C O N F I D E N T I A L VATICAN 004760
DEPT FOR EUR/WE: LEVIN; NEA/IPA; NEA/FO: GODFREY; DRL/IRF:
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/15/2014
TAGS: IS IZ KPAL PREL VT
SUBJECT: A/S BURNS UPDATES VATICAN ON MEPP, IRAQ
REF: A. A) 03 VATICAN 5644
Â¶B. B) VATICAN 3079
Classified By: Ambassador Jim Nicholson for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d)
Â¶1. (C) Holy See Foreign Minister Lajolo agreed with NEA A/S
Burns December 9 that there were signs of "a better
situation" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he
emphasized that "both sides" now needed to move forward with
the Road Map. On Iraq elections, Lajolo welcomed Burns'
assurance that they would be held as scheduled, and was
unfazed by his caveat that they would not be flawless.
Lajolo said elections did not have to be perfect as long as
they created an adequate sense of legitimacy for the new
government among Iraqis. Lajolo was interested in Burns'
assessment of the security situation in Iraq, and appreciated
the Assistant Secretary's assurances of continued USG
attention to the plight of Christians there. Burns also
reviewed current USG thinking on Syria, Iran, and Libya. End
Signs of Hope
Â¶2. (C) Holy See Foreign Minister equivalent Archbishop
Giovanni Lajolo concurred with NEA Assistant Secretary
William Burns' assessment in a December 9 meeting at the
Vatican that there were signs of "a better situation" in the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Lajolo emphasized that renewed
commitment was now needed from "both sides" to reinvigorate
the Road Map. According to Lajolo, Arafat's exit from the
scene gave the Palestinians an opportunity for "more active
engagement" against terrorism. The Israelis, for their part,
needed to be more committed to maintaining peace and should
go out of their way to avoid provocations, Lajolo maintained.
Equal Treatment Crucial
Â¶3. (C) A/S Burns emphasized President Bush's commitment to
progress in resolving the conflict and his determination to
move forward despite continuing challenges. Lajolo
underlined the need for the USG to appear even-handed in
brokering the dispute. "The impression of equal treatment"
of the Israelis and Palestinians is crucial, he said. Burns
noted that the more the Palestinians acted against terrorism,
the better the USG could work with Israel on freedom of
movement issues, settlement activity, and other Palestinian
Iraq: Elections Don't Need to be Perfect
Â¶4. (C) Turning to Iraq, Burns told Lajolo that Iraqi
elections would be held as scheduled in January, but
cautioned that the process would not be flawless. Lajolo was
unfazed. "They don't have to be perfect," he said, as long
as they create a sense of legitimacy for the government among
Iraqis. Burns noted continuing security challenges, and
recounted his recent meeting in Baghdad with various
Christian leaders. He assured Lajolo of continued U.S.
attention to the plight of Christians there, and said that
Ambassador Negroponte's door has been and will remain open to
Iraq Christian groups. Lajolo acknowledged the Vatican's
continued preoccupation with security for the Christian
community, and its longer-term concern about the exodus of
Christians from Iraq. Noting that there had been another
bombing of a Catholic Church the day before in Mosul, Lajolo
said he appreciated USG efforts to give continuing priority
to the issue.
Â¶5. (C) Lajolo noted that PM Allawi had seemed optimistic
about security issues during their November Vatican meeting.
"I don't know how he could be," Lajolo quipped, but he
suggested that with Iraqis comprising such a large number of
victims of the terrorist attacks, a backlash against the
insurgents could grow in time. Burns agreed, and said he had
seen evidence of a backlash, at least against foreign
Â¶6. (C) As in his previous meeting with A/S Burns (ref a),
Lajolo raised the Holy See's interest in the roles of Syria
and Iran in the region. Burns explained the USG's security
concerns on the Syrian-Iraqi border and on support for
insurgents in Iraq from Iraqi Baathists in Damascus. Lajolo
was also interested in Burns' current take on Syria's
influence on Lebanon. On Iran, Lajolo seemed unconvinced
about the nuclear danger posed by the regime. Burns said
there was ample evidence of Iran's nuclear ambitions, and
pointed to its lack of honesty with the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA). He emphasized, however, that the U.S.
was committed to diplomatic means to resolve the situation.
Lajolo expressed hope that the student population in Iran and
the power of the internet might help to bring about change.
Burns acknowledged both the potential and the limitations of
these factors, and said the prospects for imminent change
were not great. On Libya, Lajolo mentioned rumors of
Ghadafi's intent to install his son as a successor, and noted
recent travel to that country by many Italians.
Â¶7. (C) The Middle East remains the region of priority concern
for the Holy See, which continues to regard the
Israel-Palestinian divide as the 'mother of all conflicts' in
the region and an ongoing fuel for terrorism. The Vatican's
concerns about the exodus of Christians from Iraq mirror a
larger concern about the demise of historic Christian
communities throughout the region which one member of the
Curia recently suggested to us would leave the whole region
virtually devoid of Christian communities in a generation or
two. Archbishop Lajolo, accompanied by 2005 IVP awardee and
Regional Director for the Middle East Monsignor Franco
Coppola, clearly appreciated the chance to hear A/S Burns'
perspective on the full range of issues in the region.
Â¶8. (U) A/S Burns has cleared this message.
Â¶9. (U) Baghdad minimize considered.