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Abkhaz Opposition Speaks against Detente with Tbilisi, Gali Passportization

Recent comments by the Moscow-backed leaders in Abkhazia on possibilities of cooperation with Tbilisi, as well as the issue of citizenship in ethnic-Georgian Gali district, were met with harsh criticism from local opposition groups.

“Aruaa” – an influential union of Abkhaz war veterans – released a statement on August 17, saying that Aleksander Ankvab’s August 13 comment, in which he deemed denying Abkhaz passports to Gali Georgians as unfair,  bred resentment “among all patriotic forces of the country.”

The organization slammed Ankvab over bringing the citizenship problem into “ethnic dimension” and accused him of defying the “Abkhaz legislation”, and neglecting the rights of other nationalities residing in Abkhazia while advocating exclusively for the rights of Georgian nationals.

Appealing Ankvab to publicly refute his statement, Aruaa said the government head should “assure the public” that citizenship-related issues will be solved in accordance with the local citizenship law and that the illegal distribution of passports to Gali Georgians “will not happen again.”

Aruaa warned that otherwise, the organization will convene “an extraordinary congress, at which decisions unpleasant for prime minister Ankvab” will be made.

In another statement, Aruaa reminded Ankvab that similar policies of “illegal” issuance of Abkhaz “passports” to Georgian nationals had led to his ousting from the office back in 2014, and threatened with protests.

Abkhaz political party “Apsny” also released a statement on August 17 expressing concerns over Abkhaz leadership’s consideration of cooperation possibilities with Tbilisi, including over “border” policy along the Enguri River, resumption of trade relations, and allowing “dual citizenship” with the country that remains “in a state of war with us”.

According to the statistical data available in Sokhumi, as of 2018, 30,259 persons – with their absolute majority being ethnic Georgians – lived in Gali district. Sokhumi, under former leader Raul Khajimba, stripped the majority of them off ‘Abkhaz citizenship’ in 2014 and in 2017 and started issuing residence permits to them, depriving Gali residents of their political rights.

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