The U.S. Senate unanimously passed on July 29 a resolution supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity and recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as regions “occupied by the Russian Federation”.
The resolution, S. RES. 175, was sponsored by Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. The both Senators are co-chair of Georgia Task Force at the U.S. think-tank Atlantic Council - a bipartisan group aimed at promoting policy debate on Georgia.
“Today, the Senate spoke with one voice in support of Georgia’s territorial integrity,” Senator Shaheen said on July 29. “While I am pleased by the Senate’s action and the clear message we are sending to Georgia and the Russian Federation, the situation there remains fragile and unresolved, as Russian troops are still occupying Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.”
Georgia’s ambassador to the United States, Temur Yakobashvili, praised the resolution.
“This document is a very solid and firm foundation for de-occupation of the Georgian territories,” Yakobashvili said.
The approved resolution is slightly amended from its initial draft, which was first referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in December, 2010; but in essence the document remains the same, calling on Russia to withdraw troops to pre-August, 2008 war positions.
In one of the amendments the final text changes term “de facto” in reference to the authorities in breakaway regions with “the authorities in control in the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia” – a wording used by the Georgian government in its State Strategy on Occupied Territories.
Among other amendments introduced in the final text are references to some of the new developments, which have taken place since December, such as remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the April 15, 2011 meeting in Berlin between the Foreign Ministers of NATO and Georgia in which she said that she shared Georgia’s concerns regarding “recent Russian activities that can negatively affect regional stability.” The draft also makes a reference to the Russian Foreign Minister’s visits to Sokhumi and Tskhinvali in April.
The resolution affirms that it is “the policy of the United States to support the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Georgia and the inviolability of its borders, and to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as regions of Georgia occupied by the Russian Federation.”
It calls on Moscow, Tskhinvali and Sokhumi to allow for the full and dignified return of internally displaced persons and international missions to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The resolution also says that the Senate “supports peaceful, constructive engagement and confidence-building measures between the Government of Georgia and the authorities in control in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and encourages additional people-to-people contacts.”
“[The Senate] affirms that finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict is a key priority for the United States in the Caucasus region and that lasting regional stability can only be achieved through peaceful means and long-term diplomatic and political dialogue between all parties,” the resolution says.
The Georgian authorities have been actively lobbying for this type of resolution, that would refer to Abkhazia and South Ossetia as occupied regions, in Washington and other western capitals, describing the effort as part of “de-occupation policy”.
Georgian parliamentary committee for foreign relations sent in April, 2010 a request to lawmakers from 31 countries to “declare the two Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as being territories under Russian occupation and recognise the ethnic cleansing committed by Russia” in those territories.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Philip H. Gordon, said in March, 2011, that use of term "occupied" by Washington in reference to Abkhazia and South Ossetia was not meant to be a "provocation," but simply description of situation on the ground.
"We don’t know what else to call it," he said while speaking at the Global Security 2011 Forum in Bratislava on March 3.