09TBILISI1158, GEORGIAN THOUGHTS ON ARMENIAN/TURKISH RAPPROCHEMENT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1158 2009-06-24 11:07 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO7734
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1158/01 1751107
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241107Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1803
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT PRIORITY 0867
RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ASTANA PRIORITY 0036
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK PRIORITY 0339
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT PRIORITY 0672

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 001158 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/23/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV AZ TU GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIAN THOUGHTS ON ARMENIAN/TURKISH RAPPROCHEMENT 
 
REF: TBILISI 1094 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary and Comment: Representatives of the Georgian 
government, parliament, and academia have a wide range of 
opinions about recent improvements in the bilateral 
relationship between Armenia and Turkey.  Even within the 
Georgian government, an incomplete and contradictory picture 
arises, with some in favor of improved relations, some 
concerned and some seeing a sinister Russian angle to it. 
The MFA was positive about the prospects for Georgia and the 
region with an increasing detente between the Armenians and 
Turks; officials from the NSC provided contradictory opinions 
on the matter; and academics speculated about the potential 
for Russian exploitation of the situation and losses of 
revenue for Georgian businesses.  The Prime Minister said 
that he welcomes any efforts that will help resolve conflicts 
in the Caucasus, but expressed concern that doing so without 
a role for Azerbaijan could hurt more then help.  He added 
that he does not think the Georgian economy will be 
significantly impacted if borders are reopened between Turkey 
and Armenia.  The majority of interlocutors in Tbilisi appear 
to be taking a wait-and-see approach to the issue, expressing 
concerns about Russian influence and possible economic loss 
but eager to see more stability in the region.  End Summary 
and Comment. 
 
A Positive View From MFA 
 
2.  (C)  Deputy Director of MFA's Political Department Temur 
Kekelidze said improving relations between Turkey and 
Armenia, including the possibility of an open border 
crossing, were viewed "quite positively" by the MFA.  The 
Ministry seems to believe that better relations with Turkey 
could allow Armenia to move itself away from Russian 
dependence, and reduce the "dominance" of the Kremlin on 
politics in Yerevan.  Given Turkey's membership in NATO, this 
improvement in the bilateral relationship could result in 
future Armenian policies that move it towards the west and an 
improved relationship with Tbilisi.  Commenting on the impact 
to the Caucasus as a whole, Kekelidze said that the move 
could help Armenia and Azerbaijan discuss the thorny issue of 
Nagorno-Karabakh, and would also positively impact relations 
between all three countries in the Caucasus. 
 
3.  (C)  Deputy Director of MFA's European Department Kakha 
Chitaia provided a lengthy but interesting viewpoint on the 
situation.  While stressing that he was "Armenia's best 
friend" in the Georgian MFA, he emphasized his belief that 
there was little if any chance of Russian influence 
increasing due to a new border crossing between Armenia and 
Turkey.   He went as far as to say that it was more likely 
Russia would be a net loser, as Turkey would increase its 
influence at the expense of Russian influence in the 
Caucasus.  His primary concern focused firmly on Azerbaijan, 
as he believes Azerbaijan will try to derail efforts to reach 
agreement.  Ultimately the Turks need Azerbaijan more than 
Armenia; this would ensure that Turkish policy would 
seriously consider Azeri opinions on the matter.  Chitaia 
felt the impact on Georgia would be minimal, primarily due to 
his conviction that nothing would change the situation in the 
near term, and that Turkey is pushing the issue because of 
its EU aspirations and hopes for improving its international 
image. 
 
NSC Not Quite Sure Yet 
QNSC Not Quite Sure Yet 
 
4. (C)  Deputy Secretary for Georgia's National Security 
Council Irakli Porchkhidze took a less favorable tone towards 
detente, highlighting his concern that Russia could use this 
opening as a way to increase its influence in Armenia and 
further push Yerevan from Georgia.  He noted that Georgia's 
role as a transit hub would be reduced.  NSC Director of the 
Analytical Department Lasha Darsalia struck a more 
even-handed tone, noting first that improved relations 
between Yerevan and Ankara would undoubtedly increase 
stability in the south Caucasus, which would be good for all 
involved.  Second, Darsalia contradicted Porchkhidze and 
stressed a healthy and constructive economic relationship 
would reduce the need in Armenia for Russian support, and 
continue to move the countries in the Caucasus away from 
their reliance on Russia. 
 
MPs See Negative Financial Impact With Positive Political 
Results 
 
5. (C) MP Giorgi Kandelaki of the ruling United National 
Party Movement, who is also Deputy Chairman of the Foreign 
 
TBILISI 00001158  002 OF 003 
 
 
Relations Committee, stated that his first response to the 
new discussions on opening a border crossing was that Turkey 
perhaps had become "strategically confused"; however, he also 
noted that reduced tensions would be good for the region and 
assist in future economic growth.  On a more strategic level, 
he expressed concer
n that Turkey, desiring better relations 
with the Kremlin, was using this as a means to that end. 
Given that Turkey remains Georgia's largest trading partner, 
this was a bigger concern to Kandelaki than any possible 
losses by Georgian businesses due to lost transit revenue. 
 
The View From Academia Mixed 
 
6.  (C)  Head of the International Programs Department of the 
Georgian Institute of Public Affairs and former NSC official 
Tornike Sharashenidze noted that the Georgian business 
community and senior government officials were probably 
unworried because past experience had made them skeptical of 
the likelihood of tangible improvements actually occurring 
between Turkey and Armenia.  Additionally, it could take 
years for anything to come out of the current rapprochement 
that truly impacted the Georgian bottom line.  He skeptically 
stated that no one in government thought long term about 
these types of regional issues unless they had a distinct 
Russian angle; aside from the analytical wing of the MOIA, 
few in the Georgian government conducted long term analytical 
assessments of regional events and how they could impact 
Georgian policy. 
 
7.  (C)  Nika Chitadze, professor at Tbilisi State University 
and President of the Georgia International and Security 
Research Center, raised a possibility not discussed by any 
other interlocutors.  He thought improvement in relations 
between Armenia, Turkey, and ultimately Russia, could provide 
additional opportunities for the Russians to exploit 
disgruntlement in the minority Armenian community in 
Samtskhe-Javakheti and cause instability in Georgia.  (Note: 
While facts behind this assessment were hard to provide, this 
speculation reflects the common Georgian fear - even paranoia 
- about Russian omnipresence in Georgia politics, and the 
immediate assumption that unexpected turns in Caucasus 
politics must have a Russia focus.  End note.) 
 
PM Sees Improved Relations as an Opportunity for Georgia 
 
8.  (C)  During the 10-11 June visit of EUR Assistant 
Secretary Philip Gordon, Prime Minister Nika Gilauri stressed 
that anything that decreases tension in the region is 
positive (reftel).  However, he noted that improved relations 
between Turkey and Armenia should parallel efforts to resolve 
the Nagorno-Karabakh question.  In particular, he noted that 
the Caucasus countries were small and depended on strategic 
relationships with larger countries.  For Georgia this is the 
U.S., for Armenia it is Russia, and for Azerbaijan it has 
been Turkey.  Gilauri said that the loss of Azerbaijan's 
strategic partner could cause them to look north to Russia 
for support.  Gilauri added that he does not fear negative 
impacts to the Georgian economy from the opening of borders 
between Turkey and Armenia, in fact hoping that possible 
increase in traffic could do just the opposite. 
 
9.  (C)  Comment:  The contradictory and at times, uncertain 
responses from individuals in Tbilisi to the signs of 
rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey probably is derived 
from an inherent unease about any change in the regional 
Qfrom an inherent unease about any change in the regional 
power balance, as well as a skepticism that true progress 
might be made.  Some immediately see Georgian political loss 
and Russian gain, as the Turks strive for better relations 
with the country in the south Caucasus most reliant on the 
northern neighbor.  Others, particularly in government, view 
the increased stability associated with improved relations 
and enhanced opportunities to move forward on 
Nagorno-Karabakh as something that must be a positive for 
Georgia.  Regardless, the majority of observers in Tbilisi 
are taking a wait-and-see approach to the issue, with an 
inherent skepticism difficult to push to the side as it 
pertains to improved relations and less Russian influence in 
the region.  Certainly in the short term, should a serious 
rapprochement occur and a functioning border crossing come to 
fruition, Georgian commerce could be a net loser, at least 
for a while.  However, in the longer term, the Georgian 
economy could benefit from increased trade in the region. 
Georgia remains the main bridge for trade between Armenia, 
Turkey and Azerbaijan but a new border crossing would reduce 
the need for Georgian transshipment of goods.  However, in 
the longer term, an increasingly stable situation in the 
south Caucasus, with improving relations between Turkey, 
Armenia, and Azerbaijan, can only benefit the regional 
economic situation and further enhance political stability in 
 
TBILISI 00001158  003 OF 003 
 
 
the area. End comment. 
TEFFT

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