08TBILISI2117, GEORGIA: EFFECTS OF WAR CHALLENGE PROGRESS IN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI2117 2008-11-13 13:43 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO0020
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2117/01 3181343
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 131343Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0406
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002117 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/13/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM TU GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: EFFECTS OF WAR CHALLENGE PROGRESS IN 
ADJARA 
 
REF: A. 08 TBILISI 2073 
     B. 07 TBILISI 2393 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D) 
 
 1. (C)  Begin Summary: Following November 3 elections for 
the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara in 
southwestern Georgia (ref A), Poloff met local officials and 
the Turkish Consul.  The region was recovering from lost 
tourism revenues as a result of the August war with Russia. 
Local officials and the Turkish diplomat agreed that 
unemployment was the region's most critical problem.  The 
governor was working for economic development and increased 
tourism (ref B).  He said several new factories and hotels 
were under construction, and oil shipments were back to 
pre-war levels.  Water projects were underway and reforms 
were continuing, albeit slowly. The recently-arrived Turkish 
Consul Thugrul Ozten said Turkey wanted to help Georgia in 
its development, and noted  significant Turkish investment in 
Adjara.  Ozten candidly noted frustration with the Georgian 
government but affirmed that Turkey fully supported Georgia's 
territorial integrity and saw Adjara's semi-autonomy as a 
possible example for re-integration.  End Summary. 
 
2. (C) Comment: The 18-member, newly-elected Supreme Council 
is dominated by businessmen tied to the ruling United 
National Movement (UNM) party.  It was unclear how they will 
govern as the central government has generally moved to 
consolidate authority over local administrative bodies 
throughout Georgia.  Recent amendments to the Adjaran 
Constitution did not expand the Council's practical 
responsibility.  Construction and economic activity were 
continuing  in Batumi, although a slower pace of construction 
was noted compared to summer 2007.  It appeared that the war 
in August has had a negative affect on investment activity, 
but signs of progress in the region were emerging.  End 
comment. 
 
TURNOVER TIME FOR THE SUPREME COUNCIL 
 
3.  (C) Outgoing Chairman of Adjara's Supreme Council Mikheil 
Makharadze, told Poloff he may not remain Chairman despite 
his re-election.  He said that the new council's 
members-elect would need time to adapt from being businessmen 
to politicians, and the new council's priorities were still 
unclear.  He acknowledged that August was painful for Adjara, 
and said unemployment was the region's biggest challenge. 
Makharadze said that the August war with Russia had deterred 
tourists, as only 40,000 visitors came in August compared to 
170,000 in 2007.  According to local statistics, September 
tourism numbers approached those of 2007, although Batumi and 
Kobuleti were largely empty during early-November.  He said 
the August events proved to him the need for Georgian and 
Adjaran officials to work more closely with European 
governments and institutions.  On the question of Adjara's 
autonomy, he said that the Adjaran Chamber of Control, which 
collected and dispersed public funds, reported to the 
Georgian Parliament rather than the Supreme Council.  He said 
the Council must get the approval from the governor's office 
to spend "even 50 GEL" (30 USD).  Makharadze said the new 
Supreme Council, which will convene in December, was still 
analyzing the current situation.  He noted that building 
relationships with the media to explain governmental actions 
and reaching out to Adjarans living in the villages would be 
key goals for the new council. 
 
THE GOVERNOR'S VIEW 
 
4. (C) Governor of Adjara, Levan Varshalomidze, told Poloff 
that he continue to work to implement reforms of the 
government administration and economy.  He acknowledged such 
Qgovernment administration and economy.  He acknowledged such 
reform was hard on residents, and especially difficult for 
those in the region's mountainous villages.  He noted that 
his own staff had been reduced by over 60 percent over the 
previous two years.  Also claiming unemployment is the 
region's greatest challenge, Varshalomidze was relentlessly 
working to increase tourism (ref B).  He hoped to see one 
million tourists annually by 2010 visit Adjara. 
 
5. (C) Varshalomidze said new factories producing textiles 
and pharmaceuticals, as well as a sunflower oil processing 
facility, were expected to open in November.  In addition, he 
said Hilton, Radisson, and Hyatt hotels were under 
construction in Adjara.  Varshalomidze said his government 
had tourism agencies in Armenia and Azerbaijan and would 
launch a marketing campaign in those countries in 2009. 
Furthermore, oil shipments were back to pre-war levels. 
Varshalomidze admitted he was frustrated with the slow pace 
of reform.  He noted that a new water system for Batumi, 
 
TBILISI 00002117  002 OF 002 
 
 
backed by a 58 million USD German loan and planned several 
years ago, was finally opened two weeks earlier.  Similarly, 
a 25 million USD Dutch grant would supply a water system for 
Kobuleti next year.  Varshalomidze says he remained committed 
to USAID's Public Administration
Reform program (ref B), 
although he provided few details on its current state.  He 
also said development of civil society remains a priority. 
His government will hold an open house in December, with 
NGOs, to promote the next wave of the Public Administration 
Reform program. 
 
TURKS WORKING TOWARD STABILITY 
 
6. (C) Ozten, the recently-arrived Turkish Consul, welcomed 
the three Poloffs into Turkey's newly-renovated consulate 
next to the Intourist Hotel.  He said a secure, stable and 
democratic Georgia was in Turkey's interest.  To this end, 
Ozten said Turkey was trying to help Georgia in its 
development, and Turkish investment in Adjara totaled more 
than 90 million USD and employed more than 3,000 people. 
Turkey had provided a visa-free regime and permitted 
Georgians to work and trade across the Turkish-Adjaran 
border, at a cost of lost tax revenues.  Ozten noted an 
increasing number of Turkish businessmen coming to Georgia. 
He agreed that unemployment was the biggest challenge facing 
the region.  The Consul affirmed that Turkey fully supported 
Georgia's territorial integrity and had counseled the GOG to 
maintain Adjara's autonomy as an example to other separatist 
regions.  He expressed concern at Adjara's lessening autonomy 
and the central government's role, which he saw as a reaction 
to Aslan Abashidze's previous iron-grip on power. 
 
7. (C) The Consul candidly noted some frustration with the 
Georgian government, due to "its tendency to take shortcuts 
with its democratic institutions."  He worried that the 
government's desire to do things too fast was 
counter-productive to the goals of democratization, and could 
lead to mistakes.  A particularly worrisome example, in 
Ozten's view, was the strong, non-secular correlation between 
Georgian nationalism, the Georgian Orthodox Church, and the 
UNM which had been increasing in Adjara.  He said that 
non-Orthodox Adjarans were already feeling estranged from 
full participation in society, and that many who spoke 
Turkish as a second language could feel ostracized.  He 
claimed some deputy ministers were working closely with the 
Georgian Orthodox Church and leading mass baptisms. (Note: 
post will review this claim septel. End note.)  Ozten said 
his government was willing to grant Georgia leeway on its 
path of democratic development, but said "the government must 
show progress."  On Georgia's new Prime Minister, former 
Ambassador to Turkey Lado Mgaloblishvili, Ozten agreed it was 
beneficial that Mgaloblishvili knows Turkey and its leaders, 
but believed it was more important that average Georgians 
visit Turkey and return with a better understanding of the 
country and its people. 
TEFFT

Wikileaks

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