12 years after the 2008 war, part of the Georgian territory remains occupied
On the eve of the 12th anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war, eight UN Security Council member states supported the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia.
Following the meeting in a remote format, at which the situation in the Russian-occupied Georgian territories was discussed, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Norway, the United States, Estonia and France made a joint statement on Georgia.
«The permanent Russian military presence in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as the recognition by Russia of the so-called independence of these regions, violates the territorial integrity of Georgia, undermines its sovereignty and a rules-based international order. This further divides people and jeopardizes the health and lives of conflict-affected populations», – said in a statement.
Recall that as a result of the Russian-Georgian war, Russia in 2008 recognized the independence of two Georgian regions. – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – and has deployed additional troops and weapons to its military bases in these territories. All states of the world – excluding Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru and Syria – recognize these regions as the territory of Georgia occupied by Russia.
Borderisation and disinformation
The authors of the statement express concern about the ongoing process «borderisation», that is, the transfer of the line of occupation deep into the territory controlled by Tbilisi, as well as the illegal detentions by the de facto authorities of South Ossetia of civilians who live in the Georgian villages adjacent to the line of occupation.
«We are simultaneously concerned about the Russian disinformation campaign related to the pandemic and related health issues, as well as false propaganda directed against the vital work of the Lugar Center. These actions prolong the conflict, threaten peace and stability, interfere with the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and fundamental freedoms, and negatively affect the health and safety of Georgians, destabilizing the entire region.», – states members of the UN Security Council.
Recall that in recent years, Russian officials, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense, have periodically made statements that the United States is allegedly developing chemical and biological weapons at the Tbilisi-based National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (known as the Lugar Center), and also conduct experiments on humans.
The United States and Georgia have repeatedly denied these accusations, calling them «product of Russia’s ingenious and false disinformation campaign against the West». It is noteworthy that all tests of Georgian citizens for the new coronavirus infection COVID-19 are carried out in this laboratory. Since May 2013, the Lugar Center, in which the United States has invested about $ 350 million, ceased to be an independent institution and came under the control of the Georgian Ministry of Health. The center conducts research on various viral and dangerous infections, influenza, bacterial infections, as well as decoding the genome.
Appeal to Russia and the separatist authorities
Eight member countries of the UN Security Council again called on Russia to fulfill its obligations when signing the Agreements of August 12 and September 8, 2008, i.e. return their troops to pre-war positions and provide access for international observers to Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region.
The authors of the statement express regret at the lack of political will on the part of Russia to resolve the conflict situation, as a result of which there is a lack of progress in the Geneva discussions convened after the 2008 war to resolve the territorial problem of Georgia.
Eight UN Security Council member states support the protection of human rights in the occupied territories, including the right of dignified and safe return of forcibly displaced persons to their homes in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region.
«We also call on the de facto authorities that control the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia at this stage to make it easier for humanitarian workers and human rights defenders, as well as others, unhindered access to these regions, including religious sites.», – said in a statement.
Reaction in Tbilisi
Georgian authorities expressed gratitude to the UN Security Council member countries for their support for the territorial integrity of Georgia.
Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani thanked «friends of Georgia» on Twitter, and the Prime Minister of Georgia Georgy Gakharia – at a government meeting on August 6. At the same time, Gakharia noted that together with international partners «everything must be done for the peaceful de-occupation of the country».
«I want to emphasize once again that the Georgian government will continue to work actively to ensure that the occupation of Georgia is a constant issue in the capitals of our strategic partners and in international organizations, and that this will continue until the country is eventually de-occupied by peaceful means.», – said the prime minister of Georgia.
George Mchedlishvili from the University of Europe believes that very little has changed in the course of another year after the war regarding the solution of the territorial problem of Georgia.
«Russian-Georgian political relations remain "non-existent", and economic ties have even worsened due to the coronavirus. Selected episodes similar to the meeting of foreign ministers "on the fields" UN General Assemblies change little», – said the political scientist in an interview with «Voice of America».
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As for the separatist authorities, Mchedlishvili says, if there is no dialogue with Tskhinvali and continues «ugly» the facts of the detention of Georgian citizens along the line of occupation, then from Sukhumi, in the person of the newly elected de facto President Aslan Bzhania, a message sounded to intensify the dialogue.
«Unfortunately, the complex and polarized political situation in Georgia, in which any form of dialogue will be perceived by a part of the demagogic opposition as "surrender of Russia", and possibly due to the lack of political will in the leadership of Georgia, while there was no answer to Bzhania’s message», – noted Mchedlishvili.
In general, according to the expert, from the point of view of restoring the integrity of Georgia, the chances are small, given that the territories are occupied by Russia, and the Russian leadership will not concede them today..
«Of course, a necessary condition for the restoration of the territorial integrity of Georgia – it is a change of leadership in Russia. But even in the case of a normal, civilized leadership in Russia, which does not want to lead the aggressor country, Georgia needs to build a lot of bridges, mental and psychological, with the population of the occupied territories. For almost three decades, they have been in a toxic information space and perceive Georgia so negatively that it will be very difficult to make this population loyal to Georgia. Therefore, peace initiatives and practical steps to bring societies closer together must continue. If suddenly appears "window of opportunity", Georgia must be ready for this», – summed up the expert.
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