On the occasion of the 13th anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the Georgian territories, The OSCE Group of Friends of Georgia delivered a joint statement on behalf of Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
The Group of Friends reaffirms their full support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
The statement reads that: “Thirteen years since the Russian military invasion of Georgia, we 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 the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and international law”.
The Group of Friends welcomes Georgia’s compliance with the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 ceasefire agreement, and calls upon the Russian Federation to fulfill immediately its clear obligation under the ceasefire agreement to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions, as well as its commitments to allow unfettered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and not to impede creation of international security arrangements on the ground. They also call upon Russia to reverse its recognition of the so-called independence of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.
The Joint Statement reiterates deep concern over Russia’s military exercises and ongoing military presence in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and condemns 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. “We urge Russia to reverse this process. We are also concerned with ongoing work in implementation of the “programme” on creation of a common socio-economic space between the Russian Federation and the Abkhazia region of Georgia as another step toward de facto annexation” – reads the statement.
Referring to the January 2021 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, the Group of Friends calls on Russia to fully comply with the judgment, including by allowing internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their homes in safety and dignity.
The Joint Statement expresses concern over the intensified provocations by the Russian Federation, including over the ongoing installation of barbed wire fences and other artificial barriers along the administrative boundary lines (ABLs) of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions, and by the lengthy closure of so-called ABL crossing points. These actions have destabilized the situation on the ground and severely impacted the security, safety, well-being, and humanitarian conditions of civilians in conflict-affected areas. The Group of Friends calls on Russia as being in effective control to enable full and unhindered access by international human rights organisations to the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Group of Friends condemns the killing of Georgian citizens Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria, and Davit Basharuli, and urges the Russian Federation to remove any obstacles to bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The Joint Statement expresses support for the Geneva International Discussions (GID) as an important format to address the security, human rights, and humanitarian challenges stemming from the unresolved Russia-Georgia conflict; underlinesthe necessity of progress on the core issues of the discussions, including on the non-use of force, establishing international security arrangements in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and ensuring the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees in accordance with international law; the Group of Friends highlights the important role the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) in Ergneti and Gali can have in preventing the escalation of the conflict and in helping protect the safety and security of people on the ground. The parties reaffirm their unwavering support for the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) and call upon the Russian Federation to allow the EUMM to implement its mandate in full, including by enabling the EUMM’s access on both sides of the administrative boundary lines.
On closing, the Group of Friends welcomes the decision of the government of Georgia to launch a multi-stakeholder process of developing a comprehensive “State Strategy for de-occupation and peaceful conflict resolution,” as well as the launch of the strategic review of the reconciliation and engagement policy. They also support the Georgian government’s ‘A Step to a Better Future’ peace initiative, aimed at improving the humanitarian and socio-economic conditions of people residing in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and at fostering confidence building among divided communities