09TBILISI980, GEORGIA: UK FCO DIRECTOR ON ABKHAZIA TRIP, NEED

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI980 2009-05-29 12:39 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO5854
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0980/01 1491239
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 291239Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1628
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0228
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4846
RUEHUNV/UNVIE VIENNA PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 4035

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000980 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/29/2019 
TAGS: PREL UNSC UNOMIG RS GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: UK FCO DIRECTOR ON ABKHAZIA TRIP, NEED 
FOR U.S. LEADERSHIP 
 
REF: A. PARIS 664 
     B. BRUSSELS 356 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary.  During a visit to Tbilisi, Michael 
Davenport, Director of the Russia, South Caucasus and Central 
Asia Directorate at the British FCO, urged the United States 
to set a clear example for the international community on how 
to move forward on Georgia, in particular with regard to 
Russia.  He noted the importance of the upcoming negotiations 
on a new UN mandate for Georgia, but he focused his comments 
on the key role the upcoming Obama-Medvedev Summit will play 
in setting the tone on Georgia policy for the foreseeable 
future.  Although recognizing the importance of the broad 
range of issues likely to be discussed in Moscow, Davenport 
stressed that Georgia was of fundamental significance and 
must not be treated as simply one of many topics to be 
covered.  He said that other international partners, in 
particular in Europe, would be looking to the U.S. for 
leadership.  Davenport and British Ambassador Denis Keefe had 
just returned from Abkhazia, where de facto "president" 
Bagapsh downplayed internal criticism of Russia's growing 
influence and expressed general support for a new UN mission. 
 The Abkhaz willingness to admit Keefe may reflect a bit more 
flexibility in seeing Tbilisi-based diplomats.  End summary. 
 
2. (C) On May 22, Ambassador Keefe hosted a dinner in honor 
of Davenport.  Guests included EU Special Representative (and 
Swedish diplomat) Peter Semneby, French Ambassador Eric 
Fournier, Japanese Ambassador Masoyachi Kamohara, and Head of 
the EU Monitoring Mission (and German diplomat) Hansjoerg 
Haber; acting P/E Chief attended for the U.S.  Davenport and 
Keefe had just returned from a trip to Abkhazia, where they 
met with de facto "president" Bagapsh and de facto "foreign 
minister" Shamba.  Of note was the Abkhaz de facto 
authorities' willingness to allow the visit of Keefe, 
considering their publicly declared policy of not admitting 
Tbilisi-accredited diplomats.  Keefe noted, however, that the 
press corps was noticeably absent after their meetings; the 
official statements released by the de factos focused on 
Davenport, with Keefe's presence noted only in passing. 
Bagapsh downplayed recent criticism by the Abkhaz opposition 
of agreements giving control of border control, the airport 
and railways to Russia, calling it opportunistic (in the 
runup to year-end elections) and hypocritical (considering 
the opposition's stated support for good Russian-Abkhaz 
relations). 
 
3. (C) The Abkhaz also expressed to the travelers their 
general support for a renewed UN mission to Abkhazia, 
although they had some reservations about the May 18 
Secretary General's report on the situation.  Everyone at the 
table agreed that the report had drawbacks, but that the key 
point was to get the UN Security Council resolution and 
mission mandate right.  Everyone also agreed on the 
importance of working together in New York to achieve that 
goal. 
 
4. (C) The conversation turned to Georgia policy more 
generally, and Davenport pointedly asked EmbOff about current 
U.S. policy.  He suggested that a strong American voice on 
the subject had been lacking of late, and that American 
leadership was critical -- both in the ongoing UN 
Qleadership was critical -- both in the ongoing UN 
negotiations, and in the runup to the Obama-Medvedev Summit. 
He noted that, with the ending of the Eurovision contest, the 
Summit was the talk of Moscow, with everybody hoping for a 
grand success, and that the meeting therefore offered a 
unique opportunity to send a clear message on Georgia both to 
Russia itself and to Europe.  At the same time, Davenport 
expressed the concern that, with the long list of important 
issues that deserved consideration at the Summit, there might 
be a temptation to avoid a tough confrontation on Georgia. 
 
5. (C) EmbOff responded that the United States remained 
firmly committed to Georgia, with President Obama, Vice 
President Biden, and Secretary Clinton all making strong 
statements of support in recent months.  He noted in 
particular the inclusion of a paragraph on Georgia in the 
Obama-Medvedev joint statement from the London Summit; the 
President had made a point to emphasize Georgia's importance 
to the United States even during his brief initial meeting 
with President Medvedev.  Davenport replied that the European 
approach has been somewhat different -- not just to include 
Georgia as one of many issues to be discussed with Russia, 
 
TBILISI 00000980  002 OF 002 
 
 
but to insist that the quality of overall relationship with 
Russia depends on Russia's actions in Georgia. 
 
6. (C) Later,
 Davenport pulled EmbOff aside and apologized 
for putting him on the spot -- but insisted that it was 
critically important for the United States to take a 
leadership role on Georgia.  He acknowledged that there are 
other priorities, but maintained that Georgia possessed a 
fundamental significance in the overall European security 
environment.  He repeated his appeal that the United States 
use the Summit to convey to Russia the centrality of our 
concern and support for Georgia. 
 
COMMENT 
 
7. (C) We have gotten used to thinking of the Europeans as 
the soft ones when it comes to the Russia-Georgia 
confrontation.  It therefore came as a surprise to have a 
Briton accuse the United States, in front of French, German 
and Swedish diplomats, of being behind the curve.  Recent 
statements from other Europeans here in Tbilisi do indicate, 
however, they have begun to focus on the problem of how to 
convince Russia to act more constructively, with France, for 
example, looking to use visa and trade policy to support 
Georgia (see also refs A, B). 
TEFFT

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