07TBILISI2798, AMBASSADOR TEFFT’S MEETING WITH EU CAUCASUS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2798 2007-11-09 14:37 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3016
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2798/01 3131437
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 091437Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8160
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002798 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/CARC, EUR/RPM AND EUR/FO 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/09/2017 
TAGS: PREL PGOV GG
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR TEFFT'S MEETING WITH EU CAUCASUS 
REPRESENTATIVE PETER SEMNEBY 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft, reason 1.4(b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary: The Ambassador met with Peter Semneby, EU 
Special Representative for the South Caucasus, on November 9. 
 Also present were Per Eklund, Head of the EU Commission 
Delegation in Georgia, Eric Fournier, the Ambassador of 
France, and members of the EU Commission's and Semneby's 
staff.  Semneby had returned to Tbilisi after a short absence 
to deal with the state of emergency declared by President 
Saakashvili.  Now that Saakashvili has moved up presidential 
elections, Semneby said, Georgia's political future is in a 
"formative period."  With a presidential election coming in 
January, Semneby was concerned about the need to recruit and 
organize election monitors.  ODIHR and other NGO resources 
for monitoring will be stretched by the elections in Russia. 
Semneby is meeting with the management of Imedi Television, 
which was shut down by the GOG on November 7.  He and the 
Ambassador agreed that the EU and the United States will have 
to insist on the reopening of Imedi and a fair distribution 
of television time among the candidates for President.  This 
will be especially important since the government now 
effectively controls or influences all the television 
stations on the air.  Semneby said that it is important to 
obtain an accounting of detainees held by the government in 
the wake of the demonstrations.  End Summary. 
 
RUSSIA'S ROLE VS. FUNDAMENTAL DISCONTENT 
---------------------------------------- 
 
2. (C) Semneby asked the Ambassador's opinion of the Russian 
role in recent events.  The Ambassador said that the 
Government is quite convinced of a Russian-backed or 
-supported conspiracy, and has some evidence to back up that 
theory.  At the same time, he said, there are fundamental 
political, economic and social issues that are motivating 
popular discontent.  Semneby observed that the matter is a 
"chicken and egg" situation, where the Russians are quick to 
take advantage of that fundamental discontent.  For its part, 
the government is eager to portray the demonstrations and 
riots as a big plot, with a few innocent opposition leaders 
mixed in.  Fournier said that he expects Russia to keep 
tensions high with Georgia. 
 
IMEDI TV AND FAIR DISTRIBUTION OF TV TIME 
----------------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) Semneby was especially concerned about the closure of 
Imedi Television.  He said that during his stay in Tbilisi, 
he is meeting with Lewis Robertson, the general director of 
Imedi, and with the station's managing director, Bidzina 
Baratashvili, to hear their report about the closure of the 
station.  The Ambassador agreed that both the press freedom 
issues and the investment protection issues involved in the 
Imedi situation will have to be addressed by the government. 
The issue is difficult, he said, because before it was shut 
down, Imedi's reporting was verging on incitement to 
violence, with no pretense at balance.  It will be difficult 
to prevent a return to the status quo ante if control of the 
station is returned to Badri Patarkatsishvili, he said. 
Semneby deplored the destruction of Imedi's studio by the 
police when they entered and shut it down.  The Ambassador 
said that significant legal action by Rupert Murdoch's 
NewsCorp against the government may come soon, but observed 
that the station's owners will not find it difficult to set 
up a temporary studio if the station is allowed to resume 
broadcasting.  The government will also have to be pushed to 
allow a fair distribution of time on public television 
stations for the opposition, he added.  The Ambassador and 
Semneby discussed ways to monitor the distribution of 
television time.  Prior to the meeting with Semneby, the 
Ambassador had met with David Gamkrelidze of the New 
Rightists party.  He told Semneby that Gamkrelidze had 
pointed out the difficulty any candidate for President, 
including Gamkrelidze himself, will have in reaching voters 
if the government controls all the media in Georgia. 
 
WINNERS, LOSERS AND DETAINEES 
----------------------------- 
 
4. (C) Gamkrelidze, the Ambassador continued, is the only 
opposition leader who did not participate in the 
demonstrations and resisted the temptation to call for 
Saakashvili's ouster.  Other opposition parties had lost 
credibility by going along with the more radical group's 
demand for Saakashvili's resignation or ouster.  Nino 
Burjanadze has come out of the crisis with a great deal of 
credit for constructively reaching out to the opposition. 
Semneby agreed wholeheartedly.  Burjanadze will apparently be 
acting president after Saakashvili resigns, which must occur 
at least by November 21, 45 days before the January 5 
 
TBILISI 00002798  002 OF 002 
 
 
election date.  The more radical opposition leaders, Shalva 
Natelashvili and Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, have fled the 
country to Russia, according to the government, he said. 
Natelashvili and Gamsakhurdia's brother Tsodne have been 
indicted for treason.  Semneby said that Goga Khaindrava is 
in hiding, and Fournier s
aid he has heard he is thinking of 
seeking political asylum abroad.  One of Semneby's staff 
expressed concern about reports that opposition activists are 
in prison in the regions.  He said that the United Council of 
the Opposition has promised to give the EU Commission 
delegation a list of the names of their supporters who are in 
prison. 
 
ELECTION MONITORS NEEDED FAST 
----------------------------- 
 
5 (C) Looking forward to the election in January, Semneby 
expressed concern about the ability of ODIHR, NGO's and other 
organizations to mobilize election monitors.  With the 
Russian parliamentary elections close in time to the Georgian 
presidential election, ODIHR's resources will be stretched. 
The Ambassador said that it will be important to get monitors 
in to observe Georgia's elections, which are of considerable 
importance to the West.  He told Semneby the Council of 
Europe says that voters lists are being cleaned up, and the 
president has agreed to make changes to the Electoral 
Commission that will help avoid unfairness.  The Ambassador 
and Semneby agreed that it will be important to impress on 
the opposition the need to accept the outcome of the 
presidential elections, even if Saakashvili prevails, as is 
likely to happen, since he still has fairly large support. 
Semneby believes the outcome of the referendum on the date of 
parliamentary elections is more open.  Saakashvili will 
continue to argue for holding the elections in the fall. 
Semneby said that the earliest the parliamentary elections 
could be held is March 2008, and if they are held earlier 
that Saakashvili wishes it will show he is not "the arbiter 
of everything." 
 
TEFFT

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