Attempts of Civil Reconciliation continues
By Vladimer Napetvaridze
Wednesday, August 16The issue of occupied territories is one of the most important topics on Georgia’s political agenda. Since 1990ies the territories of an independent state have been occupied by the Russian Federation and the fact is condemned by international organizations. August 14 is a painful day in the centuries-long history of Georgian-Abkhazian relations, as one of the most severe wars backed by the Russian Federation in Abkhazia in 1992.
The fierce confrontation lasted for 13 months. Tens of thousands of people died as a result of this conflict and more than 250,000 persons became internally displaced. The Georgian government lost control over Sokhumi in September, 1993 after which the Georgian army was ordered to retreat leaving the city to Abkhaz separatists and militants mostly from North Caucasus and Russia. As a result of Georgians final retreat Abkhazia was declared independent from Georgia.
In 2008 after the August War between Russia and Georgia, Russia recognized breakaway regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) as independent states, further strengthening its illegal military presence over these regions.
Analysts say, the discriminatory policy against ethnic Georgians was initiated in Abkhazia much earlier in the 60ies of 20th century by the government of Soviet Russia and the war in 1990s was used as punishment against independence-seeking Georgia.
On August 14, after 25 years from the war in Abkhazia President and Prime Minister of Georgia made statements including positive messages over the resolution of conflict.
"The war between brothers, in which Russian state policy, nurtured by Soviet imperialism, played a key role, made hundreds of thousands of people internally displaced in their homeland," said President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili.
The Prime Minister of Georgia called this war a ‘grave mistake’: "I have great hope that we will correct this grave mistake and soon, time will come, when we will regain the hearts of our Abkhaz brothers and continue our coexistence with centuries-old love and mutual respect in a united, strong Georgia."
The statements over the war in Abkhazia were also made in the occupied Abkhazia, however, without any positive messages towards Georgia.
The statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of breakaway Abkhazia said: "The Georgian troops invaded Abkhazia 25 years ago on August 14, 1992; the Georgian-Abkhaz war lasted 413 days and ended with the victory of the Abkhaz nation. Thousands of valiant defenders of our Motherland died in the Patriotic War of the Republic of Abkhazia."
Even after 25 years after the event, the process of reconciliation of Georgian-Abkhaz sides is frozen. Georgia has taken several steps to regulate relations, but without any positive response from the de-facto government. The list of activities below is based on the report of the Office of State Minister of Georgia for Reconciliation and Civic Equality.
• Rehabilitation of the Enguri Bridge in 2016, with a support of international organizations UNDP and UNHCR;
• After eight years of interval, the passenger bus service was restored on the Enguri Bridge, which will serve the people living in the occupied territories for free;
• In the period 2013-2016, Georgia spent more than GEL 14 million to provide health care services for the population living in the country’s occupied regions. In 2014, 450 citizens of Abkhazia used this service, in 2015 the number of persons amounted to 550, and in 2016 1409 citizens used the service;
• Hepatitis C elimination program is available for the residents of occupied territories as well;
• In order to simplify the health care service delivery to the population in Abkhazia, near the occupation line, in the village of Rukhi, construction of a multifunctional hospital for 220 persons has been launched. The project is financed from the state budget and with this purpose, GEL 41, 264, 000 is allotted;
• For protection of children's health, Abkhazia was also given an ultrasound examination equipment;
• The information on the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement was translated into Abkhaz and Ossetian languages; Also leaflets containing relevant information were prepared and distributed in the same languages;
• Medicines and vaccines worth of more than GEL 500 000 are supplied regularly through the coordination mechanism in the same format. The occupied region is being supplied with medical equipment, emergency vehicles, and various medical supplies;
• From 2015 to 2017, Georgia financed education of 187 students from occupied territories: Kodori Valley and Gali District;
• In May 2014, International Center for Education under the supervision of Prime Minister of Georgia was opened, which aims at funding students, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia, to study on master and doctoral programs in leading Western universities;
• Through the coordination mechanism in 2016, in order to save and maintain the unique Kolkhetian Willows on the occupied territory, a pickup car equipped with the special device and 700 liters of spraying fluid was supplied;
• Neutral passenger and identity documents are available for the population of occupied regions. At this stage, neutral travel document is recognized by 12 states, including 9 EU member states;
• The trade complex opened in the village of Rukhi encourages trade along the occupation line.
Based on the statements made by Georgia’s high-ranking officials on August 14, it is clear that Georgia intends to continue its reconciliation policy towards the occupied territories. It is true, Georgia’s state policy may not affect the position of the Abkhaz political elite, however, it restores a positive attitude of the Abkhaz society towards Georgia and promotes the process of civil reconciliation.