07MOSCOW405, RUSSIAN MFA CONFIRMS POSITIVE CHANGE IN ABKHAZIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW405 2007-01-31 15:10 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO3736
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0405 0311510
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 311510Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7044
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 000405 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/31/2017 
TAGS: PREL MARR MOPS PBTS GG RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIAN MFA CONFIRMS POSITIVE CHANGE IN ABKHAZIA 
POSITION 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reason:  1.4 (b, d) 
 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) MFA Fourth CIS Director Andrey Kelin briefed 
PolMinCouns on the Russian position toward Georgia's Kodori 
Gorge January 31, making explicit the positive change hinted 
to DAS Bryza in Berlin January 22.  Russia will now accept 
the presence of up to 200 Georgian internal troops in Kodori 
(the previous position demanded complete withdrawal and the 
removal of the Georgian-backed "Abkhaz Government in Exile"). 
 Kelin implied a deal:  Russia will agree to a reduced 
Georgian presence in exchange for a UN visit by Abkhaz 
"Foreign Minister" Shamba.  End Summary. 
 
2. (C) Kelin told PolMinCouns that Russia's concern about the 
Georgian armed presence in Kodori is the capacity to attack 
Abkhazia.  Now, he said, Georgia has 500-530 internal troops 
there -- nearly a battalion.  This provides real offensive 
capability.  If the Georgian forces were reduced to 200 (with 
complete removal of heavy weaponry), the level would be 
"normal."  Kelin signaled that Russia is open to discussion 
on the number, its only concern being the offensive 
capability; he reiterated that Russia understands the 
legitimate need for a Georgian police presence in Kodori.  He 
stated that UNOMIG has not verified the withdrawal of heavy 
weaponry, and that Georgia maintains fortifications, 
helicopters, mortars and armored personnel carriers. 
 
3. (C) Kelin asked for U.S. cooperation in granting a visa to 
Abkhaz "Foreign Minister" Sergey Shamba for a visit to 
address the UN (format to be decided by the UN, but not 
necessarily Arria).  We noted that the issue is under review, 
but flagged Washington's concerns over previous Abkhaz 
demands that all Georgian forces leave Kodori before the 
Abkhaz would re-engage in the negotiating process.  Kelin 
said he will travel to Abkhazia February 1 and will discuss 
the issue with Shamba. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
4. (C) Kelin never said the Russian position has changed, but 
clearly he was proposing a deal to change it:  Russia would 
agree to a Georgian presence, at a level reduced ostensibly 
for security concerns, but also to save face.  In addition, 
Kelin pointedly left out previous Russian demands for the 
removal from Kodori of the Georgian-backed "Abkhaz Government 
in Exile."  In return, the U.S. would agree to let Shamba 
address the UN. 
 
5. (C) That proposal is clearly a first bargaining position, 
but there may well be a deal to be hammered out with the 
Russians, other FSG members, and the parties.  In addition to 
agreement on an acceptable Georgian force level (presumably 
somewhere between 200 and 500) and weaponry consistent with 
the 1994 Moscow Agreement, the deal could include both 
explicit Abkhaz commitment to re-engage in the negotiating 
process and Russian agreement on acceptable elements of the 
next UNSC resolution to renew UNOMIG's mandate, dropping 
negative mention of Georgian actions and deployments in 
Kodori.  In our view, that gain would be well worth a visa 
for Shamba. 
BURNS

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