60609 4/14/2006 15:26 06BUCHAREST618 Embassy Bucharest SECRET 05BUCHAREST2258 VZCZCXRO3842 PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV DE RUEHBM #0618/01 1041526 ZNY SSSSS ZZH P 141526Z APR 06 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4173 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 000618
STATE DEPT FOR EUR/NCE - SILKWORTH
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/14/2026 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PHUM, PTER, SOCI, TU, SA, RO SUBJECT: TURKISH AND SAUDI PRESSURE ON ROMANIAN MUFTI
REF: 05 BUCHAREST 2258
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Mark Taplin for Reasons 1.4 (a), (b) a nd (d)
1. (S) The Turkish Ambassador to Romania is urging Romania's Mufti, Iusuf Muurat, to resist U.S. Embassy efforts to engage Romania's Muslim community. The Mufti is the most senior leader of Romania's Muslims, which number over 100,000 according to recent estimates. (Ref) The Mufti told Emboffs March 21 that, due to opposition from Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Rifat Okcun, the Embassy should no longer pursue the idea of assisting in the renovation of a dilapidated Islamic mausoleum near Constanta. The Mufti had previously proposed the mausoleum for a possible grant from the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation.
2. (S) According to the Mufti, Okcun had explicitly expressed dislike for the U.S. Embassy's involvement with the Muslim community and asserted that the mausoleum renovation project "belongs to Turkey." The Mufti stated that he was initially "very keen" on the mausoleum project until the Turkish Ambassador "reacted that negatively." He stressed that he would like to continue cooperation with the Embassy on other projects, but asked that the Embassy "be discreet" about the cooperation. He also requested that we keep confidential the very fact that he had met with Embassy
SIPDIS staff. The Turkish Embassy separately contacted the Embassy's Public Diplomacy section to request that the action officer appear at the Turkish Embassy for a meeting to discuss the mausoleum. Emboff declined.
3. (S) The Mufti also reported that he was under "tremendous pressure" from Saudi "foundations." During a visit to the Saudi Embassy, the Mufti related his confrontation with a Saudi Vice Consul who challenged the Mufti for staying "too calm" following the publication in February of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in Denmark and elsewhere. According to the Mufti, the Vice Consul advised that instead of "holding back" and telling his community to remain calm, the Mufti should have incited the Muslim community to be more active in protesting against the cartoons. In a separate meeting, the Saudi Ambassador also told the Mufti that the Saudi "foundations" were unhappy with the Mufti's activities and asked if the Saudi Embassy could be "tougher" with him. On the other hand, in a subsequent meeting, the Mufti told us he would travel to Iran soon.
4. (S) The Mufti's reports of direct pressure from the Turkish Embassy are entirely credible. During the Ambassador's introductory call with Turkish Ambassador Okcun in February, as well as in a March 21 conversation with DCM, the Turkish envoy made it clear that he viewed our efforts to further our outreach to Romania's historic Muslim community -- what he labeled as "our" Turks and Tatars -- as less than welcome. Acknowledging that he was being blunt, Okcun told the Ambassador that "We control these groups." He reported that the Turkish government funnels millions of dollars into mosques and community associations linked to the Tatar and Turkish populations, although he lamented, without being specific, that Arab countries like Saudi Arabia were pumping even larger sums than his government into the Romanian Muslim community. Okcun "encouraged" the Embassy to go through him in order to "facilitate" any necessary interaction. "If you want to have contact with these groups," he stressed, "come to us, we will make the arrangements." During the Ambassador's courtesy call, Okcun actually claimed that the Mufti was waiting in a nearby room after having been summoned to the Turkish Embassy for "discussions." (Note: The GOR officially recognizes the Mufti as the leader of Romania's Muslim community, having certified his election last year, and also provides direct financial support to the Muftiat. End Note.)
5. (S) Comment. We have no intention of curbing our efforts to expand our contacts with Romania's growing Muslim community. Indeed, we have continued our dialogue with the Mufti, who has agreed to participate in an International Visitors Program (IVP). At the same time, Turkish leverage over Romania's indigenous Muslim community -- which is mostly centered in Constanta and the Black Sea region -- is real. As we ramp up our efforts to improve Romanian military facilities in this same region for use by U.S. servicemen, we plan to reach out to some of the same communities that Okcun considers are "his" in order to ensure we have a positive -- and direct -- dialogue. End Comment.
6. (U) Amembassy Bucharest's reporting telegrams are available on the Bucharest SIPRNet website:
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