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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI835 2008-05-21 13:15 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0835/01 1421315
O 211315Z MAY 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 TBILISI 000835 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/14/2018 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
1. (C) Summary.  In a May 10 meeting in Abkhazia with DAS 
Matthew Bryza and Ambassador Tefft, Abkhaz de facto president 
Sergei Bagapsh left open the possibility for meeting with 
Georgian officials despite stating officially that the Abkhaz 
would not resume talks until Georgia removes its troops from 
the Upper Kodori Valley (UKV.)  Follow-on meetings with 
Abkhaz de facto foreign minister Sergei Shamba indicated some 
flexibility in the Abkhaz position.  In order to resume 
talks, Shamba sought a four part package consisting of:  an 
agreement on reducing the number of Georgian troops in the 
UKV, a non-use of force pledge, the lifting of economic 
sanctions, and the establishment of a sea link between 
Trabzon and Sukhumi.  Bryza underscored the importance of 
Abkhaz security concerns, and proposed initiating a new forum 
that would focus on the larger issues between the sides to 
catalyze direct Abkhaz-Georgian talks.  This forum could 
include the U.S, Russia, EU, UN, OSCE and Black Sea countries 
as advisors and fundraisers for the implementation of peace 
initiatives.  While in Abkhazia, Bryza also had meetings in 
Gali with UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) sector 
commander, UN police and human rights officials, local 
non-government organizations (NGO) and the de facto 
presidential representative for the Gali region.  End 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
2. (C) On May 10, DAS Matthew Bryza and Ambassador Tefft met 
Abkhaz de facto president Sergei Bagapsh and Abkhaz de facto 
foreign minister Sergei Shamba in Abkhazia.  EUR/CARC 
Conflicts Advisor Michael Carpenter and Pol/Econ Chief also 
participated.  Bagapsh emphasized the Abkhaz commitment to a 
peaceful resolution of the conflict.  He lamented the fact 
that there were no contacts between the leaders of Abkhazia 
and Georgia, despite regular conversations in the past 
between former de facto president Ardzinba and former 
Georgian President Shevardnadze.  Still, Bagapsh stated 
officially that the Abkhaz would not resume talks with 
Georgia until Georgia withdraws from the UKV.  He proposed a 
solution whereby the Abkhaz and Georgians withdrew entirely 
from the Kodori valley, allowing the local Svan population (a 
Georgian sub-ethnic group)  to police itself under the 
oversight of UN monitors.  If there could be agreement on 
this, he said, the Abkhaz would re-start talks with Georgia. 
3. (C)  Bagapsh boasted that the Abkhaz had shot down the 5th 
Georgian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over Abkhazia on May 
9.  He claimed this one had been armed with a rocket.  (Note: 
 Our information is that the Georgians have lost 4 Hermes 
UAVs over Abkhazia as of May 12, one of which malfunctioned 
while three others were likely shot down (reftel).  End 
note.)  Bagapsh said that the Abkhaz would continue to shoot 
down Georgian UAVs flying over Abkhazia, acknowledging that 
such actions were a violation of the Moscow Agreement but 
accusing the Georgian overflights of also being a violation. 
Bagapsh indicated some daylight between the Abkhaz and 
Russia, noting that he did not support some aspects of the 
latest Russian steps to move closer to Abkhazia.  He said 
that one of the outcomes of Russia's March 6 decision to lift 
CIS economic and military sanctions is a change in the 
customs procedure which is going to reduce revenue from 
people traveling in and out of Abkhazia from Russia. 
4. (C) Bagapsh reviewed the two main Abkhaz concerns: 
economic sanctions were impoverishing the population, and the 
Georgian military presence in the UKV was a direct threat to 
Abkhazia's security.  Bryza responded that the U.S. has told 
the Georgians bluntly that if they start a war in Abkhazia, 
they would lose, they would be alone, and their NATO 
aspirations would be finished.  Bryza argued for a need to 
energize the settlement process.  The Group of Friends of the 
Secretary General focuses on minor issues.  The U.S. would 
like to rise above these issues to  jumpstart negotiations 
that work towards the goal of defining the political status 
of Abkhazia.  Bryza praised the peace plan recently 
articulated by Georgian President Saakashvili, noting that it 
needs to be elaborated with input from the Abkhaz.  Bryza 
said he hoped to see an Abkhaz-Georgian agreement on reducing 
troop levels in the Kodori valley as well as work on a peace 
plan which would flesh out ideas both on Abkhazian autonomy 
and on creating economic, cultural, and information links 
between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia.  Such links could 
include opening a Black Sea ring road to Turkey, sea links 
between Sukhumi and Trabzon (which could later be extended to 
Batumi), and trade between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. 
TBILISI 00000835  002 OF 004 
5. (C) Bagapsh recalled the reference to the need to discuss 
"additional ideas" in the UN Security Council Resolution's 
renewal of the UN Observer Missio
n in Georgia (UNOMIG) and 
said that the Abkhaz would want to discuss their "Key to the 
Future" proposal (which advocates independence) in any talks 
with the Georgians.  Bryza responded that all issues could be 
discussed but that there needs to be a package of issues 
where each side receives something that it wants, and is open 
to compromise.  He understood this list to be:  security for 
the Abkhaz with an agreement to demilitarize the UKV, 
economic development for the Abkhaz, and the return of 
internationally displaced persons for the Georgians.  Bryza 
suggested that this could be a starting point of discussions 
between the Abkhaz and Georgians that would be supported by 
others including the U.S., EU, OSCE, UN, Russia, Turkey, 
Ukraine and perhaps Bulgaria and Romania.  Bryza stressed the 
need for direct negotiations together with a new forum that 
could oversee the implementation of concrete peace 
initiatives to get to the real issues that separate the 
sides.  Although Bagapsh said he would not speak to Minister 
for Reintegration Yakobashvili as a result of Abkhaz 
objection to the renaming of his ministry from the Ministry 
for Conflict Resolution, he said he would meet the Georgian 
Minister for Foreign Affairs once there is an agreement on 
the UKV. 
6. (C) In a separate follow-on meeting and dinner, Shamba 
indicated additional flexibility in the Abkhaz position, 
recognizing the need for direct talks with the Georgians. 
Shamba emphasized Abkhaz willingness to enter into direct 
talks with Georgia starting with a non-use of force pledge 
and an agreement on the return of IDPs.    He hoped to move 
toward a preliminary agreement in a meeting on May 11 with 
Georgian Ambassador to the UN Irakli Alasania, who had 
quietly returned to Georgia in order to meet the Abkhaz to 
discuss the non-use of force/internally displaced persons 
agreement that faltered two years ago over a dispute on 
reference to the CIS peacekeeping force. 
--------------------------------------------- - 
7. (C) UNOMIG sector commander for Gali, Gyorgy Szekely 
(Hungary), estimated that there were about 2500 CIS 
peacekeeping forces (PKF) in the Conflict Zone (CZ) and 
Restricted Weapons Zone (RWZ), the area which UNOMIG 
monitors.  He believed that the newly arrived PKF did not 
appear to be normal PKF based on their paratrooper insignia 
and heavy weaponry.  Szekely confirmed that there were 
Chechens among the PKF, pointing to at least one CIS PKF 
checkpoint which is composed entirely of Chechens.  Szekely 
emphasized that UNOMIG depends on the peacekeepers for its 
security because the UN observers are unarmed and that 
relations with the peacekeepers are good.  He noted that the 
Gali Sector has one forward-deployed base which it activates 
when needed; this base is located within a current CIS PKF 
checkpoint near the ceasefire line.  He acknowledged the need 
to better monitor the areas to the north as a result of 
Russian movement of additional peacekeepers into the CZ and 
RWZ.  However, Szekely said he does not know what is 
happening outside of the areas which UNOMIG monitors. 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
8. (C) Several UN Police advisors attached to the Gali UNOMIG 
headquarters briefed DAS Bryza and the Ambassador on their 
operations.  They noted that their 2003 mandate (UNSCR 1494) 
is to "monitor and advise local law enforcement agencies" but 
does not extend to actual law enforcement.   The UN Police in 
Abkhazia consist of three officers in Sukhumi, three in Gali, 
and a liaison officer in Tbilisi.  The officers in Gali said 
they cannot conduct investigations themselves because of 
their mandate, and their limited Russian language skills make 
their job advising the Abkhaz militia difficult.  They noted 
that the local Gali population generally does not report 
crimes because they do not believe the Abkhaz militia will do 
9. (C) The Head of the UN Human Rights Office in Abkhazia, 
Ryszard Komenda (Poland), reported that the main human rights 
problems in Abkhazia remained in the ethnic Georgian Gali 
region.  In order to be effective, however, the UN Human 
Rights Office focuses on both the Gali region and the rest of 
Abkhazia.  The biggest issue overall remains that of property 
ownership.  The movement from the Soviet system of a complete 
lack of property ownership to the capitalist system has 
TBILISI 00000835  003 OF 004 
result in confusion over property rights.  In addition, 
Russian investors are coming in with a lot of money to "buy" 
property in Abkhazia.  The biggest issues in Gali remains the 
persecution and harassment of the local population.  This 
encompasses all areas of life including education, property, 
and freedom of movement.  Two UN Human Rights Officers work 
in Gali out of the UN headquarters there.  The Human Rights 
Office continues to press the Abkhaz to allow the HROs to 
hold regular hours at a nearby Human Rights Center to allow 
easier access for citizens.  He agreed with Bryza that it 
would be useful to make his office's regular reports of the 
human rights situation public or at least available to the 
Friends of the Secretary General in order to shine a light on 
the human rights problems there.  At the moment, they are 
confidential and limited to internal distribution only. 
Bryza offered to weigh in with UNOMIG and the Office of the 
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to make this happen. 
10. (C) In a meeting with Bryza and the Ambassador, local 
non-government organizations (NGO) in the ethnic Georgian 
Gali district raised the following key points: 
-- they noted the isolation of the ethnic Georgian community 
in Gali and advocated for assistance programs which establish 
economic and cultural links between the residents of Gali and 
those in other parts of Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia; 
-- they raised concerns about security, noting that measures 
to give the ethnic Georgian population in Gali Abkhaz 
passports (and require that they renounce their Georgian 
citizenship), the regular closure of the administrative 
border, and the rampant criminality all foster a sense of 
insecurity in the population.  Singling out Rustavi 2, the 
NGOs complained that Georgian media broadcasts sensationalist 
stories that actually increases tensions. They called for 
international police which could have a mandate to police the 
-- they thanked the U.S. for recruiting students from Gali 
for U.S. funded education programs and urged that such 
recruitment continue to give young people there access to the 
outside world.  They asked for more involvement overall in 
Gali by the Friends of the Secretary General and the U.S.; 
and, &#x00
-- they asked the U.S. to press for continued and increased 
funding from the Georgian Government for health care for the 
population.  The de facto authorities did not provide for the 
basic needs of the population in Gali, and the amount 
provided by the Georgian Government was not enough.  One 
prominent NGO which operates in Lower Gali described the 
urgent need for medical care, noting that patients routinely 
die during transport to Tbilisi for treatment.  She said that 
the one major item the people need is an emergency vehicle to 
transport sick people to medical care. 
11. (C)  Local de facto leader (and representative of de 
facto president Bagapsh in Abkhazia) Ruslan Kishmaria said 
that talks with the Georgians were stalled because of a lack 
of political will.  He agreed with Bryza that the conflict 
needs to be solved to avoid war and that the sides need to 
speak to each other in order to move toward a solution.  He 
proposed starting talks at the low levels, starting with 
resuming the Quadripartite Meetings on security issues as 
well as by starting to count the number of returned IDPs.  He 
claimed both of these were suspended at the request of the 
Georgians.  Kishmaria agreed with Bryza on the need to find a 
way to re-energize the settlement process and said he 
supported any attempts to solve the conflict which he 
believed could have been solved 15 years ago had there been 
goodwill to make it happen. 
12. (C) Comment:  The Abkhaz, even the usually aggressive and 
inflexible Kishmaria, were clearly trying to appear as 
constructive as possible in their talks with Bryza.  When 
Shamba started to debate strongly why Abkhazia should be 
recognized like Kosovo, Bagapsh cut short his polemics. 
Although both Bagapsh and Shamba initially stuck to the 
official Abkhaz policy of preconditioning direct talks on 
Georgian withdrawal from the UKV, there was an clear 
willingness to engage with the Georgians unofficially. 
TBILISI 00000835  004 OF 004 
Shamba offered some additional insight into Abkhaz thinking 
during follow-on discussions:  he told Bryza that he realizes 
that war would be disastrous for everyone, including the 
Abkhaz; he asked whether the U.S. would block a nearby or 
neighboring country from recognizing Abkhazia; he said the 
Abkhaz do not want to be part of Russia and that the Abkhaz 
use the leverage it has with the North Caucasus to extract 
concessions from Russia; and that he collaborated with 
Chechen leader Dudayev and Basayev in the late 80s and 90s in 
support of Chechen independence, only breaking with Basayev 
in the 90s when he began to talk about a war of Islam.  The 
Abkhaz seem to be pursuing, as Bagapsh has said publicly, a 
"multi-vector" diplomacy.  Disappointed that Russia did not 
recognize them as they hoped following Kosovo's independence, 
the Abkhaz appear to be trying to reach out to the U.S. and 
the Europeans to find a way that will advance their goal of 
independence.  Indeed, during the joint press conference 
after the official meeting in Sukhumi, Shamba said that he 
feels safe because the Americans are in Abkhazia and have 
pledged to do all they can to restrain the Georgians.  End 


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