Speaking today at the parliamentary committee hearing, State Minister of Georgia for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Tea Akhvlediani reiterated readiness for “a direct dialogue on depoliticized matters” with the residents of the occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions.
Minister Akhvlediani said the government wishes to “intensify” the process of reconciliation and confidence-building and to use all existing communication channels.
As an example of such existing cooperation, she highlighted the “Step for a Better Future” peace initiative, which “creates a space for public dialogue and cooperation” over economic issues, and continues “even” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said that through the initiative the government undertakes a program for students from the occupied territories, through which the number of enrollments in Georgia proper universities has “tripled” between 2019-2020, amounting to 400 last year.
Minister Akhvlediani said this program is particularly important for students from the ethnic-Georgian majority Akhalgori and Gali districts of Tskhinvali and Abkhazia, respectively, as it allows them to enroll without having to pass Georgia’s unified exams. She said the students previously could not compete sufficiently at the exams because of the restrictions on education in the Georgian language in the occupied territories.
Regarding other reconciliation efforts, she underscored that Georgia also offers free access to healthcare for the regions’ residents. “Through the program, we treated 876 patients in 2020,” she noted.
“Unique experience of successful cooperation in various areas has been amassed over the years,” the Reconciliation Minister said, adding that Georgia aims to improve the humanitarian and human rights conditions of the Abkhazia and Tskhinval region residents.
“We believe that dialogue and cooperation, based on mutual interests, are of utmost importance in the process of peaceful conflict resolution,” Minister Akhvlediani highlighted.
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