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Abkhazia has denounced Georgia’s recent ‘peace initiative’ to simplify trade and movement of people for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while the US, EU, and a number of other countries welcomed the initiative.
Georgian authorities unveiled a wide-ranging plan ‘to encourage contacts, movement, and relations’ with people in Abkhazia and South Ossetia on Wednesday. The plan, besides simplifying trade, encourages students from Abkhazia and South Ossetia to study in Georgian institutions and abroad. The initiative comes with changes to several Georgian laws, including the Law on Occupied Territories, which Georgia adopted after the August 2008 War.
[For details, read on OC Media: Georgia unveils ‘unprecedented’ peace initiative for Abkhazia, South Ossetia]
On 4 April, after Georgia’s PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced the plan, titled A Step to a Better Future, Abkhazian Foreign Minister Daur Kove responded saying Georgia was ‘masking its true intentions’.
According to Kove, the ‘only step toward a better future is Georgia’s recognition of the independence of the Republic of Abkhazia and the establishment of a full-fledged interstate dialogue between our countries in the name of stability and prosperity for future generations’. According to him, there is ‘no alternative’ to this.
Kove said that Georgia, ‘having exhausted its resources of pressure on Abkhazia, once again decided to show the world community some kind of friendliness towards our state, skilfully masking its true intentions under the guise of the above initiatives’.
He added that he was appealing to Georgia’s political leadership ‘with a proposal to stop lying in favour of their self-serving political ambitions’.
South Ossetian authorities have yet to respond to the proposal.
A ‘brave’ initiative
Georgia’s proposal has been welcomed by the US, the EU, and the UK, among others.
A Foreign Affairs Spokesperson for the EU issued a statement later that day endorsing Georgia’s initiative. The EU said they support initiatives which are ‘aimed at building bridges across the dividing lines and addressing humanitarian challenges’.
The statement said the package of proposals ‘are in line with the European Union's policy of engagement with the breakaway regions of Georgia, which includes several ongoing EU projects’.
US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert wrote that the US ‘welcomed’ Georgia’s ‘commitment to dialogue and to a peaceful resolution to the conflict’, reiterating their ‘full support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders’.
According to her, these measures ‘help address the needs of the most vulnerable populations on both sides’ and provide ‘increased opportunities for mobility, improved livelihoods, and access to education’.
The German ambassador to Georgia, Heike Peitsch, said the Georgian authorities, with Kvirikashvili’s leadership, ‘confirms its braveness and far-sightedness’. She added that she supported the initiative ‘as an ambassador of a country that was divided for 40 years’.
Jos Douma, the Dutch ambassador to Georgia, echoed this, calling the initiative ‘brave’ and adding it ‘deserves support from all concerned’.
A brave initiative which deserves support from all concerned https://t.co/qZdyQyBSjT
— Jos Douma (@Jos_Douma) April 4, 2018
British ambassador to Georgia Justin McKenzie Smith wrote on Twitter that the plan was ‘a sincere commitment to peace’, adding that ‘helping people to engage across dividing lines is essential to addressing their needs and hopes for a more positive future’.
New @GovernmentGeo initiative - “A Step to a Better Future” - is a sincere commitment to peace. We welcome it. Helping people to engage across dividing lines is essential to addressing their needs and hopes for a more positive future. pic.twitter.com/gNi9QvxHBO
— Justin McKenzieSmith (@JustinMcKenzieS) April 4, 2018
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.