President Abdelaziz Bouteflika : « I am not Jesus »

Tags : Morocco, Algeria, Wikileaks, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Western sahara,

Cable in which Algeria rules out a confrontation with Morocco

President Bouteflika assures, at a meeting in 2005, that the Sahara question will not lead to a ‘casus belli’.

03 DIC 2010 – 22:30 CET
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 admire. »


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 AMU.


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 self-determination.

Source : Wikileaks

#Morocco #Algeria #Western_sahara