SUKHUM -- Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia Irakli Khintba considers the U.S. decision to recognize the so-called neutral Georgian passports wrong. He said so today at a news conference in Sukhum.
At a joint press conference with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on 6 June, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. Embassy will in the near future start accepting neutral documents for residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia who wish to visit the United States.
"I would not want to whip up passions over Clinton's words, as only a small segment of her address was devoted to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but I think the decision to recognize the so-called neutral passports was a terrible mistake,” said Khintba. “This is another strategic miscalculation by the Obama administration after they agreed to use the term ‘occupied territory’ in relation to Abkhazia and South Ossetia."
In Khintba’s words, that decision has no relation to the reconciliation and conflict resolution which Hillary Clinton spoke about. "It will only spur Georgia to new dubious actions," the Deputy Foreign Minister said.
Irakli Khintba said the Foreign Ministry has a sample neutral passport. "This is a Georgian document issued by the Georgian authorities and, most important, it is part of the Georgian strategy with regard to the occupied territories. The code of the issuing country is clearly indicated – GEO (Georgia). If the passport holder gets into trouble somewhere abroad, the diplomatic mission which will provide consular protection will be Georgian. He will have to contact a Georgian diplomatic mission,” Khintba said.
In fact, he said, what is happening is an attempt by every possible means, "by hook or by crook," to force citizens of Abkhazia and South Ossetian to acquire Georgian passports. "We trust our citizens and we hope they understand how dangerous the Georgian authorities’ proposal in connection with the neutral passports is. We are convinced that our citizens, who survived a bloody war and a tough blockade and created an independent state, will never accept these documents, " Khintba said. He appealed all the same to Abkhaz citizens to be on their guard.
“They want to lure you into the trap the Georgian authorities have consistently been trying to set for several years. Tbilisi’s objective is to make us again part of Georgia,” Khintba warned the citizens of Abkhazia.
Khintba explained that under Georgian legislation, status-neutral passports are issued only to persons who are not citizens of another country. That means that those citizens of Abkhazia who by an error of judgment decide to apply for such passports are rejecting their Abkhaz citizenship and their country. "That is a very important political act that Tbilisi authorities are trying to impose on us. This means rejecting one’s national identity and the statehood that was won at the cost of bloodshed. That is how dangerous the situation is,” Khintba stressed.
“Georgian representatives keep telling us that the purpose of the neutral passports is to end the isolation of the population of Abkhazia, to provide the Abkhaz with the opportunity to travel the world, and to protect their rights. That is a cynical lie,” Khintba said. “If the Tbilisi authorities are so concerned about our rights, then why have they tried all these years to suffocate us with an international blockade? Why do they try to curtail all our foreign contacts? Why do they keep trying to isolate us, why do they block economic projects which foreign partners propose to us? Why, when someone wants to cooperate with the Abkhaz authorities, does Tbilisi have a fit of hysterics? Why pass a law on occupied territories, which is unlawful, and very far from the European values, and according to which entering the territory of Abkhazia through the Psou checkpoint is a punishable crime? What kind of protection of citizens’ rights can the Georgian government talk about after all that?"
Irakli Khintba is convinced that "they want to force Abkhazia to accept the Georgian neutral passports after ensuring that citizens of Abkhazia cannot travel freely with any other document except such a passport.” “The Georgian authorities are doing everything to ensure that not a single country in the world will issue visas in our passports. That is why they are trying to force us to abandon our identity. But they will not succeed, I have faith in our people," Khintba said.
The Deputy Foreign Minister said that he was “somewhat disappointed,” but not surprised by Hillary Clinton’s statement. He was not surprised because the Abkhaz have become accustomed to unfriendly moves by the US administration. What disappointed him was that the Americans had the opportunity to find out what people in Abkhazia really think. American politicians and scholars and a whole delegation from the vast organization USAID, which is financed by the US government, have visited Abkhazia on several occasions. Khintba is certain that the information they obtained on the spot is at odds with Clinton’s statement.
"It surprises me that the Americans do not realize that the Georgian gambit with neutral passports is doomed to failure, and that it would be better to spend funds for other purposes rather than allocate money to continue this adventure,” Khintba said. “We also see that the goal of the Obama administration is not to protect the rights of citizens of Abkhazia, but various geopolitical calculations, and indulging the whims of their puppets in Tbilisi."