Ambassador’s visit to the ABL crossings at Nabakevi-Khurcha and Otobaia-Orsantia (January 26)
The U.S. Embassy is deeply concerned by the proposed closings of controlled crossing points along the Abkhaz administrative boundary line. Today I received a briefing at EUMM’s field office and visited the crossings at Nabakevi-Khurcha and Meore Otobaia-Orsantia to personally observe the situation on the ground. Closing these crossing points would further restrict freedom of movement for local residents, hurting livelihoods as well as impacting schoolchildren and patients requiring medical treatment. We strongly encourage the de-facto Abkhaz authorities to reconsider these proposed closings and to allow for the movement and access of local citizens to necessary services.
Transcript for Ambassador’s visit to checkpoints along the Abkhaz ABL
Q-n about the purpose of the visit to the crossing point at the ABL in Khurcha and Otubaia and a possible closure of those
Ambassador Kelly: First of all thank you for coming out in the rain. I am here because I want to express my concern and the concern of the United States Embassy about this announcement by the de facto authorities on the other side of this small river here.
Q-n: about possible mechanisms to force the Abkhaz de facto authorities to revise the decision and who is the U.S. Embassy talking to about the issue
Ambassador Kelly: Let me say first of all that we do not recognize that this is even any kind of line that should be controlled. We recognize Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. There should not be any kind of checkpoints along here, there should be a free flow of people and goods because for the simple fact that this is not any kind of controllable border. Let’s be very clear about this: this is going to affect the well-being and livelihoods of thousands of people, and some of these people of course are among some of the most vulnerable among the population on the other side of this river here. We are talking about the schoolchildren who will not be able to across here, who will have to take something like a fifty kilometer bus ride roundtrip to attend school; we are talking about elderly people who want to come across here to get health care; we are talking about family members who want to attend meetings with their loved ones—weddings and funerals—and this is a deeply, deeply disappointing decision that should be reversed. Regarding the leverage that we may have: we have raised our concerns at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and I am publicly raising them here. We will raise them in Geneva at international discussions.
Q-n about the meeting with the EUMM and possible measures if the crossing points are closed
Ambassador Kelly: As a matter of fact I did meet with EUMM officials in Zugdidi. The EUMM of course performs a very important mission and service here in terms of monitoring the situation on the ground. So, I wanted to get the benefit of their views on what kind of impact this will have in terms of the volume of people who cross this line. We of course will consult very closely with the UN as well and with the EU. We just have to hope that this decision is reconsidered.
Q-n about the new administration in the U.S. and inquiry if Ambassador Kelly will be recalled
Ambassador Kelly: No. I am a career foreign service officer and all career foreign service officers—in general and not just the ambassadors—have been asked to stay in place.