In an interview with Sokhumi-based newspaper Abkhazia Republic, published on May 13, Abkhaz foreign minister, Daur Kove, said he was invited by two United States Senators to attend the National Prayer Breakfast on February 2, but added that his visa application was denied by the U.S. embassy.
“Not so long ago, I received an official invitation from two U.S. Senators to the National Prayer Breakfast … Having received the invitation, I filed my application documents to the American embassy, but my visa application was denied,” Kove stated, without specifying the names of the two Senators.
The National Prayer Breakfast is held every year in Washington, D.C. in early February. It is organized by the Fellowship Foundation, a Christian organization based in Virginia, on behalf of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, and is attended by a large number of American and foreign dignitaries, including the sitting U.S. President.
In the same interview, Kove spoke on NATO activities in Georgia, saying they were damaging stability in the region. “The expansion of the military presence of NATO forces [in Georgia] undermines stability in the region, as it creates military disparity and contributes to the Georgia’s illusions that the conflict with Abkhazia and South Ossetia can be resolved by force,” he said.
Kove also criticized the Georgian government’s position in the Geneva International Discussions (GID), accusing Tbilisi of having “destructive stance” on the issue of the non-use of force document.
“The Georgian side is ready to sign the non-use of force document already today, but not with Abkhazia, but with the Russian Federation. By that, the Georgian side is misconstruing the reality, trying to present the Russian Federation as a party to the conflict, and in so doing, is intentionally forming a false image in the world community on the existence of a conflict with the Russian Federation and is sidestepping the well-known fact of Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the early 1990s,” Kove explained.
Kove also dismissed Tbilisi’s offers of the visa free travel with the European Union to be used by the residents of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, calling it Tbilisi’s “yet another venturesome undertaking.” “The Georgian lure, which entails the application of the pseudo-attractive visa-free regime with the EU countries to the “occupied territories,” is doomed to fail,” Kove noted.
Daur Kove also touched upon Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s recent visit to Abkhazia, saying that the agreement on dual citizenship between Sokhumi and Moscow “was a top agenda item” at his talks with Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba.
Kove explained that the draft agreement “is currently being agreed by governmental agencies in Abkhazia” and added that the document will be sent to the region’s legislature, “once the coordination process is over.”
“The agreement opens many positive opportunities for us, and it is, first of all, necessary for us. It meets the interests of our citizens. It must be accepted and signed. There is no danger and risk for our people in it. No one is imposing it on us,” Kove stated, in an apparent attempt to accommodate the fears in the Abkhaz society that simplifying granting of citizenship to Russian citizens may pave the way for massive real estate purchases by wealthy Russians (property in Abkhazia can only be owned by Abkhaz citizens).
Kove also clarified that the draft document envisions granting citizenship through ordinary procedure (Abkhaz legislation allows for simplified procedures as well), which entails a number of requirements, including the knowledge of the Abkhaz language, knowledge of the Constitution, oath of the citizen of Abkhazia, etc.
The agreement on dual citizenship was also raised at the press-conference after the meeting of Sergey Lavrov and Raul Khajimba in Sokhumi on April 19. Lavrov said then that the document was submitted to Sokhumi authorities and expressed his hope that it would be “agreed and adopted promptly.” “This will allow us to continue the practice of granting the citizenship through simplified procedure. Let’s not forget that the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Abkhazia already possess the Russian citizenship. We just need to regulate the process through the agreement,” the Russian Foreign Minister stated.
Khajimba commented on the matter as well, saying that the draft agreement was being discussed by the Abkhaz cabinet of ministers. “We will present the document for consideration to the parliament, and, ultimately, I have no doubt that the document will be signed,” Kajimba said.
The agreement on dual citizenship, is part of the treaty on “the friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance” signed between Russia’s President Dmitri Medvedev and the Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh on September 17, 2008. According to the document, citizens of one contracting party can obtain the citizenship of another contracting party “on terms and in the manner established by the legislation of the contracting party whose citizenship is obtained.”
Russia also commited to “undertake additional measures” to ease procedures required for obtaining Russian citizenship for the “citizens of Abkhazia,” in the treaty on “alliance and strategic partnership” signed between Sokhumi and Moscow on November 24, 2014.