The UN General Assembly passed on June 5 Georgia-sponsored resolution reiterating the right of return of all displaced persons and refugees to breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia by a vote of 69 in favor to 13 against, with 79 abstentions.
This is the seventh consecutive year such non-binding resolution is being adopted by the UN General Assembly.
Georgia says the goal of pushing the resolution annually on the Assembly is to keep the issue high on the international agenda and also to widen circle of support towards the resolution from year to year.
Last year the similar resolution was passed by a vote of 63 in favor (recorded vote was 62, but after the vote Azerbaijani representative said his country’s vote in favor had not appeared on screen) to 16 against, with 84 abstentions.
Russia has always been voting against. Speaking before the vote on June 5, Russian representative reiterated Moscow’s long-standing position on this resolution and condemned it as “politically motivated” document, which “does not contribute” to resolution of the problem. Moscow argues that if Georgia wants to raise this issue at the UN General Assembly, representatives of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should also be given a chance to participate in such discussions at the UN – something that Georgia has always been against of. Moscow also says that tabling such resolution annually at the Assembly undermines discussion of the issue of refugees and displaced persons at the Geneva international discussions.
Georgia’s UN ambassador, Kakha Imnadze, told the Assembly before the vote that the draft was “not a political tool aimed at obstructing the ongoing negotiations as one delegation repeatedly and misleadingly suggests.”
“To the contrary, it forms the basis for respecting the human rights of all those uprooted from Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali,” Imnadze said.
Other countries, which voted against were: Armenia; Belarus; Cuba; Laos; Myanmar; Nauru; Nicaragua; North Korea; Sri Lanka; Syria; Sudan and Viet Nam.
Representatives from Venezuela, which along with Russia, Nicaragua and Nauru, recognizes Abkhazia and South Ossetia, were not present in the chamber during the vote.
Serbia, which in previous years was voting against of the resolution, has abstained this time.
Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica, which usually were among those abstaining, have now voted in favor.
Pursuant to 2013 resolution, the UN Secretary General submitted to the General Assembly a report on “Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia”. The 2013 resolution, like the previous ones, was calling on the Secretary General to develop a timetable to ensure the return of all internally displaced persons and refugees. The newly adopted resolution also makes similar call.
“No timetable for the voluntary return of all refugees and internally displaced persons has been developed, given the prevailing environment and continued discussions among the parties,” reads the UN Secretary General’s report.
“Working Group II of the Geneva international discussions did not deal with the issue of voluntary return, owing to the unwillingness of some participants to discuss the matter. I reiterate that as long as the conditions for organized returns in safety and dignity are not fulfilled and mechanisms for property restitution are not established, the design of a comprehensive timetable or road map for returns must remain an open matter,” reads the report.
In 2008 the first such resolution (which was referring only to breakaway Abkhazia) was passed with small margin of 14 votes in favor to 11 against and 105 abstentions. The following year 48 countries voted in favor; 19 – against, with 78 abstained. In 2010 margin widened slightly with 50 countries voting in favor and 17 – against, with 86 abstentions. In 2011 the resolution was supported by 57 countries, 13 voted against and 74 abstained. In 2012 the document was passed by a vote of 60 in favor to 15 against, with 82 abstentions.
Last year the Georgian Ministry for Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees conducted registration according to which there are 253,392 internally displaced persons in Georgia.
As of March 2014, 119,324 of them were still living in collective centres, while 134,068 internally displaced persons lived in private accommodation.