PM of breakaway Abkhazia, Sergey Shamba, said on August 23 that although Sokhumi had declined Moscow-proposed "concept of a joint Russian-Abkhaz commission on restoration of property rights of the Russia citizens in Abkhazia", Sokhumi was not rejecting to discuss the issue of property rights itself.
The issue became a source of controversy in Abkhazia after the local newspaper, Nuzhnaya, accused the Abkhaz leadership of "anti-state and anti-Abkhaz" actions for considering a proposal on "the concept of a joint Russian-Abkhaz commission on restoration of property rights of the Russia citizens in Abkhazia." The article says that the concept would pave the way for the return of thousands of those Georgians, who fled Abkhazia after the armed conflict in early 90s and who now reside in Russia, holding Russian passports.
On August 20 Shamba denied the newspaper's allegation as "slander" and said that the draft received from the Russian Foreign Ministry, "was immediately rejected as not worthy to be discussed."
On August 23 Shamba again spoke on the matter and said that Sokhumi was acknowledging that the issue required resolution, but it also required a careful deliberation in order to prevent return of those ethnic Georgians, who hold Russian passports.
"Lots of houses were destroyed during the war [in early 90s]. Those left without accommodation had to resettle in empty houses... All these created problems, which we have not resolve now," Shamba was quoted by Apsnipress on August 23.
"The issue raised recently about return of now occupied houses to thier previous owners is being studied. It is impossible to resolve all these issues immediately, because not only Russians hold Russian citizenship, but also many Georgian refugees, who participated in the war [in early 90s]. There are people for whom road to Abkhazia is simply closed."
He said property disputes were "very difficult and painful" and each such case required to be studied "separately and in details. "
"Our law enforcement agencies, prosecutor's office and the supreme court are studying all these documentations. When they complete this work, a Russian-Abkhaz joint commission will be set up, which will address cases of violation of property rights," Shamba said.
He again reiterated that the Moscow-proposed concept on the joint commission was "unacceptable".
"Let's imagine that we agree to return all the property to the Russian citizens without any reservations. It will trigger serious problems related to Georgian refugees living after the war in Russia, who obtained the Russian citizenship and who fought the war against us," Shamba said.
"Someone may consider such approach to be sacrilegious saying: 'how one can violate human rights'; but it was the result of the Georgian leadership's policy that triggered war. This policy has led to antagonism between ethnic Georgians and others living in Abkhazia and the return of Georgian refugees will inevitably create new conflict situations and will lead to new war... By resolving a humanitarian issue, we will trigger new problem for our children, that is inadmissible," he said.
"We have returned [Georgian] refugees in the Gali district," he added. "But by letting them return to other parts of Abkhazia, we will trigger new conflict and humanitarian disaster."
"We do not want the issue of Georgian refugees to overshadow our friendly relations with the Russian Federation. Maybe we have somewhat dragged out discussions of property issues, but we wanted to thoroughly clarify each individual case," Shamba said.