This declaration is made on behalf of Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States of America. .
We reaffirm our full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders.
Fourteen years after the military invasion of Georgia by the Russian Federation, we remain deeply concerned about the continued occupation of parts of Georgian territory and stress the need for a peaceful settlement of the conflict based on full respect for the law and international commitments, including the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act.
We condemn Russia’s aggression against Georgia in 2008 and express our deep concern over Russian military exercises and Russia’s continued military presence in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We also reiterate our condemnation of Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine.
We welcome Georgia’s compliance with the EU-brokered August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement. We call on Russia to immediately fulfill its clear obligation under the ceasefire agreement to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions, as well as its commitments to allow unimpeded access impede the delivery of humanitarian aid and not to impede the creation of international security arrangements on the ground. We call on Russia to reverse its recognition of the so-called independence of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
We condemn the measures taken by Russia, which appear to be aimed at unilaterally establishing the state border between Georgia and Russia on the segments of the occupied territories and incorporating part of the village of Aibgha in Georgia into Krasnodar Krai. In the same vein, we express our concern over Russia’s attempted seizure of 180 hectares of land in the Gagra district of Abkhazia, Georgia, which is another step towards an attempted annexation. We urge Russia to reverse this process.
We note the January 2021 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of the armed conflict between the Russian Federation and Georgia in August 2008 and its consequences, including its findings that Russia exercised effective control over the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia following the ceasefire agreement of 12 August 2008, in particular thanks to its military presence. The Court also found that Russia, in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, had tortured Georgian prisoners of war; arbitrarily detained and killed Georgian civilians and responsible for their inhuman and degrading treatment; prevented the return of ethnic Georgians to their homes; and failed to investigate civilian killings. We call on Russia to fully comply with the judgment, including by allowing internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return home in safety and dignity. We also note the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) of 30 June 2022 which issued requests for arrest warrants for war crimes committed during the Russian invasion in 2008. We call on Russia to cooperate with the ICC prosecutor’s office.
We are concerned about continued discrimination against Georgians on the basis of their ethnicity in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and abuses, including severe restrictions on freedom of movement rights , education, residence and property, particularly in relation to the destruction of the homes of IDPs. We call on those in control to allow international human rights organizations full and unimpeded access to the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We condemn the decision to replace teaching in the Georgian language with Russian in schools in the Gali district, inhabited by ethnic Georgians, in the Abkhazia region. We also condemn the erasure and alteration of Georgian features of Georgian cultural heritage monuments in both regions.
We are particularly concerned about the ongoing installation of barbed wire and other artificial barriers along the Administrative Boundary Lines (ABL) of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The isolation and continued restrictions on freedom of movement have destabilized the situation on the ground and seriously affected the safety, security, well-being and humanitarian conditions of civilians in conflict-affected areas, particularly in Akhalgori district, where reports suggest that local people are suffering from shortages of medicine and food, and are being denied access to pensions and basic necessities, including free health services available on the territory controlled by the Georgian government. This creates a risk of further depopulation of Akhalgori district.
We remain deeply concerned about the ongoing arbitrary detentions around the ABLs and call for the immediate and unconditional release of Irakli Bebua, Kristine Takalandze and all those arbitrarily detained.
We condemn the killing of Georgian citizens Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria and Davit Basharuli, and urge Russia to remove any obstacles preventing the perpetrators from being brought to justice. In this context, we reiterate our support for Georgia’s preventive measures aimed at eradicating impunity and note the Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili list adopted by the Georgian government.
We support the effective continuation of the Geneva International Discussions (GID), as the only format with the Russian Federation to address the implementation of the ceasefire agreement of August 12, 2008 under the mediation of the EU, as well as the security, human rights and humanitarian issues arising from the unresolved conflict between Russia and Georgia. We stress the need to make progress on the central issues of the discussions, including the non-use of force, the establishment of international security arrangements in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the guarantee of the return safe, dignified and voluntary provision of internally displaced persons and refugees in accordance with international law. We strongly support the application of the Women, Peace and Security program in the GID to facilitate inclusive and sustainable peace and security on the ground.
We express our support for the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRM) in Ergneti and Gali and underline the important role they can play in preventing the escalation of the conflict and in protecting the safety of people on the ground. We express our great concern over the long suspension of the Gali IPRM and urge its resumption without further delay or preconditions, in accordance with the basic rules.
We reaffirm our unwavering support for the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) and call on Russia to allow the EUMM to fully implement its mandate, including by allowing the EUMM to have access on both sides ABLs.
We welcome the launch of a multi-stakeholder process for the development of a “Comprehensive State Strategy for Disoccupation and Peaceful Conflict Resolution” by the Georgian government, as well as the launch of the strategic review of the reconciliation and commitment. We support the Georgian government’s peace initiative “A step towards a better future”, which aims to improve the humanitarian and socio-economic conditions of people residing in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and to promote building trust between divided communities. We urge active work on reconciliation and engagement programs and stand ready to provide support.
We encourage the involvement of the OSCE in the process of finding a peaceful solution to the Russian-Georgian conflict. We regret the closure of the OSCE mission in Georgia in 2009 and encourage the OSCE participating States to decide on the reopening of the OSCE cross-dimensional mission in Georgia, including a monitoring capability capable of operating unhindered in the ABLs. The reopening of the mission would significantly strengthen the OSCE’s engagement in the GID and the IPRMs. Furthermore, the re-establishment of a field mission would support the work of the OSCE in every phase of the conflict cycle.
The Group of Friends of Georgia will continue to raise awareness of the conflict and developments on the ground, to hold Russia accountable to its obligations and commitments and to advocate for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.