07TBILISI1265, ABKHAZ DE FACTO PRIME MINISTER ANKVAB ON ECONOMY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI1265 2007-05-30 12:07 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO9916
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1265/01 1501207
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 301207Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6487
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001265 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/29/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON GG
SUBJECT: ABKHAZ DE FACTO PRIME MINISTER ANKVAB ON ECONOMY 
AND RELATIONS WITH THE GEORGIANS 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b)&(d). 
 
Summary 
------- 
1. (C) In a meeting with Ambassador May 23, Abkhaz de facto 
prime minister Alexander Ankvab acknowledged that neither 
economic growth nor Russian investment in Abkhazia were high, 
although he thought both would increase considerably with the 
prospect of the 2014 Winter Olympics in nearby Sochi.  Ankvab 
said the Abkhaz had no interest in a future within Georgia, 
no matter how prosperous Georgia became.  He said the Abkhaz 
side had called off his planned meeting in March with 
Georgian Prime Minister Noghaideli because the Georgians 
intended to discuss issues beyond hydroelectric power -- the 
planned topic of the meeting.  He said he would be willing to 
talk to any Georgian official if his political leadership 
instructed him to do so. 
 
GDP? We Prefer not to Know 
-------------------------- 
2. (C) The Ambassador asked Ankvab about the state of the 
Abkhaz economy, and whether the de facto government 
calculates GDP.  Ankvab said no, adding with a smile that the 
figures might be so low "they would spoil our mood."  He said 
there were calculations of per capita income and "how much 
the state can earn," and these figures were modest but 
improving.  Asked if Abkhazia was benefiting from Russian 
investment, Ankvab said he thought "we will," once serious 
construction gets underway in connection with a Sochi 
Olympics in 2014.  He said Abkhazia would be the closest and 
best source for gravel and other construction materials 
needed for the Games. 
 
3. (C) Ankvab said the Abkhaz administration was working on 
multi-year projects to improve the road from Sochi through 
Abkhazia to the Enguri River, as well as the route to Lake 
Ritsa, in order to attract more summer tourists.  He said 
that there was not yet large-scale industrial investment from 
Russia; thus far, the only major Russian investment was for 
resorts in the Gagra area.  He acknowledged that many of the 
tourists in Abkhazia were day-trippers who came from Sochi to 
take advantage of the free beaches and lower food prices. 
Ankvab said Abkhazia had widened its international economic 
contacts in recent years, including with Turkey.  He said 
Abkhazia was negotiating with large European companies. 
 
Why No Noghaideli Meeting 
------------------------- 
4. (C) Ankvab said he was aware of the new hotels going up in 
the Georgian seaside resort of Batumi, and added that if 
Georgia "would forget about tensions in Abkhazia" it had a 
good chance to develop economically.  He said Georgia 
appeared incapable of using "gentlemanly means" to promote 
its goal of reclaiming Abkhazia, and he cited as examples the 
building of youth camps near Abkhazia, the installation of 
the Abkhaz Government-in-Exile in Upper Kodori, and 
Saakashvili's speech praising three students released from 
Abkhaz custody. 
 
5. (C) The Ambassador said the Georgians had been 
disappointed by the cancellation of Ankvab's meeting with 
Georgian Prime Minister Noghaideli.  Ankvab also expressed 
disappointment, saying he had taken seriously the Georgians' 
interest in discussing the renovation of hydroelectric power 
production from the Enguri reservoir.  Ankvab said, however, 
that he had obtained information that the Georgians planned 
to bring other people to the meeting, including officials 
working on Georgian foreign policy and relations with 
Abkhazia, as well as the press.  He said his message had been 
that Abkhazia was not ready for such a meeting, and had 
agreed only to discuss energy production. 
 
Our People Don't Want to Live with Georgians 
-------------------------------------------- 
6. (C) The Ambassador noted that the failure to have even 
limited meetings with the Georgians was a missed opportunity. 
 Ankvab agreed that personal contacts were useful, but he 
argued that the Georgians gave the Abkhaz nothing to discuss, 
and focused only on making Abkhazia part of Georgia.  Ankvab 
said this was impossible for the Abkhaz, who want to live on 
their own and not be "part of anything."  He dismissed the 
idea of autonomy within Georgia, saying that "our people 
don't want to live with the Georgians" and "there is blood 
between our two nations."  He said there was a real 
competition of views on many political issues in Abkhazia, 
but all forces were united on relations with Georgia; no 
political leader would have support for changing the policy. 
He said the Georgians were "unable to hide" the fact that 
they were not interested in the Abkhaz themselves but in 
their territory.  Asked about the attitudes of the Abkhaz 
 
TBILISI 00001265  002 OF 002 
 
 
younger generation, Ankvab predicted that views toward 
Georgians would be "passed in the genetic code." 
 
UFOs in Kodori March 11? 
------------------------ 
7. (C) Pressed by the Ambassador on the importance of 
dialogue, Ankvab said he was
not opposed but argued that 
conditions for dialogue were not in place.  Among other 
complaints about Georgia, Ankvab asked why it was necessary 
for Georgia to re-take control of the Upper Kodori Gorge. 
The Ambassador explained that under the Moscow ceasefire 
agreement the Georgians have a right to be there, and their 
presence had remained within agreed limits even after the 
missile attack on Georgian positions there March 11.  Ankvab 
then asked rhetorically "was it an attack?" and the 
Ambassador responded that it was a very serious incident, as 
described in the UN report.  Ankvab said that it was more 
like a case of UFOs.  The Ambassador said such incidents 
underscored the need for dialogue, and Ankvab reiterated his 
support for dialogue, saying that if his political leadership 
so instructed him, he would talk to "Noghaideli, Okruashvili, 
or anyone else."  (Note: Until corrected by the Ambassador, 
Ankvab did not seem to know that former Georgian Defense 
Minister Okruashvili left government in 2006.) 
 
Comment 
------- 
8. (C) Georgian officials have told us they believe that 
Ankvab is a major player in Abkhaz politics, especially on 
economic issues.  It is clear from this conversation that a 
major part of the Abkhaz economic plan is to wait for the 
hoped-for Sochi Olympics to rain down investments and jobs on 
Abkhazia.  If in fact the International Olympic Committee 
awards the 2014 games to Sochi in its meeting July 4, it is 
certain that the Olympics will become the centerpiece of the 
de facto authorities' internal public relations campaign.  It 
is interesting that even a high Abkhaz official like Ankvab 
has remarkably little information about what is going on in 
Georgia.  For ordinary Abkhaz, with even less information 
about Georgia's economic development, and potentially with a 
promise from their authorities of economic deliverance in 
2014, the idea of a future within Georgia will likely remain 
a very tough sell.  They never mention, however, that ethnic 
Abkhaz are not all -- and indeed are probably not even a 
majority -- of the population of Abkhazia.  About one-third 
of Abkhazia is composed of ethnic Georgians, and many 
observers believe ethnic Armenians may now outnumber the 
Abkhaz. 
 
TEFFT

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