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 December reaffirming “full support” for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The statement condemned Russia’s aggression against Georgia in 2008 and expressed “deep concern” over Russia’s continued military occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. 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 to humanitarian assistance in the occupied regions, and creating 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 unease in relation to the deal to transfer parts of Bichvinta Resort Town to Russia and its “seizure of 180 hectares of land” there.
The group likewise expressed disquiet over the ongoing activities within the framework of implementing the “program” on creating a common socio-economic space between Russia and Abkhazia, as well as the signing of a dual citizenship agreement between Moscow and Tskhinvali.
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 Georgian with Russian 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.
They also stated that they are “particularly concerned” over the ongoing installation of barbed wire fences and other barriers along the occupation line, as well as the closure of crossing points in the South Ossetia region for over 3 years. “The partial and temporary re-opening of the so-called ABL crossing points along South Ossetia at Odzisi and Karzmani, cannot be viewed as satisfactory,” they underscored.
The GoF declared they remain “deeply concerned” by ongoing arbitrary detentions – including those of Kristine Takalandze, Asmat Tavadze, Mamuka Chkhikvadze, and Kakhaber Natadze – and called for the immediate release of all those who have been detained.
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.
- 03/09/2022 – OSCE Group of Friends Reaffirms Support to Georgia