07TBILISI1368, SOUTH OSSETIA WATER FLOWS AT LAST

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI1368 2007-06-08 13:49 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO9959
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1368 1591349
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 081349Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6587
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 001368 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/07/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL OSCE GG
SUBJECT: SOUTH OSSETIA WATER FLOWS AT LAST 
 
REF: TBILISI 1278 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b)&(d). 
 
1. (C) On the evening of June 7, the South Ossetian de facto 
authorities re-opened the drinking water pipeline in Java, 
allowing water to flow south to villages controlled by the 
Tbilisi-backed government of Dmitry Sanakoyev, and from there 
farther south to the de facto authorities' "capital" of 
Tskhinvali.  Tskhinvali had been without water for two weeks 
 
SIPDIS 
after the water pipe went dry due to holes caused by both 
storm damage and intentional puncturing by farmers seeking to 
irrigate their fields (reftel).  As recounted to us by OSCE 
officials, on June 5 a Georgian crew finished repairing the 
most serious problem in the pipe: a place in Kheiti, in the 
Georgian enclave, where the pipe had dislodged from a 
concrete support during recent storms.  A joint team 
consisting of OSCE staff and engineers, as well 
representatives of both sides, viewed the repairs that day, 
and OSCE believed that the pipe was at that point 
sufficiently repaired to transport drinking water to 
Tskhinvali.  Nevertheless, de facto officials refused for two 
 
SIPDIS 
days to re-open the pipe in Java, where they blocked it 
several days earlier, claiming they were not convinced that 
the pipeline was in sufficient working order to prevent 
further damage from the pressure of releasing the water.  The 
reversal of the South Ossetian position came after a day of 
meetings involving Russia's chief negotiator on the conflict, 
Yuri Popov. 
 
2. (C) Water began reaching Tskhinvali overnight, and the 
underground reservoirs outside the town were half-filled by 
the morning of June 8.  The water pressure was only about 20 
percent of what was expected, however, and a joint team was 
scheduled to inspect the pipe again June 8 to determine what 
additional repairs may be needed.  The planned inspection 
fell through, however, as the two sides argued over how much 
of the pipe to visit: the Georgians wanted to start at the 
intake point in Edissi, while the South Ossetians said they 
had agreed to start the inspection only farther south, near 
Java.  Negotiations continue. 
 
3. (C) As the water standoff was playing out, tensions also 
rose over the detention or kidnapping of a number of Georgian 
citizens by the South Ossetians -- three in one incident and 
reportedly two in another.  Some have since been released, 
but OSCE has not been able to confirm that all have been. 
Georgian parliamentary leaders, in a briefing to the 
diplomatic corps June 5, said these detentions were obviously 
in retaliation for Georgia's arrest of an Ossetian taxi 
driver for smuggling into Georgian-controlled territory two 
Armenian citizens, to whom the de facto authorities had given 
fraudulent documents purporting to prove they were residents 
of South Ossetia.  The Georgian MPs stressed that the 
Ossetian driver had broken Georgian law, and his case would 
be treated as a law enforcement matter. 
 
4. (C) Comment: The initial cutoff of water in May does not 
appear to have been intentional; farmers have been drilling 
holes in the pipe for irrigation every summer for years, 
causing annual water problems, and this year the storm damage 
at Kheiti worsened the problem.  Once it happened, however, 
both sides tried to use the problem for political gain, 
making it very hard to solve.  In the beginning, the 
Georgians refused to permit repair teams from Tskhinvali to 
repair the pipe, making the Georgians look obstructionist and 
doing them no favors with the population in Tskhinvali (to 
whom Sanakoyev is trying to appeal) or with the international 
community.  Instead, the Georgians repaired it themselves, 
but with a delay.  Trying to counter the impression of 
Georgian obstruction in their briefing with diplomats, 
Georgian parliamentary leaders stressed that Georgia supports 
rehabilitation of the water pipeline, which is on the list of 
projects for the donors' economic rehabilitation program, and 
argued that the main technical problem was with the intake in 
the separatist-controlled north.  By the end, however, it was 
the South Ossetians who were dragging out the crisis, 
probably in an attempt to derive some slight political gain. 
 
TEFFT

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