Cablegate: Ambassador Williamson in Finland
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DE RUEHHE #0456/01 2821334
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R 081334Z OCT 08 ZDK CTG NUMEROUS SVC'S
FM AMEMBASSY HELSINKI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4585
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HELSINKI 000456
STATE FOR S/WCI/JVIBUL-JOLLES AND AMB WILLIAMSON
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/06/2018
TAGS: PREL PHUM OSCE EUN ICJ GG RS FI
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR WILLIAMSON IN FINLAND
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Classified By: Political Chief Scott Brandon for Reasons 1.4 (b) & (d)
1. (C) Ambassador Williamson briefed Finnish officials
about his recent trip to Georgia on September 15.
Williamson urged the Finns to use their chairmanship to
push for a more robust OSCE monitoring mission that would
have access to South Ossetia and Abkahzia and could
document abuses. Finnish officials expressed reluctance,
saying that the OSCE was a consensus organization and they
would never be able to come to consensus if they try to
push the mandate too far. Williamson agreed that the OSCE
mandate might be limited in scope, but highlighted that the
OSCE could possibly be the only international mission that
has access to areas where crimes occurred. The GOF said
it would continue to call for access to South Ossetia and
hoped to be involved in all aspects of negotiations.
2. (C) In later meetings, Williamson briefed MFA legal
advisors and human rights official about the U.S. position
on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the
possibility of Georgia referring a case to the ICC.
Williamson also reiterated U.S. interest in Finland
accepting detainees from Guantanamo Bay.
Meeting with MFA OSCE Officials
3. (C) On September 15 Ambassador Williamson met with
Ambassador Heikki Talvitie, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(MFA) Special Envoy of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, and
Ambassador Aleksi Harkonen, MFA Head of the OSCE
Chairmanship. At the outset, Talvitie provided his
impressions of the East-West dynamics at play in the
Georgia crisis. He stated that Russia fears a dominant
position of the U.S., NATO and the EU in its "near abroad"
and identified a similar fear in the EU and US that Russia
will dominate. He noted that there is no arrangement that
allows all actors to compete on the same level in the
4. (C) Talvitie turned to the visit occurring that day
between OSCE Head of Mission Hakala and Russian FM Lavrov
in Tskhinvali, Georgia. Talvitie said it would be
acceptable for OSCE officials to meet Lavrov there but not
South Ossetian (S.O.) officials. Harkonen referred to the
"green light" from Washington regarding the meeting, but
said that in Georgia they had received both red and green
lights, apparently reflecting Georgian fears that a meeting
would recognize Russian control on the ground and that
Lavrov might invite S.O. officials. Harkonen said OSCE
would announce that it was visiting its office and staff in
Tskhinvali. Talvitie said it was an "ironic twist" that
now OSCE officials were reluctant to meet with Russians,
and not the reverse.
5. (C) Turning to the question of monitors, Harkonen said
that the original mandate for the OSCE mission "included
everything," but in reality it was a military, monitoring
operation with eight observers. There are also 20 new
observers that will be adjacent to South Ossetia, and
discussions were on going for 80 additional monitors.
Harkonen noted that the main concern now is observing the
return of Georgians to their villages. He remained hopeful
that an agreement would be reached, noting that Russia
might ultimately prefer OSCE monitors to EU ones.
Ambassador Williamson agreed and stressed that it was clear
from the GAERC (General Affairs and External Relations
Council) that the EU would not have access to S.O. and
Abkahzia. The OSCE might be the only international body
with access to areas where crimes occurred. Tuula Yrjola,
Head of the MFA's Eastern Europe and Central Asia Unit,
agreed. The language of any mandate for the monitors must
cover all of internationally recognized Georgia, he said,
but on the ground it would take some time to get monitors
into S.O. and Abkhazia.
6. (C) Ambassador Williamson, noting that acts of
violence were far less numerous than claimed by the
Russians, said that the international community needs to
get a better sense of what happened on the ground. He
added that the greatest concern is ethnic cleansing.
Because of the possibility that ethnic cleansing was
occurring and because of the reports of violence,
Williamson stressed that a robust OSCE mission is critical.
Williamson added that after discussions with the Georgians,
he believes they will refer a case to the International
Criminal Court (ICC). If this case goes forward, there
will be need for evidence of crimes committed by both the
Russians and the Georgians. Harkonen responded that the
Council of Europe and the OSCE cannot go further than
continuing their current mandate. Talvitie jumped in to say
HELSINKI 00000456 002.2 OF 002
that the level of hatred exhibited in Georgia is as high as
that seen in the Balkans; in both places people managed to
live side by side peacefully until conflict breaks, and
that both sides, "don't give any mercy" and Abkhazia and
S.O. have been "lost" in part due to errors by the West.
7. (C) Ambassador Williamson reiterated that any
investigation would likely focus on both sides and that the
ICC would most likely focus on crimes committed by S.O.
officials, not Russians. Harkonen was concerned that OSCE
field missions are consensus based and a mandate which
would allow them to investigate crimes, would destroy
consensus. Talvitie added that investigations are
something for the future; at this point the international
community must work to stabilize the situation. Harkonen
and Talvitie backed down from this position as Williamson
explained that accountability deters future crimes and is
critical to stopping violence on the ground. He added that
while active investigative work might be impossible,
passive observation and documentation of crimes would
nevertheless be helpful. Talvitie responded that the GOF
has been saying all along that they want access to S.O.
while Harkonen noted that they have been "forum shopping"
because they want to remain involved in all international
discussions on the issue.
Meeting with MFA Public and International Law Officials
8. (C) Ambassador Williamson met with Marja Lehto
Director of the MFA Unit for Public International Law,
Sari Makela Counselor and First Secretary Jyri Jarviaho
from the North America Unit to brief them on the U.S.
position on the ICC. Lehto inquired about the U.S.
position toward the ICC, and thanked the U.S. for its
pragmatic policy. Williamson explained the recent U.S.
vote on the UN Security Council Resolution on Darfur. The
U.S. remains very supportive of the UN Mission in Darfur
(UNIMID), but officials did not feel that the language in
the resolution was strong enough on accountability;
language in the resolution indicated that a deal could be
made for an article 16 deferral. Williamson explained
that since that time he has talked to the French and the
British and he does not see anything that would justify an
article 16 deferral. Lehto noted the African Union and the
Organization of Islamic Conference support the Sudanese and
are against the ICC indictment. Williamson agreed that the
perception of the ICC in Africa is bad, but the deferral is
an affirmative process; the Chinese or Russians cannot veto
and help the Sudanese.
9. (C) Ambassador Williamson reported on his meetings
with Georgian prosecutors, saying that while the ICC might
be investigating the situation in Georgia, it is not the
type of case that the ICC would take up on their own. The
Georgians will have to refer the case; however, because of
a lack of resources, that would most likely happen after
and International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision on
Georgia's claim against Russia.
Meeting with MFA Human Rights Officials
10. (C) Ambassador Williamson met with Sofie From-
Emmesberger, Director of the MFA Unit for Human Rights, to
discuss his meetings in Georgia and push for GOF pressure
for robust international monitoring missions. From-
Emmesberger agreed that observer missions should push for
access to these areas, but had little information on GOF
plans for future missions.
11. (C) Ambassador Williamson explained the current
situation of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. While the GOF
has previously rejected U.S. requests that they consider
accepting detainees, Williamson explained that the closure
of Guantanamo Bay is a humanitarian issue and he hopes that
the GOF will consider accepting low threat detainees.
Williamson added that if Finland is unable to accept
detainee, he hopes that they will be openly supportive of
other countries accepting them. From-Emmesberger promised
she would pass the request to higher levels.