07TBILISI1386, LITTLE PROGRESS RESULTS FROM MAY 31 GEORGIA-RUSSIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI1386 2007-06-11 13:46 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1532
RR RUEHAG RUEHDE RUEHHM RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHPB RUEHRN
DE RUEHSI #1386 1621346
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 111346Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6613
INFO RUCNWTO/WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 001386 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/CARC. EB/MTA/BTA AND EB/TPP/MTA 
STATE PASS USTR FOR PAUL BURKHEAD AND CECELIA KLEIN 
COMMERCE FOR ITA/MAC/4231 DANICA STARKS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/06/2017 
TAGS: ETRD USTR WTO GG RU
SUBJECT: LITTLE PROGRESS RESULTS FROM MAY 31 GEORGIA-RUSSIA 
WTO DISCUSSIONS 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft, reason 1.4(b) and (d). 
 
(C) 1.  Georgian trade, customs and immigration officials 
spent a grueling seven hours on May 31 negotiating with 
Russian counterparts, including Russia's chief WTO negotiator 
Max Medvedkov, about Georgian objections to Russia's WTO 
accession bid.  According to Georgia's lead WTO negotiator, 
Deputy Minister of Economic Development Tamuna Kovsiridze, 
the Georgian side had a hard time getting the Russians to 
take their concerns about the operation of border crossings 
from Russia into Abkhazia and South Ossetia seriously.  The 
crossings operate without the consent of the Georgian 
government.  Georgia insists they contravene the 2004 
Georgia-Russia bilateral agreement for Russia's WTO 
accession, which Georgia revoked in June 2006 because of 
Russia's non-compliance with promises to regulate or close 
the crossings.  The issue is of vital importance to Georgia 
for two reasons.  One, the GOG has no control over the flow 
of people, goods, weapons, narcotics and even nuclear 
materials onto its territory.  Two, the issue cuts to the 
heart of Georgia's claim of sovereignty over South Ossetia 
and Abkhazia. 
 
(C) 2.  Kovsiridze said that the Russians were not as 
well-prepared for the discussions as the Georgian side.  Most 
of the debate was about whether the border crossing issue was 
WTO-related, and even whether Georgia has a right to complain 
about the existence of the crossings in the first place.  For 
example, when the Georgians asked why the Russians allowed 
the border checkpoints to operate without Georgia's consent, 
the Russians replied, "Did you ask us for permission to open 
a checkpoint at the new airport in Tbilisi?"  Kovsiridze 
considers that response as frivolous because the airport is 
not located on the border of a foreign country, as are the 
crossings in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  As a result, the 
discussion did not reach the issue of what practical solution 
could be reached that would allow Georgia to consent to 
Russia's proceeding with multilateral negotiations in the WTO. 
 
(C) 3.  Kovsiridze and the GOG consider the border crossing 
issue to be squarely within the purview of the WTO, because 
it involves tariffs, customs procedures and other matters 
that are clearly trade-related.  The discussions with the 
Russians revealed some information that the Georgians believe 
will be useful in supporting their arguments, such as an 
admission that Russian customs authorities are accepting at 
the disputed crossings certificates of origin issued by the 
Chamber of Commerce in Sokhumi, and that Turkish goods are 
entering and transiting Abkhazia into Russia without 
inspection or imposition of tariffs by the Georgian 
authorities. 
 
(C) 4.  Comment: The Russian negotiators were willing to meet 
again with the Georgians, perhaps in July.  The Russian 
government has expressed a desire to wrap up WTO negotiations 
by the end of the year, which may be motivating their 
officials.  The Russian attitude in the negotiations with 
Georgia is at odds with the GOR's professed respect for 
Georgia's territorial integrity, but consistent with their 
more or less overt support for the legitimacy of the de facto 
authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Their lack of 
seriousness in the negotiations so far reflects an apparent 
reluctance to come to grips with these two contradictory 
positions.  Removing the Georgians as a roadblock to their 
WTO accession will require from Russia either highly creative 
diplomacy or tough decisions about how to treat the 
separatist regions.  End Comment. 
TEFFT

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