Thank you, Chair. On behalf of the United Kingdom, let me welcome the Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions (GID) to the Permanent Council and thank you for your remarks.
Georgia has been under continuous hybrid attack from Russia since the 2008 war, which saw the effective annexation of a fifth of Georgian territory. The UK reaffirms its support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. Russia’s continued military presence in Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is a violation of international law and commitments undertaken by Russia under the 12 August 2008 agreement.
In the past 12 months, the hybrid tactics against Georgia have included the October announcement of the construction of a Russian Navy base in Abkhazia. This is a flagrant breach of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. On 6 November, an innocent Georgian civilian was murdered by Russian troops as he tried to visit a church near the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) in Tskhinvali region. We condemn this incident, the first civilian death since 2018.
We reiterate our previous calls for Russia to reverse its recognition of the so-called independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and end all practices aimed at creeping annexation of these territories into the Russian Federation. We welcome initiatives by the government of Georgia to promote reconciliation among the populations separated by the ABL and urge Russia not to obstruct these valuable peace building and people-to-people contacts.
Co-chairs, on 8 September, I spoke on behalf of the 17 states who form the OSCE Group of Friends of Georgia as we marked 15 years since the invasion. Our joint statement reiterated our unwavering support for your work, a message I am very happy to amplify here. The GID is the only international forum that brings together all sides from the conflict, and so plays a vital role in trying to achieve a lasting resolution.
As stated at the 57th round of discussions, we welcome local level collaboration that achieves tangible results for those living within the conflict-affected area through the Ergneti Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism and partial reopening of the two crossing points in the South Ossetia region.
We welcomed the 58th round of discussions held on 20 July, including the discussions on the humanitarian situation, non-use of force and international security arrangement which are central elements of the GID, but regret the lack of progress made on internally displaced persons and refugees. We hope that during the 59th round, further progress can be made.
We remain grateful to the OSCE for its engagement in the GID and the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism meetings, as well as in the implementation of confidence-building measures.
Finally, let me end by reiterating our call on the Russian Federation to immediately fulfil its obligation under the ceasefire agreement to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions, to fulfil its commitments to allow unfettered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and cease all borderisation tactics.