Tbilisi hopes to make available neutral travel documents for the residents of the breakaway regions by the end of this year, Eka Tkeshelashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration, said on April 14.
At a hearing of the parliamentary ad hoc commission on territorial integrity she briefed lawmakers about the process of implementation of Georgia's State Strategy on Occupied Territories and its Action Plan for Engagement.
Issuing of neutral travel documents and identification cards is envisaged by Action Plan for Engagement, adopted last July.
Authorities in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali are often complaining that the residents of the regions, which hold Russian passports, are denied in entry visas to Europe and the United States.
Apart of allowing holders of these documents to travel abroad, they will also be able to gain access to social and education services available in the rest of Georgia, according to the Action Plan,
The issuing of such documents will require number of legislative amendments, which have yet to be initiated.
Speaking at the parliamentary commission hearing, State Minister, Eka Tkeshelashvili, said that accepting such document would in no way mean obtaining Georgian citizenship; she said the document would not even have the Georgian state symbols. She also said that the Georgian authorities did not expect "large-scale" use of those documents.
Tkeshelashvili said that Tbilisi was negotiating with number of countries separately to secure that the neutral travel documents are accepted by those countries when considering visa applications.
"We will be able to secure freedom of movement [for the residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia] through legal means and through bypassing those illegal passports, which were issued by Russia," she said.
She said that so far healthcare sector was providing most of the potential for engagement with residents of the breakaway regions. She said there were increasing number of cases when residents from those regions were arriving in rest of Georgia for medical reasons. She said Georgia spent GEL 1.4 million last year for that purpose.
Tkeshelashvili also said that because of sensitivity of the issue and in order not to undermine the process the Georgian government "is not speaking much about it and is not publicizing" such cases when medical assistance is provided to the residents of the breakaway regions.