Statement by H.E. Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Vice Prime-Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia at the OSCE Belgrade Ministerial Council Meeting

3 December, 2015

Mr. Chairperson, dear Ivica,
Mr. Secretary General,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by thanking the 2015 OSCE Serbian Chairmanship-in-Office for its efforts during this year, for hosting us in Belgrade today and for excellent hospitality.

Let me also join our colleagues in expressing condolences to the US delegation and families of victims of yesterday’s California shooting. The threats and challenges we face today are asymmetric, complex, dynamic and cross-border in nature. The recent terrorist attacks in France, as well as preceding and following similar violentce acts, once again demonstrate that no country is immune to acts of terrorism. Therefore, it is our common responsibility to join efforts to counter violent extremism and radicalization and address its underlying root causes.

2015 marks the fortieth Anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act. Forty years ago, leaders from thirty-five countries signed a landmark agreement, a declaration of principles that upholds sovereignty of participating states, inviolability of frontiers and the peaceful settlement of their disputes along with commitment to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. 

Despite the OSCE’s achievements, the concept of the Security Community is far from being achieved. We believe that the main problem is not the lack of discussions or the imperfection of the current security architecture, but rather it is absence of political will to comply with commitments we all have undertaken.

Recognition of the so-called “independence” of the occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, followed by the crises in and around Ukraine, is a clear demonstration of disregard of the basic norms and principles of international law as enshrined in the UN charter and the Helsinki Final Act. Moreover, by signing the so-called “treaties” with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali regimes, in breach of its international obligations, the Russian Federation intends to fully integrate these regions into its military, security, social and economic institutions. It should be underlined that so called "treaties", as well as all previously signed numerous documents between Moscow and Georgia’s occupied regions have no legal validity. Continuing illegal process of installation of barbwire fences and the so-called “border signs” along the occupation line significantly worsened the situation of local residents. As a result, population is deprived of their basic civil, social and economic rights, including the right to freedom of movement, right to property, as well as recent violations of the right to study in one’s mother tongue in Gali district of Abkhazia region, when in eleven elementary schools, Georgian as a language of instruction was replaced with Russian. 

The abovementioned is particularly alarming, given the absence of international monitoring mechanisms inside these occupied territories. This brings us to the urgency of finding ways to follow up on the ODIHR/HCNM 2008 report on human rights in the war-affected areas following the conflict in Georgia. 

Dear Colleagues,

Against this backdrop, we would like to once again reaffirm, that the crisis in the occupied regions must be resolved peacefully, based on full respect of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. Georgia remains committed to the normalization of relations and the peaceful resolution of the conflict with Russia within agreed negotiating format. We continue participation in the Geneva International Discussions in good faith, however, we are concerned with the lack of progress on the core issues of the Geneva process, such as, the safe and dignified return of hundreds of thousands of IDPs and refugees to the places of their permanent residence, as well as Russia’s refusal to reciprocate our unilateral pledge on non-use of force and the establishment of international security arrangements.

At the same time, notwithstanding the impasse on the fundamental political issues, related to the security and stability, Georgia continues informal bilateral dialogue with the Russian side on economic and cultural issues through designating special representative of PM of Georgia for Georgia-Russia relations.

Most importantly, we would like to underline that reconciliation and trust building with our compatriots residing in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region is one of the most important aspects of our Government’s peaceful policy. We acknowledge the importance of confidence building initiatives aimed at reducing mistrust between the war-torn communities and improving living conditions of local population and are actively working to this end.

Distinguished delegates,

Despite all the challenges, Georgia’s democratic path remains unshaken. We are determined to advance our European and Euro-Atlantic integration agenda, which represents a choice of Georgian people.

We are implementing a number of reforms in judiciary, justice and electoral systems in close cooperation with the OSCE ODIHR, HCNM and Representative on Freedom of the Media with the aim of bringing Georgia in line with the European standards and best practices.

Next year, to ensure the conduct of transparent, free and fair parliamentary elections, we will be inviting a large number of international observers from various international organizations and institutions, including the ODIHR and the OSCE PA, as well as partner states.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As Georgia works to ensure its security and consolidate democratic development, the international community has a huge role to play in assisting us in our efforts. The OSCE, with its vast experience in conflict prevention and crisis management, should live up to its core tasks and make a considerable contribution to achieving progress on the aforementioned issues, including on the resolution of the existing conflict in Georgia, inter alia through the re-establishment of the full-fledged OSCE presence in my country. The report and recommendations of the Panel of Eminent Persons on European Security as a common project, provides some valuable insights to this end.

In the end, allow me to wish the upcoming German Chairmanship every success in its challenging duties. We look forward to closely cooperating with Minister Steinmeier and his team in advancing the pressing issues on the OSCE agenda.

Thank you.