08TBILISI1985, GEORGIA: A/S FRIED MEETS OPPOSITION, BOTH INSIDE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI1985 2008-10-24 12:14 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3355
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1985/01 2981214
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241214Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0284
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001985 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR A/S FRIED AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/21/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM RU GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: A/S FRIED MEETS OPPOSITION, BOTH INSIDE 
AND OUT OF PARLIAMENT 
 
Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES KENT LOGSDON FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND ( 
D) 
 
1. (C) Begin Summary: On October 20, Assistant Secretary 
Daniel Fried and Ambassador Tefft met with Georgian 
opposition parliamentarians.  The MPs told Fried they were 
working to help the country through its post-invasion 
recovery and were pursuing democratic reforms.  The group 
spoke about the Anti-Crisis Commission (ACC), and its 
progress to date on democratic and social reforms.  The 
Parliamentary Commission to investigate the August events, 
headed by an oppositino MP, was focused on whether Georgia 
could have avoided military action.  Fried encouraged the 
commission and opposition to ask hard questions.  In a 
separate meeting, Fried and the Ambassador met with civil 
society representatives and the opposition outside 
Parliament.  The group believed that the country was divided, 
and some argued that Saakashvili had too much power.  They 
claimed Georgian democracy hung the balance, and urged 
conditionality for foreign aid to Georgia.  Fried told both 
groups that a military solution to Russian occupation did not 
exist and urged their support for a peaceful way forward. 
End Summary. 
 
PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION FOCUSED ON THE TOUGH QUESTIONS AND 
PARTY BUILDING 
 
2. (C) On October 20, Assistant Secretary Daniel Fried and 
Ambassador Tefft met with Georgian opposition 
parliamentarians, including Christian Democratic Movement 
(CDM) Chairman Giorgi Targamadze, Vice Speaker Levan 
Vepkhvadze, Gia Tortladze, and Paata Davitaia.  The MPs told 
Fried they were pursuing democratic reforms in Georgia via 
constitutional methods and believed they were making progress 
developing an opposition with real political authority. 
 
3. (C) Targamadze said his party was promoting peace and 
development as a response to Russia's August invasion, while 
trying to continue to build a grassroots following. 
Tortladze, Chair of the ACC, explained the commission's 
progress to date on democratic and social reforms, and its 
continuing goals.  He said progress has been made on 
political party funding, media freedom, in particular 
restoring some political talk shows, lowering small business 
tax liability, and helping return the Writers and Composers 
Building which was privatized.  Tortladze cautioned that the 
ACC must ontinue its efforts until the local elections of 
2010 in order to ensure democratic reform would take hold. 
Davitaia serves as chairman of the Parliamentary Commission 
to investigate the August events.  He told Fried that the 
Commission was focused on investing the question of whether 
Georgia could have avoided military action, rather than who 
fired the first shot.  Fried encouraged the commission and 
Davitaia to ask hard questions about Georgian munitions and 
tactics used in Tskhinvali and South Ossetia.  Vepkhvadze 
noted that he was the first opposition Vice Speaker in 
Parliament since the Rose Revolution. 
 
4. (C) Tortladze also asked Fried if Georgia could pursue a 
bilateral agreement on defense with the United States, since 
NATO MAP is extremely unlikely in November.  Fried 
acknowledged the request and said he would review it in 
Washington. 
 
CIVIL SOCIETY AND NON-PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION 
 
5. (C) In a separate meeting, Fried and the Ambassador met 
with civil society representative and the non-Parliamentary 
opposition.  Attendees included former presidential candidate 
Levan Gachechiladze, Republican Party Chairman David 
Usupashvili, Conservative leader Kakha Kukava, Georgian Young 
Lawyers Association (GYLA) Chairman Giorgi Chkheidze, and 
QLawyers Association (GYLA) Chairman Giorgi Chkheidze, and 
International Republican Institute (IRI) Chief of Party 
Dimitry Shashkin.  The opposition members claimed they were 
working for unity in the country.  Chkheidze said that 
democratic reforms were needed, and urged progress on 
democracy, media freedom, and the rule of law.  Shashkin 
pointed out that the Georgian people wanted dialogue between 
the government and opposition, and IRI helped create the ACC 
with this goal.  Shashkin noted (supported by fresh polling 
results reported septel) that Georgians perceived the country 
was still under threat from Russia, and they were not 
interested in domestic instability and internal conflict. 
 
6. (C) Opposition leaders alleged that Saakashvili had 
consolidated power via extra-legal means, co-opted the 
Constitution to serve his interests, and eliminated 
Parliament's power to serve as a check on the executive 
branch.  Usupashvili believed that the government wanted to 
weaken Parliament as much as possible, and said the 
 
TBILISI 00001985  002 OF 002 
 
 
government directed all judges and the courts.  Fried said 
that democracy must be strengthened in Georgia and once power 
was peacefully transferred through constitutional means 
during normally-scheduled elections, Georgia would be 
considered fully democratic. G
achechiladze and Kukava argued 
that they were more effective in opposition outside 
Parliament (they renounced their seats won in May), as 
Saakashvili was only afraid of street protests and Russian 
tanks.  The politicians said their parties would not 
participate in the November Ajara elections for the Supreme 
Council, a local regional body.  (Comment: None of their 
parties would likely succeed in Ajara, so the boycott is 
somewhat meaningless. End comment).  In a seeming 
contradiction, they claim new elections remain their ultimate 
goal.  On October 20, Gachechiladze publicly called for a 
peaceful street rally on November 7 to remember the 
government's crackdown last year; it remains unclear how many 
people will turn out. 
 
7. (C) Regarding the invasion and current situation, 
Usupashvili suggested a roadmap of democratic reforms, and 
urged that incoming foreign aid to Georgia be conditioned up 
reforms by the government.  He asked Fried to keep such 
stipulations in mind at the Brussels donor conference. 
Chkheidze agreed that dialogue and maximum transparency were 
critical to any assistance plan designed to recover from the 
invasion and develop the country.  He noted that the 
Parliamentary investigatory commission "does not include 
non-political actors."  Finally, Usupashvili said "democratic 
reforms by the President would be the best answer to Russian 
aggression," and again asked the U.S. and international 
community to hold Saakashvili accountable for such reform. 
 
8. (C) Fried told both groups that a military solution to 
Russian occupation did not exist and urged all his 
interlocutors to support peaceful resolutions to the 
conflicts, no matter what the timeline.  He argued that 
economic and political development hold the key to Georgia's 
future.  Fried agreed that Georgian democracy needed much in 
the way of development, and encouraged the opposition to 
pursue it via constitutional methods. 
 
9. (U) Assistant Secretary Fried has cleared this cable. 
LOGSDON

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