President Saakashvili and other top Georgian leaders visited the Tbilisi-controlled upper Kodori Gorge in breakaway Abkhazia on September 27 to inaugurate the headquarters of the Tbilisi-backed Abkhaz government-in-exile.
Below is the speech made by President Saakashvili in the village of Chkhalta, which is in Kodori Gorge - or, as the area is now officially called by Tbilisi, Zemo (Upper) Abkhazia.
"Dear friends I want to salute you on this holy land of Abkhazia.
We have arrived here to open the Abkhaz government’s new temporary headquarters. We are here to witness the first real example of reconstruction which has taken place on the Abkhaz land in the past 13 years.
In the past two months here, in Chkhalta and Kodori gorge – Zemo [upper] Abkhazia, much more has been done than in the past 13 years in devastated Sokhumi, Gagra, Bichvinta, Ochamchire, Gulripshi and Gali [towns in breakaway Abkhazia controlled by the secessionist authorities]. It [rehabilitation of Kodori Gorge] was made possible because it has been done by the Georgian state. These buildings, these villages have been reconstructed by those to whom this land belongs.
Just look at these buildings, villages; just look what kind of bridges and roads have been constructed. By this new road it will be possible to reach this place from Zugdidi [city in neighboring Samegrelo region] in two, or two and a half hours.
All these have been constructed in just two months, because all of Georgia was engaged in the construction. I want to thank the municipalities of Tbilisi and Batumi. Here are the mayors of Tbilisi and Batumi and I want to thank them.
You know that Abkhazia has turned into a part of a big international politics. In recent months some top level actors in international politics have voiced [the idea] that Georgia has lost Abkhazia forever and that this beautiful part of Europe should separate from Georgia, and actually should be annexed by Russia through formal recognition of Abkhazia after a referendum. This is what the United States is told, this is what Europe is told, and this is what the rest of the world is told.
Today, I, the Georgian President, want to tell the entire world: we are in Abkhazia and no one will ever be able to force us from here.
We are in Abkhazia and Abkhazia belongs to Georgia.
From here we are overlooking our holy land of Sokhumi, we are overlooking Bedia Cathedral, St. George Cathedral in Ochamchire, we are overlooking Akhali Atoni and our ancestors’ graves and no one will ever force us from here.
I also want to tell everyone that we want to come back with peace.
This is Zemo Abkhazia – Kodori Gorge, Chkhalta Gorge, Marukhi Pass and the rest of the territories in Abkhazia that are under the Georgian authorities control - which is more than one-third of Abkhazia’s entire territory and where Georgian sovereignty is enforced, where Georgian border guard troops and the Georgian police are operating and where local self-governance bodies are operating and where [local] elections will be held [on October 5].
We are here and we want to say that we have peaceful intentions; we do not want war and bloodshed, but we also want to say that our homes should be returned back to us, our homes belong to us, our homes belong to those who have been forced to go from there 13 years ago, who are deprived of the right to go back only because their ethnic background does not correspond to the taste of those people who have occupied their [IDPs’] homes and who have occupied the Abkhaz land.
I want to tell the world and I want to tell the Russians and I want to tell our brothers, the Abkhazians: we will come back to our homes very soon, we will come back from every direction: from the mountains, from the sea, we will cross the rivers and we will overcome all the obstacles and we will definitely come back. And even the most formidable armed forces will never be able to obstruct our aspiration towards our homes, towards our better future.
I want this message made from the Zemo Abkhazia to be heard by the world and by those to whom it is addressed: we will come back, and do not hamper it.
We will return for peace and friendship and for the creation of a united, multinational state, but we will return first and foremost for to give our children a future, and they will have a future.
We all will construct Abkhazia like Zemo Abkhazia has been constructed, like this school in Chkhalta, like these roads have been reconstructed. And there is no force in the world that can obstruct the energy and enthusiasm of a man who is willing to go back home."