Viewing cable 07VILNIUS614
Title: SNIPISKES CEMETERY UPDATE: IS THE TIDE TURNING?

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
07VILNIUS6142007-08-29 12:05:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
VZCZCXYZ0017
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHVL #0614 2411205
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 291205Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 1534
C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000614 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/28/2017 
TAGS: PREL SCUL LH
SUBJECT: SNIPISKES CEMETERY UPDATE: IS THE TIDE TURNING? 
 
REF: VILNIUS 379 AND PREVIOUS 
 
Classified By: Classified By: Charge Damian Leader for reasons 1.4 (b) 
and (d). 
 
¶1. (C) Summary.  On August 27, Prime Minister Gediminas 
Kirkilas announced a reorganization of the Working Group on 
the former Jewish cemetery in the Snipiskes neighborhood of 
Vilnius so that it consists of more senior staff and has a 
more responsible chairman.  The Working Group has until 
September 4 to submit recommendations to the PM about what 
actions the Government can or should take.  We are receiving 
positive signals that these recommendations will include 
halting construction quickly.  End Summary. 
 
Working Group's membership and timeline 
--------------------------------------- 
 
¶2. (U) The new chair of the Working Group is FM Petras 
Vaitiekunas, replacing Vice Minister of Culture Gintaras 
Sodeika, who remains a member of the Group.  The new deputy 
chair is MP Justinas Karosas, Chairman of the Parliament's 
Foreign Affairs Committee.  MP Emmanuelis Zingeris is also a 
new member.  Other new members include the Vice Minister of 
Justice (upgraded from the working level), the Director of 
the Cultural Heritage Department (upgraded from the Deputy 
Director), and Vilnius Vice Mayor Algirdas Paleckis (upgraded 
from the municipality's working level).  Overall, the new 
members appear to have a better understanding of the 
international importance of this issue than their 
predecessors. 
 
¶3.  (U) By September 4, the Group is tasked with making, 
according to a press release from the PM's office, 
"recommendations regarding the conclusions of the experts' 
group and the continuation of the ongoing construction." 
(Note: As reported reftel, international and Lithuanian 
experts issued a unanimous statement on May 17 warning that 
current construction almost certainly falls in part within 
the confines of the cemetery.  They called for more study and 
a halt of construction until that study is completed.)  By 
December 31, the Group should submit to the PM its 
conclusions regarding the boundaries of the cemetery and 
suggestions for preservation. 
 
Motivation for re-organization 
------------------------------ 
 
¶4. (C) The Prime Minister announced the re-organization in 
time for a visit by Israel's Minister for Religious Affairs 
Yitzhak Cohen.  The visit came hard on the heels of an open 
letter from Rabbi Elyokim Schlesinger of the Committee for 
the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe and a Reuters 
news story on the controversy.  Schlesinger chastised the GOL 
as having been deceptive and warned that the Jewish community 
would "continue its campaign to stop this appalling 
desecration with all the means at its disposal."  The 
Ambassador also raised the issue with the Prime Minister on 
August 17, reminding him that without some good news soon, 
the situation would continue to damage Lithuania's 
reputation.  PM Kirkilas noted to the press that it was 
necessary to raise the Group to a higher level and that the 
former membership lacked competence.  He added that he had 
been influenced by foreign media coverage. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
¶5. (C) After well over a year of delays and diversions, this 
is the first credible indicator we have seen that the GOL may 
finally take concrete steps to resolve the controversy. 
Former chair of the Working Group, Vice Minister Sodeika, was 
a severe obstacle; allegedly he has ties to the developers of 
the site.  The new chair, FM Vaitiekunas, has shown a 
constructive attitude on this issue to us on several 
occasions.  Our contacts in the PM's office and the MFA 
believe that progress will finally be made on this issue 
soon.  For the time being, however, we have visited the site 
and confirmed that construction continues.  We will send an 
update on this situation as soon as new information is 
available. 
 
LEADER