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In UNGA Speech, President Zurabishvili Speaks of Occupation, Peace Policy

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On September 25, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, who is paying a working visit to the United States on September 23-27, addressed the General Debate of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

In her speech, President Zurabishvili, among others, spoke of the situation in occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia. “War and conflicts have been part of our history. For centuries, Georgia suffered numerous invasions and numerous invaders… But it survived and today we proudly remain on the map of independent, sovereign and democratic countries,” the President stated.

Zurabishvili then spoke “on the plight” of people living on the administrative boundary line “that divides relatives between themselves, villages, where incidents and provocations have become constant, where illegal borderization is actively pursued, preventing normal peaceful life for our citizens.”

She also spoke of the human rights violations, restrictions to freedom of movement, access to health and education services for those living in occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, who “for now decades have been unable to return to their homes and land.”

According to Zurabishvili, Georgia has been responding to occupation by its commitments under the 2008 ceasefire agreement. “Hence, we have no military forces whatsoever close to the occupation line, and Georgia has unilaterally renounced the use of force,” she noted.

Every forum and dialogue, formal or informal, should be used to engage Russia in discussions on the strict implementation of the ceasefire agreement, on allowing the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM), as was agreed to monitor the whole of the Georgian territory,” Zurabishvili said in her yesterdays address.

The Georgian President again suggested raising “the political dimension of the existing formats,” in order to “move from experts discussion to a real political negotiation.” She said political will is needed to make the Geneva International Discussions format “an instrument for solving the conflict and not solely managing it,” as well as to “invent, if necessary, new formats.”

Stressing that Georgia remains committed to its peace policy, Zurabishvili said “de-escalation on the occupation line is our very first priority and that should pave then the way towards an effective settlement.” In her speech, the Georgian President also underscored that the country is maintaining its “determined path of development, both economic and democratic,” and does not let anything divert it from the “ambitions and concrete goals of European and Euro-Atlantic integration.”

This year’s UNGA is being held in New York on September 17-30. Its annual General Debate, which kicked off on September 24, is the occasion for world leaders to gather at UN Headquarters to discuss global issues. This was the first time since 2013 when the President of Georgia, instead of the Prime Minister, addressed the UNGA, as the Government of Georgia was at odds with Zurabishvili’s predecessor Giorgi Margvelashvili.

Meetings on the sidelines of UNGA

On the sidelines of the UNGA, President Zurabishvili, who leads the Georgian delegation to New York, held meetings with world leaders, including the UN Secretary General António Guterres, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar, and attended a reception hosted by the U.S. President Donald Trump.

Zurabishvili also spoke with her counterparts from Guatemala, Iraq, Finland, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, Jimmy Morales, Barham Salih, Sauli Niinistö, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Volodymyr Zelensky, respectively, as well as with the Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Amor Mottley.

Salome Zurabishvili addressed the UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage. As part of her visit to U.S., among others, the Georgian President will address a high-level political forum on sustainable development, meet with representatives of Millennium Challenge Corporation, and deliver a public lecture at Columbia University.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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