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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI388 2008-03-07 14:49 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0388/01 0671449
P 071449Z MAR 08

E.O. 12958: N/A 
1.  (SBU) Summary:  On the evening of March 6, President 
Saakashvili told the Ambassador that Russia had unilaterally 
announced its withdrawal from the 1996 Decision by CIS member 
states to impose sanctions against Abkhazia.  Saakashvili 
condemned the action, which he believed would lead to the 
Russian annexation of Abkhazia.  Georgian officials also 
reacted strongly publicly.  Foreign Minister Bakradze called 
Russia's decision "illegal and very dangerous" and Speaker of 
Parliament Burjanadze characterized it as "unacceptable." 
Minister for Reintegration Yakobashvili, speaking at a March 
7 meeting with the Group of Friends of the Secretary General, 
reaffirmed Georgia's support for the proposals for economic 
development of Abkhazia that he presented at the recent Group 
of Friends meeting in Geneva, but said Russia could no longer 
be considered by anyone to be an honest broker in Abkhazia. 
Also on March 7, the Georgian MFA released a statement 
accusing Russia of infringing on Georgia's sovereignty and 
territorial integrity.  While the media has focused on the 
economic impact of the removal of sanctions, the 1996 
Decision also explicitly prohibits many other linkages to 
Abkhazia including the sale or transfer of military equipment 
to Abkhazia and the establishment of official diplomatic or 
representational offices in Abkhazia.  End summary. 
Georgian government deeply concerned about Russian withdrawal 
--------------------------------------------- ---------------- 
2.  (SBU) On the evening of March 6, President Saakashvili 
called the Ambassador to tell him that the Russians had 
formally announced their withdrawal from the 1996 Decision by 
CIS member states to impose sanctions on Abkhazia.  He also 
told the Ambassador that his military experts had informed 
him that the Russian PKF were digging trenches in the Abkhaz 
conflict zone, which suggested that they were preparing for 
reinforcements.  Saakashvili said the Georgians are viewing 
these actions with grave concern and feared they might 
precipitate a crisis.  Following his conversation with 
Saakashvili, the Ambassador spoke with Special Representative 
of the Secretary General, Jean Arnault, who expressed alarm 
at the Russian actions, noting that the 1996 Decision not 
only applied to economic activities but military supplies and 
equipment as well.  He told the Ambassador that UNOMIG has 
been monitoring the trench digging and would provide an 
update.  On March 7, a UNOMIG official played down the issue 
of the trenches, noting that their patrols have seen Abkhaz, 
not the Russian PKF, doing maintenance work on existing 
positions with the exception of one position.  He did not 
believe that the trench digging constituted a violation of 
the 1994 Moscow Cease Fire Agreement. 
3.  (SBU) Other Georgian government officials also reacted 
strongly to the Russian decision.  Deputy Minister for 
Reintegration Ruslan Abashidze told us on March 7 that the 
Russian Foreign Ministry statement calling for the 
establishment of transport, economic and social links with 
Abkhazia sounds like establishing links between two 
independent states, despite Russian claims that its action 
was not a violation of Georgian sovereignty.  He said Russia 
had no legal right to unilaterally pull out of a decision by 
the CIS Council of Heads of State.  Abashidze speculated that 
the Georgian government might reconsider its position on the 
CIS peacekeeping mandate, adding that it was clear that 
Russia was a side in the conflict.  He also noted that Russia 
was reportedly asking other CIS members to take the same 
steps with regard to the Decision.  Publicly, both Foreign 
Minister Bakradze and Speaker Burjanadze strongly condemned 
Russia's decision.  In a statement to the media, Bakradze 
called the decision "illegal and very dangerous" and warned 
that it would move Georgia-Russian relations to "a totally 
new dimension and Russia will bear the full responsibility 
for it."  Burjanadze, speaking to the media in Brussels, 
echoed Bakradze's comments, calling Russia's decision 
Yakobashvili:  Russia no longer an 'honest broker' in Abkhazia 
--------------------------------------------- ----------------- 
4.  (SBU) At a March 7 meeting with the Group of Friends 
(including Russia), Minister for Reintegration Yakobashvili 
called the Russian MFA statement declaring Russia's 
withdrawal from the 1996 Decision to be "hostile" and 
"destructive," and said the reasons justifying the decision 
were simply not true.  He said there has been no UNSC 
Resolution or Group of Friends decision that would remotely 
justify the Russian decision and he asked the western Friends 
to condemn the Russian MFA statement.  The Georgian 
government particularly does not understand why Russia wants 
to open the possibility of arms exports to Abkhazia, he said, 
and argued that this demonstrates that Russia could no longer 
TBILISI 00000388  002 OF 002 
be considered by anyone to be an honest broker in Abkhazia. 
They are a
 "side" to the conflict, he said, and Georgia will 
consider them as such.  At the same time, Yakobashvili 
emphasized that the Georgian government would continue to 
support the economic development proposals that he presented 
at the recent Group of Friends meeting in Geneva.  (Note: 
These proposals encourage development in Abkhazia through 
Abkhaz-Georgian cooperation rather than lifting sanctions, 
which the Georgians believe ultimately support desires for 
Abkhaz independence rather than peaceful reintegration within 
Georgia.  End note).  Georgia is ready to begin joint police 
patrols of Gali with the Abkhaz, he said, and for the 
resumption of the Quadripartite meetings between the sides. 
He noted that the recent release of Georgian journalists 
after extensive talks between Georgian and Abkhaz officials 
showed that both sides can work together, quietly, "below the 
press radar." 
CIS Sanctions not only economic, but military, political 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
5.  (U) While the media, and the Russians themselves, have 
emphasized the economic and social impact of lifting the 
sanctions, the 1996 Decision clearly lists a far broader 
range of prohibited activities than have been reported 
publicly, including: 
--  a prohibition of all CIS member states to sell or supply 
arms, military equipment of all types, spare parts, 
ammunitions, military vehicles and equipment by their 
citizens or from their respective territories, or through 
their ships and aircraft to the conflict zone; 
--  a prohibition of any technical consultations, assistance 
or services in the field of staff training or on other issues 
relating to military arms and equipment to the Abkhaz side; 
--  a mandate to prevent enlisting in the service of military 
forces of the CIS member-states the citizens permanently 
residing in the territories under the control of the Abkhaz 
--  an article calling on CIS member states to prevent the 
recruitment of their citizens and their detachment to the 
conflict zone for participation in the activity of any armed 
--  a prohibition against the functioning of representatives 
of the authorities of the Abkhaz side in CIS member state 
territory and against any official CIS member state 
representative serving in an official capacity in Abkhazia. 
6.  (SBU) The Russian decision to withdraw from the 1996 CIS 
Decision, while not completely unexpected, has only served to 
inflame Georgian fears of a "creeping annexation" of Abkhazia 
by Russia.  Russia already heavily invests in both conflict 
zones despite the decisions.  Still, the formal lifting of 
the sanctions by Russia will not only open up the possibility 
of increased economic activity between Abkhazia and Russia - 
particularly important for Russia as it prepares for the 2014 
Winter Olympics in neighboring Sochi - but also the potential 
for closer diplomatic, and possibly military, cooperation 
between the two sides, which would only exacerbate tensions 
in the volatile region.  Interestingly, Russian Lieutenant 
General Valery Yevnevich was quoted March 6 saying that the 
all-Russian CIS peacekeeping force would not withdraw from 
the Abkhaz conflict zone unless instructed to do so by the 
CIS Council of Heads of State, which gave the peacekeepers 
their mandate.  The Georgians are likely to ask why, if 
Russia can unilaterally pull out of a CIS decision on 
sanctions, they cannot renounce the CIS mandate for 


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