08TBILISI2071, GEORGIA: LAW ON OCCUPIED TERRITORIES SEEKS TO

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI2071 2008-11-06 13:47 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4615
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2071/01 3111347
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 061347Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0360
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0142
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4719
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 2207
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 002071 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/06/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KBTS RU GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: LAW ON OCCUPIED TERRITORIES SEEKS TO 
SAFEGUARD TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires a.i. Kent Logsdon for Reasons 1.4 (b) 
and (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary and comment.  The "Law of Georgia on the 
Occupied Territories" was formally published with President 
Saakashvili's signature October 30.  Georgian 
parliamentarians and staff described the law as a response to 
Russian aggression and an effort to prevent degradation of 
Georgian territorial integrity.  Key elements include 
restrictions on economic activityin the regions and 
limitations on movements by foreigners.  The law also renews 
the state of emergency in the territories.  Although the law 
sets basic parameters for the legality of activities in the 
regions, the government must establish detailed procedures to 
implement the law within a month.  The diplomatic corps has 
concerns about limitations on its own movements, which could 
contravene the Vienna Convention and be construed as an 
implicit acknowledgment of some loss of Georgia's 
sovereignty, and limitations on the movements of 
international organizations, which could render important 
assistance difficult.  Although the intentions of the law are 
understandable, the Parliament may not have given the 
government sufficient time to implement this legislation in a 
thoughtful way.  End summary and comment. 
 
THE LAW ITSELF 
 
2. (SBU) In an October 21 briefing for the diplomatic corps, 
Deputy Chairman of the Georgian Parliament's Legal Issues 
Committee Akaki Minashvili and Committee member Tsiora 
Taktakishvili, who helped draft the "Law of Georgia on the 
Occupied Territories," offered an overview of the law itself 
and answered questions.  Article 1, entitled "The Purpose of 
the Law," contains one sentence: "The purpose of the present 
Law is to define the status of those territories that are 
occupied as a result of the military aggression of the 
Russian Federation, and to establish a special legal regime 
on these territories."  The following articles then define 
the occupied territories and maritime zones (Article 2); 
restrict the movements of foreigners to one entry and exit 
point for each territory -- Zugdidi for Abkhazia and Gori for 
South Ossetia (Art. 4); nullify property transactions in the 
territories (Art. 5); prohibit economic activity in the 
territories that is regulated in some way by the de facto 
authorities (Art. 6); assign the Russian Federation 
responsibility for the protection of human rights and 
cultural heritage in the territories while they are outside 
Georgia's effective control (Art. 7); declare de facto 
governments and legislatures and their acts illegal (Art. 8); 
and oblige the government to take steps to protect Georgia's 
interests in the territories, in particular by signing 
bilateral treaties that establish sanctions for those that 
violate the law (Art. 9).  A copy of the draft has been 
emailed to EUR/CARC. 
 
3. (SBU) Minashvili and Taktakishvili explained that the law 
provides a basic framework for a legal regime in the 
territories, but the government would have to prepare a 
decree within one month of the law's October 30 publication 
that sets out detailed procedures for implementing the 
legislation.  In Articles 4 and 6, for example, the law gives 
the government the authority to make special provisions for 
movements and economic activity in the territories, provided 
they serve Georgia's national interest, and the government 
Qthey serve Georgia's national interest, and the government 
will have to lay out the criteria for such provisions and the 
process by which such decisions are made.  Minashvili 
suggested that authorizing the government to establish those 
criteria and processes, rather than including them in the law 
itself, would provide for more flexibility.  It would be 
easier for the government to issue a new decree than for the 
Parliament to pass a new law. 
 
4. (SBU) Based on earlier discussions with various parties, 
including diplomats, Minashvili and Taktakishvili explained 
that the text had been amended to take certain concerns into 
account.  The special provision for allowing more flexible 
movement, for example, now has a passage that makes explicit 
the importance of enabling the work of international 
organizations on "peaceful conflict resolution, deoccupation 
or humanitarian purposes."  Restrictions on economic 
activities in the territories can likewise be lifted "if they 
serve the national interests of Georgia and the purpose of 
peaceful conflict resolution, deoccupation, or humanitarian 
purposes." 
 
5. (SBU) Article 3 declares that a state of emergency will 
remain in effect in the occupied territories.  Minashvili 
explained that this includes any areas that Russian forces 
 
TBILISI 00002071  002 OF 003 
 
 
still occupy, including those in undisputed Georgian 
territory, such as the Russian checkpoint in Perevi. 
 
DIPLOMATIC COMMUNIT
Y CONCERNS ABOUT FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT . . . 
 
6. (SBU) The focus of the October 21 discussion was Articles 
4, 5 and 6, especially the issue of foreigners' freedom of 
movement.  French Ambassador Eric Fournier noted that the 
Vienna Convention prohibits restrictions on diplomats' 
movements and expressed concern about the ability of 
international organizations to conduct their work.  He 
furthermore suggested that this provision of the law might 
even be counterproductive, because prohibiting diplomats from 
going wherever they want to go within Georgia -- a right 
guaranteed them by the Vienna Convention -- could reinforce 
the reality of the administrative boundaries and thereby 
degrade Georgia's territorial integrity. 
 
7. (SBU) Council of Europe Special Representative Igor Gaon 
focused on the practical difficulties that restrictions on 
movements would pose.  He raised the case of a recent Council 
of Europe mission that the Georgian government had invited to 
survey damage to cultural sites (primarily churches) in South 
Ossetia.  The Georgian government insisted that the mission 
seek entry to South Ossetia from Gori (as the law now 
formally requires), but the mission could not gain entry. 
Gaon suggested that the Georgian government knew al along 
that the mission would not be allowed in, but asked that they 
come anyway.  He said that not only was this approach unfair 
to the international organizations, but it was impractical, 
because it would prevent the Georgian government from 
addressing real concerns (such as the current state of 
cultural sites).  If the government had authorized the 
mission to enter from the north, through North Ossetia, then 
they could have done what the government had asked them to do. 
 
8. (SBU) Regarding diplomatic movements, Minashvili said that 
Article 26 of the Vienna Convention does allow countries to 
restrict movement into zones "for reasons of national 
security," and Georgia therefore has the right to establish 
certain restrictions.  The government fully supports 
diplomats' travel into the territories, but only in 
accordance with procedures established by Tbilisi, including 
via the two established entry points. 
 
9. (SBU) Regarding the movement of international 
organizations, Minashvili emphasized that the government 
would have the authority to make special provisions, such as 
for assistance providers.  He suggested that the government 
would probably authorize entry from the north, for example, 
if necessary.  In response to a question from a British 
representative, Minashvili explained that the government did 
not want to obstruct the activities of international 
organizations that conduct confidence-building activities, 
but that the government also wanted to be sure that any 
special arrangements assisted only "impartial" organizations. 
 He noted, for example, that the government would want to 
avoid assisting organizations supported by Russia that would 
not be constructive.  Minashveili emphasized that the 
government had to have the authority to prevent 
"illegitimate" organizations from operating in the 
territories.  Fournier suggested that some non-governmental 
organizations might be sensitive about restrictions being 
placed on their movements.  Minashvili repeated that Georgia 
Qplaced on their movements.  Minashvili repeated that Georgia 
did not object to legitimate organizations moving throughout 
the country, but had the right to regulate movements for the 
sake of both territorial integrity and the interests of its 
citizens. 
 
10. (SBU) In response to a question about enforcement, 
Minashvili explained that violations of the law would indeed 
be punishable under Georgian law.  Although the government 
might not have agents at northern border crossings to observe 
movements, it would have other means -- such as inspection of 
stamps entered into passports -- to determine points of 
entry.  In any case, however, a legitimate organization would 
have the opportunity to seek permission from the Georgian 
government to enter from the north and thereby avoid a 
violation. 
 
. . . ABOUT ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES . . . 
 
11. (SBU) In response to a question from Estonian Ambassador 
Toomas Lukk about property rights in the territories, 
Minashvili explained that the law forbids property 
transactions in order to protect legitimate property holders, 
in particular among Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).  He 
explained that the Ministry of Justice is currently compiling 
 
TBILISI 00002071  003 OF 003 
 
 
a registry of information about real estate in the 
territories, to which anyone with documentation about 
holdings in the territories can contribute.  Once the 
political status of the territories is resolved, the registry 
will be used to resolve questions of ownership and 
restitution; in the meantime, the law is designed to outlaw 
unauthorized transactions. 
 
12. (SBU) Regarding small business activities, in particular 
between entities on both sides of the administrative 
boundaries, Minashvili explained that small transactions that 
do not require any government regulation would not be 
affected by the legislation.  Any transaction that does 
require regulation would be subject to the law, however.  He 
suggested that this would be one of the first areas that the 
government would likely address in its implementing decree. 
 
. . . AND ABOUT GEOGRAPHIC DEFINITIONS. 
 
13. (SBU) Lithuanian Counselor Viktoras Dagilis asked about 
the codification of geographic boundaries within the law 
(Article 2).  He raised current diplomatic efforts to 
persuade Russian forces to depart the Akhalgori region, 
which, if successful, would return Akhalgori to Georgian 
control.  According to the law, Akhalgori -- as part of the 
former Autonomous Oblast of South Ossetia -- would still be 
subject to the legislation's provisions and restrictions. 
Would the Parliament want to repeal the provisions in regard 
to Akhalgori if it reverted to Georgian control, and would 
including those geographic definitions in the law itself 
provide sufficient flexibility to do so?  Minashvili did not 
offer a substantive answer.  After the meeting, Dagilis noted 
to PolOff that, in Soviet practice, the boundaries of 
autonomous oblasts were not as systematically defined as 
those of autonomous republics, so that it might be difficult 
to establish an authoritative demarcation of the border.  It 
might therefore be advisable not to encode such an imprecise 
definition in the law.  He added that this same imprecision 
was at the root of the dispute over the remaining Russian 
checkpoint at Perevi. 
 
14. (SBU) After the meeting, PolOff raised a question about 
the draft's definition of Abkhazia's maritime area as 
extending all the way south to the Enguri River.  Some 
territory north of the Enguri River lies outside the Abkhaz 
adminis
trative boundary (such as the village of Ganmukhuri), 
and making the maritime area there subject to this law could 
lend support to Abkhaz interest in claiming all the territory 
south to the Enguri.  Minashvili expressed his appreciation 
for the comment, but the final version of the law retained 
the language. 
 
COMMENT: HASTE MAKES WASTE 
 
15. (C) PolOff also asked whether one month would be 
sufficient to draft the necessary decree to implement the 
law; Minashvili thought it would.  When asked which agencies 
would take the lead in formulating the details of the policy, 
however, Minashvili did not offer a direct answer, but said 
the prime minister would coordinate a government-wide 
approach, with contributions from various agencies. 
Parliament seems to be placing significant responsibility on 
the government to formulate a complex set of criteria and 
procedures in a very short time.  Deputy Minister of 
Reintegration Dimitri Manjavidze told PolOff on November 5 
that the government did not yet have a basic plan for 
implementation, and in fact had not even identified which 
Qimplementation, and in fact had not even identified which 
agency would take the lead in either drafting the decree or 
putting it into practice.  He added that Minister of the 
Interior Merabishvili would likely end up playing a key role 
in implementation.  Although codifying in law an approach to 
activities in the territories makes sense, the government may 
not have been given enough time to implement the law in a 
thoughtful way. 
LOGSDON

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