05TBILISI3226, ABKHAZIA: THE NEED FOR CONFIDENCE BUILDING

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05TBILISI3226 2005-12-12 13:11 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L  TBILISI 003226 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
DEPT FOR DAS BRYZA, EUR/CACEN AND EUR/SNEC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/12/2015 
TAGS: PGOV PREL GG
SUBJECT: ABKHAZIA:  THE NEED FOR CONFIDENCE BUILDING 
MEASURES 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1. (C)  Summary:  During a December 6 and 7 visit to 
Abkhazia, the Abkhaz and Georgians agreed ad ref to a draft 
of the joint declaration on security guarantees and the 
return of internally displaced persons, the European 
Commission launched a program of economic rehabilitation in 
the conflict areas, and Ambassador Tefft met with a range of 
de facto officials.  In every meeting, Ambassador emphasized 
that the U.S. supports the territorial integrity of Georgia 
and the peaceful resolution of the conflict.  The Abkhaz 
stated their desire for independence and their concern over 
the militant rhetoric of some Georgian leaders.  They 
welcomed increased assistance from the U.S. and increased 
exposure to American values and culture.  They praised the 
planned USAID-funded joint Abkhaz-Georgian study tour to the 
U.S.  End summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
EC Commits 4 Million Euros to Rehabilitation Projects 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
2. (C) On December 6 and 7 Ambassador, accompanied by Poloff, 
traveled to Abkhazia to attend the first meeting of the 
Steering Committee of a joint EC-UNDP-UNOMIG Rehabilitation 
Program in the conflict zone and to hold other official 
meetings.  Representatives of the Friends of the Secretary 
General (FSG) -- UK, Germany, France and Russia -- were also 
present for the meeting.  The program plans to restore basic 
services such as electricity, public health, water 
sanitation, waste management and agricultural development on 
both sides of the conflict over the next two to three years. 
Total funding will be 4 million Euros. 
 
3. (C) State Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi 
Khaindrava led the Georgian delegation to the meeting - 
marking the first time many Georgians had been to Abkhazia 
since the war ended in 1993 - and de facto foreign minister 
Sergey Shamba led the Abkhaz delegation.  Both Khaindrava and 
Shamba noted that economic rehabilitation would help lay the 
foundation upon which confidence could be built between the 
sides.  Khaindrava emphasized that the Georgian position of 
support of the program reflects its cooperative approach to 
resolving the conflict.  Shamba said the sides were close to 
agreement on the joint declaration on the return of 
internally displaced persons (IDPs). 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
Bagapsh Says Everything Flows from Economic Development 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
4. (C) Following the UN meeting, the FSG met de facto 
president Bagapsh, together with de facto prime minister 
Ankvab and other de facto officials.  Speaking on behalf of 
the FSG, German Chair Ambassador Schramm encouraged the sides 
to come to agreement on the joint statement on security 
guarantees and on the return of IDPs, the latest draft of 
which had just been delivered to the Abkhaz.  Schramm noted 
the deteriorating human rights situation in Gali and urged 
the Abkhaz to follow through on commitments to open a human 
rights office and allow the deployment of civilian police 
there. 
 
5. (C) Bagapsh said he was also concerned about Gali.  He 
claimed the worsening situation is the result of actions by 
certain people with an interest in creating an unstable 
situation there.  He pointed to former Georgian militia 
fighters, who he claimed recently appeared in the region.  He 
claimed that there was an explosion of criminality and 
abduction only after these individuals arrived and began 
making public statements.  Bagapsh said the Abkhaz would not 
allow the situation to spiral out of control or let anyone 
else accomplish this goal. 
 
6. (C) Bagapsh expressed concern about what he considered the 
militarization of Georgia and pointed specifically to  the 
opening of a Georgian military base in Senaki, located on the 
border with Abkhazia.  He highlighted Saakashvili's speech to 
a Georgian Youth Camp last summer where Saakashvili 
emotionally emphasized the importance of returning Abkhazia. 
Bagapsh said South Ossetian leader Kokoity had reported a 
similar trend in South Ossetia:  the Georgians had placed a 
military hospital and MOI troops close to the border area. 
This, he said, is increasing tensions there. 
 
7. (C) Bagapsh said the Abkhaz are committed to a peaceful 
negotiation of the conflict.  With regard to the human rights 
office and police force in Gali, he said the issue "is not 
crossed off the agenda."  He said he thought it would be 
resolved step-by-step and suggested a package deal involving 
economic incentives.  He asked how the Abkhaz could speak of 
human rights when Gali is in a state of economic collapse. 
 
 
With regard to the recent Abkhaz law on citizenship, Bagapsh 
said that his statement was misconstrued and aimed at 
removing only the criminal element there. 
 
8. (C) Ambassador Tefft said he was glad to hear Bagapsh did 
not rule out opening a human rights office and encouraged 
Bagapsh to build upon the positive statements made by 
Khaindrava and Shamba.  He raised concerns over
the new 
citizenship law.  Bagapsh claimed he was misquoted and that 
his remarks applied only to criminals in Gali.  Ambassador 
asked  where the Abkhaz and Georgians might find common 
ground.  Bagapsh responded with a list including energy, 
railway, highways, and sea/air connections.  He concluded 
that everything flows from economic development. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------------- 
Shamba:  Argues for Independence, but Open to U.S. Cooperation 
--------------------------------------------- ----------------- 
 
9. (C) De facto foreign minister Sergey Shamba made the case 
for Abkhaz independence.  He claimed that not a single 
politician would consider joining Georgia today.  He said the 
economic embargo and militant rhetoric from Georgia make it 
impossible to change public opinion.  Ambassador said the 
U.S. supports the territorial integrity of Georgia and that 
great leaders lead their publics toward peaceful solutions. 
Shamba agreed that war would not be in the interest of 
Abkhazia or Georgia.  This, he said, could be the match that 
lights the Caucasus. 
 
10. (C) Ambassador said the U.S. is open to doing more with 
Abkhazia.  He offered as an example a visit by an American 
Bluegrass Band next year.  Shamba welcomed the idea and cited 
the popularity of American film, culture and music.  He said 
he hoped to see a more active American presence in Abkhazia 
and more such opportunities, including especially for Abkhaz 
youth.  Referring to the planned joint study tour to U.S., 
Shamba asked if all 12 candidates (instead of 10) could 
attend.  Ambassador said he would consult with the AID 
Director in Tbilisi. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
NGO leaders:  U.S. and Others Pushing Abkhaz Toward Russia 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
 
11. (C) Ambassador met with a group of NGO leaders, including 
many representatives from Natella Akaba's Association of 
Women of Abkhazia.  The leaders reaffirmed the Abkhaz 
position on independence and claimed that the West is pushing 
Abkhazia toward Russia as they may not travel Abkhazia except 
through Russia and by taking Russian citizenship.  They said 
they were free to have connections with NGO leaders in 
Georgia but public opinion prevents much interaction. 
 
12. (C) They expressed many concerns also raised by Bagapsh, 
including about the situation in Gali and the belief that 
they Georgian militia fighters were behind them.  The leaders 
also reiterated Abkhaz concerns about the militarization of 
Georgia.  90% of Abkhaz, one said simply, think Georgia is 
preparing for war.  They expressed concern over statements 
made by Saakashvili, Burjanadze and others about returning 
Abkhazia to Georgia. 
 
13. (C) They defended the Abkhaz citizenship law by saying 
that a Georgian who does not want Abkhaz citizenship may be a 
resident in Abkhazia.  They acknowledged that the law allows 
dual Abkhaz-Russian citizenship but not Abkhaz-Georgian. 
They said that it would not be possible to consider dual 
Abkhaz-Georgian citizenship as long as Abkhazia remains in a 
state of war with Georgia. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
Dinner with Both Sides:  Agreement to Joint Declaration 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
14. (C) Khaindrava and Bagapsh unexpectedly joined a dinner 
hosted by Shamba that evening.  SRSG Tagliavini as well as 
the British and German representatives of the FSG and members 
of Shamba's staff also joined.  At the dinner, which followed 
an internal meeting of the de fact Abkhaz authorities, 
Tagliavini announced that there was ad ref agreement to the 
latest draft of the joint declaration on security guarantees. 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
Ankvab:  Widen Connections between Georgians and Abkhaz 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
15. (C) In a private meeting with Ambassador and Poloff, de 
facto prime minister Alexander Ankvab briefed on the poor 
economics of Abkhazia.  Out of a budget of 644 million Rubles 
($25.7 million), 25% goes to defense.  Shipments of the 
 
 
biggest export, citrus, are down from 110,000 metric tons 
before the war to 35,000 metric tons today.  He explained 
Russian investment as a result:  $25 million in mandarin 
processing, $15 million in wine production, and $25.6 million 
to pave the road north of Sukhumi.  He said the Russians also 
pay about $1 million dollars in pensions to 26,000 of the 
51,000 pensioners in Abkhazia. 
 
16. (C) Ankvab provided a long list of the challenges he 
faces as a result of destroyed or out of date infrastructure. 
 He pointed to serious problems with electricity, water 
supply, waste management, telecommunications, and public 
transport.  He said there is no ability to care for the sick, 
elderly and mentally ill, no medical care in the villages, 
and 163 secondary schools need repair.  He said he could go 
on. 
 
17. (C) Still, Ankvab made the case for independence, saying 
the Abkhaz do not belong to anyone and it is a natural right 
to be free.  Ankvab said Georgia made a strategic mistake on 
August 14, 1992, when Georgia attacked just as the Abkhaz 
parliament was about to agree to a federation with Georgia. 
He said the history of Georgia had compromised the idea of a 
common life together and much more time needed to pass before 
finding common ground.  When asked how to get there, Ankvab 
suggested widening the connection between Georgia and 
Abkhazia through railway and other projects. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
Bagapsh:  Leaves Open a Small Possibility for Negotiation 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
 
18. (C) In a private meeting with Ambassador and Poloff, de 
facto president Sergey Bagapsh said the Abkhaz hoped for 
peaceful coexistence with Georgia.  He said that Abkhazia 
does not plan to go with Russia or with Georgia.  Instead, he 
said, Abkhazia wants to build a state that is part of Europe. 
 He argued for developing the economy as a way to achieve 
more contacts with Georgians.  He said he is concerned about 
the situation in Gali and thought a statement by the FSG 
might be useful.  Bagapsh also expressed concern about 
Saakashvili's militant rhetoric.  He said a war with Abkhazia 
would ignite the region. 
 
19. (C) Ambassador said that the U.S. supports the 
territorial integrity of Georgia and has publicly and 
privately said to Georgia that the U.S. supports only the 
peaceful resolution of the conflict.  Ambassador noted in 
particular the tremendous gulf between the way each side 
interprets the actions of the other.  He encouraged Bagapsh 
to continue with confidence-buildi
ng measures and said the 
U.S. would look for ways to build bridges between the Abkhaz 
and Georgians. 
 
20. (C) In response to Ambassador's question about the 
citizenship law and the human rights office, Bagapsh defended 
the citizenship law by asserting that criminals were hiding 
in Gali under the protection of Georgian passports.  He did 
not see a need for a human rights office but implied this 
issue would be resolved in time.  With regard to agreement 
with Georgians, Bagapsh left the door open for negotiations 
with Georgia, saying that the Abkhaz are ready to listen but 
that time was required to heal the wounds of the 1990s. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
Ashuba:  Abkhaz Want to Meet European Standards 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
21. (C) de facto parliamentary head Nugzar Ashuba said the 
Abkhaz are trying to meet European standards and hoped even 
to adopt European legislation.  He lamented that due to a 
lack of direct ties to Europeans they model themselves on St. 
Petersburg, which had ties to the European Parliament. 
Ashuba made no apologies for not allowing dual 
Abkhaz-Georgian citizenship.  He said that the only reason 
the law allows dual citizenship with Russia is practical: 
without a Russian passport the Abkhaz could not travel.  As 
soon as the world recognizes our independence, he said, we 
will change the law.  He acknowledged that a Georgian without 
Abkhaz citizenship would not have the right to participate in 
politics or referenda. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
22. (C) The Abkhaz we spoke to exhibited no desire to be 
under the thumb of Russia any more than they want to be a 
part of Georgia.  Although every interlocutor expressed the 
Abkhaz desire for independence, they implicitly accepted that 
final status needed to be negotiated with Georgia.  Nor did 
they attempt to disguise the economic pressure they labor 
 
 
under.  The de facto president, prime minister and foreign 
minister all emphasized the need for time and confidence- 
building measures (particularly in the economic field) to 
resolve the problem.  They did not deliver legalistic 
lectures and sought to convey an openness to more U.S. 
contacts.  End comment. 
TEFFT

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