07TBILISI1702, SOUTH OSSETIA: INCHING TOWARD DIALOGUE?

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI1702 2007-07-17 12:51 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4852
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1702/01 1981251
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 171251Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7036
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001702 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA & EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/17/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL GG
SUBJECT: SOUTH OSSETIA: INCHING TOWARD DIALOGUE? 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 1619 
 
     B. TBILISI 1605 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b)&(d). 
 
Summary 
------- 
1. (C) Georgian and South Ossetian representatives are 
currently negotiating the details of a meeting of the Joint 
Control Commission (JCC) and a joint inspection of the 
contested drinking water pipe that runs through South 
Ossetia.  While the sides have not reached final agreement on 
either issue, both sides have made small moves in the 
direction of compromise.  In the meantime, the Georgian 
government has established a special commission to define the 
status of the new administrative unit in South Ossetia, 
inviting all political forces in the region to take part. 
The latest rotation of the Georgian peacekeeping battalion in 
South Ossetia is larger in number than other recent ones, 
coming closer to the maximum of 500 as we have urged in the 
past.  Georgian Defense Minister Kezerashvili told the 
Ambassador that he does not expect a major eruption of 
violence in the region.  He said de facto leader Kokoity is 
nervous that some of his staff will switch sides.  End 
Summary. 
 
Close to a Tbilisi JCC? 
----------------------- 
2. (SBU) The sides have been exchanging counterproposals for 
a JCC meeting for several weeks, with the Georgians dropping 
their earlier condition that JCC working groups should first 
agree on an agenda for the full JCC meeting.  While this 
eliminated a potential source of delay, the Georgians 
continued to insist that the meeting be held in Tbilisi -- 
where the South Ossetians have refused to go in recent years 
-- or, failing that, somewhere in Europe.  On July 13, three 
of the JCC co-chairs (Russia, North Ossetia, and South 
Ossetia -- all but Georgia) met in Tskhinvali and expressed a 
willingness to convene the JCC in Tbilisi.  South Ossetian 
co-chair Boris Chochiev, citing alleged security concerns, 
insisted that such a meeting be held in the Russian Embassy. 
The Georgians counter-proposed the OSCE Mission as the site. 
OSCE officials tell us that, in addition to the continuing 
dispute over location, there is also some difference of 
opinion on the agenda, with the Georgians now favoring an 
"open agenda" while the South Ossetians are calling for a 
"preliminary agenda" to be agreed in advance. 
 
Another Try at Water Pipe Inspection 
------------------------------------ 
3. (C) OSCE has been trying to broker a way out of the 
ongoing controversy over water (ref A).  Several attempts 
over the last week to organize expert meetings or field 
visits to inspect the pipe have been postponed, with the 
South Ossetians explaining July 12 that their engineers first 
needed time to repair a section of the pipe in an 
Ossetian-controlled area north of Java.  Georgian Deputy 
State Minister for Conflict Resolution Ruslan Abashidze told 
us July 12 that he saw this as an encouraging indication that 
de facto authorities had come to recognize that the problems 
inhibiting the flow of water to Tskhinvali were in their 
area.  OSCE has told us they would again try to set up a 
meeting July 17 with two engineers from each side, with the 
hope that after the meeting the four engineers would divide 
into two mixed teams that would conduct separate inspections 
in Kheiti and in the area around Andisi and Kekhvi. 
 
Autonomy Commission Established 
------------------------------- 
4. (U) It was reported July 13 that President Saakashvili had 
signed a decree to establish a special commission, headed by 
Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, to define the status of 
South Ossetia, granting it broader autonomy within Georgia's 
borders.  All political forces in the region, including the 
Georgian-backed temporary administrative unit of Dmitry 
Sanakoyev and the de facto authorities in Tskhinvali, were 
publicly invited to join in the commission's work. 
 
Kezerahsvili on South Ossetia 
----------------------------- 
5. (C) In a meeting with the Ambassador July 12, Defense 
Minister Kezerashvili said that the number of Georgian 
peacekeepers in the South Ossetia conflict zone had increased 
from 350 to 450 during the recent rotation.  He said the new 
rotation was equipped with BMP armored vehicles.  The new 
number is closer to the agreed maximum of 500 peacekeepers 
for a single side, and we have long encouraged the Georgians 
to get closer to their authorized strength, though in the 
past they have argued that stretched resources limited the 
size and length of the deployments. 
 
 
TBILISI 00001702  002 OF 002 
 
 
6. (C) Echoing the assessment of Minister of Internal Affairs 
Merabishvili (ref B), Kezerashvili indicated that he did not 
expect a major explosion of tensions in South Ossetia this 
summer.  Kezerashvili said that clearly Kokoity was nervous, 
and in particular he was worried that some of his staff would 
jump to Sanakoyev.  Kezerashvili said the Russians continue 
to distribute money in the region in an effort to keep people 
loyal to the de facto regime.  Ke
zerashvili said he had 
information that Russia had recently conducted a training of 
the 58th division in Russia just north of the Georgian 
border, in an exercise designed to prepare them to "help" 
Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia if needed. 
Kezerashvili said two Russian SU 25 aircraft had recently 
crossed into Georgian territory, coming in over Kazbegi, and 
that such unauthorized overflights had become a regular 
occurrence. 
 
 
TEFFT

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