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Leaked US cable: Qatar leader says Hamas would accept 1967 borders

Dec. 3, 2010 12:01 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 3, 2010 3:54 A.M.)
C O N F I D E N T I A L DOHA 000070

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/13/2020

TAGS: PREL KWBG KPAL IR QA

SUBJECT: SENATOR KERRY'S MEETING WITH QATAR'S AMIR

Classified By: Ambassador Joseph E. LeBaron, for reasons 1.4 (b, d).

--------------

(C) KEY POINTS

--------------

-- The Amir of Qatar urged the U.S. in his February 14

meeting with Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to do everything in

its power to find a lasting solution to the

Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Amir said the best way to

begin is by moving first on the Syrian track.

-- In Qatar's view, now is the time to reach out to

Damascus. The Syrian Government can help Arab extremists

make tough choices, but only if the U.S., whose involvement

is essential, demonstrates to Syria early on a willingness to

address the return of the Golan Heights and supports Turkey's

mediation efforts between Israel and Syria.

-- According to the Amir, Hamas will accept the 1967 border

with Israel, but will not say it publicly so as to lose

popular Palestinian support.

-- The Egyptians' goal, according to the Amir, is to stay in

the game and maintain their relationship with the U.S., which

is built around brokering regional peace, for as long as

possible.

-- The Amir recommended that the U.S. and Qatar establish a

small bilateral committee to discuss how to advance regional

peace. Qatar can help move Hamas, because Qatar does not

"play in their internal politics." That does not mean Qatar

shares Hamas' ideology, stressed the Amir.

-- On Iran, the Amir said President Ahmadinejad is strong

because he is uncorrupted. The Amir also advised the U.S. to

continue ts efforts to open a dialogue with the Iranian

ladership.

End Key Points.

1. (C) Senator Joh Kerry (D-MA), the Chairman of the Senate

Foreig Relations Committee(SFRC), joined by Ambassador,P/E

Chief, and SFRC staff member Dr. Jonah Blank met February 14

with the Amir of Qatar, Hamad bn Khalifa Al Thani. The

meeting took place at Waba Palace, the residence of the

Amir, and the Amir began the meeting by pointing out that the

comfortable chairs on which the U.S. party was seated were

made in Syria.

------------------------------

IMPORTANCE OF THE SYRIAN TRACK

------------------------------

2. (C) This opening led Senator Kerry to remark that he had

held great discussions with Syria's President, Bashar

Al-Asad, when he met him in Damascus some months ago. The

Amir said President Asad is committed to "big change," but

Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri's death and complications

resulting from Syria's alleged involvement in it had brought

about "complications" for Asad. The Amir added that "Bashar

is still young and can grow."

3. (C) Senator Kerry said he took away from his visit to

Damascus that Asad wants change. The Amir added that the

Syrian President also wants peace with Israel and that the

arrival of a U.S. Ambassador in Damascus would help in this

regard. Senator Kerry said he had wanted a U.S. Ambassador

in Syria a year ago, but agreed that the naming of an

Ambassador is a positive development.

4. (C) The Amir cautioned that the Syrians will not accept

everything the U.S. proposes, stressing that the Israeli

occupation of the Golan Heights continues and that the return

of this land to Syria is paramount for Damascus. The Amir

observed that the "Syrians have lost confidence in the U.S.

and that the Israelis now have the upper hand in the region

because of the support of the United States." The Israeli

leaders need to represent the people of Israel, who

themselves do not trust Arabs. The Amir said this is

understandable and "we can't blame them" because the Israelis

have been "under threat" for a long time.

5. (C) What has changed, continued the Amir, is that Arabs

"for sure" now want two states -- Israel and Palestine. When

you consider that many in the region perceive that Hizballah

drove Israel out of Lebanon and Hamas kicked them (at least

initially) out "of the small piece of land called Gaza," it

is actually surprising that the Israelis still want peace.

The region, however, is still "far away" from peace,

concluded the Amir.

6. (C) Senator Kerry responded that in his long experience

with the region, it was not unusual for people to take

positions adverse to their own interests. Yasser Arafat went

from living as a terrorist in Tunisia to signing an agreement

with Israel on the White House lawn. The transformation of

Arafat is an example of how actors in the region need to take

risks if we are to move forward in advancing regional peace.

Turning the conversation back to Syria, Chairman Kerry

pointed out that Syria's facilitation of arms to Hizballah

and its turning a blind eye to missile upgrades in Lebanon do

not represent risk-taking in the promotion of peace.

7. (C) The Amir pointed out that any progress toward regional

peace had come about due to American involvement. He implied

that it would take U.S. intervention on the Syrian-Israeli

track to address these issues and asked Senator Kerry what he

would have Damascus do.

8. (C) The Chairman responded that President Asad needs to

make a bolder move and take risks. He observed that if the

Syrian President wants peace and economic development for his

country, he needs to be more statesman-like, which would in

turn help Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu engage him.

9. (C) The Amir agreed with Senator Kerry's assessment of

Asad's aims and said he is ready for peace, but asked if the

Israelis are ready. Would Israel accept to resume Turkey's

mediation between Syria and Israel? Would the U.S. play a

role in advancing the Syria track?

10. (C) If we can get Abu Mazen back to the negotiating

table, we can engage on border issues -- including Israel's

borders with Syria, advised Senator Kerry. Abu Mazen right

now is not strong enough, though, to make necessary

compromises with Israel because the Palestinian people have

wanted him to stick to his guns on a settlement freeze and

the Goldstone Report.
The Chairman added that Netanyahu also

needs to compromise and work the return of the Golan Heights

into a formula for peace.

11. (C) The Amir encouraged the U.S. to work the Golan

Heights issue first. He stressed that Syrians are very

different from Iranians in "mentality," and said the Syrians

turned to Iran for support only because they had nowhere else

to go. Now is the time, the Amir told Senator Kerry, to

reach out to Damascus.

-------------------------

PARAMETERS FOR DISCUSSION

-------------------------

12. (C) Senator Kerry responded that the U.S. is prepared to

play a strong role in bringing about peace in the region.

President Obama, said the Chairman, understands that he

personally must engage and do so strongly. The Senator told

the Amir that in his speech to the U.S.-Islamic Forum the

previous evening, the Senator had focused on former President

Clinton's parameters for peace and the 2002 Arab League peace

initiative. Now, said the Senator, is the time to put those

back on the table and resume talking, with the U.S. acting as

a legitimate agent of peace. Chairman Kerry told the Amir he

is convinced that we can see great progress in the coming

year by moving swiftly from proximity talks, to direct talks

between the parties and ending with final status discussions.

13. (C) To be successful, continued Senator Kerry, we must

begin by agreeing at the outset the amount of land each side

(Israelis and Palestinians) will obtain in the end and use

that understanding to draw the borders. If both sides make

good compromises, we can address the settlement issues in the

context of giving something up so that the borders, when

drawn, contain the agreed-upon amounts of land for both

sides. The Amir agreed with the Senator's assessment and

complimented President Obama for being the first U.S.

President to take on the Middle East conflict in the first

year of his term.

14. (C) Continuing the presentation of his ideas on the

parameters of peace between Israel and the Palestinians,

Senator Kerry noted that one of the biggest problems for

Israel is the potential return of 5-6 million Palestinian

refugees. The parties broached the return issue in

discussions at Taba and agreed that the right of Palestinian

return would be subject to later negotiation, pointed out the

Chairman. If we can proceed from that point on the right of

return, the Senator believes there is an "artful way" to

frame the negotiations on borders, land swaps, and Jerusalem

as a shared capital.

15. (C) Any negotiation has its limits, added Senator Kerry,

and we know for the Palestinians that control of Al-Aqsa

mosque and the establishment of some kind of capital for the

Palestinians in East Jerusalem are not negotiable. For the

Israelis, the Senator continued, Israel's character as a

Jewish state is not open for negotiation. The

non-militarization of an eventual Palestinian state and its

borders can nonetheless be resolved through negotiation.

16. (C) The Amir underscored that Abu Mazen needs Arab

support to make the above happen. Hamas "for sure," he said,

will accept the 1967 border but will not say it publicly so

as to lose popular Palestinian support.

---------------------------

DEALING WITH THE EXTREMISTS

---------------------------

17. (C) Senator Kerry told the Amir he knew Qatar could help

the U.S. but asked how we deal with those who advocate

violence. The Amir said the short answer is to work the

Syrian track, which means pushing for Israel's return of the

Golan Heights to Syria. The Amir said return of the Golan is

important not just to Syria but also to Hizballah and Iran.

The U.S. must bear in mind that Misha'al, a leader of Hamas

based in Damascus, has drawn the conclusion that the Oslo

accords were bad for Arafat. He lost the support of his own

people and died living under Israeli siege.
The Syrians can

help Misha'al and others make tough choices, but only if the

U.S. demonstrates to Syria early on a willingness to address

the Golan. Senator Kerry responded that the U.S. would

accept a legitimate discussion of the Golan Heights.

18. (C) What is more, said the Amir, the U.S. needs to

support Turkey's mediation between Israel and Syria. It is

important that the U.S. encourage Israel to understand that

that resolving the status of the Golan Heights is very

important to the United States.

19. (C) Senator Kerry asked the Amir if Hamas is under

pressure given the circumstances in Gaza. The Amir answered

by saying that Hamas needs Iranian support. He added that

the biggest misconception in the region is that the Syrians,

who host Hamas leaders in Damascus, go to Iran because they

like the Iranians. This is wrong. Syria goes to those who

will not shun them.

-------------

ROLE OF EGYPT

-------------

20. (C) Returning to the pressure Hamas is facing, Senator

Kerry observed that economic development in the West Bank is

taking place, but not in Gaza. The Palestinian

reconciliation that would make possible developmental

assistance in Gaza has not happened. The Egyptians have not

delivered, said Senator Kerry.

21. (C) The Amir said the Egyptians' goal is to stay in the

game and maintain their relationship with the U.S., which is

built around brokering Middle East peace, for as long as

possible. According to the Amir, Fatah and Hamas agreed on a

memorandum of understanding, but the Egyptians wanted it

changed. The Amir remarked that he has a feeling he knows

which capital (Cairo) is the source of reports that Gaza is

under pressure. He said the economic pressure in Gaza on

families is not what it was. He offered as an example that

Qatar Charity recently offered a family in Gaza 500 USD, but

the family declined the gift saying its members had enough to

get by and suggested another family that was in more dire

need of assistance. The Amir said the notion that a family

would turn down money is new.

22. (C) The Amir told Senator Kerry that everyone knows

"Egypt has a problem with the Muslim Brotherhood. Okay, we

understand. But Egypt should not expect the world to take

external actions that would help it internally."

23. (C) Asked his advice for President Obama, the Amir

recommended the establishment of a small U.S.-Qatar committee

to discuss how to proceed. Qatar is close to Hamas,

emphasized the Amir, because "we don't play in their internal

politics." That does not mean we share their ideology or do

not disagree with them. "I can remember many arguments with

them (Hamas) on the 1967 border with Israel." The Amir noted

that he had mediated with Hamas previously at the U.S.

request, namely when he urged Hamas at the previous

Administration's request to participate in Palestinian

elections.

24. (C) Returning to the leadership of Hamas, Senator Kerry

asked the Amir for his insights into how the leadership, with

leaders sitting in both Gaza and Syria, makes decisions. The

Amir said the impression that Misha'al sits in Damascus and

others take orders from him is wrong. Several key players

within Hamas are involved in decisions. They have

differences over policy, but "the bottom line is that they

all want the Palestinians to take their rights from Israel."

----

IRAN

----

25. (C) Senator Kerry observed that the international

community is moving toward imposing additional economic

sanctions on Iran. Understanding and respecting that Qatar

needs to balance its relationships with regional powers,

including Iran, the Chairman asked the Amir for his

perspective on where we are going on Iran.

26. (C) The Amir answered by affirming that his first

obligation is to defend the interests of Qatar. Due to the

natural gas field Iran shares with Qatar, Qatar will not

"provoke a fight" with Iran. He added that in the history of

the two countries, "Iran has not bothered us." That said,

the Amir noted that Iran is an important country in the

Middle East. He faulted the U.S. for "making the mistake of

speaking up for protesters" after the disputed Iranian

presidential elections.

27. (C) The Iranian regime is strong, continued the Amir,

because President Ahmadinejad is uncorrupted. "That is the

secret to his success." Khatami is also not corrupted, but

as a reformer he is in a weak position. Rafsanjani, on the

other hand, is corrupt.

28. (C) Senator Kerry lamented that every communication the

current Administration has attempted to the Government of

Iran has gone back channel and been met with no response.

There have been non-U.S. initiatives, too. Again, no

success. The Chairman observed that the Iranians are scared

to talk. The Supreme Ayatollah had met with Russian President

Putin, but seems not inclined to meet with other political

leaders. Our instinct is that we need to find a way to talk

to him.

29. (C) Your instinct is right, replied the Amir. The U.S.

needs to talk directly with senior Iranian officials. The

Amir then asked, "What if I talk to the Iranian President.

What would you have me say?"

30. (C) Senator Kerry responded, "The U.S. seeks serious

discussion and sought to create a new foundation for a

relationship based on Iran's non-confrontational compliance

with IAEA requirements and other mutual interests." Those

interests include dealing with drug-running, the Taliban, and

illicit trade. The Chairman told the Amir he feared that

Iran still thinks it is dealing with the 1953 America that

tried to overthrow the Iranian government.

31. (C) The Amir responded that you cannot blame them for

having that attitude, and Senator Kerry agreed, adding that

the U.S. has a very different posture in the post-Cold War

world of today. Iran has ambitions; I know this from other

regional leaders, said the Senator. These are the first

words that come out of their mouths.

32. (C) Iran wants to be a "big power," agreed the Amir, but

what sort? He reminded Senator Kerry the U.S. should not

forget that Iranians are Persian and the U.S. needs to

approach them in that framework.

33. (C) Senator Kerry stressed that the U.S. "would love to

have that dialogue." The U.S. respects Iranian civilization

-- talent, art, culture, etc. It is crazy to continue on

this collision course. The region needs schools and jobs,

emphasized the Chairman, not another war. The Amir agreed

that "demographics are a big worry." Not just for the

countries in the region but for the U.S. too.

34. (C) Many scientific and technological transformations are

underway, noted the Senator, "but Iran misinterprets the road

to being a great power and the degree to which the

international community is concerned about Iran's acquisition

of nuclear weapons." We are at a "fork in the road," and

Iran must choose between confrontation or building

partnerships. If the latter, we can open up new

opportunities for cooperation in the sciences, technology,

education, robotics, energy and other ongoing

transformations.

35. (C) Going back to the speech he had delivered in Doha the

previous evening, Senator Kerry told the Amir that 17 former

U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense had come out in favor

of eliminating nuclear weapons. Every stop closer to

realizing that goal is a sign of progress, but "no one

believes Iranian nukes get us closer to that goal."

36. (C) Senator Kerry reported that leaders of regional Arab

countries tell me they want nuclear weapons if the Iranians

have them. The Amir responded that he did not believe they

were serious, but are saying this to put additional pressure

on Iran.

37. (C) The Chairman noted that the disputed Iranian

presidential elections may have derailed U.S. efforts to have

serious dialogue with Tehran. The Amir agreed, offering that

the Israelis are also using Iran's quest for nuclear weapons

as a diversion from settling matters with the Palestinians.

The historical backdrop of Arab-Persian relations does not

help, the Amir added.

--------------

FINAL THOUGHTS

--------------

38. (C) The Amir advised the U.S. to continue trying to open

a dialogue with the Iranian leadership. He also told Senator

Kerry the U.S. needs to tell the Israelis they are causing

the U.S. to lose the hearts and minds of Muslims. There was

a time, such as during the Suez Canal crisis, when the Arabs

loved the Americans and disliked the British and French, he

said.

39. (C) Senator Kerry asked the Amir how the U.S. goes about

changing its reputation. The Amir said first and foremost

the U.S. must do everything in its power to find a lasting

solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the best

way to begin is by moving first on the Syrian track.

40. (C) The Chairman of the SFRC said he expects a genuine

effort by the President this year on an agreement and

expressed his hope that Iranian issues would not complicate

matters. The Amir agreed, adding that China likes the

distraction for the U.S. as its forces fight in Iraq and

Afghanistan.

41. (C) Senator Kerry concurred, noting that China is lending

the U.S. money and expanding its influence at U.S. expense.

He added that he ran against President George W. Bush saying

the war with Iraq was the wrong war in the wrong place and

time.

42. (C) The Amir closed the meeting by offering that based on

30 years of experience with the Iranians, they will give you

100 words. Trust only one of the 100.

43. (U) CODEL Kerry has cleared this message.

Lebaron
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