08TBILISI614, GEORGIANS REMAIN CONCERNED OVER “CREEPING

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI614 2008-04-14 13:01 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO7002
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0614/01 1051301
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 141301Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9263
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000614 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/14/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIANS REMAIN CONCERNED OVER "CREEPING 
RECOGNITION" 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1. (C)  Summary:  On April 11, Minister of Foreign Affairs 
David Bakradze called in Ambassador Tefft to express 
Georgia's disappointment with the U.S. decision not to 
support a Georgian intervention at the OSCE over a Russian 
request to negotiate the extradition of Russian prisoners in 
Abkhazia with the de facto authorities there.  Incoming 
Deputy Foreign Minister (and key Saakashvili insider) Giga 
Bokeria and Georgian Ambassador to the U.S. David 
Sikharulidze were also present.  After Ambassador Tefft 
pushed back on the significance of the request, Bakradze 
explained Georgian concern as the totality of the 
provocations coming from Russia.  Bokeria raised the May 21 
Parliamentary elections, noting the progress to date and 
seeking guidance on next steps.  He said there would be no 
social programs conducted during the campaign, eliminating a 
source of contention during the Presidential campaign.  End 
summary. 
 
2. (C) On April 11, Minister of Foreign Affairs David 
Bakradze called in Ambassador Tefft to express on record his 
disappointment with the U.S. decision not to support a 
Georgian intervention at the OSCE over a Russian MOJ request 
to negotiate the extradition of Russian prisoners in Abkhazia 
with the de facto authorities there.  Despite admitting the 
formulation of the letter was mild, Bakradze contended that 
it was part of a larger "smart" Russian policy to take small 
steps that would lead to the absorption of Abkhazia into 
Russia.  He worried about the possibility of recognition 
without a formal statement of recognition.  We need to react 
to small steps today, he said, or we'll have a bigger problem 
later.  Bakradze expressed concern about crossing "a point of 
irreversibility" and argued that Georgia's position was not 
one of overreacting but of "preventive reaction."  He said 
Georgia could not agree to Russia's negotiating directly with 
the de facto authorities as it would mean legitimization of 
the regime there. 
 
3. (C) Ambassador Tefft responded that he reported back 
Georgia's concern about the letter when it was initially 
raised with him verbally, but the letter appeared to be more 
innocuous than initially reported as it asked Georgia's 
permission to conduct such a negotiation but did not state an 
intention to take unilateral action against Georgia's 
territorial integrity by starting one.  The U.S. understood 
the deep concern here, the Ambassador said, but Georgia could 
not expect the U.S. to jump on Russia every time there is a 
new piece of evidence; rather Georgia should consider 
carefully which things are important enough to raise with 
Russia.  Ambassador Tefft stressed that although this 
incident did not meet the bar, Russia's unilateral lifting of 
sanctions against Abkhazia did - and the U.S. reacted.  He 
emphasized that this is no change in policy but simply a 
judgment as to the importance of one particular event. 
 
4. (C) Bakradze took the point and explained further that 
Georgia's concern is the totality of the provocations coming 
from Russia.  Bokeria added that Georgia is concerned about 
the "creeping annexation" of Abkhazia by Russia, of which 
this and the unilateral lifting of economic and military 
sanctions is a part.  After relaying his Government's 
appreciation for President Bush's effort's at the Bucharest 
Summit, Bokeria relayed deep concern that Germany would not 
offer a Membership Action Plan to Georgia in December - or 
even at the NATO Summit in 2009 - as a result of information 
he received from a German CDU foreign policy spokesperson 
close to Chancellor Merkel.  Bokeria asked what Georgia 
should do in the face of a number of small steps which are 
accumulating to become recognition in everything but name. 
Ambassador Tefft said Georgia should not overreact.  It needs 
to be careful not to expect a reaction to every piece of 
evidence. 
 
5. (C) Turning to elections, Bokeria reviewed some recent 
steps, noting that the Central Election Commission was close 
to final agreement with non-governmental organizations on a 
code of conduct regarding the use of administrative 
resources.  Importantly, there would be no social programs 
during the campaign, eliminating a source of contention 
during the Presidential campaign.  The Parliament had also 
simplified the protocols to make easier the vote count on 
election day and the CEC had publicized the complaints and 
appeals process, one of the main recommendations of the OSCE 
and the OSCE Ambassadorial Working Group.  The Ambassador 
asked about the Ombudsman's claim of having "documentary 
evidence" of election fraud based on tapes of voting during 
the Presidential elections.  Bokeria said that although there 
were reportedly some instances of multiple voting, the main 
issue was two precincts with more than 500 extra votes.  He 
 
TBILISI 00000614  002 OF 002 
 
 
said that these precincts were both "special precincts" where 
votes were dropped into boxes from military barracks, 
hospitals and other designated sites.  For t
his reason, the 
actual voters in these precincts were not recorded on the 
tapes.  The Ambassador said Georgia needed to clarify this 
point publicly. 
 
6. (C) Comment:  The issue of the extradition request - about 
which the Georgians overreacted - is really part of a larger 
concern about a perception of increasing Russian annexation 
of Abkhazia.  The implications of the lifting of the 
sanctions is significant and comes on top of other steps 
including continued passportization and investment in the 
region.  The Georgians believe that Russia is considering 
other actions as well in response to the recent Russia Duma 
hearings.  The Georgian response to the extradition request 
illustrates the deep worry in Tbilisi that they are watching 
the government lose Abkhazia to a gradual but effective 
Russian campaign of small steps that increase ties between 
the Abkhaz and Russia.  We will continue to encourage Georgia 
to reach out to the Abkhaz as a way to counter any such 
effort.  End comment. 
TEFFT

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