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Law on Occupied Territories discussed

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, November 29
Georgia’s new Parliament’s Committee of Defense and Security will consider the draft amendments that envisaged certain liberalization of responsibility for violating the entry rules in the country’s two occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia), recognised as independent republics by Russia in the wake of the Russia-Georgia War in August 2008.

The United National Movement opposition party, with 27 lawmakers out of the 150-member Parliament, is “strongly against the amendments”, saying they reveal the current Georgian Government’s loyal attitude to Russia.

The third party in Parliament, the Alliance of Patriots, which has six lawmakers, is meanwhile supporting the changes and easing of certain rules.

Member of the party Emzar Kvitsiani says the initial version of the law drafted under the previous ruling United National Movement “was agreed with Russia and served the Russian interests”.

He said sending people to prison for entering the occupied territories deprived many Georgians with Russian citizenship to settle there, and that helped Russia to populate the regions with ethnic Russians and other nationals.

The Association Agenda between the European Union (EU) and Georgia is calling for Georgia to continue its policy of peaceful conflict resolution and review relevant legislation, such as the Law on Occupied Territories.

Initiated and discussed in the Parliament of Georgia in 2013, shortly after the Georgian Dream coalition defeated the nine-year rule of the United National Movement in October 2012, changes to the Law on Occupied Territories were opposed by an opposition United National Movement party, which led to lengthy discussions.

"We should not accept any European demand. Instead of this we could offer our own arguments as a country," said United National Movement member Givi Targamadze.

The Law on Occupied Regions is frequently speculated by Russian side in different occasions.

The country, which occupies 20% of Georgia's territory, this year addressed its citizens who wished to visit Georgia be careful about the law, as several Russian citizens have already faced penalties for entering Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.

The law needs to be very cautiously discussed and a final solution must be taken on a large-scaled consensus.

Georgia should clearly state that its regions are occupied, that Russia is an occupant and people must not enter areas which ignore Georgian law. But on the other hand the country should first of all warn people who enter Georgia beforehand and explain to them that they may be violating the law.