07TBILISI1120, SOUTH OSSETIA WEEKEND SHOOTING INCIDENTS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI1120 2007-05-14 14:28 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4505
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1120/01 1341428
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 141428Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6330
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001120 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/15/2017 
TAGS: PREL PGOV GG
SUBJECT: SOUTH OSSETIA WEEKEND SHOOTING INCIDENTS 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  The situation in the South Ossetian zone 
of conflict (ZOC) appears relatively calm following a weekend 
of shooting activity described by an OSCE observer as the 
worst since 2004, when significant hostilities last broke out 
between Georgia and South Ossetia.  Heavy small arms and 
machine gun fire, grenade and RPG explosions erupted 
throughout the ZOC the night of May 12-13, following 
alternative South Ossetian president Sanakoyev's speech to 
the Georgian Parliament May 11.  Large groups of up to 50 
armed Ossetian militia were reported moving through the ZOC, 
including an OSCE report of a large group headed toward 
Avnevi, southwest of Tskhinvali.  One Georgian policeman and 
a South Ossetian civilian were wounded, but there were no 
fatalities. 
 
2.  (C)  According to OSCE, the South Ossetian de-facto 
authorities have told both the OSCE and the Joint 
Peacekeeping Force (JPKF) that South Ossetia could not 
guarantee their safety if they traveled to Avnevi, and there 
are currently no monitors present in the area.  OSCE 
Ambassador Roy Reeve continues to press the Russian commander 
of the JPKF, Marat Kulakhmetov, to send a monitoring team to 
Avnevi. 
 
3.  (C)  On Friday, May 11, Georgian State Minister for 
Conflict Resolution Merab Antadze met Boris Chochiev, South 
Ossetian co-chair of the Joint Control Commission, to discuss 
lifting the South Ossetian blockade on the Transcaucasian 
Highway, but the talks ended with no result.  On May 14, 
Prime Minister Noghaideli gave a short briefing stressing 
Georgia's commitment to a peaceful resolution of the 
conflicts and calling on the international community, 
including Russia, to take a more active role in reducing 
tensions in the region.  End Summary. 
 
Heaviest shooting in ZOC since 2004 
----------------------------------- 
 
4.  (C)  OSCE Security Officer Noah Lane told us that the 
shooting activity over the weekend was the worst he had seen 
in the ZOC since major hostilities last erupted between 
Georgia and South Ossetia in 2004.  Heavy fire from small 
arms and medium machine guns, as well as explosions from 
grenades and RPGs, were reported.  He said that one Georgian 
policeman and one Ossetian civilian were wounded in the 
firing, but no one was killed.  Lane said that there were 
reports of large groups of up to 50 Ossetian militia 
operating throughout the ZOC during the weekend.  One large 
group was reported headed toward Avnevi, a vulnerable 
Georgian village at the center of the 2004 hostilities.  At 
the time of this report, OSCE officials suspected the militia 
intended to surround Avnevi.  The current status of Avnevi 
has not been confirmed, however, because the de-facto 
authorities have refused to allow OSCE or JPKF monitors to 
enter the area, warning that South Ossetia could not 
guarantee their safety.  South Ossetians turned away JPKF 
teams headed to Avnevi twice on May 12.  OSCE Ambassador 
Reeve continues to push JPKF commander Kulakhmetov to send a 
monitoring team to the area.  As of 1800 local time May 14, 
Kulakhmetov still has not sent another team to try to get to 
Avnevi.  OSCE believes that the militias that deployed over 
the weekend are still in the field.  All visible checkpoints 
on both sides have been strengthened. 
 
5.  (C)  Gela Zoziashvili, deputy governor of Shida Kartli, 
the Georgian region that includes Gori and areas adjoining 
South Ossetia, told the DCM on May 14 that he thought the 
shootings were initiated by Kokoiti and not the Russians. 
Zoziashvili said that South Ossetian militia fired on a 
Russian JPKF checkpoint at Ergneti, who returned fire.  He 
said that if the Russians had orchestrated the attacks, the 
Russian peacekeepers would not have been fired on. 
 
Transcaucasian Highway still blocked 
------------------------------------ 
 
6.  (C)  Hours after the South Ossetians blocked the 
Transcaucasian Highway May 11, Georgian State Minister for 
Conflict Resolution Antadze met with South Ossetian JCC 
co-chairman Boris Chochiev in Tskhinvali to try to lift the 
blockade.  Negotiations failed and the highway is still being 
blocked by the South Ossetians.  Georgian media reported on 
May 14 that de-facto president Kokoiti was distributing 
leaflets saying that the Transcaucasian Highway will remain 
closed until all Georgian forces are withdrawn from South 
Ossetia. 
 
Sanakoyev addresses the Georgian Parliament 
------------------------------------------- 
 
7.  (U)  The pretext for the South Ossetians' action this 
 
TBILISI 00001120  002 OF 002 
 
 
weekend is apparently the investiture of Dmitry Sanakoyev as 
head of the newly formed Georgian administrative unit for 
South Ossetia May 10.  Speaking to the Georgian Parliament 
May 11, Sanakoyev lamented the effects of violence on South 
Ossetia and its people.  He recalled his role in the early 
fight with Georgia, blaming both sides for grave mistakes and 
blaming Russia (and the Soviet Union before i
t) for 
practicing a policy of "divide and rule."  He called for 
direct dialogue between Georgians and Ossetians and stressed 
the role of the EU in building trust and reviving the region 
economically.  He said that compromises will be necessary. 
The de facto government and Russia, he said, understand this 
and therefore will try to provoke hostilities and suppress 
every effort to restore trust.  He offered the Ossetian 
people a vision of peace, which he described as "real 
freedom," while he asked the Georgian government for broad 
autonomy and guarantees of political representation and 
cultural identity inside Georgia.  This must be preceded and 
followed by joint social and economic projects, he said. 
 
8.  (C) The diplomatic corps, including Ambassador Tefft, EU 
heads of mission, and OSCE Ambassador Reeve, attended the 
speech.  A few hours before the speech, Reeve admitted to 
Ambassador that the Georgian decision to legitimize Sanakoyev 
had gotten OSCE "off the hook," permitting Reeve to "shake 
hands" with Sanakoyev officially.  Reeve said he hoped that 
the Georgians, after pushing hard to get to this stage, would 
now slow down and allow Sanakoyev to build a local base of 
support.  Reeve said Sanakoyev's own people had indicated 
during informal contacts with OSCE that they need time to 
establish themselves. 
 
9.  (U) On May 14, Prime Minister Noghaideli gave a short 
briefing reiterating Georgia's commitment to a peaceful 
resolution of the conflicts.  He said that the GoG has 
intensified its dialogue with Sanakoyev's government, but was 
ready to talk with all parties.  He accused de-facto 
president Kokoiti of raising tension in the conflict zone and 
called on the international community, including Russia, to 
take a more active role in defusing the situation. 
 
Comment 
------- 
10.  (C) It is not surprising that the de facto authorities 
have gone on the offensive in the wake of Georgia granting 
legitimate status to Sanakoyev; the question is how far they 
are willing to push it.  From all outward indications, the 
Russians are attempting to restrain the South Ossetians. 
During a lunch meeting with Ambassador and DCM May 11, OSCE's 
Reeve received a phone call from Russian negotiator Yuri 
Popov, who said Yuri Zubakov, deputy secretary of the Russian 
Security Council, was attempting to contact Kokoiti to tell 
him to "cool it."  The best-case scenario is that the de 
facto authorities feel they have made their point -- by 
rattling sabers to show they remain a strong force -- and now 
can begin to step back from the brink.  A key sign that this 
may be the case would be if they permit OSCE and JPKF 
monitors back into Avnevi and the rest of the conflict zone. 
The worst-case scenario is that they will launch even more 
serious attacks in an attempt to provoke the Georgians into a 
major conflict. 
 
TEFFT

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