13 June 2013

General Assembly Adopts Text Recognizing Right of Return for Internally Displaced Persons throughout Georgia, Including Abkhazia, South Ossetia

13 June 2013
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly


86th Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Adopts Text Recognizing Right of Return for Internally Displaced

Persons throughout Georgia, Including Abkhazia, South Ossetia

The General Assembly today adopted, by a recorded vote of 62 in favour to 16 against, with 84 abstentions, a resolution that recognized the right of return for all refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes in Georgia, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

By that text, the Assembly also reaffirmed that forced demographic changes were unacceptable, stressing the need to respect the property rights of internally displaced persons and underlining their urgent need for unimpeded humanitarian activities.

The text also called for intensified efforts to establish a durable peace, a commitment to enhanced confidence-building measures, and immediate steps to ensure respect for human rights and favourable security conditions conducive to the return of internally displaced persons.  In addition, it emphasized the need for a timetable to achieve those goals.

In its consideration of the topic, the Assembly had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia (document A/67/869).

Georgia’s delegate, introducing the draft resolution, said the Assembly had a duty to respect the fundamental rights of 400,000 people who had been evicted and denied access to their homes.  However, support for the resolution, which was humanitarian in nature, did not imply that Member States would be “taking sides”, he stressed.  Georgia was committed to the Geneva talks and to the non-use of force, but the negotiations could not “hijack” the fundamental human rights of those concerned.  Outlining his country’s wide-ranging steps to protect the rights of the displaced by providing shelter and financial assistance, he assured the Assembly that no effort would be spared to alleviate the suffering caused by the expulsion.

He also said that recent alarming developments on the ground had multiplied Georgia’s concerns.  The recently intensified installation of the barbed wire fences along the Tskhinvali occupation line had compelled the local population to leave their homes, thus creating the threat of a new wave of internally displaced persons.  Those activities were illegal, he said, encouraging the international community to prevent such a displacement.  In a situation where every single international “watchdog” was blocked from entering the two Georgian regions, it was paramount to redoubling efforts to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access, he stressed.

The representative of the Russian Federation, calling the text “highly politicized”, said it had been prepared outside “current geopolitical realities”.  The text stated that Abkhazia and South Ossetia were part of Georgia.  That was not the case, which made the already complex Geneva negotiations more complicated.  Moreover, those negotiations were the only ones with any validity, he said, adding that all delegates were familiar with Georgia’s “strident unwillingness” to conclude agreements about the non-use of force.

He also pointed out that discussions in New York about confidence- and security-building required the presence of representatives from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Without them, such discussions were impossible.  Furthermore, the text’s call for a timetable for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons ignored the Secretary-General’s acknowledgement that such a return was currently impossible.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, speaking in explanation of position, said he would vote in favour of the text, stressing that the international community could not “blithely espouse general principles without having the commitment to subsequently apply those general principles to specific contexts”.  Having expressed concern about the humanitarian needs of internally displaced persons in the past, he said, the resolution focused on those particular issues and did not contain “any hint of overt politicization, bias or interference with ongoing processes”.

Speaking after the vote, several delegates stressed the importance of using the Geneva process as the sole route to a solution, and that the outcome of those negotiations should not be prejudged or undermined.

Serbia’s representative said her country had faced challenges relating to internally displaced persons.  However, resolutions on such issues should stem from the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), and be adopted by consensus.  She therefore could not support the current resolution.

Azerbaijan’s representative requested that his vote in favour of the resolution be recorded correctly as it had not appeared on the screen due to technical problems.

Also speaking in explanation of position before the vote were representatives of Poland, Estonia, Israel and Sweden.

After the vote, Botswana, Switzerland, Brazil and Turkey spoke to explain their positions.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Friday 14 June, to elect the President of the General Assembly and the Bureaus of its Main Committees.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.