09TBILISI1150, GEORGIA: UPDATE ON THE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1150 2009-06-23 14:31 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO6889
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1150/01 1741431
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231431Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1799
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0252
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4874

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001150 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/19/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF MOPS KBTS RU GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: UPDATE ON THE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN 
GALI 
 
REF: TBILISI 322 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT FOR REASONS 1.4 B AND D 
 
1. (C) Summary.  There are conflicting reports on the extent 
of humanitarian-related problems in Gali among UNOMIG 
officials, NGOs in Zugdidi and Sukhumi, the Abkhazia 
Government in-exile and Abkhaz de facto authorities.  The 
main issues affecting Georgian residents in Gali today 
include the lack of rehabilitation of infrastructure and 
impediments to crossing the administrative boundary.  There 
is disagreement among the various groups about whether 
teachers in Gali are prohibited from teaching in the Georgian 
language, but currently the main point of contention in 
schools is the study of Georgian history and geography.  The 
process of obtaining travel documents poses a continuing 
challenge to Georgian residents.  According to our 
interlocutors, crime seems to be decreasing in Gali, perhaps 
due to the arrival of Russian border guards.  On Poloff's 
recent trip to western Georgia including Sukhumi, NGOs and 
UNOMIG officials did not focus on the situation in Gali as 
much as they have in the past.  However, with the departure 
of UNOMIG, the international community will need to maintain 
its focus on Gali to ensure that the situation there does not 
deteriorate further.  End summary. 
 
REHABILITATION IN ABKHAZIA EXCLUDES GALI 
 
2. (C) UNOMIG military monitoring officers (MMOs) in Zugdidi 
and Sukhumi told Poloff on a recent trip to those cities that 
Georgians in Gali continue to experience harassment and 
general neglect by the de facto Abkhaz authorities.  The Head 
of Representation of Abkhazia Government in-exile in the 
Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti District, Paata Shamguia, stated that 
the Abkhaz and Russians are notably excluding the Gali region 
from rehabilitation efforts in Abkhazia.  MMOs specifically 
noted as an example the M27 road, which runs from Gali to 
Sukhumi.  Despite assurances from the de facto authorities 
that they plan to improve the M27 in Gali, so far 
reconstruction on the road is occurring everywhere but Gali. 
MMOs said that as soon as they enter Ochamchire region they 
notice a significant improvement in the road. 
 
IMPEDIMENTS TO CROSSING THE BOUNDARY 
 
3. (C) Georgians face obstacles crossing the administrative 
boundary line.  In one example relayed by Zugdidi-based MMOs, 
a medevac convoy in June from Gali was initially denied 
permission to cross the boundary.  Despite an obvious 
emergency situation, it took 30 minutes for the medevac to 
obtain permission to cross.  While rumors persist that the 
Enguri crossing has been shut down, MMOs reported that, in 
reality, the Russian guards are enforcing the documentation 
requirements for crossing the boundary.  This enforcement has 
limited the number of people able or even attempting to 
cross.  In addition, the Abkhaz militia has increased its 
presence at unofficial crossing points, further discouraging 
Georgians from trying to cross the boundary. 
 
DISPUTE OVER TEACHING GEORGIAN HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY IN GALI 
SCHOOLS 
 
4. (C) There have been reports from some NGOs in Zugdidi that 
Georgian children in Gali are forced to cross the boundary in 
order to attend Georgian-language schools.  However, 
according to UNOMIG officials, other Zugdidi-based NGOs and 
the Abkhaz de facto authorities, schools in Gali are free to 
operate in the Georgian language and most children there are 
learning in Georgian.  The problem, according to a 
Sukhumi-based NGO and de facto Abkhaz "vice foreign minister" 
QSukhumi-based NGO and de facto Abkhaz "vice foreign minister" 
Maxim Gundjia, is hat they are learning history and 
geography from Georgian textbooks.  The de facto authorities 
and the general Abkhaz population find it unacceptable that 
Georgian children are learning history and geography based on 
a Georgian curriculum, which they maintain provides false 
information.  Gundjia told Poloff that the de facto 
authorities offered to provide the Abkhaz curriculum to the 
Government of Georgia so that they can print the curriculum 
in the Georgian language, but that the Georgian government 
has not yet taken the Abkhaz up on this offer. 
 
OBTAINING A PASSPORT 
 
5. (C) NGOs in Zugdidi described the process of obtaining an 
Abkhaz passport for ethnic Georgians as a long but necessary 
step.  Estimates of the number of Georgians who have already 
received a passport range from 20 to 50 percent.  According 
to the Abkhaz government in-exile and NGOs based in Zugdidi, 
Georgians in Gali do not necessarily want Abkhaz passports, 
but feel they need one in order to vote, buy land and have 
 
TBILISI 00001150  002 OF 002 
 
 
freedom of movement within Abkhazia.  According to Gundjia, a 
passport is only required for voting; Georgian residents in 
Abkhazia will be able to buy land and move fre
ely with their 
resident cards.  One issue which all sides raised as a 
concern is that Georgians cannot legally hold dual 
citizenship with Georgia and Abkhazia.  Gundjia stated that 
the de facto authorities may be willing to sign an agreement 
to allow this -- but any agreement would lead to some form of 
tacit recognition of independence and is therefore highly 
improbable. 
 
PRESENCE OF RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS LEADS TO DECREASE IN CRIME 
 
6. (C) According to MMOs, the presence of Russian border 
guards has improved the security situation, providing a 
buffer zone between the Georgians and Abkhaz.  UNOMIG 
officials reported a notable reduction in crime in Gali since 
the arrival of the Russian guards in May.  According to a 
UNOMIG political officer in Sukhumi, during the week of June 
1, there were three crimes reported in Gali and 30 crimes 
reported in Zugdidi -- representing a significant reduction 
of crime in Gali from last year.  The Russian border guards 
are more professional than the Abkhaz militia, and are 
therefore committing fewer crimes themselves, as well as 
preventing criminals from crossing the boundary. 
 
7. (C) COMMENT.  In the months immediately after the conflict 
in August, the humanitarian situation in Gali was dire 
(reftel).  Criminal gangs reportedly controlled the region, 
teaching in Georgian language was considered illegal, and 
people generally lived in fear.  Today the situation in Gali 
seems to have stabilized, with crime rates falling, the 
Georgian population seemingly more comfortable with the 
security situation, and Georgian children learning in the 
Georgian language.  However, there are still many troubling 
humanitarian issues, including the lack of will among the 
Russians and de facto authorities to rehabilitate the Gali 
region, the continuing obstacles to crossing the boundary, 
the debate over teaching Georgian history and geography, and 
the continued passportization issues.  The Abkhaz and 
Russians in Abkhazia will be able take advantage of the 
departure of UNOMIG, which leaves no international body in 
Gali with a mandate to observe and report on the situation. 
The international community will need to pay close attention 
to what is happening in Gali in order to protect the 
vulnerable Georgian population. END COMMENT. 
TEFFT

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