BRAZIL: IRAN, ARAB WORLD, ON AMORIM’S MIND IN 2008

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08BRASILIA304 5 March 2008 Secreto Embassy Brasilia

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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BRASILIA 000304

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SENSITIVE
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DEPARTMENT FOR WHA AND WHA/BSC

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/04/2018
TAGS: PREL, BR, VE, IS, IR, BL, JO, SA, EG, MO, SY
SUBJECT: BRAZIL: IRAN, ARAB WORLD, ON AMORIM’S MIND IN 2008

REF: A. A. BRASILIA 002132
B. B. BRASILIA 001278
C. C. BRASILIA 001252
D. D. BRASILIA 001230
E. E. BRASILIA 001231

Classified By: DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION PHIL CHICOLA FOR REASONS 1.4 B A
ND D

1. (C) Summary: Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim’s
recent visit to five Middle Eastern countries continues a
renewed focus on the Middle East that began with Amorim’s
participation at the Annapolis meetings in November of last
year. Since Annapolis, Foreign Ministry (Itamaraty) Middle
East hands have missed no opportunity to reiterate their
satisfaction with Brazil’s participation in the conference
and cite it as a good start to a year they expect to be full
of energetic diplomatic activity in the region. As often in
the past, during the trip Amorim did not miss an opportunity
to take some shots at US policy in the Middle East,
criticizing the US and the West’s efforts to isolate
"parties" to the peace process, such as Hizballah and HAMAS.
Considering the multiple platforms Brazilian officials will
share with Arab leaders this year and Brazil’s tendency to
cater to perceived Arab grievances, such criticism is likely
to turn into a running feature throughout the year.
Nevertheless, Itamaraty officials emphasize that their
priority is to remain a credible interlocutor and a viable
participant in any peace process, and that they have been and
will continue to be critical of both sides when necessary.
End Summary.


Amorim in the Middle East


2. (C) Following on what is widely seen within Itamaraty as
Brazil’s successful participation at the Annapolis meetings
in November, Amorim went on a tour of the Middle East, which
included stops in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the
Palestinian territories, and United Arab Emirates, to follow
up on its engagement at Annapolis and to set up Brazil’s
Middle East agenda for 2008. Minister Rodrigo do Amaral of
Itamaraty’s Middle East Division I told poloff the trip
helped consolidate Brazil’s role as a player in the Middle
East peace process and also advanced Brazil’s trade agenda.
Amaral repeated a line heard from Amorim in the press, that
Brazil’s role in the peace process was to be part of the
chorus in a Greek play, standing outside the main action, but
clarifying and criticizing when necessary.

3. (C) Although not the central focus, trade accounted for a
significant component of Amorim’s trip, according to Amaral.
Middle Eastern countries represent one of the fastest growing
regions, percentage-wise, for Brazilian exports. Since Lula
took office, these have grown by almost 130% (from US$2.8
billion in 2003 to US$6.4 billion in 2008), with Brazil
running a US$3.1 billion surplus with the region. Amaral
noted that they were pleased with how quickly they were able
to work out the Israel-Mercosul trade deal and have hopes to
sign further trade deals this year. News reports also
indicate that, in addition to a potential Lula visit to the
region, several Brazilian governors, including Aecio Neves of
Minas Gerais and Sergio Cabral of Rio de Janeiro, are
planning trade-related visits to the Middle East.

BRASILIA 00000304 002 OF 004

4. (C) Asked to comment on Amorim’s statements criticizing
U.S.-imposed isolation of Syria and signaling that Hizballah
and HAMAS needed to be part of any peace process, Amaral
indicated that it was Itamaraty’s view that President Asad is
signaling openness to the West by taking steps to secure its
border with Iraq and taking other measures, although he
declined to provide specifics. For Brazil, Amaral added,
Syria represented a complicated problem policy-wise due to
the strong influence of the large Syrian community in Brazil,
which was partially counterbalanced by the anti-Syrian
elements of the Lebanese community. With regards to
inclusion of Hizballah and HAMAS in a peace process, Amaral
claimed that Amorim was not necessarily referring to
inclusion of these groups in international peace efforts, but
peace efforts within their own countries. He further
reiterated Brazil’s longstanding view that it does not
condone the most extreme actions of those organizations, but
that they are the legitimate representatives of substantial
portions of the public in their respective countries and
cannot be brushed aside.


Next Up: Iran Talks


5. (C) In a separate meeting with Itamaraty’s Middle East
Division II, which handles the Persian Gulf states,
Secretario Carlos Goncalves de Oliveira discussed next steps

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in the bilateral agenda with Iran. In the first week of
March, Itamaraty will host vice-ministerial level political
talks with Iranian officials. Secretario Goncalves indicated
that these are necessary to balance Brazil’s high-level
engagement with the Arab countries. When pressed for
specifics on the bilateral talks, Goncalves demurred and
sought to downplay their significance. At the same time, he
stressed that Iran is the largest importer of Brazilian goods
in the Middle East, accounting for more than 35% of Brazilian
exports to the region. As a result of what he claimed was a
failure to open up Western markets due to the unfinished Doha
round, Brazil is forced to find alternative markets and the
Middle East represents an increasingly important one for
them.

6. (C) Goncalves did note that Itamaraty expects the Iranian
delegation to press for more political and economic
engagement on Brazil’s part, as it is a source of resentment
for Tehran that Brazil does not reciprocate the ministerial
level visits made 3 to 4 times a year by Iranian officials.
In addition, Itamaraty expects a push by the Iranian
delegation for a meeting between Lula and Ahmadinejad,
although Goncalves stressed that he thought it was highly
unlikely to take place this year. In a separate meeting,
Minister Rodrigo do Amaral confided that they were trying to
stall such an encounter but that sooner or later they would
run out of pretexts and a meeting would become inevitable.
(Comment: according to ref A, presidential advisor Marco
Aurelio Garcia has been supportive of such an encounter,
while it remains unclear if Amorim favors it. End comment.)

7. (C) Turning the topic to Iran’s growing interest in Latin
America, Goncalves stressed Brazil remains unconcerned.
"Bolivia has nothing to offer Iran, commercially or
politically", Goncalves stated, and with regards to Venezuela
added, "we see the growing alliance with Venezuela, but there
is no substance to it". On Iran, he further added that
Brazil believed that Ahmadinejad was similar to Chavez in

BRASILIA 00000304 003 OF 004

that both were more bluster than anything. He added that it
was Brazil’s view that an easing of pressure on Iran would
actually give space for the regime to open up. The more the
nuclear program is attacked, the more support for the regime
hardens, and the easier it is to crack down on dissidence, he
added. When pressed for what, if anything, Brazil would
tell the Iranians during their bilateral talks regarding UNSC
and IAEA demands for compliance, Goncalves added that Brazil
would, as always, urge Iran to be transparent and accountable
while defending their right to have a peaceful nuclear energy
program.


Year of the Middle East


8. (C) Minister Amaral spoke at length to poloff about
Brazil’s expected agenda for the year following Amorim’s trip
and the bilateral talks with Iran. On deck for this year,
according to Amaral: the late February Arab-South American
foreign ministers’ meeting in Buenos Aires; likely state
visits by Syrian president Asad and the King of Jordan; a
probable trip to the Middle East by President Lula; opening
of new embassies in Oman and Qatar; potential trade accords
with Egypt, Jordan and Morocco and the hope of finishing the
long-delayed trade accord with the Gulf Cooperation Council;
possible Brazilian participation at the Arab League summit;
and capping off the year, the Arab-South American Summit in
Qatar. Asked if Israel would be included in a potential Lula
Middle East visit—a first of any Brazilian head of
state—Amaral stated that it was a priority. Right now,
according to Amaral, Israel, the Palestinian territories and
Saudi Arabia were shaping up as the countries likely to be
visited. Amaral also indicated that Itamaraty intended to
follow up on Lula’s August 2007 letter to Palestinian leader
Mahmoud Abbas offering to form a Friends of Peace group with
other interested countries, such as those in IBSA (India and
South Africa), to seek further engagement in the peace
process.


Comment:


9. (C) After Brazil’s bumbling performance during the
inaugural Arab-South American Summit in 2005 (refs B through
E), Itamaraty is once again ramping up its Middle East
diplomacy. Itamaraty’s Middle East personnel, although
visibly overworked, are clearly enthusiastic about the growth
stock that is the Middle East agenda once again and they are
making no bones about the possibilities it will offer for
advancing Brazil’s prestige and global ambitions. Although
Brazil often tilts uncomfortably towards the anti-US view of
things in the Middle East (e.g. Amorim’s recent criticisms of
the U.S.) and engages in more wishful thinking than is
warranted (e.g. Lula’s assertion last year that Iran’s
nuclear program was not in violation of any international
accord), they might be evincing some understanding that
visible signals of evenhandedness are critical to remain a
credible player. Avoiding a presidential-level meeting
between Ahmadinejad and Lula, at least in the near term, and
undertaking a presidential visit to Israel in his third
Middle East jaunt could be positive signals that Brazil
understands its responsibility as a self-proclaimed neutral
player in Mideast peace talks. Whether that is truly the
case, a year packed with Middle East-related activity should

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give us a clearer view. End Comment.

Chicola
CHICOLA