The UN General Assembly passed on July 3 Georgia-sponsored resolution reiterating the right of return of all displaced persons and refugees to breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia by a vote of 60 in favor to 15 against, with 82 abstentions
Similar non-binding resolutions are passed by the UN General Assembly for last four years in row – one in 2008 (in respect of Abkhazia) and others in 2009, 2010 and 2011 in respect of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Georgia says the goal of pushing the resolution annually on the Assembly is to keep the issue high on the international agenda and also to widen circle of support towards the resolution every year.
In 2008 the resolution was passed with small margin of 14 votes in favor to 11 against and 105 abstentions; the following year 48 countries voted in favor; 19 – against and 78 abstained. In 2010 margin widened slightly with 50 countries voting in favor and 17 – against, with 86 abstentions; last year 57 voted in favor 13 – against and 74 abstained.
Russia, which leads the opposition to such Georgia-sponsored resolutions, says that the document fails to reflect the region’s “current political realities”, including the one that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are “independent states”.
Other countries, which voted against, were: Armenia, Cuba, North Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Nauru, Nicaragua, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.
Switzerland, which acts as a mediator between Georgia and Russia has abstained; the same was done by Turkey and Israel.
Like in 2011 representatives from Ukraine and Iran were absent during the vote. Ukraine was among the supporters of similar resolutions in 2008 and 2009 and Iran was voting against in the same years. Belarus was absent too.
Surprisingly Tuvalu was among those 60 countries, which have voted in favor of the resolution. This tiny South Pacific island nation recognized Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in September, 2011.
Some of those countries, which last year voted in favor of the resolution, this year abstained; among them were: Bosnia and Herzegovina; Costa Rica and Guinea-Bissau.
Among those countries, which have joined support for the resolution this year, were: Dominica; Gambia; Grenada; South Sudan and Somalia.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, that increased number of supporters from last year’s 57 to 60 this year “proves the growing awareness among the international community in respect to the humanitarian problems produced by the forceful demographic changes in the occupied regions of Georgia.”
Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, said in an interview with Civil.ge last month that Tbilisi was sure “in a couple of years this resolution will almost become consensual.”
“This is a humanitarian, not a political resolution, so naturally the number of people to support principles espoused by it has been growing,” he said.
Pursuant to 2011 resolution, the UN Secretary General submitted to the General Assembly a report on “Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia”. The resolution was calling on the Secretary General to develop a timetable to ensure the return of all internally displaced persons and refugees.
“No timetable for the voluntary return of all refugees and internally displaced persons has been developed given the prevailing environment and continued discussions among the parties. As long as the conditions for organized returns in safety and dignity are not fulfilled and mechanisms for property restitution are not established, the design of a comprehensive timetable or road map for returns must remain an open matter,” reads the report of the UN Secretary General.