British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Zimbabwe section head John Gould said the West had to watch Air Zimbabwe’s safety because the airline was “cutting corners” on spare parts.
He said this at a meeting with London-based political officers from the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand seven years ago at which Britain was lobbying for support to renew sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Most of the sanctions were lifted last month although 10 individuals including President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace as well as two state-corporations remain on the list.
Gould said up to 20 000 Britons were still in Zimbabwe, and experience elsewhere had shown that if one western country took drastic action in a deteriorating situation that tended to create a chain reaction.
Contingency planning for a worst-case scenario in Zimbabwe should therefore be very discreet so as not to contribute to instability.
Viewing cable 06LONDON7136, C) ZIMBABWE: FCO CONVENES U.S., CANADA,
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/04/2016
SUBJECT: (C) ZIMBABWE: FCO CONVENES U.S., CANADA,
AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
REF: EMAIL STEVE HILL – RICK BELL 10/03/06
Classified By: PolCouns Rick Mills; reason 1.4 (b, d)
Â¶1. (U) Action Request; please see paragraph 11.
Â¶2. (C) SUMMARY: FCO Zimbabwe Section convened a meeting
with London-based political officers from U.S., Canada,
Australia and New Zealand October 4. The UK’s priority on
Zimbabwe is to ensure renewal of EU sanctions in February; it
expects renewal but not without difficulty. FCO believes an
EU-tabled UNGA resolution would be desirable but more
difficult to achieve, especially as prospects of passage in
the General Assembly are not encouraging. Anticipating that
the UNSC may be less helpful on Zimbabwe next year, the UK
may try to push for a country-specific discussion of Zimbabwe
this year in the UNSC. The UK may end up having to allow a
senior Zimbabwean official (but not President Mugabe) to
attend an EU-Africa summit in 2007, which Portugal is keen to
arrange during its EU presidency. FCO seeks closer
coordination regarding policy and contingency planning.
Poloff shared ref talking points, which were timely and much
appreciated. Questions emerged from the discussion, for
which FCO would like more detailed information from USG
(paragraphs 10-11). END SUMMARY.
Â¶3. (C) FCO Zimbabwe Section Head St. John Gould and his team
convened a meeting October 4 with political officers from the
U.S. Embassy and the High Commissions of Canada, Australia
and New Zealand. Gould led the discussion, which covered the
EU, the UN, “bringing forward change,” contingency planning
Â¶4. (C) EU: Gould said:
– The EU has slipped back to a division between northern
countries supporting the UK’s hard line and southern
countries (notably France, Portugal and Italy) less willing
to challenge the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ).
– The UK’s priority is to ensure renewal of EU sanctions in
February 2007. Gould “would be surprised” if sanctions were
not renewed. However, as renewal requires unanimity among
the 25 member states, Gould anticipated that France and
Portugal would both cause difficulties: France wants to host
a Franco-African Summit in February and will likely press for
an exception to the travel ban so that President Mugabe can
attend. Portugal is keen to arrange an EU-Africa Summit
during its EU presidency (second half of 2007; Germany, which
will have the presidency the first half of the year, is
“solidly” with the UK). Gould allowed that the UK might end
up having to accept a compromise whereby a senior GOZ
official subject to the travel ban (such as the Foreign
Minister) would be allowed to represent Mugabe.
– The UK would like the October 16 GAERC to result in
“conclusions” by the EU Foreign Ministers, but France is
Â¶5. (C) EU – UNGA: London would like the EU to table an UNGA
resolution specifically on Zimbabwe, referencing the
Tibaijuka report and the resolution of the African Commission
on Human and Peoples’ Rights. However, France, Portugal,
Italy and Austria are skeptical, partly because the last such
draft in 2004 was blocked by a “no-action” motion. The EU’s
October 10 meeting will be “the last chance” to get agreement
on such a resolution this year. Gould opined that it would
be easier for the EU to support a draft tabled by someone
Â¶6. (C) UN: UNSYG Annan has “drawn a blank” on Zimbabwe and
his term is nearly up, so Gould expects nothing from the UN
Secretariat in the near term. The UNSC’s composition in 2007
suggests that it will become harder to get action against the
GOZ, so the UK is considering trying for a country-specific
discussion of Zimbabwe this year in the UNSC. Gould admitted
it was unlikely that any action (PRST or Resolution) would
come out of it. Gould was heartened that Tanzania spoke out
on Zimbabwe in the Security Council, and pleased that
President Bush had met with President Kikwete, which should
bolster the latter’s resolve.
LONDON 00007136 002 OF 002
Â¶7. (C) “BRINGING FORWARD CHANGE”: Gould said that FCO
Minister for Africa Lord Triesman is keen to find ways to
hasten change in Zimbabwe rather than standing helplessly by
until Mugabe departs the scene. This is easier said than
done, however, Gould acknowledged:
– The opposition and civil society are divided, and the GOZ
has shown it is willing and able to crush dissent.
Nonetheless, Harare missions should keep coordinating support
for the most strategic groups.
– South Africa is potentially key, but has been
disappointingly unwilling to challenge Mugabe. It does seem
to be more willing lately to talk about long-term change in
Zimbabwe, but not to take action while Mugabe is in power.
– Within the ZANU-PF regime, dissatisfaction is increasing,
but Mugabe is a master at fending off challenges. The UK is
contemplating having its ambassador tell Mugabe there is no
chance of a policy change while he remains in office, but has
not/not reached a decision on this.
Â¶8. (C) CONTINGENCY PLANNING AND COORDINATION: Gould
emphasized the importance of close coordination on policy and
contingency planning, in capitals as well as in the field.
(He was not/not implying that such coordination is lacking in
the field, his point was that capitals should be more tightly
lashed up as well.) The UK has up to 20,000 nationals in
Zimbabwe, he noted, and experience elsewhere has shown that
if one western country takes drastic action in a
deteriorating situation, that tends to create a chain
reaction. Contingency planning for a worst-case scenario
should be very discreet so as not to contribute to
instability. One specific item to watch, according to Gould,
is Air Zimbabwe’s safety: the company is “cutting corners”
on spare parts.
Â¶9. (C) Among ourselves, we should have a clear understanding
of what reforms would enable us to re-engage fully with the
GOZ, and what levers are available to us, Gould said. The UK
will meet at officials level on October 6, then put a
proposal to ministers. It will then want to consult with the
USG. Gould said the FCO is thinking of inviting U.S.,
Canadian, Australian and New Zealand officials who cover
Southern Africa in their respective capitals to come to
London for further consultations.
Â¶10. (C) FCO QUERIES: Poloff shared ref points, which were
much appreciated. Based on the discussion, FCO would like
more information from the USG on the following:
– USG thoughts on an UNGA resolution;
– Details of USG engagement with SADC (especially military);
– USG engagement with China regarding Zimbabwe;
– USG assessment of coordination regarding contingency
Â¶11. (U) Action Requested: We would be grateful for
responses to the queries in paragraph 10 that we can pass to
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