Viewing cable 09VATICAN41, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO VATICAN ON CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ AND
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DE RUEHROV #0041 0761810
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P 171810Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1074
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0053
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0045
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 1110
C O N F I D E N T I A L VATICAN 000041
E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/17/2029
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM PREF KIRF IZ VT
SUBJECT: IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO VATICAN ON CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ AND
BARZANI-BENEDICT XVI MEETING
REF: BAGHDAD 612
CLASSIFIED BY: Rafael Foley, A/DCM.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
¶1. (C) Summary: Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See Albert Yelda
denied to CDA and ADCM rumors that the Kurdish government was
behind violence against Christians in Mosul. While recognizing
that provincial elections were peaceful, Yelda worried about
rivalries among Christians and tensions between Kurds and Arabs.
Kurdish Region President Masoud Barzani's February 27 meeting
with the Pope was positive. End summary.
¶2. (C) During a conversation with Charge d'Affaires and ADCM on
March 4, Ambassador Yelda (protect), himself a Christian, denied
rumors that Kurdish leaders were behind violence against
Christians in Mosul in October of 2008. Assyrian Democratic
Movement President Yonadam Kanna spread the rumors, Yelda
maintained, to advance his own political agenda. Yelda had told
Vatican officials not to believe the propaganda either.
¶3. (C) While relieved that provincial elections took place
peacefully last January (reftel), Yelda was pessimistic about
prospects for the future. He believed the announced timetable
for the withdrawal of U.S. troops would encourage insurgents to
lay low and resort to violence once the troops are gone.
Politically, relations between Barzani and Maliki are
deteriorating, Yelda said, and internal rivalries undermine the
influence of Christians. Yelda was particularly critical of the
Archbishop of Kirkuk, Louis Sako, whom he said was "too
political and outspoken."
¶4. (C) Yelda described the Pope's latest meeting with Kurdish
leader Barzani on February 27 as cordial. Benedict XVI
referred to Barzani as "my friend" and thanked him for assisting
Christians in northern Iraq. Yelda predicted that the
willingness of the Pope to see Barzani yet again would lead
other Iraqi politicians, such as Supreme Council of the Iraqi
Revolution leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, to seek a meeting with
the Pope in the future.
¶5. (C) Biographical note: Yelda, an Assyrian Christian, has
been the Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See since 2004. While
opinionated, he concedes that he has spent many years out of the
country and follows developments in Iraq from the distance.
Before the fall of Saddam, he lived in London, where he
collaborated with former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi in
organizing exile groups against the Baathist party. Embassy
Vatican officers meet with him periodically, particularly
following visits of Iraqi officials to the Vatican. End
¶6. (C) Comment: The timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.
troops from Iraq has generated considerable anxiety among the
Iraqi Christian Diaspora. As the dates of the U.S. departure
come closer, Iraqi Christians based in or visiting Rome see the
Kurdish Regional Government as the best bet for protection of
Christians in Iraq in the short term. Apparently sharing this
analysis, even Vatican officials who had been privately critical
of Kurdish territorial ambitions have curbed their complaints
about Kurdish behavior. End comment.