The UN General Assembly passed on September 9 a resolution recognizing the right of return of all displaced persons and refugees and their descendants to their homes in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia and underlining “the urgent need for unimpeded access for humanitarian activities” in those regions.
The resolution, entitled “Status of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Georgia”, was passed with 48 countries voting in favor; 19 – against; with 78 abstentions.
“We’ve won with 48 to 19,” Alexander Lomaia, Georgia’s UN envoy told RFE/RL Georgian service.
He said that the voting result was better than the one of last year and although the General Assembly’s resolutions are not binding, it was an important additional leverage for Georgia on the diplomatic front.
The General Assembly adopted with small margin of 14 votes in favour to 11 against and 105 abstentions a similar resolution in May, 2008. The previous one, however, only referred to Abkhazia.
On top of those 14 countries (including Georgia itself), which voted in favor of the last year’s resolution (Albania, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine and United States), 34 additional countries joined their support to the recent resolution on September 9.
These countries are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uganda, United Kingdom and Vanuatu.
Like in case of the May, 2008 resolution, nine countries again voted against the new resolution on September 9 – Armenia, Belarus, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Iran, Myanmar, Russia, Syria and Venezuela; plus 10 additional countries - Algeria, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Laos, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.
Serbia, which voted against last year, now abstained and Sudan, which was also against last year, now was absent.
Like the May, 2008 resolution, the recent document also notes the need for developing a timetable to ensure safe return of displaced persons and refugees and requests the UN Secretary General to submit a comprehensive report on the implementation of the resolution at the General Assembly’s next plenary session.
Pursuant to the May, 2008 General Assembly resolution, UN Secretary General submitted his report late last month, which says that “no timetable for the voluntary return of all refugees and internally displaced persons has yet been developed given the prevailing environment and continued discussions between the parties.”
It also says that the although competent UN agencies are mandated to contribute to supporting creation of necessary conditions on the ground for safe return of internally displaced persons, “responsibility for the actual creation and maintenance of the requisite conditions (security, economic, integration etc.) for sustainable returns rests with the parties themselves.”
Prior to the vote on September 9, Russia tried to remove the issue from the agenda, but its motion was not supported.
Andrei Nesterenko, a spokesman of the Russian foreign ministry, said on September 3 that the draft resolution “falls behind the existing reality” on the ground.
“And the reality is that two independent states – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – have emerged in the region and both the Georgian leadership and its foreign patrons will sooner or later have to reckon with this fact,” he said.
According to the Georgian Ministry for Refugees and Accommodation there are more than 293,048 internally displaced persons currently residing in Georgia, of whom 245,363 are from Abkhazia.
It is estimated that out of 245,363 IDPs from Abkhazia, approximately 45,000 people spontaneously returned to their homes in the Gali district, although they are still considered internally displaced persons in Georgia and are eligible for government assistance.