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The "state" of internally displaced Georgians
August 23, 2015, 11:13 am

"The only solutions that we would like to embrace are the peaceful solutions. We only call for our partners and international community to express their position regarding these issues and exert an enhanced pressure on the Russian Federation, be it through votes, sanctions, or internationally accepted measures," Ambassador of Georgia to Kuwait, Roland Beridze.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are among the world’s most vulnerable people. Unlike refugees, IDPs have not crossed an international border to find sanctuary but have remained inside their home countries.

Even if they have fled for similar reasons as refugees (armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations), IDPs legally remain under the protection of their own government – even though that government might be the cause of their flight. As citizens, they retain all of their rights and protection under both human rights and international humanitarian law.

Today, there are 27.5 million internally displaced persons (IDP's), out of which, Georgia has 220,000 to 300,000 IDPs due to displacement of the ethnic Georgian population who have fled Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

On the 7th anniversary of the Russia-Georgia War amidst the 70-day countdown to the United Nations Organization’s historic 70th anniversary in October, the Ambassador of Georgia to Kuwait Roland Beridze renewed his country's call for peaceful resolution to the plight of internally displaced Georgians.

 The ambassador was speaking during a photo exhibition – ‘A Story of Internal Displacement Captured on Camera’, which is currently taking place at the Georgian embassy in Kuwait.

As the issue of forcible displacement tops the international agenda, the photographs exhibited at the Embassy premises informed and depicted the story of approximately half a million of IDPs and refugees from Georgia's Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region in South Ossetia, who are victims of the several waves of ethnic cleansing. It aimed to contribute to an increased awareness on the issue and ways in which the international community can contribute to the lasting solution to the problem.

On 19 August, at the Georgian Embassy premises, in a press statement focusing on one of the most challenging humanitarian problems of the modern world – displacement and the situation of IDPs in Georgia, the Ambassador Beridze shared "the Government of Georgia reiterates its commitment to the Geneva International Discussions for security and humanitarian issues," about to take place in the coming four months.

Referring to the Geneva Discussions, co-chaired by the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN) and the Organization of Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), he expressed the Georgian Government continuous its readiness to constructively address all issues pertaining to its agenda, in order to ensure security and stability on the ground and promote the fundamental rights of the local population.

Through the Georgia-setup dialogue platform, which includes representatives from both, Georgia and Russia, while the two manage to conduct purely non-political negotiations and direct dialogues in the fields of bilateral trade and economy, bearing fruitful results – such as return of banned Georgian export products in the Russian markets, resumption of direct flights between the two, intensified cultural and people-to-people contacts between the two, albeit, the geopolitical tussle between two tells a different story.

At the level of international organizations in co-operation with UN agencies, every year, Georgia regularly continues to put the agenda of its disputed regions, and presents its resolution on Georgian IDPs for voting at the UN.

"On the resolution of purely humanitarian return of IDPs to the place of their origin, the number of the countries that are voting for this resolution is increasing every year; when the resolution was first put on vote at UN, it was just 19 countries that supported it, today it is already 75 countries," revealed the ambassador.

He also, mentioned, "regarding the resolution on IDPs, the countries of GCC have the position of abstaining on the vote. Last year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia changed their position and voted in favor, for the first time. We hope we are working quiet well in order just to provide information and necessary measures to receive a more favorable attitude from the GCC countries."

Even so, despite constructive measures from Georgian Government, including the 32 Geneva discussions so far, "of course, Russia is voting against and there are countries that are voting against but we are working hard to make the international community aware of the situation."

"Besides having the annual reports of the General Secretary of the UN regarding the situation, we also have the statements by countries which are our partner countries, like US, regarding the necessity to adopt this resolution by the majority of the member states," said the ambassador.

Yet, the Russian Federation remains intractable on the key issues of the agenda of discussions. "Despite the fact that Georgia has announced, unilaterally, non-use of force pledge against Russian Federation or any other participants of its negotiations, Moscow refuses to undertake legally binding commitment" of Georgia's pledge, said the ambassador.

Moscow also obstructs the discussions on establishing international security arrangement inside the occupied territories and continues the politicization of purely humanitarian issues, like the return of IDPs.

Seven years on from August 2008 Russia-Georgia War, Georgian IDPs still need help; the Russian Federation remains in full disregard of its international obligations under the EU French Presidency brokered Six-Point Ceasefire Agreement and continues to occupy two regions of Georgia – Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region in South Ossetia.

The EU Monitoring Mission deployed in Georgia immediately after the War, is still unable to monitor the situation in the occupied regions despite the mandate, and representatives of international organizations are persistently denied access there. In addition, no international monitoring mechanisms operate therein since the mandates of the UN and the OSCE Monitoring Missions were vetoed off by the Russian federation in 2009.

Also read: Association Agreement with EU to boost Georgian economy

Calling attention to the situation, the ambassador cited one of the photographs wherein, "the former UN High Commission of Refugees was not allowed access onto the occupied territories."

Since recognizing Georgia's two regions as independent entities on August 2008, against the Ceasefire Agreement, the Russian Federation has reinforced its military bases, illegally deployed in Georgia's occupied regions, through installing heavy offensive equipment and increasing the number of military personnel.

Recent steps by Russian Federation towards creeping annexation:

  • Signing of the so called "treaty on alliance and strategic partnership" with its occupation regime in Sokhumi, on 24 December 2014.
  • Signing of "treaty on alliance and integration" with Tskshinvali occupation regime, on 18 March 2015.

Violations of the Ceasefire Agreement:

  • Borderization process – undertaken by the Russian occupying forces along the Administrative Border Line – furthering humanitarian aggravation and creating new wave of displacements.
  • Barbed wires and banners identifying the "state border" along the occupation line, and in certain segments intruding the territory controlled by the Central Government of Georgia.

The ambassador expressed, "The essence of these agreements, just the manifestation of creeping annexation that the Russian Federation is conducting on these territories, is extremely detrimental for Georgia because these provide for full integration into social-, economic- and administrative-institutions, and most importantly into military and security space of Russia."

"The most recent occurrences on the installation of such banners, as recently as the 10th of August, are in villages of the bordered territory. The Russian Federation is already cutting into a mile of segments of Baku-Supsa oil pipelines, controlled by the British Petroleum and Central Government, and including these Strategic Control Pipelines into the so called "bordered territory" of the occupied region. These actions degrade the situation and undermine the ability of the Georgian Government's responsibility for providing the security and safety of this pipeline," he furthered.

"Barbed wires are being stretched, sometimes, through the households and lands of people and they are blocking local population from the access to water, irrigation systems, pastures, farmlands and the cemeteries," said the ambassador in an inspection to one of the photographs.

Resultantly, Georgian IDPs are deprived of their internationally recognized right to voluntary, safe and dignified return to places of their permanent residence, denied freedom of movement, the right to property, the right to family life, the right to education in the native language and other rights.

After several years of efforts and corrective measures to ease the situation of the IDPs in Georgia, the ambassador said, "The Georgian Government views the unwavering and decisive support of the international community as the key factor of the stabilization process and calls on distinguished governments and UN member states to reinforce efforts to compel the Russian Federation to comply with its international commitments and obligations in full accordance with the norms of international law."

The ambassador noted that, "The State of Kuwait has invariably been supporting the Georgian integrity and sovereignty within the internationally recognized borders", and expressed the Georgian Government's appreciation to Kuwait and "personally to H.H. the Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah for this invariable continuation of this policy."

Related read: Kuwait and Georgia – A blossoming friendship between two nations

Also read: Ambassador of Georgia donates books to Kuwait National Library

                   Georgia — a nation realizing its full potential

In a closing note, the ambassador said, "Besides Saudi Arabia, which has already been voting in favor of this resolution for the second consecutive year, we hope that the opinion and the decision of Kuwait as well as the other members of the GCC would change towards voting in favor."

By  Ghazal Praveen
Staff Writer
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