Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called on Abkhazia to ‘ensure equal rights’ for all Abkhazians. Lavrov made the comments on 18 April during a visit to Abkhazia to open a new Russian Embassy building, six years after his previous visit.
‘We are interested in supporting the policy of ensuring equal rights for every resident of Abkhazia, and for everyone to feel at ease here’, Lavrov said during the visit.
A law passed in 2013 by Abkhazia’s de facto authorities stripped the majority of the republic’s sizeable ethnic Georgian minority of their Abkhazian citizenship. This has led to restrictions of their freedom of movement, as well as depriving them of the right to vote in Abkhazian elections.
He added that opening a larger embassy in Abkhazia underscores ‘the strategic partnership’ between Abkhazia and Russia.
Abkhazian President Raul Khadzhimba announced before meeting with Lavrov that relations with Russia are the main priority for Abkhazia’s foreign policy, as well as a ‘vital need’ for the Abkhazian people.
According to Lavrov, Russia is interested in pursuing cooperation in the framework of the Geneva Discussions, advocating a ‘fair approach’. He said that it is possible to reach a new agreement within the Geneva Discussions, which is the format of talks to address the consequences of the August 2008 War. The talks involve Georgian, Russian, Abkhazian, and South Ossetian negotiators, as well as the US, EU, and OSCE.
‘We are convinced that it is quite possible in the foreseeable future to conclude a legally binding document on the non-use of force, this will be an important signal for the entire Caucasus region’, Lavrov said.
He insisted that the security of Abkhazia is perfectly provided by relations with Russia, and that the Russian army ensures protection from attack.
After meeting with Khajimba, the two held a joint press conference and discussed the long proposed railway line from Russia to Armenia which would pass through Abkhazia and Georgian controlled territory.
‘We are ready, each party is ready. The only obstacle is the Georgian party, and if they will be ready too then nothing can interfere with this project’, he said, in response to a question from a journalist.
Mamuka Bakhtadze, director of Georgian Railway, said in February that there are no consultations about a railway line between Russia and Armenia.
‘The section of railway in the autonomous republic of Abkhazia is an integral part of Georgia’s railway — this is our position’, he told Channel 1.
Officials in Tbilisi condemned Lavrov’s visit to Abkhazia. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili called the visit a ‘continuation of the militarisation of Georgia’s occupied territories’.
‘But despite the anxiety which Georgia has experienced, we retain the status of a more stable island in these turbulent times — Georgia endured lots of shots — this is an achievement which many other countries cannot boast’, he added.