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Sokhumi Targets EU/UNDP Program on Abkhaz-Georgian Dialogue

Abkhaz ‘foreign minister’ Inal Ardzinba has taken an aim at the activities of the EU/UNDP, declaring yesterday its confidence-building COBERM program inadmissible.

The Confidence Building Early Response Mechanism (COBERM) program, funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme since 2010, aims to build trust between conflict-divided communities in Abkhazia and Georgia proper.

But Ardzinba, a former Kremlin official, argued the project is tailored to the goals of the Georgian Government and attempts to mislead residents of the region through establishing a dialogue between the Abkhaz and Georgians at the level of experts and youth.

“The implementation of this project is unacceptable on the territory of Abkhazia. Write it down for yourself and do not run similar projects anymore. We do not allow you to do this,” Ardzinba told UNDP’s Rafis Abazov during a meeting.

The Abkhaz “foreign ministry” claimed the UNDP took responsibility to prevent further implementation of such projects.

Ardzinba also reprimanded UNDP for conducting a sociological survey of residents of Abkhazia in summer 2021, enquiring about domestic politics and the possibility of establishing relations with Georgia proper.

Citing Abkhaz laws, the top diplomat argued that UNDP had no right to conduct the survey without coordinating it with relevant authorities. He stressed this was a shared position of the ‘ministry’, prosecutor general, and the security service.

The UNDP office in Tbilisi refused to comment on the matter with Civil.ge.

The Abkhaz “foreign ministry” stated on January 19 that Ardzinba had also held meetings with representatives of the World Vision and Danish Refugee Council. It reported that while the senior diplomat welcomed initiatives aimed at the region’s socio-economic development, he outlined several projects as inadmissible, without specifying any further.

The development comes as Ardzinba previously demanded foreign non-governmental and international organizations operating in Abkhazia to apply for prior approval before carrying out their programs. This would concern activities such as holding meetings with local youth, organizing discussions roundtables, seminars, distributing information materials, or preparing meetings with central Georgian authorities or organizations.

Authorities in Russian-occupied Abkhazia also demanded the organizations to submit reports on the implementation of their projects, information about their employees, and financial documentation on the sources of their funding.

Some of the organizations that also work in Abkhazia are the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The organizations carry out their activities in coordination with the central Georgian Government.

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