Saakashvili Praises Belarus Abkhaz, S.Ossetia Stance

President Saakashvili welcomed the Belarus Foreign Ministry's warning to its citizens to enter into Abkhazia and South Ossetia only via Georgia, describing it as "a very brave decision of the Belarus President" Alexander Lukashenko.

"The situation has completely changed in the post-Soviet space," he said at a meeting with the lawmakers from the ruing party on July 24. "I want to welcome a very brave decision of Belarus about prohibiting its citizens to violate Georgian laws and warning them about criminal liabilities in case of illegal entry into breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia."

"I think time has come when the international community should carry out accelerated reintegration of Belarus," Saakashvili added.

Deputy Head of the Belarus Foreign Ministry's consulate service said on July 22 that "any entry into Abkhazia and South Ossetia without a special permission of the Georgian authorities is prohibited and punished under the Criminal Code of Georgia. We insistently recommend our citizens to take into consideration these provisions of Georgian legislation while planning their trips to Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

Georgia's law on occupied territories permits foreign citizens to enter into the two breakaway regions only via Georgian territory and considers entry there via Russia as illegal, in case there is no special permit issued by the Georgian authorities.

On July 23, the same official from the Belarus Foreign Ministry's consulate service tried to downplay that warning by saying that the media showed "clearly excessive interest" towards the matter. He said that the Foreign Ministry deemed it necessary to make such explanation following two cases of arrest of Belarus citizens in Georgia recently over illegal entry into Abkhazia and South Ossetia.



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