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Georgia blocks agreement between Abkhazian and Italian towns

5 May 2017
Meeting of the Board of Directors of the Italian Confederation of Agriculture with the Abkhazian delegation (Facebook)

An agreement signed between Sukhumi (Sukhum) and Santa Maria Del Cedro in Italy in early May will soon be annulled, Georgia’s ambassador to Italy claims.

Ambassador Karlo Sikharulidze told the Georgian Public Broadcaster that Abkhazian officials had ‘mislead’ the Mayor of the small Italian town (which has a population of roughly 5,000) to establish ties with Sukhumi.

After consulting with Italy’s Foreign Ministry, ‘all measures have been taken to denounce the agreement’, the ambassador said.

Sukhumi has not yet responded to the Georgian Ambassador’s statement, but had earlier said that Mayor of Sukhumi Adgur Kharazia had signed a protocol with an Italian town, without disclosing details about which town it was.

According to Abkhazian Deputy Foreign Minister Kan Tania, the purpose of the agreement was to establish economic relations with Italian investors. ‘The Abkhazian [Foreign Ministry] is ready to assist any foreign investors, including Italian ones, at the governmental level’, he pointed out.

Tania said that they would not name the town in question because Georgia had previously obstructed deals between Sukhumi and other towns.

Georgia blocked the opening of an Abkhazian cultural institute in Rome in 2016, and an Abkhazian stall was shut down at a Montenegro tourism expo in April 2016, after Georgian officials intervened. They claimed that it presented Abkhazia, which Georgia considers a part of their territory under Russian military occupation, as an independent state.

Sukhumi has condemned Georgia’s interventions, labelling them an attempt to isolate Abkhazia internationally.

After Georgia was granted visa-free access to EU countries in 2017, Georgian officials said that Abkhazians would also be able to travel to Europe without a visa, but that they would need Georgian passports to enjoy the privilege.

Abkhazia denounced Tbilisi’s offer and said that Abkhazians won’t be able to enjoy the visa free movement granted to Georgia, as ‘they are citizens of Abkhazia’.

Abkhazia is recognised as an independent country by Russia, three other UN member states, and several other disputed territories in the region.

For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’ or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia. This does not imply a position on their status.

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