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Cablegate: Pm Erdogan Visits Moscow and Tbilisi; Support For

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001478

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/SE, EUR/CARC

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/15/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM MOPS GG RS TU ZJ
SUBJECT: PM ERDOGAN VISITS MOSCOW AND TBILISI; SUPPORT FOR
GEORGIA'S TERRIT...

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001478 SIPDIS DEPT FOR EUR/SE, EUR/CARC E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/15/2018 TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM MOPS GG RS TU ZJ

SUBJECT: PM ERDOGAN VISITS MOSCOW AND TBILISI; SUPPORT FOR GEORGIA'S TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY Classified By: CDA Doug Silliman, reasons 1.4 (b,d)
1. (C) SUMMARY. PM Erdogan received a warm reception from Russian leaders in Moscow, where he conveyed Turkey's clear support for Georgia's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. The Russians responded they have no intention of entering Tbilisi or occupying Georgia, but that Georgia was responsible for the deaths of 2,000 civilians that sparked the current crisis. The Russians agreed to work with Turkey to develop Turkey's "Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform" concept. Receiving Erdogan in Tbilisi, President Saakashvili blamed Russia for the crisis and rejected parts of the Sarkozy cease-fire plan, but said his government would engage in a Caucasus stability pact once the current crisis is over. The Turks believe Saakashvili will face significant, and perhaps insurmountable, political opposition at home when the crisis passes. END SUMMARY.
WARM RECEPTION IN MOSCOW ------------------------ 2. (C) The atmosphere was collegial during PM Erdogan's August 13 visit to Moscow, MFA Deputy U/S for Russia, Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia Cevikoz told CDA August 15. Erdogan met privately with both President Medvedev and PM Putin, who then hosted him for a working dinner, joined by FMs Babacan and Lavrov. The Russians described President Saakashvili as directly and personally responsible for the military conflict by ordering military action that they claim took 2,000 civilian lives. The Russians told the Turks they do not intend to enter Tbilisi or to occupy Georgia proper, but do not trust Saakashvili to implement a credible cease-fire. They indicated to the Turks an intention to establish "buffer zones" around South Ossetia and Abkhazia to protect their peacekeepers but it was not clear to Cevikoz whether such zones would be established inside Georgia proper or in the territory of the breakaway provinces.
RUSSIANS RECEPTIVE TO TURKISH CAUCASUS STABILITY PACT PROPOSAL -------------------------------- 3. (C) The Russians responded positively to Turkey's proposal for a "Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform," Cevikoz said. The proposal is intended to include the five Caucasus countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Turkey, and would be based on OSCE principles (to exclude Iran, Cevikoz quipped). Turkey wants the platform to have a mechanism for conflict resolution and crisis management, as well as elements to discuss economic cooperation, tourism, energy security and related issues. Cevikoz emphasized Turkey's view that Armenia must play an important role in any such mechanism; Erdogan will travel next week to Baku to sound out the Azerbaijanis and the Turks will soon pulse the Armenians (informally) as well. Medvedev and Erdogan tasked their Foreign Ministers with further developing the stability pact concept. 4. (C) Cevikoz said that no decision has been made yet on President Gul attending the September 6 World Cup qualifier in Yerevan. MFA DDG for Americas Ercin told CDA separately that the MFA is currently engaged in a debate on the pros and cons of Gul's attendance, with the chief negative the likely very negative Azerbaijani reaction. CDA encouraged Gul's attendance as a powerful symbol of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation.

TURKEY SUPPORTS GEORGIA'S TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY --------------------------------------------- -- 5. (C) Erdogan expressed clearly, according to Cevikoz, Turkey's support for Georgia's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, as defined by international law; the Russians committed to sovereignty and independence, but did not comment on territorial integrity. Cevikoz noted Turkey's alarm over subsequent public statements by Russian Defense Minister Ivanov and FM Lavrov dismissing the importance of Georgia's territorial integrity.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN TBILISI ---------------------------- 6. (C) In Erdogan's subsequent August 14 stop in Tbilisi, Saakashvili accused Russia of starting the conflict and preparing for it for months. He denounced Russian claims of ANKARA 00001478 002 OF 002 2,000 South Ossetian civilians dead as a gross exaggeration. Saakashvili told Erdogan that Russia intends to occupy Georgia and remove him from office. He described the French provisional cease-fire proposal as a "Russian plan." He rejected point six, insisting to Erdogan that Georgia will not discuss the final status of Abkhazia or South Ossetia at the international level, and said he could not accept the wording in point five on the "additional measures" Russian peacekeepers would be authorized to take. Cevikoz said Saakashvili told Erdogan that if Babacan and Lavrov successfully launch a Caucasus stability initiative, he would ask his FM to attend, but only after the current crisis is over. 7. (C) Erdogan emphasized to Saakashvili in a one-on-one meeting the importance of remaining calm and maintaining a softer rhetoric. It is not the time for further escalation, Erdogan argued, but rather for establishing a peaceful environment, conducive to the withdrawal of Russian forces. 8. (C) Cevikoz observed that political groups in Georgia are united presently against Russia, but that such unity will likely break down once the crisis is over. Georgia's civilian infrastructure has been badly damaged and it will be a tough autumn and winter for the Georgian people. Saakashvili will be the political target.

GRATITUDE FOR TURKEY'S HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE --------------------------------------------- - 9. (SBU) The Turks were pleased by Saakashvili's sincere expression of gratitude for Turkey's swift humanitarian response to the crisis. He told Erdogan that Georgia does not need any additional emergency aid, but asked for Turkish assistance with the reconstruction of central Gori, where the Georgians said a ten-block area of apartment blocks had been destroyed and the hospital damaged. Erdogan responded favorably and said he would direct Turkish government agencies to determine how to initiate the reconstruction process. Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turk ey SILLIMAN

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