06MOSCOW3507, GEORGIA-RUSSIA: SOME POSITIVE STEPS — AND SOME

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW3507 2006-04-04 10:51 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO1489
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #3507/01 0941051
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 041051Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3579
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 003507 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/04/2016 
TAGS: PREL MARR PBTS ETRD OSCE GG RS
SUBJECT: GEORGIA-RUSSIA:  SOME POSITIVE STEPS -- AND SOME 
RED LINES 
 
REF: MOSCOW 3202 
 
Classified By: A/DCM Kirk Augustine.  Reason 1.4 (b, d) 
 
1. (C)  Summary.  Russian MFA Fourth CIS Department Director 
Andrey Kelin told A/DCM April 4 that he was pleased with the 
"good cooperative spirit" he had met in Tbilisi when 
finalizing the agreement on withdrawing Russian bases by 2008 
that was signed in Sochi March 31.  The March 27 South 
Ossetia JCC meeting in Vladikavkaz had also been "positive," 
and would be followed by an early-May JCC meeting in 
Tskhinvali.  An "accumulation" of positive experiences could, 
 
SIPDIS 
if proved to be "stable," lead to rescheduling the visit of 
Georgian PM Noghaideli for late spring/early summer. 
However, Russia had two red lines that, if crossed, would 
undercut any positive scenario:  1) a Georgian demand that 
Russian peacekeepers have visas -- Kelin used Kosovo as a 
precedent for rejecting that demand; and 2) seeking to revise 
the 1994 agreement setting up the peace process and 
peacekeeping mechanisms for South Ossetia.  On the current 
ban on imports of wine from Georgia and Moldova, Kelin said 
technical talks could begin with Georgia as early as next 
week, once the Ministry of Health finished talks with the 
Moldovans and the Georgians sent a delegation from Tbilisi. 
End Summary. 
 
--------------------- 
The Positive Signs... 
--------------------- 
 
2. (C)  A/DCM sought a readout from Kelin, the DAS-equivalent 
who heads the Caucasus directorate, after Kelin's visit to 
the region last week.  Kelin said the base withdrawal 
agreement (based on a May 30, 2005 bilateral declaration) was 
finalized in Tbilisi in a "good cooperative spirit."  The 
agreement was signed March 31, but the Russians 
"understandably did not give it much attention in the media." 
 Kelin continued to Baku to negotiate an agreement to 
withdraw equipment by rail through Azerbaijan.  That gave the 
logisticians the option of using sea or rail shipping to 
withdraw the equipment returning to Russia, and Kelin 
expected both to be used.  Kelin said Russia hoped there 
would be no problems with Georgian observance of the 
agreement's condition that until the withdrawal is completed 
Georgia provide, as a March 31 MFA statement put it, "normal 
conditions for the functioning of the military bases" (e.g., 
in terms of visas and movement).  There had been no incidents 
in that regard since early February, Kelin said. 
 
3. (U)  Note.  A "Krasnaya Zvezda" article of April 4 set out 
some of the provisions of the agreement, noting that a joint 
Russian-Georgian commission working in Tbilisi would oversee 
fulfillment of the agreement's obligations and resolve 
contentious issues.  The agreement is to be in effect until 
the end of 2008, unless one of the parties gives notice 
through diplomatic channels of a substantial breach of its 
terms by the other side, in which case implementation would 
cease within 30 days.  The article concluded that, 
"especially taking into account the experience of the first 
stage of Russian troop withdrawal, the process of withdrawal 
from bases in Georgia will hardly be easy."  End Note 
 
4. (C)  The March 27 South Ossetia Joint Coordination Council 
(JCC) meeting in Tskhinvali was similarly constructive, Kelin 
said.  It produced positive results "for the first time:"  an 
agreement to create a working group to draw up a 3-stage 
workplan based on the Saakashvili plan and the Kokoity 
initiative.  The Georgian refusal to approve a statement on 
the non-use of force was "less positive."  Kelin expected 
another meeting of the JCC to take place in Tskhinvali in 
early May. 
 
5. (C)  An "accumulation" of positive experiences could lead 
to the rescheduling of a visit by Georgian PM Noghaideli for 
late spring or early summer, Kelin said.  The Georgians had 
proposed an early April date for such a visit, but that was 
"too early."  It would first be necessary to confirm that the 
positive trend was "stable," and a visit at the PM level 
would require good preparation to ensure that it was 
productive, rather than a step backward.  Noghaideli could 
discuss regional economic integration in the South Ossetia 
conflict, the topic on which his aborted visit was to have 
focused.  A visit by someone on a slightly lower level might 
lead up to the PM's visit. 
 
6. (C)  Kelin also hoped that Georgia's new Abkhazia 
negotiator, Irakli Alasania, would visit Moscow in the near 
future; the Russians considered his new function, his meeting 
with Abkhaz leader Bagapsh, and their agreement to revive the 
Georgian-Abkhaz Coordination Council to be positive steps. 
 
 
MOSCOW 00003507  002 OF 002 
 
 
------------------------ 
...And the Less Positive 
------------------------ 
 
7. (C)  Kelin foresaw two potential problems that could 
derail relations once again.  The
 first was the Georgian 
demand that Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia and 
Abkhazia obtain visas.  Georgian DFM Antadze, during his 
late-February discussions with the MFA on the visa issue, had 
assured the GOR that the demand for PKF visas was off the 
table, but a a diplomatic note from the Georgian MFA had just 
revived the issue.  Kelin insisted that Russian peacekeepers 
in South Ossetia and Abkhazia should have the same status as 
peacekeepers in Kosovo:  exemption from visas and from local 
jurisdiction.  Russia was prepared to discuss certain 
questions pertaining to the status of the peacekeepers with 
Georgia, but "we feel very strongly that we cannot allow the 
introduction of a visa regime." 
 
8. (C)  Russia's other red line, according to Kelin, was the 
1994 agreement setting up the JCC process for resolving the 
South Ossetia conflict and establishing the Joint 
Peacekeeping Force.  Any move by Georgia to revise that would 
be unacceptable to Russia. 
 
------------------------------------ 
What About That Toast to Friendship? 
------------------------------------ 
 
9. (C)  A/DCM recalled that DFM Karasin had told Ambassador 
Burns March 29 (reftel) that Russia was prepared to hold 
expert-level talks on Russia's ban of wine imports from 
Georgia (and Moldova) before the ban went into effect.  But 
Chief Sanitary Doctor Onnishchenko had announced the ban and 
then gone on vacation.  No talks had taken place, and the ban 
was in effect. 
 
10. (C)  Kelin reiterated the Russian position that the ban 
was technical, not political.  He blamed the lack of talks 
with Georgia on the fact that the Georgians had been "slower 
off the mark" than the Moldovans, who had immediately sent a 
delegation that now was engaged in talks with appropriate 
expert counterparts.  (Note:  The Moldovan delegation, headed 
by Economy Minister Lazar, arrived in Moscow March 28, the 
day after the ban started; their talks began a week later.) 
The Georgians, however, had not send a delegation from 
Tbilisi, and had wanted instead to address the issue through 
diplomatic contacts by the Georgian Embassy here.  Russian 
health authorities would be prepared to hold talks with a 
delegation from Tbilisi once the current discussions with 
Moldova are finished, probably by the end of this week. 
Kelin said he had received that information late on April 3 
from the Health Ministry and had passed it on to Russian 
Ambassador Chkhikvishvili in Tbilisi.  Echoing a frequent 
theme, Kelin said Georgia's problems with Russia could be 
dealt with more readily if Georgian authorities were as quick 
to pursue contacts with Moscow as they were to "appeal to Mr. 
Bryza or Ambassador Tefft." 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
11. (C)  Kelin made clear that Russia is willing to pursue 
improved relations with Georgia -- on its own terms and on a 
step-by-step basis.  Its terms include Georgian restraint not 
only on "anti-Russian" rhetoric, but also on pressing on 
sensitive issues, central as they may be to Georgian goals. 
The wine import ban -- which all observers agree is 
politically motivated -- appears to be a message that Russia 
has means available to enforce its terms. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

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