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De facto Abkhazian Prime Minister on IDPs issue

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, July 25
Georgian IDPs who fled Abkhazia during the conflict in the 1990s will not be able to go to other regions of Abkhazia rather than Gali region, close to the administrative border with Georgia, Abkhazian de facto Prime Minister and a candidate for “presidency” in the upcoming snap elections, Sergey Shamba told Ekho Moskvy radio station on July 24. “A significant number of people, about 50 000 people have returned to Gali region, these are ethnic Georgians, Megrelians. Over 20 000 of them have Abkhazian passports,” Shamba noted, adding that the de facto authorities are planning to offer them special programs for adaptation.

“We are making more and more efforts in order to involve them in the economic life of the country and adapt them generally to our society – we are interested in this,” the de facto Prime Minister said “However there can be no talk about returning to other regions, because it is unrealistic that the Georgian IDPs will be able to return to the places where there was a mixed population. Because this will lead to new conflicts and to new bloodshed and tensions,” he added.

Sergey Shamba said “we are not ready for this” [return of Georgian IDPs to all parts of Abkhazia.] “We think that the problem of the IDPs should be solved ambivalently - i.e. in those cases when it is right to return them, we let them return,” he noted, adding that the rest of the IDPs should adapt to living in Georgia. As for future prospects of relations with Tbilisi, Shamba noted that Abkhazia wants good relations with “all neighbours”. “When there will be an understanding that it is needed to establish friendly relations with Abkhazia, then we will be ready to talk. However the current government of Georgia just closed its path to any dialogue, because they adopted a law on occupied territories and established unacceptable conditions for dialogue, such as withdrawing the so called occupational troops from the Abkhazian territory. We do not consider Abkhazia as an occupied territory,” he said.

The de facto official expressed hope that in time the policy of Tbilisi will change and it will become “more realistic” based on “new realities” on the ground. “Then maybe there will be a dialogue based on reality. Currently the Georgian government has no such realistic view on what is happening in the region. We are trying to solve the problem,” Shamba stated in his interview, suggesting that “sooner or later Georgia will realize the reality and processes will go in the right direction – in direction of recognizing Abkhazia.”