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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06TBILISI2512 2006-09-20 06:57 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #2512/01 2630657
O 200657Z SEP 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002512 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2016 
TBILISI 00002512  001.3 OF 002 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b) & (d). 
1. (C) The latest scheduled round of the Joint Control 
Commission (JCC) failed to convene after the South Ossetians 
refused to permit one member of the Georgian delegation, 
peacekeeping battalion commander Paata Bedniashvili, to enter 
Tskhinvali for the talks.  OSCE Ambassador Roy Reeve told us 
both sides deserve blame for the failure.  The Georgians had 
notified the South Ossetians in advance that Bedniashvili -- 
whom the South Ossetians accuse of war crimes -- would be a 
member of the delegation, but the South Ossetians did not 
react until stopping him at the de facto border on the 
morning of the talks.  Reeve suspects the Georgians may have 
in fact sought the impasse to demonstrate the futility of the 
JCC format.  The sides have agreed to another round soon in 
Vladikavkaz, and Reeve believes preserving a channel for 
dialogue is critical, given the worsening atmosphere between 
the two sides.  Reeve cited three troubling new developments: 
credible reports of the arrival of a number of so-called 
"Cossacks" in South Ossetia, a soon-to-be-released report by 
Joint Peacekeeping Forces (JPKF) commander Kulakhmetov noting 
a big increase in incidents, largely attributable to the 
South Ossetians, and recent Georgian military exercises 
reportedly involving the positioning of artillery aimed in 
the direction of Tskhinvali.  (Note: Embassy DAO is 
attempting to confirm this last report.  End Note.)  End 
Stopped En Route 
2. (SBU) As Reeve explained to us September 16, the latest 
round of talks began with an informal meeting September 14 to 
discuss the agenda for the formal meeting.  At first, it 
appeared that even this pre-meeting would be a failure, with 
the Georgians and the other co-chairs -- Russia, South 
Ossetia, and North Ossetia -- engaging in circular arguments 
about the format.  Then the Georgians unexpectedly switched 
gears and agreed to an agenda.  With the other sides at the 
table for the start of the meeting September 15, Georgian 
State Minister for Conflict Resolution Merab Antadze called 
to say that Bedniashvili was being refused entry at the 
"immigration post" that marks the entry into South 
Ossetian-controlled territory.  The South Ossetians claimed 
that they could not guarantee the security of Bedniashvili, 
whom they accuse of crimes for his alleged role in the 2004 
hostilities and a September 2005 mortar firing incident.  The 
Georgians then traveled back to Gori and consulted with the 
others by phone.  Eventually all sides decided the meeting 
would have to be abandoned. 
3. (SBU) Reeve said Bedniashvili had taken part in the last 
JCC round in Moscow, which gave the lie to South Ossetian JCC 
co-chair Chochiev's statement during this latest controversy 
that he would not sit at the same table with him.  Reeve said 
the Georgians had included Bedniashvili's name in the 
delegation list given to the South Ossetians a week before 
the meeting, and Antadze had told Reeve that he mentioned it 
to them again in passing September 14.  Reeve said that 
although the South Ossetians' sensitivities about 
Bedniashvili were well-known, Antadze thought the Ossetians 
had never clearly said he would be refused entry, despite 
being warned he would attend.  Reeve said the Russian and 
North Ossetian co-chairs told Chochiev at the aborted meeting 
that refusing entry was a "stupid" step.  That said, however, 
Reeve told us he suspected the Georgians had foreseen this 
turn of events -- and that was likely why they agreed to an 
agenda.  He thought they wanted to use the failure of the 
talks to highlight the ineffectiveness of the JCC format. 
4. (SBU) The remaining co-chairs and Reeve agreed to hold 
another round September 27-28 in Vladikavkaz.  Antadze also 
agreed to a meeting in Vladikavkaz "soon," although the date 
was not definitively agreed before Antadze departed for the 
UNGA in New York.  (Note: The Georgians subsequently told us 
that due to scheduling conflicts they were likely to propose 
October 12-13 for the meeting.  End Note.)  Russian co-chair 
Popov indicated that the border crossing at Kemo Lars could 
be temporarily opened for the delegations.  (Note: This 
suggests there is no real reason for keeping the crossing 
closed.  End Note.)  Popov there should be "no problem" with 
the membership of the delegations, clearly suggesting that 
Bedniashvili could attend, as he had in Moscow. 
Worrying Signs 
5. (C) Reeve stressed the importance of keeping a channel of 
communication open, arguing that in the current climate a 
perception that the JCC process had permanently broken down 
could have dangerous consequences.  He said Joint 
Peacekeeping Forces (JPKF) commander Kulakhmetov had prepared 
TBILISI 00002512  002.3 OF 002 
a report -- which was suppose
d to have been delivered at the 
aborted JCC meeting -- identifying 367 violations of existing 
agreements in the conflict in July and August, a large 
increase over earlier months.  The bulk of the violations, 
Reeve added, were by the South Ossetians.  Even more 
ominously, Reeve said, OSCE's reliable contacts in Tskhinvali 
were reporting that there were a number of so-called 
"Cossacks" on the ground in South Ossetia.  Reeve said there 
was a strong sense that South Ossetian defense and militia 
structures "can't wait" for the expected onslaught from 
Georgia, and were talking about how easy they believe it 
would be for small groups to blow up Georgian gas, oil, and 
electricity lines that run near South Ossetia.  As for the 
Georgians, Reeve said OSCE had seen tracks and heard reports 
indicating that on two occasions in the previous week, the 
Georgian military had conducted nighttime exercises involving 
the movement of artillery to face Tskhinvali.  He said it was 
possible these were regular training exercises, but it was 
worrying at the very least because word of such maneuvers 
could not be kept from Tskhinvali for long.  (Note: Embassy 
DAO is currently working on sending an observer to the 
reported area -- which is outside the zone of conflict but 
close to Tskhinvali -- to try to confirm these reports of 
Georgian exercises.  End Note.)  Add in the deadly September 
8 shootout between Georgian and South Ossetian forces, Reeve 
said, and there is ample reason to be worried where the 
conflict is headed. 


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