08TBILISI2459, TBILISI: PATRIARCH’S TAKE ON MOSCOW MEETINGS,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI2459 2008-12-23 12:18 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3426
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2459 3581218
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 231218Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0622
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 002459 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: TBILISI: PATRIARCH'S TAKE ON MOSCOW MEETINGS, 
ABKHASIA, ALEXEI II 
 
REF: TBILISI 2438 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1. (C)  Summary:  During a December 22 meeting with the 
Ambassador, Georgian Patriarch Ilia II discussed his recent 
meeting in Moscow with Russian President Medvedev the 
current situation in Abkhazia, and the likely successor of 
Patriarch Alexei II.  Ilia II expressed his desire to serve a 
positive role in normalizing and stabilizing relations with 
Russia though he firmly states that Georgia's territorial 
integrity will never be compromised.  He noted that Medvedev 
seemed open to the possibility of resuming normal bilateral 
relations with Georgia, but doubted that Medvedev is truly 
free to make these kinds of decisions.  Ilia II's comments 
regarding the Norashen Church dispute in Tbilisi reported 
reftel.  End Summary. 
 
Meeting the Medvedevs 
 
2.  (C)  Ilia II said his meeting with Medvedev was a very 
positive one.  The Patriarch sees his role as trying to bring 
relations between Russia and Georgia back to normal.  He 
praised Medvedev as intelligent and thoughtful.  Ilia II 
discussed the possibility of ethnic Georgian IDPs returning 
to the so-called "buffer zones" within undisputed Georgia and 
to the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. 
Ilia II said Medvedev supported their return and was open to 
compromise and working together to avert any humanitarian 
crisis.  Ilia II also discussed reopening the borders, 
resuming direct flights, and lifting the unilateral Russian 
trade embargo.  Medvedev appeared open to the possibility 
though Ilia II said he doubts Medvedev is truly free to make 
any such decisions.  According to Ilia II, his contacts in 
Moscow all tell him Medvedev has little power and that Putin 
is the sole decision maker.  Ilia II noted that he was seated 
next to Medvedev and his wife at a dinner in honor of Alexei 
II and appreciated the gesture.  He also very much 
appreciated Mrs. Medvedev's suggestion that they pray for all 
the victims of the conflict.  Ilia II said he told President 
Medvedev that Georgia's territorial integrity was 
non-negotiable, and Georgia could never be reconciled with 
the separation of Abkhazia and S. Ossetia from Georgia 
proper.  Medvedev said he understood, but suggested Abkhaz 
and South Ossetian opinions on the matter need to be included 
in any discussions. 
 
Abkhazia's Deal Looking Worse and Worse 
 
3.  (C)  Ilia II agreed with Ambassador's comment that the 
Abkhaz leadership might be feeling some remorse over its 
decision to put itself firmly under Russian domination.  The 
Patriarch (a former Metropolitan of Abkhazia) said he thinks 
the Abkhaz are finding out that "independence" is not what 
they had imagined it would be.  Ilia II expressed his concern 
that Russia will try to resettle Abkhazia with ethnic 
Russians to hasten a de-facto incorporation of the region 
into the Russian Federation.  Ilia II agreed with 
Ambassador's assessment that the Abkhaz had a choice to be an 
autonomous part of Georgia or wholly part of Russia, but 
added that if the Abkhaz leadership had/has no sense of that 
reality, little can be done. 
 
Next Russian Patriarch Will Be .... 
 
4.  (C)  Ilia II told the Ambassador it is very difficult to 
tell who will be the next Patriach of Russia.  He said he 
received a warm welcome in Russia despite speculation that he 
would not travel to Moscow due to the August war.  Ilia II 
said Metropolitan Kirill met him at the airport, and they had 
a brief, cordial conversation.  Ilia II described Kirill as a 
"stricter" personality than Alexei II.  He cautioned that 
Q"stricter" personality than Alexei II.  He cautioned that 
although Kirill is a likely successor to Alexei II, his 
accession to Patriarch of Russia is by no means assured. 
Ilia II expressed no special insights into the impending 
decision, but said that the Belorussian Metropolitan, 
Philaret, and Chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate, Kliment, 
were names he had heard floated while in Moscow.  In any 
event, Ilia II hopes to continue constructive engagement with 
the Moscow Patriarchate, regardless of who is named to the 
post. 
TEFFT

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