The Georgian Foreign Ministry “condemned” the closure of two crossing points – Nabakevi-Khurcha and Meore Otobaia-Orsantia – between Abkhazia’s predominantly ethnic Georgian Gali district and its adjoining Zugdidi district of Samegrelo region.
The MFA statement, released on March 5, pointed out that “the representatives of the occupation regime” closed “the so called crossing points” in the villages of Tagiloni and Lekukhona in 2016, before abolishing two more in 2017.
“This decision grossly violates fundamental rights to freedom of movement, privacy and family life, access to education and health care for the local population and serves for isolation of the occupied Abkhazia region from the rest of the world,” the MFA statement said.
It also added that the decrease in the number of “so-called crossing points along the occupation line will aggravate the already difficult humanitarian situation in Abkhazia region, especially the life of vulnerable groups, such as: the elderly, people in need of medical care or medical evacuation and schoolchildren, which will provoke further destabilization of the situation on the ground.”
The MFA noted that despite “clear-cut” appeals by the international community, “the Russian occupation regime in Sokhumi made the decision to continue the destructive policy and to impede the peaceful conflict resolution efforts by the Georgian Government.”
The Foreign Ministry called on the Russian Federation “to refrain from the provocative actions against Georgia, respect the fundamental principles of international law, as well as commitments taken under the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement and reveal responsible approach to prevention of escalation of tensions on the ground.”
It also appealed to the international community “to duly assess the tendency of closure of so-called crossing points and isolation of the occupied regions also the so-called referendum to be held on 9 April in the Tskhinvali region, and to take effective measures with regard to Russia’s illegal steps undermining sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.”
The decision to close two out of four crossing points, made on December 28 by authorities in Sokhumi, has raised concerns locally and internationally.
Residents of Nabakevi and surrounding villages in Gali district, who used the two crossing points to travel to the neighboring Zugdidi district for schooling, medical services and commercial activities, organized a protest rally against the decision on January 25.
A number of countries and international organizations, including the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, the United States, the United Kingdom, Lithuania and Japan, spoke against the planned closure stressing that it would restrict freedom of movement for locals, including schoolchildren and patients requiring medical treatment.