Ambassador Baer response to Georgian Foreign Minister Janelidze at OSCE meeting (June 2)

Foreign Minister Janelidze, the United States warmly welcomes you to the OSCE Permanent Council and thanks you for your statement today which provided a wide-ranging analysis and a forceful reminder of the importance of our OSCE commitments in all three dimensions.

We would like to congratulate the citizens of Georgia as you celebrate 25 years of independence. On May 26, the United States and Georgia marked a quarter century of friendship and strategic partnership, and we look forward to deepening this partnership with a secure and independent Georgia in the years to come.

We commend Georgia’s significant contributions to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. We honor the sacrifices that Georgians have made – soldiers, families, loved ones – and express our deep appreciation for their role in making the world a safer place.

The United States sees Georgia as a leading example of democratic progress in the region. We welcome OSCE observation of Georgia’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for October 8, and urge Georgia’s authorities to ensure a level, non-violent playing field and an independent judiciary, and we thank you for your remarks in this regard today.

Mr. Foreign Minister, the ongoing occupation by Russian military forces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, constituting 20 percent of Georgian territory, remains unacceptable.

Russian security services, in coordination with the de facto authorities, are committed to a policy of “borderization” along the Administrative Boundary Lines (ABL), restricting individuals’ freedom of movement, and preventing international and humanitarian organizations from fully assisting those affected by the ongoing conflict. Russia’s OSCE commitments include the principles of respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty, the inviolability of frontiers, and the territorial integrity of States. We continue to call on Russia to fulfill its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of all its forces to pre-conflict positions and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance. Decisions on Georgia’s future should be made by the citizens of Georgia and no one else.

The United States condemns the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in the village of Khurcha, close to the Nabakevi Crossing Point on the ABL. We extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to the family of Giorgi Otkhozoria. We also urge that those responsible for this tragedy be held accountable under the law. This shooting demonstrated the need for the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM), as well as for international security arrangements on both sides of the ABL. In this context, we were heartened that IPRM discussions occurred on May 27 and addressed the Khurcha shooting, and that participants agreed to investigate this incident further and to share information through the EU Monitoring Mission Hotline and other related instruments.

We look forward to the upcoming OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 25thAnnual Session, to be held in Tbilisi on July 1-5. This is an opportune moment for Georgia to demonstrate its achievements to hundreds of parliamentarians from across the OSCE region.

The United States would like to reiterate the need for the return of a meaningful OSCE presence to Georgia. We unequivocally support Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, as well as its aspirations to integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.