Republic of South Ossetia is located оn the southern slopes of the Main Caucasus Range in the area of 3900 square meters. Тhe capital is the city of Tskhinval.
One-tenth of the surface occupied by the Republic of the foothills.
The rest of the territory - the mountainous terrain height from 850 to 3938 meters above sea level.
The highest point - Mount Halatsa (3938 m).

Appeal by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Ossetia to the Member States of the United Nations, the Participating States of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Member

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Every year since 2009 Georgia submits a draft resolution on refugees and displaced persons from Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the UN General Assembly. The text of the resolution that is being imposed on the international community is silent on the fact that the emergence of such refugees and displaced persons is directly linked to Georgia's wars against South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It also fails to mention that, as a result of ethnic cleansing in Georgia, over a hundred thousand Ossetians became refugees, while the Georgian authorities have done absolutely nothing in all these years to resolve their problems.

The refugee issue has been pressing for South Ossetia over a number of generations for the last hundred years, since June 1920 when Georgian forces perpetrated a massacre and put fire to our entire country for the refusal to accept the rule of Georgia which, breaking away from Russia, had decided to take along the Ossetian territory as well. Several thousand Ossetians fell victim to genocide at the time. Almost all the survivors from among the Ossetian population of South Ossetia were then forced to flee to the Russian territory through the mountain passes of the Greater Caucasus Range. For several months, the resettlement commission established by the Government of Georgia was fully occupied with complete ethnic cleansing of the Ossetians in the territory of South Ossetia, resettlement of Georgian farmers to the Ossetian territory and distribution among them of movable and immovable property confiscated from the Ossetians .

Ossetian refugees were able to come back only a year after, in 1921, when the Red Army entered Georgia. After that, the Bolsheviks carved up Ossetia by including its southern part in the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR), while its northern part remained within the RSFSR. While South Ossetia was granted autonomy status within the Georgian SSR, such status could not offer sufficient protection to national rights of the Ossetians who were subject to discrimination and brutal repression by the nationalist authorities of Soviet Georgia. In the second half of the 1940s, about 10 % of the Ossetian population of the autonomous region were forcibly displaced to Northern Ossetia and actually became forcibly displaced persons.

In the late 1980s, Georgia saw a rise of extreme nationalism that put forward "Georgia for Georgians" as one of its policy slogans. Nationalists publicly urged to clear the country of the Ossetians and other non-Georgians, abolish autonomous statuses, ban non-Georgians from having more than two children, prohibit the use of any language other than Georgian in record keeping and education. South Ossetia’s attempts to obtain legal guarantees of its autonomous status were expressly rejected, and an autonomy revocation campaign was launched.

Shortly afterwards, Georgian nationalists shifted from political declarations to a forceful solution of the issue. Escalation of armed violence against the Ossetians not only in the territory of South Ossetia, but also in Georgia itself, triggered the influx of refugees who had been forced to flee from Georgian militants. Thus, the Ossetian population of the Borjomi region of Georgia was forced to flee to the territory of Armenia through mountain passes seeking refuge. Hundreds of the Ossetians went missing in the territory of Georgia.

Oppression of the Ossetians also started in rural areas with mixed population in the territory of South Ossetia itself. Their Georgian neighbors, encouraged by propaganda and armed support from Tbilisi, forced the Ossetians to leave their homes which were looted, burnt down or confiscated by Georgians, just as it was in 1920. The Ossetian villages were raided by Georgian militants who committed massacres of the Ossetians and burnt down their houses. Unfortunately, the international community did not pay due attention to these events, and the said crimes were not broadly condemned. In 1991 1992, the number of Ossetian refugees who fled Georgia and Ossetian settlements in South Ossetia and found asylum in North Ossetia and other parts of the Russian Federation, as they had done in 1920, exceeded 100,000 people.

Ethnic cleansings and acts of genocide committed by Georgia against the Ossetians entailed unrest in North Ossetia. In May June 1992, the Russian Federation, unable to remain uninvolved any longer, used all political means available to force Georgia to cease violence. The Agreement on Principles of Settlement of the Georgian Ossetian Conflict signed in Sochi on 24 June 1992 provided for a cease-fire, the creation of joint forces (Georgia, Russia, South Ossetia) on coordination of activities aimed at the establishment of peace and the start of negotiations on the return of refugees. However, since then, the number of the Ossetians who managed to return to Georgia and retrieve their property has not reached thousands or even hundreds. The Georgian courts exploited all loopholes possible to deny the Ossetians their right to recover the property that had been taken from them.

Nevertheless, the Georgian authorities acknowledged the Ossetian refugee issue. It has been repeatedly asserted by the Georgian ex President Eduard Shevardnadze. Measures to address the refugee issue were taken in the course of the negotiations on the Georgian-Ossetian settlement. The Statement following the meeting between the President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze and the President of the Republic of South Ossetia Lyudvig Chibirov of 14 November 1997 read: "The Parties are pleased to note the visible progress that has been achieved this year in the return of refugees. The Georgian side confirms its readiness to facilitate the return of the Ossetian families that were once forced to leave the regions of Georgia outside the conflict area being the target of unlawful actions. It has been found reasonable to declare 1998 the year of the return of refugees and forcibly displaced persons to their previous place of residence under the aegis of the Mixed Control Commission".

In 1997, in accordance with the Agreement of 24 June 1992 an ad hoc Committee for Facilitation of Voluntary Return of Refugees and the Forcibly Displaced Persons was established within the Mixed Control Commission (MCC) and the procedure "On the voluntary return of refugees and IDPs resulting from the Georgian-Ossetian conflict to their permanent place of residence" was adopted. Prior to 2004, through its work and with the support of the UNHCR several hundreds of Georgian families returned to South Ossetia (mostly to Znaur district) whereas only a few dozens of Ossetian families returned to Georgia. Only 4 of them managed to settle while others had to return to North or South Ossetia since not even basic living conditions had been created for them in Georgia and they were still not safe there. The lack of security guarantees and of the right to recover the seized property, as well as the absence of employment opportunities and impossibility to receive education in native or Russian language remain the main reasons why the Ossetians are not returning to Georgia.

Under pressure from the international community, the Georgian authorities had been talking for several years about drafting a Law on Property Restitution and Compensation on the Territory of Georgia for the Victims of Conflict in the Former South Ossetia District. The Law was adopted in 2006, but not a single Ossetian family has been able to receive any compensation or have their property restituted.

For all these years, Ossetian refugees and forcibly displaced persons have been receiving help only from the authorities of the Russian Federation, North Ossetia (a constituent entity of the Russian Federation), which has taken most of the refugees, and the Republic of South Ossetia, as well as from the UNHCR (in a limited way). This help allowed a major part of the refugees to adapt to new places of settlement, but they have not received any compensation from Georgia for the material and moral damage inflicted. In the meantime, the issue of Ossetian refugees from Georgia remains of relevance.

In 2007-2008, Georgian special services organized a long series of brutal terrorist attacks and assassinations of the Ossetians in order to provoke retaliation. Failing to achieve those objectives, Georgian troops launched a military aggression against South Ossetia during the night of 8 August , leading to a renewed flow of refugees to North Ossetia. According to the North Ossetian authorities, over 35,000 Ossetian refugees, mainly old people and women with children, crossed the border during the August war.

Several days after the invasion to South Ossetia had begun, the aggressor was stopped and coerced into peace by the Russian troops. Ossetian refugees then started to come back and by now an overwhelming majority of those displaced by the war of 2008 has already returned. Several thousands of Georgian-speaking people from a part of the Leningorsky region of the Republic liberated from the Georgian occupation, which lasted from 1992 to August 2008, have also returned to South Ossetia (it is important to note that the total population of the Republic is only 53,500 people). Only a part of ethnic Georgians, relocated by the Georgian authorities from the zone of potential military actions before the invasion of Georgian troops, and local residents, who participated in the aggression against South Ossetia and then fled to Georgia, are still in a situation of displacement.

Initially, the issue of refugees was supposed to be discussed in the international format of Geneva talks conducted since October 2008 in accordance with the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement. In 2008-2009, there were several productive meetings in this format, during which the sides started to discuss approaches to the issue. In 2009, South Ossetia had unilaterally announced an initiative regarding the return of refugees to the Leningorsky region, but the initiative was criticized by the Georgian side and rejected.

Instead of undertaking consistent efforts to address the complex and multi-dimensional issue of refugees, the Georgian side decided to politicize this problem by submitting to the UN General Assembly a draft resolution on refugees and displaced persons from Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2009 and in every year since. In trying to impose on the international community this heavily politicized resolution, the Georgian authorities are exploiting the humanitarian matters and are seeking to achieve their political objective (to declare a non-existent “territorial integrity” of Georgia within the borders of the former Georgian SSR) rather than to solve a humanitarian issue.

While politicizing the issue of refugees and stressing the need to ensure humanitarian access, the Georgian authorities are effectively blocking such access and preventing the representatives of international organizations from contacting the refugees from Georgia that are currently in the territory of South Ossetia.

Thus, in October 2015, an agreement was reached between the UNHCR and the authorities of South Ossetia on the UNHCR representatives visiting South Ossetia to assess the situation of refugees living in collective centers in South Ossetia, with a view to the possible delivery of humanitarian aid in the future, however, the UNHCR representatives had to cancel their visit at the last minute owing to Georgia’s intervention.

South Ossetia advocates depoliticization of the important humanitarian problem of refugees. The country's legislation does not permit any form of discrimination against citizens due to their ethnic or religious identity. People living in the Republic have equal access to government services, regardless of ethnicity. South Ossetia has schools where students who consider themselves to be a part of Georgian-speaking minority can receive primary and secondary education in Georgian. All citizens have the right to return to the country, regardless of ethnicity. At the same time, the actual realization of this right will be heavily influenced by Georgia’s approach to the issue of ethnic Ossetians who fell victim to ethnic cleansing carried out by Georgia.

South Ossetia stands for consistent and gradual solution to this issue in accordance with international law while taking into account the regional realities. In order to make balanced decisions, including on the issue of refugees, that may have a real effect, we need to discuss these issues in a format that represents Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Geneva platform for discussions on security and stability in South Caucasus is the only appropriate format for now, however, politicization by Georgia of the issue of refugees and IDPs in the UN General Assembly undermines substantive work on this issue carried out in Geneva. If Georgia prefers to discuss refugee-related issues within such an influential international body as the UN General Assembly, South Ossetia insists on giving its representatives an opportunity to present their position to the UN Member States.

Unfortunately, the South Ossetian side is deprived of the opportunity to contact the main UN committees and delegations of the UN member countries as the US State Department, taking advantage of the fact that the country hosts the United Nations Headquarters, has been denying entry into the US to official representatives of the Republic of South Ossetia.

We call upon the United Nations Member States to pay attention to this discriminatory practice, which contradicts the existing international standards, and to take the necessary steps to allow Ossetian representatives to enter the territory of the United States as well as the New York headquarters of the UN in order to represent the position of the Republic of South Ossetia on the issue of refugees on the eve of a vote to be held in the General Assembly on the issue of refugees from South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

April 2016