24 January 2022,   01:46
Sovereignty and territorial integrity - the Group of Friends of Georgia in OSCE published a joint statement

The Group of Friends of Georgia has published a joint statement at the 28th OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting. The statement is as follows:

“This statement is delivered on behalf of Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

We reaffirm our full support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. 13 years since the Russia’s military invasion of Georgia, we remain deeply concerned over the continued occupation of parts of the territory of Georgia and underline the need for the peaceful resolution of the conflict based on full respect for the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and international law.

We welcome Georgia’s compliance with the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 ceasefire agreement. We call upon Russia to fulfil immediately its clear obligation under the ceasefire agreement to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions, as well as its commitments to allow unfettered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and not to impede the creation of international security arrangements on the ground. We call upon Russia to reverse its recognition of the so-called independence of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. We reiterate our deep concern over Russia’s military exercises and ongoing military presence in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.

We condemn Russia’s steps which appear intended to unilaterally establish the Georgia-Russia state border on the segments of the occupied territories and incorporate a part of the Aibgha village of Georgia into Krasnodar Krai. We urge Russia to reverse this process. We are also concerned with ongoing work in the implementation of the “programme” on the creation of common socio-economic space between the Russian Federation and the Abkhazia region of Georgia as well as the so-called agreement on dual citizenship with the South Ossetia region of Georgia, as another step toward de facto annexation. We condemn the holding of the 2021 Russian State Duma elections in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia and the illegal opening of polling stations, as a blatant violation of Georgia’s sovereignty.

We note the January 2021 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case concerning the armed conflict between Georgia and the Russian Federation in August 2008 and its consequences, including its findings that Russia has exercised effective control over Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia following the 12 August 2008 ceasefire agreement, including through its military presence. The Court also ruled that Russia, in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, tortured Georgian Prisoners of War; arbitrarily detained and killed Georgian civilians, and was responsible for their inhuman and degrading treatment; prevented the return of ethnic Georgians to their homes; and failed to conduct investigations into killings of civilians. We call on Russia to fully comply with the judgment, including by allowing internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their homes in safety and dignity.

We are concerned over the ethnic discrimination against Georgians residing in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and abuses, including severe restrictions on rights related to freedom of movement, education, residence and property, particularly in connection with the destruction of the houses of IDPs. We call on those in control to enable full and unhindered access by international human rights organisations to the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We condemn the decision to replace instruction in the Georgian language with Russian in schools of the ethnic-Georgian-inhabited Gali district of the Abkhazia region”, - reads the statement.