Cablegate: Usuneso - Ambassador's December 2 Lunch With

Published: Mon 5 Dec 2005 05:48 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. Ambassador Oliver attended a lunch December 2
hosted by the Austrian ambassador to UNESCO Harald
Wiesner. The 11 guests were from other delegations and
the UNESCO secretariat and included Monsignor Follo,
the Holy See observer, the ambassadors of Lithuania,
Russia, and Serbia-Montenegro, the Thai Deputy,
Francoise Riviere and Katerina Stenou from the UNESCO
Secretariat, and a member of his office staff.
Highlights of the conversation were as follows:
2. In response to a question from Ambassador Oliver,
about what he planned to do when Austria took over the
EU Presidency on January 1 and how he was preparing for
that, Wiesner said he had done nothing thus far and
really had no plans yet. He added that Austria removed
their ambassador from their UNESCO mission several
years ago because they did not consider UNESCO to be of
much value. He was asked last summer to go to Paris
and revive the position. (Comment: Wiesner was
clearly assigned as part of Austria's assumption of the
EU Presidency which, given the recent success the EU
had has at UNESCO, means that the EU will probably
continue to focus on initiatives at UNESCO. We know
that the EU members continue to have regular policy
coordination meetings.) The ambassador from Serbia-
Montenegro later told Ambassador Oliver that everyone
knew that others would set the EU agenda, not the
3. The Russian ambassador discussed three issues in a
one-on-one conversation with Ambassador Oliver, saying
every now and then, "Let me be frank with you". The
first was Iraq, where he said that although Russia
could not say it publicly, they understood and agreed
that the US could not withdraw from Iraq, as chaos
would follow. He added that was the same situation
they had in Chechnya. He then asked Ambassador Oliver
about the situation with China and Taiwan and wondered
how the US was going to deal with that in the long run.
Finally he discussed the role of NGO's at UNESCO in
terms of UNESCO's NGO committee and said that the
Chairman of the NGO Committee had to decide what the
committee should focus on. When Ambassador Oliver
asked him about the issue of NGO's in Russia, he said
that the reason for the new regulations is to make sure
that the NGO's actually do the jobs they claim that
they do as the government feels that there are NGO's
that are not being open and transparent about their
organizations and/or work.
4. Monsignor Follo talked about a symposium that the
Holy See mission is going to sponsor next week and said
that it was part of the Vatican's long-time interest in
promoting dialogue.
5. Ambassador Oliver asked the ambassador of Serbia
and Montenegro about the rumor concerning his desire to
change the composition of the geographic electoral
groups. He said that the rumor was true. He said that
Group II had three sets of countries--EU countries,
Southeastern Europe, and former Soviet bloc. He said
that the EU countries win all the elections, which is
why the Czech Republic is on seven committees and is
the Vice-Chairman for Group II at the Executive Board.
That is unfair to the other non-EU countries in Group
II, plus it gives control to the EU of both Group I and
Group II. He said that he had tried to persuade Group
II to establish a rotation system between the three
groups of countries. That idea was completely rejected
because, he said, the Group II EU countries like their
position of power. Now he is going to push to
eliminate Group II altogether and put all the EU
countries in one group. He intends to do this using
the resolution passed at the General Conference that
asks the President of the General Conference to review
UNESCO's geographic groups and propose possible
changes. (Comment: Obviously if Group II, is
eliminated, there will be changes in Group I, which may
strengthen the position of those countries in Group III
(GRULAG), particularly some of the islands in the
Caribbean, who do not like being dominated by Latin
America and are interested in creating a new Group of
the Americas.)
6. The ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro added that
some Group I countries are very unhappy that Israel was
elected to four UNESCO committees. Last fall there was
general agreement in Group I that Israel should be
elected to a couple of committees, but it seems there
are some countries that did not want them to get so
many. (Comment: We do not know if this is related to
the threats that Israel received during the cultural
diversity convention negotiating process when they were
told that voting with the US against the convention
would result in the loss of votes for UNESCO committees-
-particularly for the World Heritage Committee.
Clearly that did not happen, and we suspect that has
irritated some countries.)
7. Francoise Riviere, UNESCO's chef de cabinet, at the
rank of Assistant Director General, was very quiet
during lunch. Although it is widely known at UNESCO
that she has applied to be the new ADG for Culture, it
was never discussed at lunch. In fact the word
"culture" was never mentioned publicly, though perhaps
cultural issues were discussed in private
conversations. (Comment: Perhaps that subject was
avoided because of Ambassador Oliver's presence at the
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