08TBILISI384, GEORGIA BI-WEEKLY UPDATE MARCH 7

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI384 2008-03-07 11:58 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO8339
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0384/01 0671158
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 071158Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9039
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000384 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM ECON KDEM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA BI-WEEKLY UPDATE MARCH 7 
 
1. This cable contains current items of political, 
economic, and social interest concerning Georgia during the 
weeks of February 23-March 7. 
 
New Board for Public Broadcaster 
-------------------------------- 
2. On February 26, the Georgian Parliament approved the new 
composition of the Supervisory Board of Georgia's Public 
Broadcasting Service, following consultations between the opposition 
and parliamentary majority.  MPs selected 9 people (5 aligned with 
the government and 4 with the opposition) out of the 27 candidates 
that President Saakashvili had submitted to parliament.  On March 5 
the newly elected Supervisory Board held its first meeting, at which 
the members of the Board elected Irakli Tripolski, an 
opposition-backed member, as chairman and Irakli Gakheladze as his 
deputy.  The Board also announced a competition for the post of the 
general director and agreed upon the criteria for selecting a 
person, with the nomination scheduled to occur by April 4.  The 
Supervisory Board approved the resignation of the General Director 
Tamar Kintsurashvili, whose departure had been a high-profile demand 
of the opposition.  Based on an understanding reached in the 
negotiations, the new general director is expected to be 
government-backed. 
 
Divisions in Okruashvili's Party 
-------------------------------- 
3. Problems are emerging within the new opposition party For United 
Georgia, founded by former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili. 
Okruashvili himself, wanted by the Georgian government on corruption 
charges, is currently awaiting the decision of a Paris court on his 
extradition from France.  Meanwhile prominent supporters are 
reported to be leaving the party.  Gia Tortladze and Gia 
Tsagareishvili have resigned their positions in party leadership, 
 
SIPDIS 
and rumor has it that Okruashvili dismissed them because of 
disagreement over where they would rank on the party list for the 
upcoming parliamentary elections.  Another member, MP Keti 
Makharashvili, left the party, saying publicly that while 
Okruashvili was her friend, he had placed personal ambitions over 
the interests of his party and Georgia.  A party congress is 
scheduled to be held next week and Okruashvili is expected to be 
formally elected party chairman.   At this stage it is not yet clear 
whether Okruashvili's party will run for the parliament on its own 
or on the common ticket with the opposition United national 
Council. 
 
Georgia Seeks Coalition to Support MAP 
-------------------------------------- 
4. In the period leading up to the NATO summit in Bucharest in 
April, the Georgian government is working to build support within 
the alliance for Georgia to receive a Membership Action Plan (MAP). 
On March 3, President Saakashvili paid an official visit to Poland, 
which he said was aimed at securing "a broad coalition" within NATO 
in support of Georgia.  Calling Poland a "leading member of this 
coalition," Saakashvili said "In four weeks Bucharest will host what 
can become an historic NATO summit.  The issue of the 
irreversibility of Georgia's and Ukraine's integration into NATO may 
be solved."  As the Georgian press reports, in pursuit of this goal 
Saakashvili plans to visit Brussels and later the U.S., where he 
will hold talks with President Bush.  Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker 
Burjanadze and Foreign Minister Bakradze visited Brussels to discuss 
Georgia's European and Euro-Atlantic integration.  Following a 
meeting with NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer, Burjanadze 
told journalists that "it is clear that the attitude towards Georgia 
is positive."  Bakradze also stressed that "the Secretary General 
has noted once again that Georgia has fulfilled its homework 
excellently." 
 
Georgia Reacts to Duma Hearings on Breakaway Regions 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
5. The Russian State Duma held a hearing with Russian government 
officials March 5 to discuss lifting restrictions on use of the 
Sukhumi Airport, and Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov announced that 
another hearing March 13 would consider the appeal of Georgia's 
separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Russia to 
recognize their independence.  Leaders of both de facto governments 
will participate in the March 13 hearing.  The South Ossetian 
"parliament" formally appealed to the UN, EU, and CIS for 
recognition, and Abkhazia is expected to do so March 7.  Georgian 
Foreign Minister Bakradze criticized possible Russian use of the 
airport, saying that use of the territory of another state without 
its consent was equivalent to annexation.  State Minister for 
Reintegration Yakobashvili said any Duma decision for recognition 
would be a recommendation only and would go against Russia's own 
interests. 
 
Russia Opens Polling Stations in Separatist Regions 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
6. The Georgian MFA objected strongly to the establishment of 
polling stations for the March 2 Ru
ssian presidential election in 
Georgia's separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia without 
Georgia's consent, calling in Russian Ambassador Kovalenko to 
provide an explanation February 26.  After the meeting with Georgian 
Deputy Foreign Minister Vashadze, Kovalenko told the press that 
 
TBILISI 00000384  002 OF 002 
 
 
"Russian authorities have created all conditions to enable Russian 
citizens to fulfill their duty" to vote.  Media in Abkhazia and 
South Ossetia reported that Dmitry Medvedev won about 90 percent of 
the vote in both regions. 
 
U.S. Supports Export of Georgian Wines 
-------------------------------------- 
7. The Ambassador and USAID Mission Director joined Georgian 
officials February 29 on a tour of the Mildiani and Vinoterra 
wineries to highlight plans for large-scale export of Georgian wines 
to the U.S.  Georgian wine producers are increasingly looking at 
Western markets to fill the gap caused by the closure of the Russian 
market in 2006.  The USG has facilitated linkages between two 
Georgian wineries, Vinoterra and Tsinandali Old Cellar, and the 
U.S.-based distributors serving Whole Foods Market.  The first order 
of 10,500 bottles will be shipped to Seattle in March.  The volume 
is expected to more than double within a year.  In 2006 and 2007 
Georgia's wine export to the U.S. (mostly Teliani Valley products) 
was worth about USD 1.5 million each year. 
 
Judges Receive TIP Training 
--------------------------- 
8. On March 2008 IOM, in cooperation with the High School of 
Justice, facilitated a training course for Georgian judges to raise 
their understanding of trafficking in persons (TIP) and sensitize 
them of the plight of victims of trafficking.  Nine judges and eight 
judge assistants, from six different towns in Georgia, participated 
in the two-day training course.  Participants were trained in the 
intricacies of the crime of human trafficking and the importance of 
protecting the rights and interests of victims and witnesses during 
court proceedings. 
 
TEFFT

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