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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI1504 2007-06-21 13:17 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #1504/01 1721317
O 211317Z JUN 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001504 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/20/2017 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  In a June 11 meeting with USAID 
representatives, UN Special Representative of the Secretary 
General (SRSG) for Georgia Jean Arnault was downbeat on the 
prospect of increasing assistance to Abkhazia.  He said that 
the current atmosphere is as bad as it has been since he 
arrived some eight months ago.  Arnault congratulated USAID 
for being able to implement programs "under the radar" which 
neither side views as threatening.  He encouraged the U.S. to 
continue programming which brings Abkhaz and Georgians 
together but did not think that a needs assessment study was 
necessary in order to move ahead with is a wealth of needs, 
especially in Gali.  In a separate meeting with Poloff on 
June 8, Saakashvili insider Giga Bokeria was deeply skeptical 
of increasing assistance to the Abkhaz as a way to promote 
conflict resolution.  End summary. 
2. (C) On June 11, USAID Mission Director Bob Wilson, 
accompanied by Deputy Director Andrea Yates, Program Officer 
Craig Hart and Poloff, met SRSG Jean Arnault to discuss ideas 
for increasing assistance to Abkhazia.  Wilson said that the 
USG has two million USD to program on confidence building 
measures in Abkhazia.  The U.S. would like to use it to 
increase the interdependency between the Abkhaz and Georgians 
but avoid anything that supports the de facto authorities. 
He cited ideas including enhancing contact between Abkhaz and 
Georgians, improving the information flow about Georgia in 
Abkhazia, opening American Corners, and increasing trade 
between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. 
3. (C) Arnault responded that the current atmosphere in 
Abkhazia is as bad as it has been since he arrived some eight 
months ago.  Some staff were even telling him that the 
situation has not been this bad since conflict broke out in 
1998.  He congratulated USAID for being successful in 
conducting programs "under the radar" which neither sides 
views as threatening.  Still, areas in which the Georgians 
and Abkhaz used to be open are now closed.  For example, the 
Georgians refused to allow UN to train police in Abkhazia 
unless the training is joint with Georgians.  Similarly, the 
Georgians now believe the EC program for infrastructure 
development undermines their political agenda.  Even 
Conciliation Resources, he said, had run into trouble with 
the Georgians for a perceived bias toward the Abkhaz.  He did 
not believe there was much flexibility left to do more than 
what is being done currently. 
4. (C) He said the UN would continue trying to do things that 
do not set off alarm bells including continuing humanitarian 
work as well as police and human rights work with a focus on 
the ethnically Georgian Gali region.  Specifically, Arnault 
said the UN hoped to see what could be done with the 
newly-established Human Rights Center in Gali.  He hoped the 
U.S. might also provide assistance there.  Despite some 
concern from Georgians that non-governmental organizations in 
Abkhazia are not neutral, he believed that the Center could 
help to bring human rights abuses under control.  He stressed 
the importance of informal contacts between Georgians and 
Abkhaz as an area of potential continued U.S. assistance 
focus, especially in the current environment where formal 
contact is not taking place.  He thought that increasing 
access to outside sources of information, such as the opening 
of American corners, would be welcome. 
5. (C) When asked whether the assistance example of the South 
Ossetia Economic Rehabilitation Program -- undertaking a 
needs assessment followed by international pledges of support 
and supervised implementation -- could apply to Abkhazia, 
Arnault said he is doubtful that a joint needs assessment, 
which would require cooperation from the sides, could take 
place now.  He said that the Abkhaz were approaching 
assistance as a zero-sum game and the Georgians were not 
seeing assistance in their political interests.  Assistance 
has become politicized, in part by the way that the 
international community has chosen to sell it:  as a way to 
move forward with the political process.  The EC program, he 
said, has been in place for over two years and the political 
process remains stalled.  As a result, the Georgians are 
reconsidering their support for such programs. 
6. (C) Still, Arnault thought that attempting to continue, 
and increase assistance if possible, remains a good idea from 
an humanitarian and a political perspective.  He concluded 
that donors do not have to undertake the political risk (or 
the time) to conduct a needs assessment to know what to do. 
There is a wealth of needs in the Gali region especially.  A 
2004 needs assessment concluded that there would be an 
humanitarian crisis if nothing i
s done immediately to fix the 
infrastructure there.  Nothing has been done since that time. 
 He said the trick is trying to undertake programs that are 
TBILISI 00001504  002 OF 002 
perceived to be in the interests of both sides.  He noted 
that the U.S. perhaps more than any other country has been 
able to stay clear of problems with one of the sides, which 
every other donor has seemed to encounter. 
7. (C) When asked by Poloff about increasing assistance to 
Abkhazia in a separate meeting on June 8, key Parliamentarian 
(and Saakashvili insider) Giga Bokeria responded emotionally 
with a question:  what about assistance for the more than 
200,000 internally displaced persons driven out of Abkhazia? 
When asked about reported concerns of the Georgian Government 
with the EC assistance program, Bokeria said simply that the 
program is reinforcing the de facto regime.  He added that 
other programs, including Conciliation Resources, simply 
bring together the same people with immovable views and is 
not helping resolve the conflict.  He suggested continuing 
programs which bring together Abkhaz and Georgian 
opinion-makers, such as teachers and youth.  He was deeply 
skeptical about the overall usefulness of economic assistance 
to Abkhazia as a way to promote conflict resolution. 
8. (C) COMMENT:  These meetings reflect the challenge of 
assistance to Abkhazia.  Unlike South Ossetia, where the 
communities are interdependent because of their proximity, 
the ethnic Georgians of Gali and the ethnic Abkhaz (and 
Armenians) in the north live essentially independent lives. 
Arnault's analysis is correct:  part of the reason the 
Georgians have lost confidence in assistance programs in 
Abkhazia is that they have not seen the programs advance the 
political process as they claim to do.  If anything, 
positions are more rigid than they were in 2005, when the EC 
launched its four million Euro program with such fanfare. 
The EC's ham-handed approach in dealing with the Georgians on 
assistance to Abkhazia has not helped the situation.  In 
addition, the international aid workers, who are concentrated 
in the Abkhaz areas of Abkhazia, tend to view the situation 
as a humanitarian one for the Abkhaz, while the Georgian 
IDPs, spread across Georgia, remain invisible.  As a result, 
these international workers may tend to adopt a view more 
sympathetic to Abkhaz positions.  We believe that any 
successful assistance program in Abkhazia requires careful 
coordination with the Georgian Government, key members of 
whom remain skeptical that such programs are helping to 
resolve the conflict within Georgia's internationally 
recognized borders -- their primary goal.  End comment. 


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