(Civil.Ge) — The announced closure of two crossing points along the Administrative Boundary Line of Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia – Nabakevi-Khurcha and Meore Otobaia-Orsantia “will be detrimental to the freedom of movement of the population, including school children, on both sides of the Administrative Boundary Line” and “will likely increase the risk of incidents, especially detentions,” spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement on February 25.
The de-facto Abkhaz government decided to close two out of four crossing points along the administrative boundary line (ABL) between Abkhazia’s predominantly ethnic Georgian Gali district and its adjoining Zugdidi district of Samegrelo region at its session on December 28.
“Such a unilateral decision would go against commitments to work towards enhanced security and improved living conditions for the conflict-affected population,” reads the statement by EU foreign policy chief’s spokesperson.
“Furthermore, it would be contrary to efforts to normalize the situation by creating an atmosphere that is not conducive to longer-term conflict resolution and overall stability in the region,” it also says.
In its the statement, the European Union, “calls for the maintenance of the opening of the crossing points to ensure the freedom of movement, including humanitarian crossings.”
“Furthermore, the participants in the Geneva International Discussions should engage constructively in enhancing security and improving living conditions for the conflict-affected population,” it also states.
The European Union “continues to closely follow the situation along the Administrative Boundary Line” and “reaffirms its full support to Georgia’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders,” according to the statement.
The European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), which has unarmed monitors on the ground without being able to access the breakaway region, expressed “serious concern” about the planned closure at 42nd meeting of Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism on January 24.
The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi expressed “deep concern” over the proposed closing following Ambassador Ian Kelly’s visit to the two ABL crossings on January 26.
Similar concerns were expressed by the United Nations Georgia office as well. “The United Nations are concerned that the announced restrictions will have negative consequences for the humanitarian and development needs of those living in Abkhazia, Georgia,” UN Resident Coordinator Niels Scott’s January 26 statement said.
The issue was also raised by the U.S. Mission to the OSCE. In a statement delivered at the Permanent Council on January 19, the Deputy Chief of Mission Kate M. Byrnes said that the planned closure could “further restrict freedom of movement, including of schoolchildren and patients requiring medical treatment.”
At the same meeting, the European Union delivered a statement saying that the closure “will severely restrict the freedom of movement of the population, including school children, on both sides of the Administrative Boundary Line” and called on “corrective measures” to guarantee the freedom of movement.
Residents of Nabakevi and surrounding villages in Gali district organized a protest rally against the planned closure of two crossing points on January 25. Locals travel to nearby villages in neighboring Zugdidi district through the two crossing points for schooling, medical services and commercial activities. The alternative route, running through the main crossing point over the Enguri River, close to village Chuburkhinji, would lengthen the journey for locals by at least 30 kilometers.