President Saakashvili attended the opening of a ‘patriotic camp’ for teenagers in the village of Ganmukhuri in the Abkhaz conflict zone on May 26.
The village is located on the Abkhazian side of the Enguri river and is the last Georgian-controlled village in the conflict zone, less than a half a kilometer away from the Abkhaz-controlled territories.
At least a couple of thousand teenagers are expected to spend their summer holidays in this state-sponsored camp. The project, “Patriotic Camps,” was launched by the authorities in 2005 with the aim of fostering a patriotic spirit among the youth.
President Saakashvili said at the opening ceremony that the camp “is not only for ethnic Georgians.”
“Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Jews, Greeks, Ossetians will spent their summer holidays in this camp. And we are inviting Abkhazians from Ochamchire, Gagra and Gudauta [towns in Abkhazia]. I want them to see that their country – Georgia - is not as they are being told it is. Georgia is a multi-ethnic state consisting of people with many confessions, which is an example of tolerance,” Saakashvili said.
“The Abkhaz have only one chance of maintaining their self-identity - within this diverse and democratic Georgia, which will give them a firm guarantee to develop in autonomy,” he added.
He also warned that Georgia would not “give up its positions” and the world would not tolerate the “oppression of 500,000 people who have been illegally expelled from their homes.”
The former foreign minister and leader of opposition Georgia’s Way party, Salome Zourabichvili, criticized the authorities’ decision to set up the camp in the conflict zone, saying it recklessly endangered hundreds of teenagers.
One Georgian policeman was killed and another injured as a result of an attack on an Interior Ministry checkpoint in Ganmukhuri on January 5, 2007.