Sukhumi’s move condemned by Tbilisi and foreign diplomats
U.S. ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly visited the Khurcha-Nabakevi and Orsantia-Otobaia segments of the Abkhaz administrative boundary line on January 26 to inspect the situation there after the Abkhaz government had decided to seal off four of the six crossing points on the border.
Kelly panned the move, saying it curbed the local communities’ right to free movement.
In an interview to the Georgian TV broadcaster Rustavi-2, Kelly said Washington did not recognize Abkhazia’s independence and, correspondingly, did not recognize any border crossing points. He said the issue would be put before the OSCE and discussed at Geneva talks.
UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Georgia Niels Scott, too, expressed concern, saying the closure of the crossings would “have negative consequences for the humanitarian and development needs” of the people living in the adjacent territories and create “greater vulnerability and isolation” for them.
“We urge relevant parties to consider the impact of the announced closing measure on the welfare of the local residents,” his statement ran.
Tbilisi has said it will make sure to draw the international community’s attention to the issue.
“We’ve been in touch with all parties concerned and our partners, and will do our best to ensure that the local population are not restricted in their movements,” minister for reconciliation and civic equality Ketevan Tsikhelashvili said. “A closure of the crossings would pose a grave humanitarian challenge to the locals.”
In its turn, the Georgian opposition said Tbilisi was too tardy in its response to the problem and not doing enough to bring the international community’s eyes to it.
“The situation is of the kind that requires protests to be expressed at all diplomatic levels, but instead Georgia’s diplomatic missions have been rather inactive,” Nika Rurua of the opposition National Movement said.
Meanwhile, the Sukhumi government wants to seal yet another – fifth – crossing point on the boundary line. If fulfilled, the plan will leave but one operational crossing point – that on the Inguri Bridge, meaning locals will have to travel additional dozens of kilometers to cross over to the Georgian side of the boundary.