06TBILISI2866, A/S FRIED’S MEETING WITH GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06TBILISI2866 2006-10-30 08:34 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3595
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2866/01 3030834
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 300834Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4487
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 002866 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/18/2016 
TAGS: PREL GG
SUBJECT: A/S FRIED'S MEETING WITH GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER 
BEZHUASHVILI 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b) & (d). 
 
Summary 
------- 
1. (C) Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili told A/S 
Fried October 18 that recent Russian statements and actions 
indicated that Russia had decided to launch an all-out 
diplomatic assault on Georgia, trying to marginalize the U.S. 
from the Group of Friends, targeting GUAM, and working to 
divide the EU on Georgia.  Bezhuashvili said he hoped to 
resume discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on 
the margins of the November 1 BSEC ministerial, and he 
expressed openness to a German idea of Parliament Speaker 
Burjanadze traveling to Moscow.  Fried stressed that 
confrontations with Russia worked against Georgia's long-term 
interests, in large part by raising concerns in Europe, and 
he questioned whether Georgia should invest so much of its 
political capital on the issue where Russia has the most 
leverage: the separatist conflicts.  Bezhuashvili said the 
Georgian government was very worried about a Russian-prompted 
gas crisis this winter.  He said he and Energy Minister 
Gilauri would travel to Iran in the coming days to discuss 
buying Iranian gas if Russian and Azeri options prove 
impossible.  Fried urged caution in dealing with Iran.  End 
Summary. 
 
Relations with Russia 
--------------------- 
2. (C) Fried began the lunch meeting by stressing U.S. 
concerns about Georgia's deteriorating relations with Russia 
and the negative effect this deterioration was having on 
European views of Georgia.  He asked Bezhuashvili where he 
saw the situation going.  Bezhuashvili noted that Russian 
President Putin had recently been quoted as saying he would 
like to hear from his military and civilian advisors how 
"protected" Georgia was by its patrons abroad.  Bezhuashvili 
said it was his opinion that Russia had decided to launch an 
all-out diplomatic offensive to test Georgia's international 
support.  Examples of this include the Russian efforts to get 
a reference to the Georgian operation in the Kodori Gorge 
into the recent UN Security Council resolution on Abkhazia, 
working to marginalize the U.S. from other members of the 
Group of Friends, targeting GUAM through approaches to 
Moldova and possibly Ukraine, working to divide the EU, and 
even attempting to influence Washington through public 
relations firms.  Nevertheless, Bezhuashvili thought the 
Russians had made mistakes in this campaign, especially in 
allowing xenophobic rhetoric and deporting large numbers of 
Georgians from Russia.  Noting that one Georgian citizen had 
recently died after being held for twenty days awaiting 
deportation, Bezhuashvili said the Georgians had been working 
with lawyers on a strong interstate case to take to the 
European Court of Human Rights. 
 
3. (C) Bezhuashvili said he had had difficulty contacting 
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov over the last two weeks, and 
he understood from his Azeri counterpart that Lavrov had 
indicated he needed "some time" before resuming dialogue with 
Georgia.  Bezhuashvili said he intended to travel to Moscow 
for the November 1 BSEC Ministerial -- an event he would not 
normally attend -- in order to meet with Lavrov.  He added, 
however, that Lavrov had all but admitted in previous 
conversations that the MFA was not at the center of Russian 
policy making on Georgia.  Bezhuashvili said he could only 
guess that the FSB, GRU, and Presidential Administration had 
taken the lead.  He said that in the past Lavrov had often 
been unable to answer his questions about what Russia wanted 
from Georgia, although Lavrov had assured him Russia would 
not annex Georgian territory.  Bezhuashvili said his deputy 
had recently asked Lavrov at a CIS Ministerial in Minsk when 
Russian Embassy personnel would return to Tbilisi. 
Bezhuashvili told Fried that Georgia would be ready to help 
the Russians find a face-saving way to return.  He said 
Christoph Heusgen, foreign policy advisor to German 
Chancellor Merkel, had recently told the Georgians that 
Merkel had suggested to Putin that Georgian Parliament 
Speaker Burjanadze visit Moscow, and Putin had agreed. 
Bezhuashvili said this was not a bad idea, as a follow-up to 
his own meeting with Lavrov at BSEC.  Bezhuashvili said 
Georgian behavior toward Russia over the past two weeks had 
been careful and responsible.  Fried asked about Defense 
Minister Okruashvili's reported comments to the press that 
war with Russia was inevitable; Bezhuashvili said he talked 
to Okruashvili himself and this report was a fabrication. 
 
4. (C) Fried said there was concern in Washington that 
Russia's efforts to isolate Georgia and to prevent its 
integration with the West were having some success, and that 
European governments had been greatly concerned by the 
confrontation over the Russian spies.  Fried said that he too 
 
TBILISI 00002866  002 OF 003 
 
 
had been angered by the xenophobic Russian response to the 
incident, but he stressed that Georgia was still on the 
tactical defensive, playing on a field laid out by the 
Russians.  He said that Georgia faced a choice -- previously 
faced by the Baltic states and others in t
he former Communist 
bloc -- between the short-term gratification of quarreling 
with Russia and the achievement of long-term goals.  He 
stressed that the Europeans feared being drawn into 
Russian-Georgian conflicts.  He added that there are certain 
issues where the Russians have leverage: the economy 
(although that is a wasting asset) and the frozen conflicts. 
Fried said that, given this, he questioned the Georgians' 
decision to make the conflicts their top priority; it was the 
one issue where the Russians had the most opportunity to 
thwart them and to generate crises that would weaken Western 
support for Georgia. 
 
5. (C) Fried asked Bezhuashvili if he was happy with 
developments over the past six months.  Bezhuashvili said yes 
and no -- "maybe more no than yes" -- but argued that some 
positives had come out of the spy scandal.  He said the 
Western media and governments could now no longer ignore 
Russian human rights violations and the parallels between the 
current treatment of Georgians in Russia to the treatment of 
Jews decades ago.  Deputy Foreign Minister Batu Kutelia, who 
until recently was Georgia's intelligence chief, said the 
publicity given to the spying arrests also had an internal 
purpose: to deter the growing number of Georgians who 
accepted money from the Russians in exchange for information. 
 Separately, at a dinner that night, the new head of the 
intelligence services, Ana Zhvania, argued that the internal 
threat to Georgia from Russian spies -- and those whom they 
pay off -- is growing and that the public handling of the spy 
case was needed to act as a deterrent to domestic spying by 
Georgians. 
 
The Conflicts 
------------- 
6. (C) Bezhuashvili agreed the conflicts were a weak point 
for Georgia, although he thought the Russians would continue 
to create problems with the conflicts even if Georgia put 
less emphasis on them.  Or alternatively, he speculated that 
Russia might begin to propagandize within Georgia that the 
Saakashvili government was downplaying its most visible 
pledge: to re-unite the country.  Fried agreed that Georgia 
could not be passive on the conflicts, but he advised 
focusing on areas where the Europeans agreed and where there 
was some chance of progress, such as the donors' economic 
rehabilitation project in South Ossetia, and efforts to 
internationalize the peacekeepers and police.  Bezhuashvili 
said the government was in a permanent dialogue with 
Parliament, which was pushing for Georgia to end Russian 
peacekeeping.  Bezhuashvili said that in his view it is not 
the right time for such a decision, but added that it could 
not be stopped forever.  He asked if the U.S. thought the 
Georgian call for new negotiating formats for the conflicts 
-- especially South Ossetia -- was counterproductive.  Fried 
said he agreed that current formats were unbalanced, but an 
endless confrontation over them was not in the Georgians' 
interest.  Turning to Kodori, Fried said the U.S. did not 
object in principle to the Georgian operation, although the 
violations of the 1994 Moscow Agreement that accompanied it 
had hurt the Georgians in the UN Security Council resolution 
debate and should not be repeated.  He said Georgia now had 
the opportunity to make Kodori a real success. 
 
7. (C) On Abkhazia, Fried said one asset was that de facto 
president Bagapsh did not appear to be a "100 percent" 
Russian creature.  Bezhuashvili and Kutelia disagreed, noting 
that while it was true that Bagapsh came from a more Abkhaz 
nationalist background than others in the de facto 
administration, given the tremendous Russian leverage in 
Abkhazia his actions were in practice no different than his 
more pro-Russian colleagues.  Kutelia noted that even Beslan 
Butba, a prominent Abkhaz businessman and member of the de 
facto parliament who (despite living primarily on Moscow) is 
personally anti-Russian, told Kutelia earlier this year that 
he was forced to break off his contacts with Georgian 
officials. 
 
The Politics of Gas 
------------------- 
8. (C) Bezhuashvili said the government was greatly concerned 
about a winter gas crisis.  While he had doubts that the 
Russians would again cut off the gas completely, he predicted 
they would insist on a large increase in price.  Bezhuashvili 
confirmed that the Russians were pressing Azerbaijan not to 
sell gas to Georgia.  He said the Azeris had asked Georgia 
for "more time to assess" after the Russians had told them 
they would lose the same amount of gas from Russia that they 
 
TBILISI 00002866  003 OF 003 
 
 
sell to Georgia.  Fried told Bezhuashvili to exercise great 
caution if Georgia gets involved in gas talks with Iran. 
Bezhuashvili said that in fact he and Energy Minister Gilauri 
were likely to travel to Iran October 21 or 22, assuming they 
received a positive report from a Georgian technical team 
arriving in Iran October 19.  He said Georgia had wanted to 
send only Gilauri, but the Iranians had insisted on 
Bezhuashvili as well, and had urged Georgia to characterize 
the visit as broader than only energy issues.  Bezhuashvili 
told Fried that gas was the only issue Georgia was interested 
in discussing, and added that any purchases from Iran would 
be conditional on Russian and Azeri sources being unworkable, 
and on the Iranian price being reasonable.  He said he 
recognized that the Iranians could be colluding with Russia, 
but explained that circumstances obligated the Georgian 
government to explore all alternatives. 
 
9. (U) A/S Fried cleared this message. 
TEFFT

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