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UN vote support on occupied territories in Georgia continues to grow

By Ernest Petrosyan
Thursday, July 5
The United Nations General Assembly passed an additional resolution on June 29, reiterating the right of a dignified return of all internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia/ Tskhinvali region, by a vote of 60 in favor to 15 against with 82 abstentions.

The UN General Assembly has passed similar resolutions the previous four-years in a row beginning in 2008.

Georgian officials claim that the goal of pushing the resolution annually on the Assembly is aimed to keep the issue high on the international agenda and also to widen the circle of support for the resolution every year.

Nonetheless, the resolution, which was passed in 2008, went through with a small margin of 14 votes in favor to 11 against and 105 abstentions. The following years, the margin has gradually increased. In 2009 in particular, the ratio of votes was 48 to 19 with 78 abstaining. In 2010, the margin widened slightly with a voting ratio of 50 to 17, with 86 abstentions. Last year, 57 voted in favor and 13 against with 74 abstaining.

However, the Russia Federation, which opposes Georgia-sponsored resolutions, claims that the document fails to adequately reflect the region’s “current political realities”, and asserts that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are “independent states”.

Among Russia’s other ally countries, which regularly vote against the IDP’s right of return, were: Armenia, Cuba, North Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Nauru, Nicaragua, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.

Switzerland, which acts as a mediator between Georgia and Russia, as well as Turkey and Israel, abstained from the vote.

Representatives from Ukraine and Iran were absent during the vote for the last two consecutive years. Ukraine was among the supporters of similar resolutions in 2008 and 2009 during Victor Yushchenko’s administration, and Iran voted against during this time. Belarus was absent.

Surprisingly, Tuvalu was among those 60 countries which have voted in favor of the resolution. This tiny South Pacific island nation recognized Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in September of 2011

The Georgian Foreign Ministry says that an increased number of supporters from last year “prove the growing awareness among the international community in respect to the humanitarian problems produced by the forceful demographic changes in the occupied regions of Georgia.”

According to Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, Tbilisi was sure “that in a few years, this resolution would become almost consensual.”

“This is a humanitarian, not a political resolution, so naturally the number of people to support principles espoused by it has been growing,” he said.

Pursuant to the 2011 resolution, the UN Secretary General submitted to the General Assembly a report on the “Status of IDPs and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region of South Ossetia.” The resolution called on the Secretary General to develop a timetable to ensure the return of all IDPs and refugees.

“No timetable for the voluntary return of all refugees and IDPs has been developed given the prevailing environment and continued discussions among the parties. As long as the conditions for organized returns in safety and dignity are not fulfilled and mechanisms for property restitution are not established, the design of a comprehensive timetable or road map for returns must remain an open matter,” reads the report of the UN Secretary General.