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Group of Friends of Georgia deliver joint statement at OSCE Ministerial Council

By Levan Abramishvili
Monday, December 9
The Group of Friends of Georgia, composed of 15 members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), delivered a joint statement of December 6 at the Ministerial Council in Bratislava.

The 15 countries reaffirm full support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and express deep concern over the detention of Georgian doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili in the so-called South Ossetian region and demand his immediate release.

The statement, delivered on behalf of Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States of America calls upon the Russian Federation to fulfill immediately its obligations under the European Union-mediated 12 August 2008 ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of its forces to its positions prior to the outbreak of hostilities.

The countries call on Russia to reverse its recognition of the so-called independence of Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.

The statement also addresses the issue of continued provocation from the occupation regimes and illegal installation of barbed wire fences and other artificial barriers along the administrative boundary line in the villages of Atotsi and Gugutiantkari, and lengthy closures of so-called crossing points in Georgia’s South Ossetia region.

“We are concerned by the intensified provocations by Russia and the regimes in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, including the attempted expansion of the occupied area and the building of 'posts' by the so-called security forces of South Ossetia region close to Chorchana village on the territory controlled by the Georgian Government,” reads the joint statement.

The 15 countries also address the recent death of Margo Martiashvili from Akhalgori district, who was deprived of the possibility to get a prompt and adequate medical care, due to the closure of the so-called crossing points. The statement says her death is “another tragic illustration of grave consequences of the continuing restrictions on the freedom of movement for the local population.”

The killings of Georgian citizens Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria, and Davit Basharuli are also condemned in the statement. The countries urge the Russian Federation, “as the state exercising effective control over the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, to remove any obstacles to bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

The statement addresses other pressing issues, such as ethnic discrimination against Georgians residing in Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and human rights abuses, including those involving the reported use of torture, destruction of houses of internally displaced persons and undue restrictions on freedom of movement, residence and property.

The Group of Friends of Georgia welcomes different mechanisms and formats that are in place to de-escalate the situation, such as the Geneva International Discussions (GID) and the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs).

An interesting initiative is voiced in the statement by the 15 countries to re-open the OSCE mission in Georgia that was closed in 2009.

“We regret the closure of the OSCE mission to Georgia in 2009 and encourage the OSCE participating States to agree on the re-opening of the OSCE cross-dimensional mission in Georgia, with a monitoring capacity and the ability to operate unhindered across the administrative boundary lines,” reads the statement.

Countries believe that reopening the mission will greatly improve the OSCE's engagement in the GID and IPRMs, as well as the implementation of confidence-building measures.

The OSCE Mission to Georgia was established in November 1992 with its headquarters in Tbilisi. It assisted the Georgian Government with conflict settlement, democratization, human rights and the rule of law issues. The Mission's mandate expired on 31 December 2008.