08TBILISI262, HOW MUCH DISTANCE BETWEEN GEORGIANS AND ABKHAZ IN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI262 2008-02-15 12:03 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO9394
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0262/01 0461203
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 151203Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8890
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000262 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR DAS BRYZA & EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/14/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL UN GG
SUBJECT: HOW MUCH DISTANCE BETWEEN GEORGIANS AND ABKHAZ IN 
GENEVA MEETING? 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 252 
     B. TBILISI 246 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(B&D). 
 
Summary 
------- 
1. (C) The convergence of several developments -- the 
apparently increasing anger of the Abkhaz de facto 
leadership, the strong focus on engagement by new Georgian 
State Minister for Reintegration Yakobashvili, and most of 
all the coincidence of timing with the Kosovo decision -- 
makes for a decidedly unpredictable mixture in the February 
18-19 meeting of the sides and the Group of Friends in 
Geneva.  While this combination of factors may make it 
difficult to reach many significant agreements, the meeting 
is a timely opportunity for the Friends, or at least the 
Western Friends, to underscore that Kosovo has in no way 
changed their approach to the Abkhazia conflict.  The UN 
hopes to use the meeting to make progress on a range of 
issues, including resumption of the security dialogue and 
confidence-building measures.  End Summary. 
 
Two Sides, Two Different Messages 
--------------------------------- 
2. (C) During a recent visit to Sukhumi, the German and 
British Ambassadors found de facto president Bagapsh and de 
facto foreign minister Shamba in a more angry mood than they 
ever remembered (ref A).  Shamba lashed out at the UN, the 
Friends, and the international community, leading the British 
Ambassador to suspect that the Abkhaz may have received an 
unwelcome message from Moscow that no recognition would be 
forthcoming following Kosovo.  While the Abkhaz appear to be 
more unyielding than usual, new Georgian State Minister for 
Reintegration Yakobashvili is talking in both public and 
private about new initiatives to end Abkhaz isolation, 
including reduction of economic sanctions (ref B).  Some of 
Yakobashvili's statements and actions -- especially the 
renaming of his ministry to highlight reintegration -- have 
offended Abkhaz sensitivities, but the Abkhaz could not have 
missed the change in rhetoric he has brought to the job. 
Shamba was quoted February 13 calling for the re-opening of 
the railroad through Abkhazia, something Yakobashvili has 
also endorsed and which is somewhat controversial inside 
Abkhazia.  Despite such potential areas of agreement, the 
Abkhaz decision whether to take a constructive approach in 
this meeting will likely depend on their perception of the 
politics of Kosovo -- i.e., on what messages they want to 
send to the Western Friends, the Russians, and the Georgians. 
 
All Quiet on the Cease-Fire Line? 
--------------------------------- 
3. (C) There have been several alarming press reports 
recently of tension in the Gali region, including interviews 
with de facto presidential representative Ruslan Kishmaria 
suggesting that Abkhaz forces could occupy currently 
Georgian-controlled territory in military operations.  UN 
Senior Political Advisor Atanas Baltov told us February 13 
that while Kosovo was contributing to a sense of uncertainty 
in Gali, the situation did not seem greatly different from 
usual.  He said Kishmaria was repeating comments he had made 
many times before -- that if Georgia attacks Abkhazia, the 
Abkhaz would not limit themselves to their own territory in 
response -- and Baltov did not think the timing of these 
interviews was related to Kosovo.  Baltov indicated that UN 
had not seen an unusual increase in security incidents. 
Turning to internal politics in Sukhumi, Baltov noted that 
there appeared to be a difference in the language used by 
Shamba and Bagapsh on Kosovo, with Shamba explicitly saying a 
Russian failure to recognize Abkhazia would hurt Moscow's 
standing throughout the Caucasus, while Bagapsh has stressed 
that Russia is a great power with many interests to take into 
account. 
 
A Sizable Agenda 
---------------- 
4. (C) Baltov explained that the UN hopes to use the meeting 
to move forward on a number of agenda items still outstanding 
from the Bonn meeting in June 2007, including the unfulfilled 
confidence-building measures (CBMs) originally agreed in 
Geneva in February 2007.  One of the most important items is 
resumption of the security dialogue in a format that would 
replace the stalled Quadripartite Meetings.  Baltov noted 
that then-State Minister Bakradze had reached an agreement in 
principle with Shamba in October to re-start security 
meetings.  Only minor differences still remain on the 
details, including the frequency of meetings (the Georgians 
favor every three weeks while the Abkhaz have agreed to the 
UN proposal of every two weeks) and the level of the head of 
the Georgian delegation (the Abkhaz side would be represented 
 
TBILISI 00000262  002 OF 002 
 
 
by Kishmaria). 
 
5. (C) The UN also intends to use the Geneva meeting to 
follow up on implementation of other previously agreed 
measures, including the Joint Fact-Finding Group (JFFG) 
investigation of the February 2007 disappearance of Gali 
election official David Sigua.  Baltov said seven JFFG 
meeting
s had been held on this case, but the investigation 
has not yet closed.  Baltov said the UN saw signs of 
"increased self-censorship" on the part of Georgian 
witnesses.  Another measure is identification of missing 
persons from the war, and Baltov noted to us that there had 
been a joint technical visit in September 2007 to Cyprus to 
study the experience there.  There will also be discussion on 
the European Commission-funded rehabilitation program, which 
is being carried out in three overlapping "phases" of just 
under 2 million euros each, with the third falling under the 
European Neighborhood initiative.  In the past the Georgians 
have expressed great frustration to us that they have little 
say or information about the program, and after considerable 
Georgian pressing the first two meetings of the program's 
Steering Committee took place in 2007.  While this was a step 
forward, the Georgians have continued to have concerns about 
the non-transparent implementation of the program, and they 
claim that the Abkhaz share these concerns.  The UN hopes to 
be able to break an impasse about one Gali project proposed 
by the Georgians; the Abkhaz have rejected it, insisting that 
each side undertake projects only in territory it controls. 
 
6. (C) Another major chunk of the discussion will center on 
outstanding CBMs.  The sides have thus far been unable to 
reach agreement on how to implement increased diaspora 
contacts and maritime communication between Sukhumi and 
Trabzon, Turkey.  Regarding the CBM of greater civil society 
contacts between the sides, there were some meetings in the 
first half of 2007 but Baltov said that the Georgians backed 
away from this as the year went on, arguing instead for 
meetings of professional organizations and groups.  Baltov 
saw potential for confidence-building in combating the common 
threats of African Swine Fever and Avian Influenza. 
 
7. (C) Finally, the UN continues to be interested in a 
meeting at the leadership level between the sides.  The 
Abkhaz have set Georgian withdrawal from the Upper Kodori -- 
a non-starter with Tbilisi -- as a pre-condition for the 
meeting, and have also pushed for a non-use of force 
agreement to be signed at such a meeting. 
 
Comment 
------- 
8. (C) This meeting will take place while all eyes are on 
Kosovo, and it is a timely opportunity for the Western 
Friends to underscore that Kosovo has in no way changed their 
approach to the Abkhazia conflict. 
 
TEFFT

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