US embassy cables | Gonzi ‘ready to move forward’ on NATO status of forces agreement

US diplomatic cables say Gonzi ‘ready to move forward’ on Partnership for Peace status of forces agreement.

Lawrence Gonzi (right) with Richard Cachia Caruana, permanent representative to the EU
Lawrence Gonzi (right) with Richard Cachia Caruana, permanent representative to the EU

Washington asked the US embassy to put out feelers with Maltese leaders on the establishment of a NATO-led Partnership for Peace Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

In a request for information via diplomatic cable, released by Wikileaks, Washington analysts were “very interested” in the views of Maltese leaders on a possible status of forces agreement, along with biographical information on President George Abela, Prime Minister Lawence Gonzi, Opposition leader Joseph Muscat, foreign minister Tonio Borg, European Commissinoer John Dalli, and also Gonzi’s personal assistant Edgar Galea Curmi.

“Who are they close to personally and professionally? What important alliances, business or political, should analysts be aware of involving these individuals?”

On 2 February 2010, Foreign Minister Tonio Borg told US ambassador Douglas Kmiec that Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi was “prepared to go forward” on a NATO-sponsored, Partnership for Peace Status OF Forces Agreement to establish a military presence in Malta.

Speaking outside of the presence of note takers, indicating the secretiveness of the request, Borg indicated that Gonzi was ready to go ahead on the SOFA when Borg and Kmiec agree on terms.

A status of forces agreement (SOFA) is an agreement between a host country and a foreign nation that can include stationing forces in that country, but that also establishes the rights and privileges of U.S. personnel present in a country in support of the larger security arrangement.

There are currently 24 countries, non-members of NATO, subject to the NATO SOFA through their participation in the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) program.

However, in another cable dated 27 January 2010, Gonzi's assistant Edgar Galea-Curmi told Kmiec that Borg "had been the primary opponent and chief skeptic of signing a SOFA (on political grounds)" but later dropped his opposition and agreed Malta should go for the SOFA "in some form of another".

Kmiec replied to Galea-Curmi saying that this was an opportunity, "politically that Malta was in charge of the SOFA process and not doing the US's bidding."

Borg was later asked to execute the NATO/PfP SOFA even though he recognised that Malta had “concerns pertaining to sovereign jurisdiction and some national laws (e.g., relating to the wearing of uniforms, carrying of weapons, etc.), which are contrary to PfP SOFA provisions.”

Kmiec even urged Borg “not to make any gratuitous reservation or modification” to the standard document if at all possible.

Borg was reported to have replied that he expected the Opposition to “stir up anger and suspicion among the public” through the PfP label, to which Kmiec said that other neutral nations such as Switzerland and Sweden, had executed a version of the PfP SOFA, as had Russia.

So sensitive was Borg to the use of the word SOFA, that he told Kmiec he wished the acronym SOFA to “be kept out as much as possible of the public discussion.”

In a revealing cable, the OPM's head of defence Vanessa Frazier suggested that the best course would be to execute the SOFA incrementally by means of diplomatic notes, and indicated she would contact the Embassy with a proposal. Kmiec noted in this cable that the dip note could be a "useful interim step for Malta" by reacquainting Malta with the "value - economic and associational - of ship visits" and also compatiable with NATO Admiral Stavridis's request to grant SOFA waivers for 5 or 6 ship visits.

Kmiec and neutrality

The US Ambassador had already treaded on delicate political ground when he asked whether Malta's neutrality meant the country was also neutral to peace efforts around the world.

On 31 January, 2010 he told MaltaToday he wasn't going out of his remit by provoking a discussion on Malta’s constitutional neutrality. “I do not think so. Sincerely, I wanted to get the best understanding of neutrality.”

“Neutrality surely touches on the work of an ambassador in so far as it has an effect on diplomatic and external relations. But it is obviously not up to the American ambassador (or any ambassador, Amercian or otherwise), to tell you what your Constitution means or should mean.”

2007 SOFA request

The SOFA request was also raised informally by US ambassador Anthony Goia with Michael Frendo.

In 2007, foreign minister Michael Frendo ruled out any discussions for the Malta Shipyards to be designated for Home Port Status to the United States government, following an informal request made by the American embassy.
He was answering a parliamentary question by shadow minister Leo Brincat, who asked at what stage the proposal was.

Frendo said no formal application had been made for the status. “When this issue was raised informally, it was signalled that home port status can only be awarded when there is a Status Of Forces Agreement. It is not expected that such an agreement will be discussed.”

avatar
In another case of "Il-Partnership rebaħ", Labour is now claiming that it is in favour of Malta participating in NATO's Partnership for Peace programme. ' Il-Partnership (for Peace) rebaħ indeed!
avatar
To whom it may concern My opinion only. I doubt it very much if NATO would be still interested to have a base in Malta, as I presume that now NATO apart from the oil, will be having a base in Libya, after their intervention with the excuse of humanitarian issue and not to have civilians killed.
avatar
[email protected] tal-biki meta Dr Gonzi lejliet l-elezzjoni jgħid lill-Amerikani li se jerġa' jdaħħal lil Malta fil-PfP u ma jgħid xejn lill-poplu. Mhux ta' b'xejn li hemm dubji kbar dwar kif intrebħet l-elezzjoni. ** Tal-biki wkoll meta Dr Gonzi jgħid lill-Ambaxxatur barrani li m'għandux minn fejn jagħżel Ministri għal għandu membri b'talent limitat. ** Mhux ta' b'xejn li ħadha bi kbira li takl-wikileaks kixfulu s*&^% għax qabduh bil-qalziet imniżżel.
avatar
Antoine Vella whether you and yoru foreign masters like it or not the neutrality clause is their to stay. ** Don't you dare do it Dr Gonzi and don't you dare do it NATO and USA.
avatar
@J Galea Anke fi STADA STRETTA KIEN IKUNHEMM IL BAHRIN.
avatar
M GHADUX GHAGA !!!
avatar
Luke Camilleri
Gonzi ‘ready to move forward’ - Now that's NEWS! : )
avatar
Antoine Vella the only thing ancient is your outdated leader.
avatar
jgalea, brilliant news? to change the neutrality clause one needs two thirds of parliamentarians to vote for a change,for one thing the pn does not have the numbers and for another we will never let that happen, get that in your barren skull.
avatar
Sofa lovely a place were one can sit on why not. the only problem who will be sitting? and who will take the burden of those sitting. Cant you have the decency for once and stop playing with our values.
avatar
As the years roll by, the ancient status of "neutrality" becomes more and more anachronistic.
avatar
A Status of Forces Agreement is, basically, accepting foreign military force to operate from a base within the host country. . In other words, the US wants to have a military base in Malta. . Our constitution does not allow our country to serve as a military base, and therefore the Maltese will have every right to overthrow, by any means whatsoever, any regime embarks on such a road.
avatar
@briffy Any comments about the impact of SOFA on our tourism?
avatar
Micheal Bonanno
@briffy "It Was Rammed Down the PN"s throat". Mela ghalfejn ivvutaw favoriha? Kellhom ghazla. Setghu ma vvutawx ghaliha. Imma l-ghatx li kellhom ghal poter, knew no bounds.
avatar
Micheal Bonanno
@briffy. Ghallinqas rajna f'idejna konna, u x'hin gejna ghas-si u n-no, xorta hadniha kontrieh ghax bghatilna l-gunboats hdejn Saipem II. Ara siehbek EFA mar jithabbeb mieghu flok zamm mal-Gvern Malti. Vera tal-misthija. Ghandkom minn x'hiex tisthu tal-PN. Dejjem zammejtu mal-barrani anke meta Mintoff kien qieghed jinnegozja ma' l-Inglizi, zammejtu ma' l-Inglizi, u mhux talli hekk, talli ghajjartu lil Mintoff traditur ta' Malta. Illum nafu min huma t-tradituri ta' Malta. Ergajtu lestu li tqahhbu lill-pajjizna lil barrani. U din ma tistax tgiddibha. Tidher bl-iswed fuq l-abjad. L'Amerika kienet lesta li ddahhal is-SOFA hawn Malta, taparsi taht il-kmant tal-Gvern Malti, imma jkunu jigbdu l-ispag minn wara l-kwinti l-Amerikani, bhal ma qeghdin jaghmlu issa lin-NATO. Hallina Briffy, mur kompli ilghaq bhalma qieghed taghmel,
avatar
Scaramuxx - The neutraility clause was rammed down the PN's throat as a condition that the party that gets 50% of the votes in the first count + 1 would win the election, to prevent a repetition of the weird result of the 1981 election. And Mintoff mposed this clause at the behest of Gaddafi who was always afraid that Malta would be used by the west to get rid of him. Today with Gaddafi relegated to the dutbin of history, it does NOT mean anything and it is only Labour that insists on its retention because they can't come to terms that their prop is a thing of the past.
avatar
Ganni Borg ...tal-biki meta AST iffirma trattat segrit ma' wiehed mill-aktar nies moqzieza li kien hawn fid-dinja Kim-il_sung li Labour tah Gih ir-Republika, jew meta Elena Ceaucescu tawha l-Honoris Causa., jew meta Gaddafi gie jiccelebra it-telqa' tal-forzi inglizi minn Malta fil-31 Marzu 1979 u gab mieghu l-qhab tieghu bl-uniformi u mijjiet ta' Libjani u dawn qaghdu quddiem. Tant hadu l-ahjar postijiet li anke Buttigieg bil-kemm tawh chance jara' il-festin li ghamel Mintoff. Kien Gaddafi li ha pjacir, tlett kwarti tal-Maltin kienu mbikkma u qalbhom maqsuma. dak ifisser 31 Marzu 1979.
avatar
Our constitution states that malta has the status of neutrality. In order to change such a status 2/3 of parliament must vote in favour. I hope this will never happen to our islands. Have any one considered the repercussions of SOFA on our touristic industry?
avatar
ta
avatar
Gonzi u Kmiec (ghal naqra mhux Hmieg) kienu jinhabbu. Mhux bil-fors, wiehed kien fl-azzjoni kattolika u l-iehor mohhu fil-qdusija miskin. Qobra mbajda it-tnejn li huma. Haga wahda hi certa - dak li jsir minn wara bil-mohbi minn wara dahar il-poplu jsir fl-interess tal-ftit u mhux ghall-gid kollettiv. U min jaf kemm hemm files bl-interessi tal-ftit li ser jigu ixredjati dalwaqt qabel tasal l-ellezzjoni. Mhux hekk Gonzi u l-hbieb.
avatar
well the whore houses run by nationalist business men are ready and waiting. Bring in the Navy!
avatar
Id-Divorzju ma kienx fil-Manifest Elettorali u ghamilna referendum, jekk Gonzi irid ibiddel xi haga fl-interess tal-poplu Malti Gonzi ghandu ikun RAGEL u jaghmel referendum u ma ikunx DITTATUR IEHOR.
avatar
Neutrality is a loosely used word whenever a nation faces getting involved in a conflict outside it's own borders. As long as Malta is not able to defend itself without the intervention of a protecting force, this issue of neutrality as we try to portray it, is unrealistic both in its practicality and morally. It is even more contradictary when the neutrality issue is brought up when the need for humantarian support is expected from our nation. Asking what our interpretation of neutrality entails is not only relevant but an absolute necessity for a transparent foreign policy i.e. clear to other nations and the maltese themselves.
avatar
Kemm in laqħqi, Sur Galea. Lanqas temmen li għad hawn Maltin b'dik il-mentalità (jekk mhux qed rkun sarkastiku u lanqas qed ninduna, wara kollox)
avatar
Flahhar!!! This is brilliant news. Finally that silly clause on the "neutrality" will be abolished thanks to our PN. Fl ahhar Malta tkun parti minn Nato, u nergghu naraw is suldati inglizi, u amerikani parading fi Strada Rjali bhal meta konna zghar. Oqodu inharqu hemm tal MLP.
avatar
Sur Tarxieniż il-PfP huwa ħaġa u s-SOFA hija oħra. Bis0-SOFA jkollna l-forzi armati Amerikani stazzjonati hawn Malta. Tal-biki.
avatar
Maureen Attard
Ganni Borg, tohlomx. Ismu mieghu Partnetship for peace u mhux xi ftehim sigriet mal-Korea ta' fuq jew ma xi Juoslavia Komunista.
avatar
So it is true after all - the PN intends to make Malta a military base again.