Council of Europe Reaffirms Support for Georgia’s Territorial Integrity

STRASBOURG, France – The Council of Europe’s Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland on Wednesday reiterated the organization’s support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and the efforts by the government of Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili to protect human rights and strengthen democracy in Georgia’s Russian-backed breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

At a joint press conference with Kvirikashvili at the body’s Strasbourg headquarters, Jagland took the time to stress the importance of Georgia’s membership in the organization and the Council of Europe’s priority to preserve Georgia’s internationally recognized borders and the rights of citizens in the country’s breakaway regions.

"The Council of Europe requires full access to all developments in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We intend to implement certain measures with the full support of the Georgian government. The council must utilize the tools it possesses to protect the human rights of the residents of these key Georgian regions," Jagland said.

Jagland praised the Georgian government’s ambitious action plans that aim to empower democracy as well as strengthen human rights and the rule of law in Georgia.

“During the meeting, special attention was paid to the human rights situation in the occupied territories of Georgia. I informed the Secretary General about the recent developments, including a possible illegal referendum in the Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) region on its accession to the Russian Federation," said Kvirikashvili.

Georgian government forces have fought three wars against Russian-backed separatist forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia between 1991-2008. The conflicts left tens of thousands dead and led to the ethnic cleansing of a quarter of a million ethnic Georgians and led to the two regions being recognized as independent states by Moscow following the 2008 war.

All key international institutions, including the United Nations and Council of Europe, continue to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as territorial regions of Georgia.

While thanking Jagland for his personal support, Kvirikashvili announced plans to introduce a new three-year action plan aimed at continuing reforms in the judiciary system, human rights protection and the building of democratic institutions.

“Tomorrow I will elaborate on the planned reforms that will prove to our counterparts that Georgia is a truly European state with European institutions, where the highest standards of human rights protection, rule of law and democratic institutions can be attained. I want to impress on them that the implementation of these reforms is a top priority for my government," Kvirikashvili said during the press conference.

At the conclusion if the meeting Jagland announced that he will visit Georgia in May for the signing of the government’s 2016-2019 Action Plan.

By Nicholas Waller

Photo: Prime Minister's press office

21 April 2016 12:30