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Cablegate: Kazakhstan: No Clear Evidence of Russian Pressure To

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OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW
RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK
RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #1976/01 2801104
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 061104Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3520
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0668
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0071
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0781
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1955
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1903
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2240
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0226
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0148
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 001976

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, EUR/CARC, EUR/RUS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV EAGR ECON GG RS KZ

SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: NO CLEAR EVIDENCE OF RUSSIAN PRESSURE TO
DELAY GRAIN SHIPMENT TO GEORGIA

REF: GEHRENBECK-FAGIN OCTOBER 1 EMAIL

1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for public Internet.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Georgian media have alleged that a
Kazakhstani grain shipment to Georgia was delayed because of Russian
pressure. We spoke to several sources in Kazakhstan and could find
no clear evidence that this was the case. Instead, we were told
that there is, in fact, a shortage of Kazakhstani railcars available
for grain export. Agriculture Minister Kurishbayev told the media
that thus far only 290,000 tons of grain have been exported from a
2008 harvest which should ultimately yield 5.5 to 6 million tons for
export. The Kazakhstanis reassured us that they will honor all
their grain export contracts. A Kazakhstani firm in Petropavlosk
just reached agreement with Georgia to export a shipment of flour.
The firm promised it would fulfill the contract, but admitted it was
encountering transportation problems. END SUMMARY.

3. (U) Embassy Tbilisi informed us on October 1 that, according to
the Georgian media, Kazakhstan had failed to deliver on a pre-paid,
20,000-ton grain shipment to Georgia. Georgia's Rustavi-2
television reported that the Kazakhstani side had claimed they did
not have railcars available to transport the grain. The Georgian
purchasers could have sent their own railcars, but that would have
caused a one-month delay and resulted in increased transport costs.
As a result, the Georgians were looking for an alternative supplier,
such as Ukraine. The Georgians were not convinced by Kazakhstani
claims of transport problems and instead believed the Kazakhstanis
tried to nix the deal because of Russian pressure.

4. (SBU) We followed up on the Georgian media reports with with
several sources in Kazakhstan and have found no clear evidence that
Russian pressure was a factor in the alleged delay of the grain
shipment. Georgian Embassy counselor Zurab Kozmava, who does not
usually shy away from pointing an accusing finger at Russia,
expressed no serious concerns about the shipment in an October 1
conversation. He said that as far as he understood, the Georgian
side had cancelled the purchase and would get the grain from another
country.

5. (SBU) Agriculture Ministry chief phytosanitary expert Kudaberdy
Batayev, who is responsible for certifying the safety of Kazakhstani
grain exports, told us on October 2 that he knew nothing about this
specific shipment to Georgia, but said that there is, in fact, a
shortage of Kazakhstani railcars and that, in addition, Kazakhstan's
national railroad routinely has problems converting for grain
shipment railcars used for other purposes at other times of the
year. (NOTE: International oil companies operating in Kazakhstan
have told us repeatedly that their own plans to increase crude and
sulfur exports have been hampered by a shortage of both Kazakhstani
railcars and locomotives. END NOTE.) Both these factors result in
grain shipment delays. Batayev reassured us that Kazakhstan would
honor all of its grain export contracts. Kazakhstani Grain Union
Executive Director Mukhamedzhan Duysebayev essentially repeated
Bateyev's comments during an October 3 discussion with us.

6. (SBU) Agriculture Minister Akylbek Kurishbayev told the media on
October 2 that only 290,000 tons of grain had been exported from a
2008 Kazakhstani harvest which should ultimately yield 5.5 to 6
million tons for export. Transportation routes were overloaded, he
explained, in part because of grain exports from Russia and Ukraine.


7. (SBU) On October 3, we reached representatives of KazakhZerno, a
Petropavlosk-based company that had just completed negotiations with
the Georgians for the sale of flour. They said they plan to fulfill
their contract, but admitted that there were transportation
problems. The Russians, they said, had informed shippers from the
Petropavlosk region that Russia would only provide railcars to

ASTANA 00001976 002 OF 002


Kazakhstan for shipments to Russia. (NOTE: It is unclear whether
this meant that the Russians were reserving their railcars for
Russian-bound shipments because of their own railcar shortage, or to
prevent shipments to Georgia. END NOTE.) As a result, KazakhZerno
was seeking agreement with the Azerbaijanis to send their shipment
to Georgia across the Caspian by ship and then from Azerbaijan
onward by rail.

HOAGLAND

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