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Statement of the Nordic and Baltic States on the Adoption of UNGA resolution "Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia"

Written statement submitted  by the Nordic and Baltic States: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden on the adoption of UNGA resolution “Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia”.

Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Poland and Romania align themselves with this statement.

We take this opportunity to reaffirm our strong support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. It is deplorable that Russia continues to violate the commitments made in the EU-mediated Ceasefire Agreement of 12 August 2008 and the implementing measures of 8 September 2008 by maintaining military presence in both the Abkhaz and Tskhinvali/South Ossetian regions of Georgia.

Furthermore, the human rights situation in these occupied regions of Georgia remains a cause of serious concern. Amid the global struggle against COVID-19 pandemic and despite the UN Secretary General’s call for global ceasefire, the Russian occupation forces continue their illegal activities in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia. These include ongoing ‘borderization’, illegal detentions and kidnappings (some of them with lethal outcome), severe restrictions on freedom of movement (even denial of medical evacuation in some cases). The human rights of ethnic Georgians in those regions are being constantly violated (especially rights to permanent residence, education in their native language, property ownership). 

The situation on the ground is thoroughly and in depth analyzed in the UN Secretary General’s report on the implementation of the last year’s resolution on internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region /South Ossetia in Georgia.

We concur with Secretary General’s findings that no tangible progress has been achieved regarding the voluntary, safe, dignified and unhindered return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees on the basis of international law and internationally recognized principles. Regretfully, although more than a decade has passed since the first adoption of the resolution on internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region /South Ossetia in Georgia, hundreds of thousands of IDPs continue to be deprived of their right to a safe, dignified and voluntary return to their places of origin and their property rights. 

The resolution in front of us clearly echoes Secretary-General’s goals and commits us all to continue working for the protection and assistance to those who have been forcibly displaced from the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions of Georgia, and to ensure that they are able to exercise their right to safe and dignified return.

In this context, we commend the continued efforts by the Georgian Government, in close cooperation with international organizations, to put in place alternative durable solutions that provide the opportunities for IDPs to integrate locally or, in separate cases, resettle elsewhere in the country, in the absence of the option for IDPs to return to the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions of Georgia.

Adoption of the resolution on the Cooperation with Georgia in the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council clearly demonstrated that the international community remains seized on the matter, as it emphasizes the need to address human rights and humanitarian issues faced by the persons forcefully displaced from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia in Georgia.
In this context, we remain concerned that in the past several years no international human rights monitoring mechanism has been granted unrestricted access to the regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia. We therefore call for an immediate access for the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights and other international and regional human rights mechanisms. 
We reiterate our support to the process of Geneva International Discussions and join the UN Secretary-General’s call to all relevant stakeholders to step up efforts to make a tangible progress on key security and humanitarian issues, to meet the pressing humanitarian concerns of the affected population, including internally displaced persons.  We remain concerned about continued refusal by Russia and participants from Tskhinvali and Sukhumi to engage on the topic of refugees and displaced persons in the Geneva International Discussions. We would like to emphasize that this topic is at the core of the mandate of the Geneva International Discussions.

Moreover, we emphasize the importance of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) in Ergneti and Gali and the role they can have in solving the most acute issues on the ground. Acknowledging the resumption of Ergneti IPRM on July 30, 2020, we stress the necessity for resuming the meetings in Gali without further delay or pre-conditions. 
Given the lack of progress on the ground, we call for the UN’s continuous engagement. As in previous years, we shall vote in favor of the resolution and call on all UN Member States to do the same.

New York, 3rd of September 2020

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