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NATO Calls on Russia to Recognize Georgian Borders

FILE - A former railway bridge spans the Enguri River, the natural border between Georgia and occupied Abkhazia.
FILE - A former railway bridge spans the Enguri River, the natural border between Georgia and occupied Abkhazia.

A top NATO official on Tuesday called on authorities in Georgia's Russian-occupied region of Abkhazia to rethink plans to close two crossing points into Tbilisi-controlled territory.

"Closure of two crossing points along the administrative boundary line of the Abkhazia region of Georgia ... which are used daily by hundreds of citizens, will have a negative impact on the situation on the ground and stability in the region," NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said.

Adding that the move will restrict freedom of movement and impact the livelihoods of local residents, Lungescu also called on Russia to acknowledge the former Soviet republic's internationally recognized borders by reversing "its recognition of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia as independent states."

Pro-Russian Abkhaz authorities announced plans in December to close two of four crossing points between Abkhazia's predominantly ethnic Georgian Gali district and its adjoining Zugdidi district to the south.

VOA's Georgian Service has reported that the proposed closures, if implemented, would restrict ethnic Georgian youth and elderly citizens from accessing public schools and medical facilities. One conflict resolution expert told VOA the proposed closures would lengthen those commutes by up to 30 kilometers, and that the move may be aimed to hasten the departure of ethnic-Georgians still residing in Abkhazia.

"Such a unilateral decision would go against commitments to work toward enhanced security and improved living conditions for the conflict-affected population," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Saturday. "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."

In January, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi conveyed "deep concern" over the proposed closure after Ambassador Ian Kelly made a visit to the crossing points.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Georgian Service.

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