The Group of Friends of Georgia to the OSCE Permanent Council, including Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America released a statement on 2 September in reference to the 14th Anniversary of the 2008 August War which reaffirmed their full support to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The GoF statement emphasized that fourteen years since Russia’s invasion of Georgia, they “remain deeply concerned over the continued occupation of parts of the territory of Georgia and underline the need for the peaceful resolution of the conflict based on full respect for international law and commitments, including the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act.”
The statement condemned Russia’s aggression against Georgia in 2008 and expressed “deep concern” over Russia’s military exercises and continued military presence in Georgia’s occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions. In that context, they also condemned Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine.
The group underscored its approval of Georgia’s compliance with the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 ceasefire and called on Russia to fulfill its obligations under the agreement by withdrawing to pre-conflict positions, allowing unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance in the occupied regions, and the creation of international security arrangments on the ground.
They also called on Russia to reverse its recognition of the independence of the occupied territories.
In reference to the Russian occupation of Georgia, the statement condemned Russia’s steps to “unilaterally establish the Georgia-Russia state border on the segments of the occupied territories and incorporate a part of Aibgha village of Georgia into Krasnodar Krai.”
The GoF joint statement also expressed disquiet in reference to the potential deal to transfer parts of Bichvinta Resort Town to Russia and its “attempted seizure of 180 hectares of land” there, which they said, “is another step toward attempted annexation.” They urged Russia to reverse this process.
GoF noted the January 2021 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in reference to the 2008 August War and the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 30 June 2022, which issued arrest warrants for war crimes committed during Russia’s invasion at that time.
Regarding ethnic Georgians living in the occupied regions, GoF said they remained concerned over their continued discrimination and the “severe restrictions on rights related to freedom of movement, education, residence, and property, particularly in connection with the destruction of the houses of internally displaced persons.”
In that context, they expressed their disapproval over the decision to replace instruction in Georgia with Russia in schools of the ethnic-Georgian-inhabited Gali district of Abkhazia. “We also condemn the obliteration and alteration of Georgian features from the Georgian culture heritage monuments in both regions,” they added.
The Group of Friends further noted they remain deeply concerned by ongoing arbitrary detentions around the occupation lines. It also condemned the killing of Georgian citizens Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria, and Davit Basharuli, and urged Russia to remove any obstacles to bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The statement expressed support for the Geneva International Discussions platform, the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) in Ergneti and Gali, and reaffirmed unwavering support for the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM).
They welcome the launching of the multi-stakeholder process for developing a comprehensive “State Strategy for de-occupation and peaceful conflict resolution” by the Georgian government as well as the launch of the strategic review of the reconciliation and engagement policy. Along that line, they expressed support for Georgia’s “A Step to a Better Future” peace initiative.
The Group of Friends also said they regret the closure of the OSCE mission to Georgia in 2009 and encouraged the OSCE participating States to decide on the reopening of the OSCE cross-dimensional mission in Georgia.
The GoF statement concluded that they would continue to raise awareness of the conflict and ongoing developments, as well as work on holding Russia accountable.