On March 5 Abkhazia’s government announced that they decided to close number of border points between Abkhazia and Georgia. In order to control the border line it’s necessary to tighten border lines – says the governor of Abkhazia.
This step triggered protests from Tbilisi, Washington, Brussels, and the ethnic Georgians of Abkhazia.
The move “will have a negative impact on the situation on the ground and stability in the region. It will restrict freedom of movement, affecting the livelihoods of local residents,” said NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu.
The United States State Department said it was “deeply concerned” by the closures. “Actions such as these not only impose humanitarian hardships on the local population,” it said. “The United States calls for these crossing points to be re-opened, allowing children to attend school and residents to move freely to engage in commerce, visit relatives, and obtain necessary medical services.”
The crossings that are about to be closed were used mainly by residents of Gali District in Abkhazia and Zugdidi District in Georgia, both inhabited exclusively by Georgians with many family ties in Abkhazia.
The border is currently guarded jointly by Abkhazian security forces and Russian border guards.
A 1992-1993 war between Georgia and Abkhazian separatists resulted in Abkhazia gaining de facto independence. In the following years the Gali District saw a low-intensity conflict between Abkhazian security forces and Georgian peacekeepers.
A 2008 war between Georgia and Russia resulted in Russia recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia. By recognizing de facto independence, Russia is giving the Abkhazian authorities the ability to control the flow of goods and people across what it sees as internal border.
Georgia, for its part, in the hope of convincing them to rejoin the territorial integrity, offers Abkhazians access to services like education, health care and employment.
The decision to close the border lines is largely influenced by Abkhazian politics and its’ relations towards Russia. It fits perfectly the narrative of Abkhazia’s progressive integration into Russia and isolation from Georgia since 2008.