Authorities in Sokhumi responded to the international reactions on the closure of the 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.
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 decision stressing that it would restrict the freedom of movement for locals, including schoolchildren and patients requiring medical treatment.
The region’s authorities issued three statements in response.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia is forced to reiterate that the decision taken by the Government of the Republic of Abkhazia fully complies with national legislation, meets the security interests of all of its citizens and is not subject to revision,” the statement said.
The Ministry also stated that all kind of calls to re-open the crossing points, “is senseless and can cause nothing but misunderstanding.”
“We call on all friends of Georgia, including international organizations, to stop speculating on the exclusively internal affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia,” it added.
Responding to “the unjustified appeals” of NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu, the Abkhaz Foreign Ministry stated on March 1 that the steps are “in line with international standards and are guided by the security needs of both Gali district residents and all citizens of the Republic of Abkhazia and is in no way aimed at creating any obstacles to the freedom of movement of Gali district residents.”
The statement explained that the region’s authorities closed the two crossing points “once all necessary conditions were fulfilled,” including repair of the road running to the main crossing point over the Enguri River, close to village Chuburkhinji, increasing the crossing point’s capacity and launch of the shuttle service to it.
“It is symptomatic that such a call, which sounds more like a demand, was voiced by a NATO representative. It seems that the North Atlantic Alliance decided to exert an open pressure on Abkhazia,” the statement said referring to NATO’s call to reconsider the decision.
Earlier, on February 28, the Sokhumi officials commented the statement of Maja Kocijančič, spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, saying that the EU’s concern over the freedom of movement “looks very cynical,” considering “the attitude of European institutions towards the problems of Abkhazia.”
The Ministry specified that the letter sent to Federica Mogherini in December, 2016 “requesting clarifications” on the possibility of recognizing the Abkhaz passports as travel documents, “giving the right to freedom of movement,” was left unnoticed.
The decision to close the crossing points, made on December 28 by authorities in Sokhumi, has raised concerns locally as well.
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.