16 September, 2010

A UN General Assembly resolution recognizing the rights of displaced persons from Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to return to their homes is a diplomatic victory for Tbilisi and a disgrace to Moscow, according to President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Tbilisi is celebrating the resolution passed by the UN General Assembly which reiterates the right of all displaced persons from Georgia’s secessionist regions to return to their homes. The Georgian-initiated resolution was approved on September 8, by the vote

of 50 to 17, with 86 abstentions.

Similar non-binding General Assembly resolutions were released in 2008 (concerning breakaway Abkhazia) and in 2009. Last year’s resolution passed with 48 countries voting in favor, with 19 voting against and 78 abstaining. The lowest level of support within the Assembly was observed in 2007 when the resolution passed by a slim margin of 14 - votes in favor to 11 - against with 105 abstentions.
Russia had earlier branded the document as ‘odious’ and tried to remove the issue from the agenda, maintaining that the Resolution didn’t include any humanitarian aims and its motivations were exclusively political and based on short-term calculations by Georgia. The motion was rejected by the vote of 67 - in favor to 32 - against, with 54 abstentions.


Kakha Lomaia, Georgia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Organization briefly outlined the stipulations of the UN document. According to Lomaia, the Resolution ‘represents a moral and legal commitment to the rights of the displaced persons. Second, it proposes a reporting mechanism to the General Assembly. Third, it expands the geographic scope of the Assembly’s involvement to include internally displaced persons from Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.’
About 6% of Georgia’s population (about 246,000 people) is displaced, according to a recent report by Amnesty International. During the five-day Russian-Georgian war in August 2008 some 128,000 persons fled from breakaway South Ossetia to escape the calamities of war; a quarter of that figure remains displaced and unable to return home.
President Saakashvili lauded the UN Resolution and the growing support for the return of Georgian IDPs to their homes, referring to this issue as the ‘battle between good and evil’. He also noted Moscow’s fervent opposition to the resolution, saying that ‘Putin made Medvedev to call twice to several countries’ leaders’ to lobby against the proposed document. The Russian Federation used ‘blackmail and coercion, bribery and threats’ and even ‘threatened by gas prices’ but all in vain, according to Saakashvili.
In a thinly veiled reference to Russia, Saakashvili said that no one can expect a dialog with Georgia after cropping off its territory. “We do not want anyone to talk to as long as the occupiers do not withdraw from our land. We do not waive any of our freedom or our territories; neither government, no responsible political force will make it,” Saakashvili said.

Resolutions released by the General Assembly are non-binding and thus cannot be directly enforced; nonetheless the document is of high value since the ‘rights of the Georgian IDPs have been recognized at the international level once again’, according to Sergi Kapanadze, representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who also noted that growing support for Georgia is confirmed by the number of votes.
“We have two votes more [this year] and our opponents, Russian diplomats lost two votes,” Grigol Vashadze, Georgian foreign minister said on September 8. “This trend will continue because of a simple reason – the international community has ruled a verdict on the occupying power’s actions on the occupied territories, including the ethnic cleansing; there is good wording in the resolution - ‘forced demographic changes’, which is a synonym of ethnic cleansing,” he said.
Moscow criticized the UN Resolution for not taking into account the realities on the ground and for referring to breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia as parts of Georgia. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, labeled the document as ‘counterproductive’ and emphasized that it could jeopardize the Geneva talks, the only remaining forum for discussion between the parties in the conflicts.
“Against the background of Georgia’s persistent refusal to sign with the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides legally binding agreement on non-use of force, it looks like a pure demagogy [the resolution’s] call on participants of Geneva discussions ‘to intensify their efforts to establish a durable peace, to commit to enhanced confidence-building measures’,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

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