Oct 192014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/03/07KUALALUMPUR496.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07KUALALUMPUR496
2007-03-15 09:48
2011-08-30 01:44
SECRET
Embassy Kuala Lumpur

VZCZCXRO6060
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHKL #0496/01 0740948
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 150948Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8776
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0373
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0078
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 2344
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 KUALA LUMPUR 000496

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/15/2027
TAGS: PREL PINR PTER MOPS EAID KISL RP MY
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINES/MILF: OTHMAN CONTINUES SHUTTLE DIPLOMACY, CONCERNED OVER RECENT FIGHTING

REF: A. MANILA 828

¶B. MANILA 782
¶C. MANILA 594
¶D. KUALA LUMPUR 173

Classified By: Political Section Chief Mark D. Clark, reasons 1.4 (b an
d d).

Summary
——-

¶1. (S) Malaysian facilitator for the Philippines/Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace talks Othman Abdul
Razak told polchief March 14 he remained focused on shuttle
diplomacy, although he also expressed serious concern over
March 5-7 fighting in Mindanao. His efforts between the MILF
and Manila seek to resolve the critical issue of territory,
with Othman in effect lobbying for concessions from the
government side. Othman believed a territory roughly twice
the size of the current Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao
(ARMM) would be appropriate. Any understanding on territory
should remain confidential until after the Philippines
elections so that it could not be used against President
Arroyo. Othman laid the blame for recent fighting on the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and described AFP
actions as supporting a land grab by non-Moro settlers, a
traditional pattern he claimed. Othman questioned whether
Arroyo would be strong enough to control AFP elements that he
said wished to scuttle the peace process. Othman appreciated
information provided on Embassy Manila’s meeting with the
MILF in February. Othman continues to convey strong pro-Moro
sympathies during our meetings. End Summary.

Shuttle Diplomacy Seeks GOM Concessions on Territory
——————————————— ——-

¶2. (S) Othman told polchief March 14 that he had visited
Mindanao in late February as part of his “shuttle diplomacy”
between Manila and the MILF focused on achieving a solution
to the territorial issue. He would continue this diplomacy
despite his serious concerns over March 5-7 fighting (see
below). He had no dates in mind for another round of
informal talks and would not propose another face-to-face
meeting between the sides unless he saw the promise of a
compromise. Othman said the onus for such compromise rested
foremost on the Philippines government as a matter of
fairness and justice to the Moro people. Othman said the
MILF would settle for an area that would roughly double the
current size of the mainland ARMM, expanding it into
contiguous areas in Mindanao.

¶3. (S) Othman intended to travel later in March to Manila to
continue his diplomacy. He did not suggest any imminent
breakthrough. In any event, the two sides should not
publicly announce any compromise on territory prior the
Philippines’ election in May. President Arroyo’s political
opponents would use such an announcement against her, Othman
stated, as compromise on the part of the government was bound
to be unpopular.

AFP Hostilities Threaten Peace Process
————————————–

¶4. (S) The March 5-7 fighting in Midsayap between the MILF
and AFP (refs A and B) represented a serious threat to the
continuation of the peace talks, Othman stated, and the AFP
was to blame for initiating the hostilities. The fighting
was part of a “sinister plot” representing a “land grab” by
non-Muslim settlers. The AFP used its fire power, including
artillery and aerial bombardment, to drive away Moro
residents. The hostilities left between 16 and 20 people
dead, and many displaced. Othman alleged that this fit a
pattern of similar attacks linked to land acquisition.

¶5. (S) Othman said he believed many elements in the AFP were
opposed to a peace settlement with the MILF because of the
benefits they received from a continuation of the conflict,
including career advancement and personal enrichment through
corruption. He questioned whether President Arroyo had the
ability to enforce discipline within the AFP, and he
described Arroyo’s recent statement on the fighting as “weak.”

KUALA LUMP 00000496 002 OF 002

¶6. (S) Othman cautioned that more hostilities could result
in MILF retaliatory attacks and scuttle the peace process.
MILF commanders clearly remained able to launch their own
attacks. If Manila could not enforce the ceasefire on its
side, he questioned whether it would be worthwhile for
Malaysia to continue its participation in the International
Monitoring Team (IMT). (Comment: We were left with the
impression that Othman used this remark to highlight his
concern over the fighting, rather than as a real threat to
walk away from Malaysia’s Mindanao mission. End Comment.)

Comfortable with U.S. Engagement
——————————–

¶7. (S) Polchief provided Othman with a read-out of Embassy
Manila’s mid-February meeting with MILF based on points
provided by Embassy Manila and as a follow-up to our earlier
brief (refs C and D). Among other matters, Polchief
emphasized that the U.S. did not intend to take up a
mediation role or supplant Malaysia’s facilitation efforts.
Othman appreciated the briefing and implied he had spoken to
the MILF regarding the U.S. delegation. He highlighted the
MILF’s hope that the U.S. would exert influence on the
Philippines to compromise on the critical territorial issue.
Othman raised no other point related to the U.S.-MILF
consultation and appeared at ease with current U.S.
engagement.

¶8. (C) Continuing a theme from previous meetings, Othman
said training of MILF leaders to take up civil administration
positions constituted an important task. He intended to
propose to Prime Minister Abdullah that Malaysia grant
several scholarships to MILF leaders to study public
administration in Malaysia. Othman asked that the U.S.
consider offering similar scholarships for the MILF to study
in Malaysia, suggesting a cost-sharing arrangement could be
worked out with the GOM.

Comment
——-

¶9. (S) Othman continues to convey strong pro-Moro sympathies
in our meetings and does not hide his view that, at this
juncture at least, compromises should come from Manila, not
from the MILF. He spoke emotionally regarding the fighting
in Midsayap and the reported displacement of the Moro
population.
LAFLEUR

   

 

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