The MPs heard the State Minister for Reconciliation, Ketevan Tsikhelashvili within the Ministerial Hour.
“Peace, ensuring peace, preventing escalation against the ongoing Russian occupation, which in its turn constitutes a very vital threat, requires constant efforts and high responsibility first of all by the Government and then by every single citizen. We conduct a very consistent, reasonable and pragmatic policy for conflict resolution aiming at peaceful unification of the country without a war, which has been strictly underlined by the Prime Minister”, - the State Minister noted.
The Government makes the steps to the future envisaging the steps to the dialogue, trust-building, reconciliation as a way without an alternative. Any provocation – is it creation of impediments, illegal detention of Georgian citizens, restriction of movement, media propaganda and in the gravest situations – deprivation of life – is directed against people and serves as a part of separation strategy.
“While I speak from this podium, Tskhinvali Region is in full isolation – the so-called check point is blocked to Akhalgori and movement at Perevi section is suspended for a couple of days”, - she added and appealed to the decision-makers to restore the movement.
“Deriving from the needs of the population and regardless ethnic affiliation – I mean Georgians and Ossetians – this decision shall be revised and movement shall be restored as it contradicts with humanity principles and fundamental human rights. I would like to encourage and thank these people left beyond the wires and who have been through a danger. I would like to assure them that our daily efforts are directed to mitigation of their situation, to protection of their rights despite frequent impediments we encounter. However, it is time to realize that these impediments are not solid, especially in the XXI century and nor wires can eternally resist natural aspiration of the people to development. These impediments will be as well demolished as the Berlin Wall 30 years ago”, - she stated.
Although the wires impede people but cannot impede their interests and especially, it has been recently crystal clear that the contacts along the barricades, as well as people-to-people relations and informal dialogue channels increase in proportion to the growth of barricades. In 2018, the international organizations and NGOs have funded 65 projects for occupied regions and this number has been increased to 75. These projects cover cooperation and dialogue between the various groups and meetings within and beyond the country. The peacekeeping initiative “Step to better future” facilitated to these contacts.
The State Minister dwelt on complex peacekeeping initiative and noted that the initiative was highly backed on the legal and civil level and by the international organizations. The Peace Fund has also been established in this direction. “The Fund will serve for the objectives of this initiative, peace-building, encouragement of cooperation and improvement of the conditions of the population”, - the reporter noted.
As she stated, 2018 was a special year in terms of education: “We have launched the post-school education program in Zugdidi and Tbilisi offering the youth from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region free courses in up to 10 subjects, monthly scholarship of 150 GEL, campus if needed and actual entry to higher and vocational schools only on the basis of the internal exams”.
Speaking about education in native language and realization of right of movement, she noted that these problems are intensively discussed in Geneva Talks. She stressed the basis for the legislative changes simplifying the procedures for identification of compatriots residing on occupied territories, civil activities and identification of citizenship. She emphasized the needs of the people along the occupation line and solutions. The Governmental efforts are directed to restoration of Gali meetings suspended due to the ultimatum on Otkhozoria issues. It is paramount also to determine the circumstances related to death of Irakli Kvaratskhelia.
Speaking about the international formats, she noted that aggregation of these instruments aiming at de-occupation, human rights, proactive peacekeeping policy – creates dynamics. “We are a multi-cultural country and our civil integration policy is based on equality principle. It is both the starting point and the action plan. All our citizens despite ethnic or religious affiliation are equal. Our policy is directed to creation of equal opportunities for engagement in all the spheres and realization of their potential”.
MPs asked the questions, followed by the speech by the Chair of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee, Sofo Kiladze: “The Office of the State Minister and the Government in a whole do their best to at least improve the condition of the people on the occupied territories. We have the healthcare and education programs and the people crossing the wires will enjoy the better conditions, though all these efforts are minor compared to the needs”, - she noted.
Unfortunately, human rights are on daily basis violated in Abkhazia and Samachablo and the only leverage available for the Government is the international format. “We enjoy the strong support by our Western partners during the conflicts and I believe that the Office of the State Minister will do its best to even intensify this support”.
The floor was given to the Committees, Factions and MPs.
The Sector Economy and Economic Policy Committee
Roman Kakulia: “Sanctions are an approved attempt in the world to put Russia under the legal frame, which is not easy. In this case, accession to the sanctions means our contribution to these international attempts and let’s think about it – is our contribution in implementation of this policy towards Russia is less than by others? Our contribution is even higher than by the European countries putting the positive context in these sanctions and thus, do not we deserve more than we get?”
The Health Care and Social Issues Committee
Dimitri Khundadze: “Poverty and occupation serves as the main problems the country encounters but occupation is of higher importance as it aggravates poverty. So, we need to carry higher responsibility. Occupation, occupation line, condition of IDPs – we speak about these issues today and unfortunately, these issues often serve as an internal political battle-field. We have a grave history since the 90s but it has been even aggravated after 2008 as we encountered murdered citizens, lost territories and more IDPs. It is the heavy burden for the country and I believe that everyone shall carry the highest responsibility. If our opponents think of integration of the country instead of regaining the authority, then they will make different actions and will not delegate their responsibility to others, and will not speculate with occupation”.
The Diaspora and Caucasus Issues Committee
Beka Odisharia: “This is the most important direction and I thank the State Minister, her Office as we hear from the report that these people strive on daily basis and sometimes, their efforts are invisible but they do make great deeds”.
MP Savalan Mirzoev: “I believe that non-Georgian population will cooperate with Georgians and take active part in building the country we all dream about. Let me note that every Georgian citizen shall speak Georgian language. We all shall speak the official language – Georgian as it is important is such a multi-national country like Georgia. If you do not speak the official language, then you are distanced from the public life, cannot participate in state building, are not engaged in political life etc. Fortunately, our Government attaches particular attention to teaching the official language. I, being Azerbaijani, have encountered in the past some problems regarding Georgian language but these problems have been solved and the state at maximal extent facilitates everyone willing to learn the language. I know none of Georgian citizens not willing to speak Georgian and the projects implemented in this direction have shown the positive outcomes”.
Faction “National Movement”
Roman Gotsiridze: “None of the situations have been improved on occupied territories during the last year and in most cases, it has been even aggravated. The occupation border is closed, the people encounter grave humanitarian situation, have no access to native language, Georgian is prohibited in schools, number of schools has reduced, the occupation line moved forward, wires move forward, people are still being kidnapped and murdered and I see no improvement in this direction. It is the result of improper approach of the Government to this problem”.
Faction “Alliance of Patriots and Social-Democrats”
Ada Marshania: “The law supposed to solve integrity of the country fails as we lack of the reasonable and realized approaches. We cannot understand for these years that the situation requires different approaches to cover all the directions. We shall keep dialogue with every party – occupant or not, Europe, West or East”.
Faction “Georgian Dream – Industrials”
Simon Nozadze: “I cannot call this report a brief analysis. You have deeply realized everything and I was expecting it. The plan was wonderful – step to better future, which appeared successful. On the one hand, we have 129 students from the occupied territories in Georgian universities, on the other hand, the number of the people prevented by so-called border guard from crossing the line increased three times”.
The Faction “European Georgia”
Giorgi Kandelaki: “European Georgia has supported the initiative “step to better future” even through the ballot. Naturally, it is important for the people on the occupied territories to approximate to the people on non-occupied territories and first of all, the citizens expelled after the ethnic cleansing. Despite, if the effective de-occupation policy exists simultaneously, we see that real de-occupation and restoration of territorial integrity are not on the agenda today but Georgian Dream does not care about it”.
Faction European Georgia – Movement for Freedom”
Lela Keburia: “Today, we speak about the projects especially in regards with the occupied territories but against the background that the people on occupied territories encounter the land registration problem, these projects seem ineffective. It means that the Government allows economic development with one hand to these people, but deprives this opportunity with bureaucratic mechanisms with the other hand”.
Faction “Georgian Dream – Greens”
Giorgi Gachechiladze: “The step to better future is the best initiative possible against this grave situation we are in today. So, I support you in implementation of this program”.
Faction “Georgian Dream”
Irakli Beraia: “I would like to specially underline the role of the State Minister and her Office in success of peacekeeping policy and in implementation of the creative and public-oriented initiatives. The step to better future envisages encouragement of trade along the occupation line and new opportunity of education for the population. The information submitted confirms that it is the only productive initiative evidenced with the number of the beneficiaries thereof. I would like to stress the tangible outcomes achieved by our diplomats at the international theatre. Georgia issue is on active agenda of the high podiums in UN, NATO, EU, CoE and other institutions, as well as in the dialogues with the USA, Great Britain, France and Germany. It is the first time when the restrictive norms regarding the occupied territories have been applied – the political pressure mechanisms such are UN General Assembly resolutions, Human Rights Council resolutions, High Commissioner reports etc. Our joint efforts from Georgians, Abkhazians and Ossetians, support of our international partners will destruct the artificial barriers and we have witnessed such examples in the past”.
Giorgi Volski: “I would like to address Abkhazians and Ossetians remaining beyond the occupation line – your pain is our pain and despite the grave confrontations, despite the bloodshed – we know what the Caucasian solidarity and traditions mean. There is the spark existing which shall burn the love we had towards each other”. After the speeches, the State Minister delivered the final speech. In the end, the Speaker Archil Talakvadze estimated the report by the State Minister noting that occupation is a very acute problem for the country. He underlined that despite this challenge, we need to better consolidate democracy and enhance economy, we need to maintain security and the role and function of the only reliable ally for the West in the region. “First of all, we are obliged to tell our society and citizens that occupation does not worth to give up optimism. We shall not give up with development of the country and we shall not call on for nihilism and pessimism to become the part of our routine life. We may have chosen the difficult way for restoration of territorial integrity but it is the peaceful way, which has no other alternative. There is no other reasonable way”, - he noted.