Thank you Chairman. On behalf of the United Kingdom, allow me to welcome the Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions (GID) to the Permanent Council and thank you for your comments.
Georgia has faced a constant hybrid attack from Russia since the 2008 war in which 20% of Georgian territory was effectively annexed. The UK remains deeply concerned about the continued illegal presence of Russia in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and fully supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
Among numerous hybrid tactics used against Georgia this year was the so-called transfer of the Bichvinta estate in Abkhazia to the Federal Protection Service of the Russian Federation for 49 years, announced in August. This is another flagrant violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The UK was deeply concerned about the illegal so-called parliamentary elections held in Abkhazia on March 12, 2022 and the illegal so-called presidential elections held in South Ossetia on April 10, 2022. We welcome the fact that the proposed illegal referendum in South Ossetia was not held and we insist that it should not be changed in the future.
We call on Russia to reverse its recognition of the so-called independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and to end all practices aimed at the gradual incorporation of these territories into the Russian Federation. We welcome initiatives by the Government of Georgia to promote reconciliation between the populations divided by administrative borders and call on Russia not to impede this valuable peace-building and people-to-people contacts.
Co-Chairs, the UK reiterates its unwavering support for your work. As the only international forum that brings together all parties to the conflict, the GID plays a crucial role in trying to reach a permanent solution. We welcome the 56th Round Table on October 5 and your continued communication channels after the 10-month hiatus since the 55th Round Table in December 2021. We emphasize the importance of continued communication in view of the 57th Round Table. The UK continues to support UN Women to facilitate the meaningful participation of grassroots women peacemakers in the formal dialogues and we therefore urge further discussion in future rounds on the role of women in peacebuilding and security.
We remain grateful to the OSCE for its engagement in the GID and the meetings of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism and in the implementation of confidence-building measures. While we welcome the work of the IPRM in Ergneti and the last meeting in September, we stress the need to resume the regular meetings of the IPRM in Gali. These meetings play an important role in preventing the conflict from escalating and help provide safety and security to local people.
We call on the Russian Federation to immediately comply with its clear obligation under the 2008 Ceasefire Agreement to withdraw its armed forces to pre-conflict positions, as well as its obligations to allow unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the return of internally displaced persons in safety and dignity to return to their homeland.
The onus is on Russia to take these measures, to respect the territorial integrity of Georgia and its neighbors, including Ukraine, and to rebuild the trust that underlies the OSCE and the EU GID.