Viewing cable 08MADRID203

08MADRID2032008-02-22 18:16:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Madrid
DE RUEHMD #0203/01 0531816
P 221816Z FEB 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MADRID 000203 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/22/2018 
REF: A. STATE 16319 
     ¶B. MADRID 186 
MADRID 00000203  001.2 OF 003 
Classified By: DCM Hugo Llorens for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
¶1. (C)  SUMMARY: Since FM Moratinos' comment (repeated by 
President Zapatero) that Kosovo's declaration of independence 
was "illegal," the Ambassador and DCM have had numerous 
conversations with senior GOS officials including Deputy FM 
Bernardino Leon, National Security Advisor Carles Casajuana, 
MFA Political Director Rafael Dezcallar, and Chief of Defense 
Felix Sans Roldan.  While Leon stuck to his guns on the issue 
of legality, he, Casajuana, and Dezcallar made clear that 
they wanted to keep our disagreement private, as befits two 
allies who are both keenly interested in maintaining 
stability in the Balkans.  Helpfully, the GOS was quick to 
condemn the February 21 violence in Belgrade.  Our 
interlocutors have been at pains to make clear that 
regardless of their views on Kosovo's declaration of 
independence, Spain intends to continue its participation in 
KFOR and in EU efforts to help Kosovo.  They hope to lower 
the public profile of this issue, although that will be a 
challenge with an election on March 9 and two presidential 
debates between now and then.  Ironically, although 
Zapatero's socialist party (PSOE) and Mariano Rajoy's Popular 
Party (PP) agree on very little, both view Kosovo's 
declaration of independence negatively (former President 
Aznar published an op-ed February 22 making the case against 
independence).  END SUMMARY. 
¶2. (C)  Spanish Deputy Foreign Minister Bernardino Leon 
summoned Ambassador Aguirre to a meeting with Leon, Political 
Director Rafael Dezcallar, and Director General for North 
America Pepe Pons February 21 to discuss recent U.S./Spanish 
disagreements on Kosovo.  The Ambassador expressed strong 
disagreement with the description of Kosovo's independence as 
illegal (ref B) and noted that several other major European 
nations agreed with our assessment that the UDI did not 
violate UNSCR 1244.  He reiterated the case for Kosovo's 
independence and emphasized that it set no precedent for 
other separatist or territorial disputes.  After years of 
exhaustive but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to reach a 
negotiated settlement, independence was the only way to 
ensure continued stability in the Balkans. 
¶3. (C)  Ignoring the long history of failed negotiations with 
Serbia and the impossibility of achieving a UNSCR in the face 
of Russian intransigence, Leon argued that a separatist 
movement cannot declare itself independent without either a 
negotiated agreement with the parent state or the explicit 
authorization of a UNSC Resolution.  The GOS considers these 
two means as the only internationally acceptable methods for 
a separatist state to gain its independence.  Absent either 
one, the separation is not "legal."  Leon said this position 
was doctrinal among both the ruling PSOE and the opposition 
PP, and that both major Spanish parties are fundamentally 
concerned about the principles of national sovereignty and 
territorial integrity.  Leon acknowledged that many nations 
have a valid reason for recognizing Kosovo's independence - 
the belief that the risk for instability in Kosovo and the 
region is too great to ignore and there is no other option. 
Nevertheless, Leon argued that this argument of necessity did 
not convey legality.  If it did, the door would be opened for 
any separatist group to seek independence by securing the 
approbation and recognition of a finite number of foreign 
states. Such a mistaken belief was already becoming fodder 
for Basque and Catalan separatists and was certain to help 
separatist parties gain some parliamentary seats in the 
Spanish elections, causing problems for whoever wins. 
¶4. (C)  Continuing the conversation in the wake of the 
violence in Belgrade the night of February 21, the Ambassador 
called Leon February 22, telling him that while the U.S. 
found the arguments about legality untenable, this was a 
disagreement that should be conducted in private.  To 
facilitate this, he strongly urged that Spanish officials 
avoid gratuitous comments about legality and focus instead on 
the need to work together for stability in the Balkans.  The 
Ambassador suggested the GOS condemn the attack against the 
U.S. Embassy and other embassies in Belgrade.  Leon quickly 
agreed that both governments had an interest in taking a step 
MADRID 00000203  002.2 OF 003 
back and lowering the tension.  He said that he would 
recommend that the Spanish government issue a condemnation of 
what happened in Belgrade (see text of statement below). 
¶5. (C)  Following the Ambassador's conversations with Leon, 
Deputy Chief of Mission Llorens spoke February 22 with 
Presidential National Security Advisor Carles Casajuana. 
Casajuana emphasized that the GOS strongly condemned the 
attack on the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade.  The DCM mentioned 
that Ambassador had asked Leon to issue a statement; 
Casajuana agreed the GOS should do so and promised to 
follow-up.  Turning to the broader issue, Casajuana noted the 
many conversations between GOS and USG officials here and in 
Washington on the subject of Kosovo in recent months.  He 
said Spain had been clear about the domestic sensitivities 
regarding a UDI but perhaps Spain, in an effort to make clear 
its willingness to work with the U.S. and preserve EU unity, 
had sent confusing signals and left the impression that 
Kosovo was merely an issue in the context of the Spanish 
elections.  In fact, he said, Kosovo independence was 
problematic for more fundamental reasons having to do with 
Spain's own regional tensions.  This would be true with or 
without an election pending.  The imminent election made this 
a highly political issue and simply reduced the government's 
room for maneuver.  Waiting until after the election would 
not necessarily have changed the government's position, but 
having independence declared before the election did force 
the government to adopt a more dogmatic public stance. 
¶6. (C)  Nevertheless, Casajuana insisted Spain wanted to be 
constructive.  He noted Spain's commitment to KFOR and to the 
EU effort in Kosovo.  He said there was not even any 
discussion within the GOS of backing away from either, 
despite the fact that this put the GOS in an awkward spot: 
on the one hand they were forced to say publicly that they 
did not support Kosovo's UDI but on the other hand they were 
continuing to support Kosovo.  The DCM told Casajuana the GOS 
should refrain from gratuitous public remarks about things 
such as "illegality."  As recent events in Belgrade showed, 
the situation in the region was delicate, and it was to no 
one's advantage to say anything that might contribute to 
tension.  He said the U.S. did not want to make this a 
U.S.-Spain issue, and that would be more easily achieved if 
the public remarks were more restrained.  Casajuana said he 
understood but noted he could not guarantee that nothing more 
would be said publicly.  (NOTE:  The presidential candidates 
have televised debates scheduled for February 25 and March 3. 
¶7. (C)  The DCM also spoke with MFA Political Director Rafael 
Dezcallar February 22 (following the conversation with 
Casajuana).  Dezcallar called to express outrage over the 
violence in Belgrade, which he described as "barbaric, 
savage, and distressingly reminiscent of the horrible events 
in the Balkans in the 1990s."  Dezcallar said Spain may 
disagree with the U.S. on the underlying issue, but 
nevertheless the U.S. was an ally, and the GOS was committed 
to work with the U.S. and the EU to maintain peace and 
stability in the Balkans.  He said a GOS statement condemning 
the violence would be forthcoming.  The DCM advised that A/S 
Fried had been briefed on the Ambassador's conversations over 
the last 24 hours with Leon.  It was obvious that the U.S. 
and Spain strongly disagreed on the question of recognizing 
Kosovo, but that for its part the U.S. wanted this to remain 
a private disagreement among allies.  Nothing was served by 
turning this into a bilateral issue.  The DCM urged that the 
GOS avoid any further gratuitous public statements.  He noted 
in particular that Spanish questioning of the legality of 
Kosovo's declaration was unhelpful. 
¶8. (C)  In a February 22 conversation with the DCM, Chief of 
Defense General Felix Sanz Roldan echoed what Casajuana had 
said about Spain's commitment to KFOR, saying Spain had no 
intention of pulling out, and in fact he was preparing the 
normal six month troop rotation.  He said all the signals he 
had gotten from the government were "business as usual." 
Sanz added that he suspected Spain would eventually recognize 
Kosovo but only after the elections and after enough other 
countries had done so that the government could do so without 
exciting too much negative comment in Spain. 
MADRID 00000203  003 OF 003 
¶9. (U)  The MFA issued a statement February 22 roundly 
condemning the acts of violence in Belgrade against various 
embassies and those who perpetrated them, who were described 
as "extremists who should not have any place in a modern 
Serbia."  The statement manifested support for the Serbian 
Government and its President noting they had rejected the 
acts of violence.  The statement said the GOS called on EU 
countries to join forces do everything necessary to put into 
effect the conclusions reached by the Council of Foreign 
Ministers of the EU February 18 in which was recorded the 
commitment of the EU to stability in the Balkans and its 
availability to play a leading role in strengthening that 
¶10. (U)  Former Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar wrote a 
February 22 op-ed entitled "The Kosovo Mistake" in 
conservative daily La Razon.  Aznar wrote, "It has to be 
said:  recognizing Kosovo is a mistake that will have grave 
consequences... NATO did not go to war in 1999 to ensure the 
independence of Kosovo... NATO embarked upon its intervention 
to preserve tolerance and consolidate multi-ethnic states... 
Anyone who believes the opposite is mistaken, and anyone who 
says the opposite, if they were familiar with the 
deliberations that took place at the time, is lying... The 
Americans, for their part, seem to be tired of having to take 
care of and manage this region and would prefer to think that 
by giving free rein to the Kosovars the pressure will let 
up... Recognizing independence means accepting in the 
international sphere a principal of self-determination of 
peoples and alteration of borders in Europe without a 
consensus.  Not only has our experience with these issues 
been catastrophic in the past, but this violates the 
principles that the EU, for example, has defended for over 
five years.  Furthermore, it establishes a very bad precedent 
for the future... The theory that by accepting the unilateral 
declaration of independence we would be establishing a better 
basis for the future is more than questionable.  For the time 
being, this whole issue has turned into a major mistake, and 
it is our own fault."  (NOTE: Full text sent separately to 
EUR/WE Spain desk). 
¶11. (C)  We believe the GOS is trying to back away from 
public confrontation with the U.S. on this issue.  Certainly 
the violence in Belgrade and their genuine concern over it 
has something to do with this.  The GOS hoped 
(unrealistically) that independence would come after March 9. 
 While it is not clear (perhaps not even to them) what they 
would have done then, they at least would have been able to 
consider their moves more calmly.  Instead, they had to react 
on the campaign trail in the midst of a hotly contested 
general election.  In any case, they now seem anxious to 
lower the volume.  That would be a good thing.  With the PP 
taking a hard line against Kosovo's declaration of 
independence, and some Basque and Catalans welcoming what 
they see as a precedent, anything the Zapatero government 
says publicly on this issue will be negative from our point 
of view.  Casajuana is correct about the cognitive dissonance 
evident in the government criticizing independence while 
continuing to work with KFOR and the EU in Kosovo.  The less 
this is highlighted here, the better.  Also, if this does 
become perceived as a U.S. vs. Spain question, it will make 
us an election issue (which we have so far largely avoided) 
and will probably play to Zapatero's benefit with the voters. 
 While we expect the GOS will try to tone things down, we 
should not be surprised if Kosovo comes up again here 
(perhaps in the February 25 or March 3 debates).  If it does, 
Zapatero and Rajoy are likely to say something negative about 
independence.  END COMMENT.