Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze: "Regions occupied by Russia are on the brink of a humanitarian disaster"
Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze spoke at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly during his US visit.
His 18-minute speech mainly centered around the disputed regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
He stated that these regions, occupied by Russia, are on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.
He accused Russia of non-compliance with its international obligations, and addressed the Abkhaz and Ossetian people.
Bakhtadze, who took office earlier this year in June, delivered his speech in Georgian at the UN:
“It is a great honour to address the general assembly in my native language, Georgian, one of the oldest languages in the world and an integral part thereof,” he said.
Bakhtadze continued his speech by stating that: “…the 27th of September [is] an extremely troubling and painful date in my country’s history.”
On 27 September 1993, armed hostilities in Abkhazia came to an end with the defeat of Georgia’s military forces and their withdrawal from Sukhumi.
He further said that:
“The situation in the occupied territories is a full-blown humanitarian disaster. The growing militarisation of these regions is in full swing, and depopulation is intensifying by the minute. Because of the grave humanitarian, socioeconomic and human rights situation, the population in the occupied regions has dropped five to six times since the occupation … Razor wires and other artificial barriers split families and violate fundamental human rights. Those who live along the occupation lines are even prevented from visiting houses of prayer and the graves of their ancestors. Our citizens are prohibited from educating their children in the native language. Abduction, torture and murder continue.”
Bakhtadze noted that when taking conflicts of the South Caucasus region into account, even a minor incident may escalate into an uncontainable process and lead to grave consequences.
Regarding the aforementioned, Bakhtadze deems the international community’s firm support in the peaceful resolution of the Russia-Georgia conflict of critical importance.
He discussed Russia at length, accusing the country for not fulfilling its international commitments, including the 2008 ceasefire agreement.
Bakhtadze also called on Russia to refrain from undermining and compromising Georgia’s peace initiatives, and to allow the citizens in the occupied territories to lead a decent life.
“We are actively trying to use the format of the Geneva International Discussions,” he said, “yet our attempts at the negotiation table encounter unfounded and absolutely unacceptable resistance from Russia.”
“We want to break the deadlock in Russia-Georgia relations, but that can only be accomplished based on the respect for Georgia’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and the principles of international law,” Bakhtadze stated.
“Despite this injustice, our only response to these challenges is peace and Georgia’s development,” the Prime Minister said. “We have proposed a new peace initiative designed to overcome the humanitarian disaster in the occupied territories and create new opportunities for our citizens in the occupied territories.”
“With this initiative, we are fighting to stop the process of depopulation in the occupied territories and to ensure respect for fundamental human rights. We call this initiative A Step to a Better Future, which seeks precisely to provide the populations in the occupied territories with access to healthcare and education services, to create for them opportunities for commercial activities as a means for feeding their families and ensuring their physical survival,” he said.
Bakhtadze also addressed his Abkhaz and South Ossetian compatriots, stating that every success Georgia has is theirs as well.
“We share a common historical past, which must pave the way for our future, which I am convinced will bring us peace and prosperity. It is the Georgian authorities’ duty to protect and guarantee the rights of every citizen, and we are committed to fulfilling this duty irreversibly. You should enjoy all the benefits put in place by Georgia, be it human rights, education, healthcare, or visa-free travel to Europe,” he said.
Bakhtadze also met with the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, while in New York City. The agenda included the investigation into the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.
Bakhtadze stated at the meeting that Georgia will continue its active cooperation with the ICC and will do all it can to assist in the investigation, his press-service reports.
“The Georgian side hopes that the ethnic cleansing, torture and killing of Georgian prisoners of war, war crimes against Georgian populations, as well as Russia’s deployment of Iskander missile systems in the bombing of Gori, would be thoroughly investigated,” he said.
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