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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07ATHENS2004 2007-10-05 13:50:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Athens
Cable title:  

GREECE: VISITING SAAKASHVILI FOCUSES ON REGIONAL

Tags:   PGOV PREL GG GR 
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VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTH #2004/01 2781350
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 051350Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0457
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI PRIORITY 0387
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L ATHENS 002004 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/05/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL GG GR
SUBJECT: GREECE: VISITING SAAKASHVILI FOCUSES ON REGIONAL
TENSIONS, NATO

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES A.I. THOMAS COUNTRYMAN. REASONS 1.4 (
B) AND (D).



1. (C) SUMMARY: During an October 1-2 State visit to Greece,
Georgian President Saakashvili focused on regional tensions
with Russia (particularly over Abkhazia), Georgia's NATO
prospects, and EU assistance. The Greeks reportedly
expressed strong support for Georgia's territorial integrity,
while also urging the Georgians to take a "moderate" approach
that would not inflame the situation with Russia. On
Georgia's NATO aspirations, the Greeks privately encouraged
Georgia to continue with its reforms but apparently went no
further in endorsing its hopes for a NATO MAP. END SUMMARY.

STATE VISIT


--------------------------





2. (SBU) During his October 1-2 visit, President Saakashvili
met with Greek President Papoulias, PM Karamanlis, FM
Bakoyannis, and embattled opposition PASOK leader Papandreou.
Press reports of the meetings cited a broad review of
regional topics, including the situation in Turkey, the
Cyprus issue, Kosovo, the Macedonia-name issue, and Georgia's
concerns for its borders. Reports also highlighted economic
ties between the countries and Saakashvili's desire to
attract more direct Greece investment.

GEORGIAN DCM UPBEAT


--------------------------





3. (C) In a conversation with Charge at an event hosted by
the mayor of Athens for Saakashvili, the Georgian DCM said
the Greeks were supportive of Georgia's Euro-Atlantic
aspirations. Asked whether he meant NATO, the DCM said the
Greeks were positive on NATO. During pre-visit meetings at
the PolDir level and the visit itself, according to the
Georgian DCM, the Georgians described their problems with
Russia in general and moderate terms, not dwelling, for
example, on the recent missile incident.

MFA READOUT: TENSIONS WITH RUSSIA


--------------------------





4. (C) MFA Georgia desk officer Stella Bezirtzoglou provided
a more detailed and somewhat less upbeat summary readout of
Saakashvili's meetings. She said discussions focused on two
broad themes: regional issues, including NATO, and EU
assistance to Georgia. Saakashvili touched often on Russia,
which he reportedly said had bad relations with everyone in
the region. In this context, Saakashvili was particularly
concerned with the question of the rebellious Georgian region
of Abkhazia. Bezirtzoglou said Greek leaders -- all of whom
she said echoed the same position in their meetings with
Saakashvili -- expressed "strong support" for the principle
of territorial integrity, while also urging the Georgians to
take a "moderate" approach that would not inflame the
situation with Russia. Saakashvili said he had established a
program "My Home" to create a list of all those who lost
property in Abkhazia, which he intended to use in
international fora. @hat Greece
promised to the project.



5. (C) gia's relationship wit( the Greeks he intended`ership action plan (MA@resident
Bush in DecembQSaakashvili hoped to be
on the membership track next spring. Asked for Greece's
response to Saakashvili's statement, Bezirtzoglou said Greece
encouraged Georgia to continue with its reforms but did not
go further in endorsing Georgia's desire for a closer
relationship with NATO. Bezirtzoglou said Greece was now
consumed with the dispute with FYROM (Macedonia) over the
latter's name and could not focus on other NATO issues.
Saakashvili had also expressed concern to the Greeks about
how the Russians would react to developments in Kosovo,
though Bezirtzoglou could provide no further details.

EU ASSISTANCE TO GEORGIA


--------------------------





6. (C) Bezirtzoglou said the Greek leadership also discussed
with Saakashvili Greece's assistance to Georgia within the
framework of the EU neighborhood policy. This included
assistance with security issues, public sector development
and reform, rule of law, agriculture, and the health sector.
She also mentioned Greece's assistance to Georgia on tourism,
noting the recent opening in Georgia of a joint
Greece/Georgia school of tourism. Saakashvili and the Greeks
discussed the proposed BSEC plans for a Black Sea highway,
which would pass through Abkhazia, as well as Greece's
support for giving Georgia an EU visa facilitation agreement,

as had been done with Russia last May, though some other EU
member states opposed this step. Finally, Bezirtzoglou
mentioned that Greece believed EU South Caucasus
representative Peter Semneby could play a role in helping to
defuse tensions in the region. But this would depend on two
conditions: all interested parties, including Russia, had to
agree to the EU role, and all had to agree to respect
Georgia's territorial integrity.

COMMENT


--------------------------





7. (C) The generally cordial atmosphere of the visit and
public expressions of support Saakashvili received from Greek
officials reflected Greece's long-standing relationship and
cultural ties with Georgia. Both countries are majority
Orthodox; Greece has a relatively large Georgian migrant
population and reportedly is second only to Russia as a
source of remittances to Georgia.



8. (C) At the same time, Greek officials appeared to be
working hard to balance expressions of support for Georgia
with words of caution about Russia, as well as on Georgia's
NATO aspirations. The MFA's Bezirtzoglou said they had told
the Russians "we have excellent relations with you and with
the Georgians," which she said the Russians understood. The
bottom line, as she explained, was that Greece was Russia's
friend but "first we look out for our own interests."
COUNTRYMAN