Libyan leader Qaddafi. All agreed this would be a politically difficult venue, and Muelmenstaedt speculated that Chancellor Merkel would find it difficult to attend the summit given the location and host.
¶20. (C) There is much more that unites than divides Europe and the U.S. on Horn of Africa issues. One issue that appeared to remain problematic is the question of Eritrea-specific sanctions, an issue that will require further work. The day-long meeting in Berlin was particularly useful in providing a window onto how the various players, particularly the EU, see future assistance levels, priorities, etc. Meeting in a smaller group of like-minded nations was in stark contrast to the International Contact Group on Somalia where posturing featured more centrally than policy discussions.
¶21. (U) This cable was cleared by AF DAS Karl Wycoff. MURPHY