Russian troops failing to prevent crime in Abkhazia
By Lera Khubunaia
Tuesday, March 20
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nino Kalandadze conducted the Ministry's regular Monday briefing yesterday, discussing among other topics, crime in Abkhazia, rumors of Armenian separatism in Javakheti, and major diplomatic visits.
Kalandadze began by releasing information about crime in the breakaway region of Abkhazia. During one criminal act, nine people were killed. In addition, a large cache of weapons were seized by Abkhaz law enforcement; these weapons were brought illegally into the disputed territories. According to the Deputy Minister, this is an area not subject to Georgian jurisdiction, and yet Russian troops present in the region fail to safeguard the local population.
"Violation of human rights on occupied territories has become an everyday practice, including deaths, which is unfortunate. But at the same time it must be said that Georgian forces have limited rights toward the criminal cases that appear on the occupied territories," Kalandadze noted.
During the Geneva negotiation process between Georgia and Russia, one of the main topics raised by Georgia is the creation of a safe environment for residents located in occupied areas. Russia has not responded to these concerns.
Last week was very busy for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Particularly important were the visits of the German Minister of Federal Foreign Affairs and the Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
On March 21, there will be a political consultation between the Georgian and Latvian Ministries of Foreign Affairs in Tbilisi, where they will discuss both bilateral and general cooperation on issues related to external challenges, on which there will be joint plans formed.
During the briefing, Kalandadze also spoke about Mariam Makhniashvili, the Georgian girl who was found dead in Canada last week. The Georgian Embassy is actively involved in her case and the Ministry hopes there will be additional information regarding the current investigation.
According to Russian television news, there are rumors that another independent state may form in Georgia. Media reports claim that ethnically Armenian residents in Javakheti want to form their own state. They are concerned that Georgia joining NATO would bring the country closer to Turkey, and further away from Armenia.
"It is difficult to comment on statements made by individuals. We know very well about the situation is in those regions that are densely populated by ethnic minorities. Also, not only do we have a good relationship with Armenians, but also with ethnic Armenian citizens of Georgia," Kalandadze said. "Regarding NATO threats, I must [note] that Armenia is actively cooperating with the alliance and it is a part of its state policies. Thus, it is hard to imagine why this should be considered as a threat to anyone, [besides] those Russian forces that are interested in creating tension between Georgia and Armenia".
The Deputy Minister also updated the status of a visit from Hillary Clinton, the United States Secretary of State. Clinton's schedule is reportedly overloaded, so negotiations are ongoing regarding her arrival date in Georgia. According to the U.S. State Department, her visit should be soon.
Kalandadze also spoke about the Georgia women who were arrested in Malaysia for possession of contraband drugs.
"We try our best, not only to be involved, but we also used all the available resources in order to avoid the punishment of these people. This is a difficult process, especially when the court is empowered to make a decision in Malaysia," she said. "In Malaysia, they have a very strict attitude toward such crimes. Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and [Ministry of] Justice were sent in, in order to consult with Malaysian representatives. We decided to send another group of representatives to hold additional consultations".