08ASTANA1558, TFGG01: KAZAKHSTAN CAUTIOUS ON GEORGIA-RUSSIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA1558 2008-08-21 07:11 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO5386
OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHFL RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHMRE RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHTA #1558/01 2340711
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 210711Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3073
INFO RUCNOSC/OSCE POST COLLECTIVE
RUCNCLS/SCA COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 001558 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/21/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV EAID KZ GG RS
SUBJECT: TFGG01: KAZAKHSTAN CAUTIOUS ON GEORGIA-RUSSIA 
CONFLICT, BUT MAKING HELPFUL REMARKS 
 
Classified By: Pol-Econ Chief Steven Fagin, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
------- 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1. (C) Kazakhstan will likely continue its cautious approach 
toward the Georgian-Russian conflict to preserve its equities 
with both countries.  Nevertheless, the Kazakhstanis appear 
genuinely concerned about the long-term implications of 
Russia's actions for other CIS states.  While Kazakhstan is 
walking a fine line in its public message, in President 
Nazarbayev's most recent remarks, he stressed the importance 
of the principle of territorial integrity, and an MFA 
statement called for full implementation of the agreements 
brokered by Sarkozy and for more OSCE observers in the 
conflict zone.  Kazakhstani media commentary was very limited 
during the first days of the conflict, but has increased in 
recent days.  The Kazakhstanis delivered initial aid for 
conflict victims through Vladikavkaz, but have reassured us 
that they will ultimately use multiple routes to assist both 
sides.  End Summary. 
 
-------------------- 
CAUTIOUS APPROACH... 
-------------------- 
 
2. (C) Kazakhstan will likely continue to maintain a cautious 
approach toward the Georgia-Russia conflict.  On the one 
hand, the Kazakhstanis will not jeopardize their strategic 
relationship with Russia by directly lining up against the 
Russians on this issue.  On the other hand, the Kazakhstanis 
have important equities in Georgia too.  Kazakhstan is 
reportedly the largest foreign investor in Georgia, owning 
100 percent of the Batumi oil terminal and holding major 
stakes in Georgia's hotel and resort sector as well as in 
Tbilisi's gas distribution company.  Georgia is also expected 
to become an increasingly important transit country for 
Kazakhstani crude; it is, in fact, a lynchpin in Kazakhstan's 
efforts to diversity crude transport routes.  (Note: One key 
theme in the Kazakhstani media coverage of the conflict has 
been concern about these investments and about crude transit. 
 The Kazakhstani MFA has sounded reassuring notes on the 
investments, contending that their safety is guaranteed by 
bilateral Kazakhstan-Georgia agreements.  The government has 
also explained that crude that would have transited Georgia 
is for now being redirected for domestic use.  End Note.) 
Of additional importance, President Nazarbayev holds 
Saakashvili in high personal regard, seeing himself as a 
mentor to the Georgian leader who is his junior by 28 years. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
...BUT CONCERNS ABOUT LONG-TERM IMPLICATIONS 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) MFA Americas Department Director Talgat Kaliyev called 
us in on August 15 for a lengthy discussion of the conflict. 
He was very concerned about the consequences of Russia's 
actions for other CIS states, stressing that this is "the 
first time Russia has directly intervened militarily in 
another CIS state since the fall of the USSR."  He noted that 
the other CIS countries are not standing openly with Russia, 
and that even Belarusian President Lukashenko has been 
silent, much to Russia's consternation.  The long-run 
implications of the conflict for Kazakhstan, with its large 
ethnic Russian population concentrated in the country's 
north, are worrisome, Kaliyev explained.  He discounted the 
relevance of a purported pro-Russian statement made by the 
council of the CSTO parliamentary assembly, doubting that any 
Kazakhstani parliamentarians had a role in putting it 
together.  (Comment: Kaliyev also maintained that the 
Kazakhstani public is quite sympathetic to the Georgian 
position.  However, we have some doubts about this.  With 
quite limited coverage of the conflict on Kazakhstani 
television stations, most Kazakhstanis are getting their news 
about events in Georgia from Russian TV networks, a fact 
which presumably has a strong influence on their views.  End 
Comment.) 
 
4. (C) In an August 19 meeting with the Deputy Chief of 
Mission and visiting ARCENT commander Lieutenant General 
Loveland, Deputy Foreign Minister Sarybay emphasized 
Kazakhstan's "historical relations" with both the Russians 
and the Georgians.  He stressed Kazakhstan's support for the 
ceasefire agreement and for the withdrawal of "both military 
forces," adding further than "no one should provoke any 
escalation." 
 
------------------------- 
PUBLIC STATEMENTS HELPFUL 
------------------------- 
 
ASTANA 00001558  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
5. (C) While the Kazakhstanis have been walking a fine line 
with their public message, what they have said thus far 
includes several helpful elements.  Nazarbayev initially 
raised eyebrows on August 8, when during a meeting with Putin 
on the margins of the Beijing Olympics, he appeared to take 
Russia's side and was quoted as saying, among other things, 
that "the Georgian leadership was wrong when it failed to 
make public the heightened tensi
ons (in South Ossetia)." This 
statement, however, was made early on, before events were 
clear -- and before the Russians moved deep into Georgian 
territory.  Nazarbayev's second statement, made while meeting 
with President Bakiyev in Kyrgyzstan on August 14, was much 
better.  He stressed that the "the principle of territorial 
integrity is recognized by the entire world community," 
noting further that "we all have come out against separatism 
in documents accepted within the framework of the CIS." 
 
6. (U) The MFA did not release an official statement on the 
conflict until August 19.  On the one hand, the statement 
criticized "the attempt at forcefully resolving a complex 
ethno-territorial issue," arguing that it "brought about 
serious consequences" and significantly worsened the 
conditions for a "peaceful and legal resolution."  On the 
other hand, it called on all parties to "strictly fulfill" 
the agreements brokered by French President Sarkozy and 
stressed that Kazakhstan supports increasing the number of 
OSCE observers in the conflict zone and "activating their 
role." 
 
-------------------------- 
PRESS WAITS FOR NAZARBAYEV 
-------------------------- 
 
7. (SBU) Kazakhstan's state-controlled broadcast media and 
newspapers, and even most of its privately-owned print 
outlets, had very limited coverage of and commentary on the 
conflict in its early days, apparently waiting for Nazarbayev 
to first set the general line -- which he did in his August 
14 remarks.  Commentary has accordingly increased in recent 
days.  An August 18 piece in privately-owned, but largely 
pro-government daily newspaper Litr argued that it would be 
risky for Kazakhstan to criticize Georgia's actions in South 
Ossetia given Kazakhstan's substantial investments in Georgia 
(which it estimated to be worth $700 million).  An August 19 
editorial in independent business weekly Delovaya Nedelya 
accused Russia of double standards on separatism, pointing to 
the Chechnya conflict, but nevertheless maintained that 
Kazakhstan should hold to a neutral position so that it is 
not dragged into "military adventures" serving someone else's 
interests.  An August 20 Litr article quoted a Kazakhstani 
think tanker explaining that Russia won in South Ossetia 
tactically, but lost strategically in raising the concerns of 
both NATO members and other CIS countries. 
 
------------------ 
AID FOR BOTH SIDES 
------------------ 
 
8. (C) In his August 14 remarks in Kyrgyzstan, Nazarbayev 
promised Kazakhstani assistance for victims of the conflict. 
Georgian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Zurab Shurgaia told the 
Deputy Chief of Mission on August 15 that the assistance 
would be welcome, and that the Kazakhstanis could even send 
some directly through Russia, so long as it was delivered 
south by a neutral party like the Red Cross, and not by the 
Russian government.  The first planeload of Kazakhstani aid 
actually arrived in Vladikavkaz on August 16 -- where, to 
Georgian consternation, it was apparently handed over to the 
Russian authorities.  Deputy Foreign Minister Sarybay 
explained to the Deputy Chief of Mission on August 19 that 
Kazakhstan's initial shipments were being sent exclusively 
through Vladikavkaz for purely logistical reasons.  He 
promised that Kazakhstan would ultimately use multiple routes 
in aiding both sides. 
ORDWAY

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