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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI114 2008-01-24 12:14 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0114/01 0241214
P 241214Z JAN 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000114 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/24/2018 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
1.  (C)  Summary:  In a January 19 meeting with Special 
Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) Jean Arnault, 
DAS Bryza discussed the current situation in Abkhazia and 
progress on the self-assessment of the United Nations 
Observer Mission to Georgia (UNOMIG) operations.  Arnault 
told Bryza that the past three months have been quiet in 
Abkhazia, aside from a few minor, isolated incidents, but 
noted an "amazing" level of propaganda coming from the 
Georgians on Abkhazia, which could destabilize the situation. 
 Contrary to Georgian media claims, he said, there was no 
Abkhaz interference with Georgian voters living in Gali that 
prevented them from going to the polls, although he 
acknowledged that statements made by de-facto foreign 
minister Shamba raised fears among the ethnic Georgian 
population.  Arnault said the UN review of the Friends 
process would focus on two main issues: the ineffectiveness 
of the current strategy to resolve the conflict by pursuing 
CBM's and other grassroots cooperation; and the limitations 
of the current negotiating format. He doubted that the review 
would produce a radically improved strategy.  He said that 
UNOMIG is still reviewing the issue of establishing an 
artillery radar in Upper Kodori, but said that unmanned 
aerial vehicles (UAVs) would likely be a more practical and 
inexpensive solution.  Bryza said that regardless of the 
outcome of the review, he thought that there were several 
underlying issues the Friends could explore to move the peace 
process forward in a decisive way: improved Georgian-Russian 
relations, de-isolation of the Abkhaz by increasing their 
economic ties to Georgia and sources of information, and the 
2014 Sochi Olympics.  End Summary. 
Abkhazia:  a quiet three months 
2.  (C)  Arnault characterized the situation in Abkhazia as 
quiet, with no major incidents between the Georgians and 
Abkhaz for over three months.  He noted, however, that there 
had been an "amazing" amount of propaganda about Abkhazia 
coming from the Georgian media and said that with a decision 
on Kosovo coming soon, it will be necessary to work with the 
Georgians to tone down their rhetoric.  He was particularly 
critical of Georgia's Rustavi 2 television stations and said 
his staff was weary of chasing down untrue reports of Abkhaz 
provocations.  Bryza asked if the Abkhaz had responded in 
kind and Arnault said no, adding that these kinds of scare 
tactics work against Georgia by scaring their own people. 
Although he acknowledged that statements by de-facto "Foreign 
Minister" Shamba to the effect that Georgians living in Gali 
who wanted to vote in the election should move to Georgia 
raised fears among the ethnic Georgian population, he said 
there has been no truth to recent Georgian media reports of 
Abkhaz burning Georgian houses in Gali, harassing Georgian 
journalists, or interfering with Georgian voters going to the 
polls on January 5. 
3.  (C)  Bryza asked Arnault about UNOMIG's proposal to 
establish UAV patrols over the Upper Kodori Gorge and whether 
these UAVs would be equipped with infrared sensors.  Arnault 
said yes, the UAV's would be equipped with infrared sensors, 
and therefore would able to determine the direction from 
which artillery fire occurred even several minutes after such 
attacks.  Arnault added that UNOMIG was still evaluating the 
feasibility of establishing an artillery radar, but thought 
that UAV patrols would be more cost efficient and potentially 
more effective than the radar.  Arnault said that UNOMIG will 
make its pitch to the Georgians on the UAVs soon and should 
have them in place by spring. 
Friends Review 
4.  (C)  Arnault said that the UN review of UNOMIG and the 
Friends process would focus on two main issues: the 
ineffectiveness of the current peace strategy of pursuing 
CBM's and other grassroots cooperation rather than focusing 
on a political settlement; and the limitations of the current 
negotiating format.  The current strategy of focusing on 
resolving simple disputes and building on them to resolve 
larger issues has not been working, he said.  The Georgians 
believe that taking a bottom-up approach hinders progress on 
the larger goal of resolving the conflict, while the Abkhaz 
argue that this approach prevents their long term goal of 
independence.  Both sides have come to the conclusion that 
confidence building measures will not work to achieve their 
ends, he said, which is a cause for real concern because it 
has been at the center of UNOMIG's conflict negotiation 
strategy since 2003.  Still, he said he was not sure whether 
the review would produce a comprehensive new conflict 
resolution strategy. 
TBILISI 00000114  002 OF 002 
5.  (C)  The review also needs to evaluate all of the 
negotiation mechanisms currently in place, he said, and 
determine ways to rein
vigorate the process.  Arnault 
characterized the Geneva meetings between the sides and the 
Group of Friends of the Secretary General as not the most 
vibrant means of getting the parties together.  The Georgians 
continue to view negotiations negatively, he said, because 
they feel that time is against them.  There is a sense among 
the Georgians that with each passing day the Abkhaz become 
more integrated into Russian economic and social systems and 
the sentiment for independence in Abkhazia only becomes more 
entrenched.  If all the Georgians have to offer the Abkhaz 
are long term confidence building measures, he said, it will 
not be enough to persuade the Abkhaz to reunite with Georgia. 
6.  (C)  On the other hand, Arnault noted that the Abkhaz 
also realize that Russian social and economic initiatives are 
not aimed at building ties between two independent states. 
He said he thought Abkhaz de-facto president Bagapsh realizes 
that joining a confederation with Georgia is likely to be 
their best option.  Bryza agreed with Arnault's assessment of 
Abkhaz sentiment toward Russia, saying that he does not think 
the Abkhaz want to be absorbed into Russia.  He asked Arnault 
if he thought there would be a way to exploit Abkhaz fear of 
integration into Russia.  Arnault replied that the Russians 
have told him that they constantly tell the Georgians that 
they (the Georgians) know what to do to resolve the 
situation.  Arnault said he did not know what the Russians 
wanted, but suspected it was Georgia renouncing its NATO bid. 
 Bryza asked if it was now possible to propose this idea of 
confederation or if it was premature.  Arnault said that it 
was too early, particularly with Kosovo independence looming 
and the Georgian parliamentary elections coming in May.  The 
Abkhaz were disappointed with the results of the January 5 
elections and the weakening of Saakashvili, which, he said, 
opens up the potential for renewed Georgian-Russian ties, 
believing that this undermines their quest for independence. 
7.  (C)  Bryza agreed with Arnault that the current strategy 
for resolving the conflict was not working and raised three 
issues that, if built upon, may help reinvigorate the peace 
process.  Following his January 18 meeting with FM 
Bezhuashvili, Bryza noted a renewed Georgian focus on taking 
concrete steps to improve Georgian-Russian relations that 
could lead to a bilateral breakthrough and a warming of ties. 
 Bryza also suggested that it was time to de-isolate the 
Abkhaz and start integrating their economic interests with 
Georgia and raised the issue of the 2014 Sochi Olympics as a 
potential lever for negotiations with the Russians.  Arnault 
said that the issue of Abkhaz isolation is tied to larger 
issues and would not be feasible unless Georgian-Russian ties 
improved, but agreed that it needed to be done.  He also 
thought that the Russians must be thinking of an end game in 
Abkhazia well ahead of the 2014 Olympics, but did not 
speculate on how it might play out. 
8.  (U)  DAS Bryza cleared this cable. 


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