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Cablegate: Tfgg01: Greeks Will Follow French Lead On Georgia

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTH #1156/01 2251526
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 121526Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2329
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0374

C O N F I D E N T I A L ATHENS 001156

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL GG GR
SUBJECT: TFGG01: GREEKS WILL FOLLOW FRENCH LEAD ON GEORGIA
CRISIS

REF: A. SECSTATE 86108
B. ATHENS 1152
C. SECSTATE 85678

C...

C O N F I D E N T I A L ATHENS 001156 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2018 TAGS: PGOV PREL GG GR

SUBJECT: TFGG01: GREEKS WILL FOLLOW FRENCH LEAD ON GEORGIA CRISIS REF: A. SECSTATE 86108 B. ATHENS 1152 C. SECSTATE 85678 Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES DEBORAH MCCARTHY. REASONS 1.4 (B) and (D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: The GOG has still not announced an official position on the crisis in Georgia, probably due to its concerns about alienating either the Russians or Georgians, with both of whom Greece maintains close ties. But our conversations with MFA and other high-placed interlocutors indicate Greece will closely follow the lead of French President Sarkozy and support the common EU position. The GOG is preparing humanitarian supplies, which may be directly airlifted by the Hellenic Air Force or folded into the collective EU humanitarian response. The Greek press has generally stuck to the facts in its reporting of the crisis, though editorial opinions are divided between pro-Russian and pro-Georgian positions. END SUMMARY. GOG POSITION: SUPPORT SAKOZY ----------------------------

2. (SBU) On August 12, A/DCM conveyed ref A points on the GAERC discussion on Georgia and information on USAID humanitarian assistance efforts to the office of MFA Secretary General for International Economic Affairs Skylakakis. Skylakakis' policy advisor, Christian Argyropoulou, noted that Greece was now in the process of considering how to provide similar assistance to Georgia.

3. (C) Minister of Interior Prokopis Pavlopoulos -- who is close to PM Karamanlis and plays a larger role in the GOG than his title suggests -- told us that Greece would follow the French lead. According to Pavlopoulos, FM Bakoyannis had been instructed to support the position of President Sarkozy and adhere to the common EU position. On humanitarian aid, the Interior Minister confirmed the GOG was preparing a package, which would be folded into the collective EU response.

4. (C) A/Polcouns delivered ref A points to Stella Bezirtzoglou, head of the Georgia Desk at the MFA A5 Directorate for CIS Countries, and to European Correspondent Antonia Katzourou. Bezirtzoglou will accompany FM Bakoyannis to Brussels for the GAERC discussion Wednesday and said she had already provided our points on a NATO Georgia statement (ref C) to Bakoyannis. Bezirtzoglou was still unable to provide an official Greek position on Russia's aggressive military action against Georgia but noted that Greece supported Sarkozy's efforts and would support whatever common EU position emerged from the upcoming discussions. She did, however, reiterate Greece's support for Georgia's territorial integrity and noted that Greece had prepared four tons of humanitarian assistance (blankets, tents, medicines, etc.) for shipment to Georgia as soon as practicable. Katzourou also said Greece was expecting to follow Sarkozy's lead and supported his efforts. She said Greece was committed to the principles of respect for territorial integrity of Georgia and respect of international borders. At the same time, Greece was in a "delicate position" because of its traditional good relations with both Russia and Georgia.

5. (C) A/DATT met with RADM Lainas, Director of A Branch of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (HNDGS), which has overall responsibility for military operations. Lainas said the HNDGS had received guidance from the MFA to be ready to conduct possible humanitarian assistance missions to Georgia, specifically, the delivery of medical supplies and medications. He was unprepared to offer further details, such as when the mission might be executed, means of delivery, or quantities of materiel. He said the HNDGS was standing by and would be ready to respond to guidance from the MFA.

OPPOSITION PASOK LEADER CALLS FOR CEASEFIRE ------------------------------------------- 6. (C) On August 9, opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou published a statement on the crisis in Georgia in which he called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and swift resumption of negotiations, deplored the loss of life, and joined the calls for an "Olympic truce." Papandreou's foreign policy advisor Demitris Droutsas subsequently told us -- after the extent of Russian military actions became clearer -- that it was "obvious" that Greece needed to join the international community's condemnation of Russia's "unilateral disregard of the law." Droutsas added that the situation in Georgia had special resonance with Greeks because of rience with Turkey's o#prus under the pretext power. (NOTE: The ` the situation in GeorgQa touchstone for Greek viQs. The more pro-Russi!TO's actions in Kosovo s actions in Georgia; more pro-Georgia or, at least, more neutral Greeks often cite the analogy with the situation in Cyprus. END NOTE.) U

PDATES FROM FRENCH, BALTIC, UKRAINIAN EMBASSIES --------------------------------------------- --- 7. (C) Charge discussed the crisis with the French Charge, who stressed the need to consider the best forum in developing the mechanisms for international involvement in any eventual agreement between the parties -- this was the longer-term challenge, he added. 8. (SBU) Poloffs also spoke with representatives from the Lithuanian, Estonian, and Ukrainian embassies in Athens. All three representatives said their presidents were en route and not expected to arrive to Tbilisi until the evening of the August 12. They said the visit's purpose was to show unity and support for the president of Georgia. Ambassador Yahilo from Estonia added that the situation was in a state of flux but that his country supported Saakashvili. Estonia, Lithuania, and Ukraine were monitoring the humanitarian situation and had sent aircraft to Georgia with medical supplies, including personnel, medicine, and ambulances. The Lithuanian embassy stated there were preparations for more medical equipment to be sent tomorrow. GREECE PRESS DIVIDED OVER CRISIS -------------------------------- 9. (SBU) Greek media extensively reported on the Caucasus crisis. News reports generally stuck to the facts, stressing that Georgia started the operation, that Russia responded with heavy force, and that there was intensive propaganda from both sides. Editorials were more partisan. Some media linked the crisis with the recognition of Kosovo (some fron-page headlines called the Caucasus a "New Kosoo") and reminded their audiences that Russia hd warned the U.S. and the international community that Kosovo was going to be used as a potential precedent in cases like South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and others. MEGA Channel highlighted in its August 10 evening prime-time news program the crossfire between the U.S. and Russian permreps in the UNSC, noting a State Department official's comments that the USG was "cynically" more interested in Russia's positive stance on the Iranian nuclear program and that it was not intending to dispatch U.S. or NATO troops to the Caucasus. The unnamed State Department representative also reportedly "admitted" that during the debate over Kosovo's independence Russian FM Lavrov had warned Secretary Rice "not even to think of intervening" in case of a future crisis in South Ossetia. Media also generally noted that the Greek government had not come out with a strong position on the crisis, to the chagrin of both sides in the conflict both of which were expecting more Greek support. A dominant theme throughout was that the crisis could represent a resurgence of the cold war between Russia and the U.S. SMALL DEMONSTRATIONS SUPPORT GEORGIA -------------------------------- 10. (SBU) On August 10 at 1630 hours, approximately 400-500 peaceful demonstrators marched past the Embassy then moved to the Russian Embassy in the suburb of Paleo Psychiko. The demonstration started at Syntagma Square in central Athens with the group carrying Georgian flags and dressed in red and white. The demonstrators paused in front of the U.S. Embassy for a few minutes chanting for the U.S. to help Georgia. The Hellenic Police provided one anti-riot bus and 20 officers to secure the Embassy. The Russian Embassy was heavily guarded. 11. (SBU) In Thessaloniki on August 12, about 200 people, apparently Georgians, participated in a peaceful march in the downtown area stopping at the Russian consulate. In addition to loud anti-Russian chanting, speakers voiced concern for relatives and friends in Georgia and grief and anger over the crisis. Long-time residents noted that this was the first anti-Russian demonstration in Thessaloniki they could recall. MCCARTHY

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