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Georgia

A User's Guide To Georgia's 'Neutral' Passports

A checkpoint at Georgia's boundary with its breakaway region of Abkhazia.
A checkpoint at Georgia's boundary with its breakaway region of Abkhazia.
By Claire Bigg
Residents of Georgia's two breakaway regions will soon be allowed to visit the United States with so-called "status-neutral" documents issued by the authorities in Tbilisi.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the announcement on June 5 during a visit to the Caucasus nation, describing the move as "a strong step toward reconciliation" between Georgia and its separatist provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

What do these "neutral" documents provide for and what does their recognition by Washington mean in concrete terms for residents of the two territories?

When and why did Georgia start delivering so-called "status-neutral" documents?

These documents were introduced by the Georgian government in July 2011 to facilitate travel for people living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Although Tbilisi formally recognizes documents currently issued by the regions' self-styled authorities, crossing into Georgia proper with such documents can pose difficulties.

In terms of overseas travel, only countries that have recognized the two territories as independent -- Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and a few Pacific island nations -- accept locally issued passports.

Many residents hold Russian passports, but they are usually denied visas to Western countries.
Only a handful of countries currently recognize Georgia's "status-neutral" passports.Only a handful of countries currently recognize Georgia's "status-neutral" passports.
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Only a handful of countries currently recognize Georgia's "status-neutral" passports.
Only a handful of countries currently recognize Georgia's "status-neutral" passports.

Georgian authorities say the new "neutral" documents will help ease travel restrictions for Abkhaz and South Ossetians.

The Neutral Identification Card allows for free travel within Georgia and gives holders access to some Georgian social services, while the Neutral Travel Document is intended for trips abroad.

Prior to the United States, only a handful of countries -- including Japan, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, and Lithuania -- had recognized Georgia's "status-neutral" passport.

Why are Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and their patron, Russia, opposed to these documents?

Moscow has granted Russian citizenship to many Abkhaz and South Ossetians and views Georgia's "neutral" passports as an attempt to challenge its influence in the regions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has described the documents as a misleading "scam." It says the documents, while not specifying that their holders are Georgian citizens, are "not quite neutral" since they indicate Georgia's country code and state the documents are issued by the Georgian government.

Abkhaz leader Aleksandr Ankvab has even ordered all international organizations that encourage residents to get the Georgia-issued documents to be expelled from the territory.

Authorities in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia say they will continue to promote the recognition of locally issued passports as valid travel documents, including at an upcoming meeting in Geneva devoted to security in the Caucasus.

How do residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia apply for the "status-neutral" documents? Do they need to travel to Tbilisi?

Applicants are asked to file an electronic application form available on a Georgian government website.

A compulsory online web-camera consultation with officials in Tbilisi ensues after which, if the application is successful, the "status-neutral" documents are issued within 10 working days.

Documents are then either picked up in person in Tbilisi or forwarded to the applicants via international organizations operating in Georgia.

If Washington holds its promise, holders of "neutral" documents will soon be free to apply for visas at the U.S. consulate in Tbilisi.

RFE/RL's Georgian Service contributed to this report

* This article has been amended since it was originally posted
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jack from: US
June 06, 2012 16:33
it is not up to criminals in Washington to deny freedom to people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Rump dictatorship of Georgia only exists due to US taxpayers' money which US government generously wastes to prop up its client regimes. Sooner or later even US government will realize that corrupt and fascist regimes like Saakashvilli's clan have no future and that Abkhaz and Ossetian people will never surrender their freedom to yet another Tbilisi dictator
In Response

by: Anonymous
June 06, 2012 20:59
I'm sure that they will surrender their freedom (which they don't have anyway) to the highest bidder, just like it was done to the Russians.
In Response

by: Nick from: Us
June 07, 2012 14:58
Well said sir this moron jack just comments on everything with his pseudo patriotic views I bet he is one of the few people in abkhazia who have internet and thinks it justifies speaking for the whole region. Or alternatively he is one of the many bloggers hired by Russia to make the world a worse place.
In Response

by: David from: Los Angeles
June 11, 2012 16:12
Nick, it's pretty sad and pathetic that people like you think that by supporting the independence of these nations (which is well documented in history, and valid, a fact that Georgians love to bury) means supporting any Russian actions. That is not the case here. They were free long before Russia decided to view them as free entities in 2008. They won their freedom from Georgian brutality in the 90s, after the Georgians declared their intentions to commit mass genocide and ethnic cleansing against these peoples. It's sad that people like you use dubious sources to justify their outlandish and unrealistic claims. Please, try to read sources not commissioned by the Georgian/American governments before you write such ludicrous posts. Thank you.

by: Ben
June 06, 2012 18:16
The author+with RFE/RL talks much about the "neutrality" of Georgia`s documents in the conflict with Ossetia`s and Abkhasia`s sitizens with the Russian passports .American authorities that support Georgia in this case revolt the author.Is this strange position of RFE/RL is the realization of the Obama`s "reset policy"?

by: Anonymous
June 07, 2012 03:01
"Moscow has granted Russian citizenship to many Abkhaz and South Ossetians" What? Ship them back to Russia then.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 07, 2012 19:41
Wow, a new invention by Mischa: now that there are those "neutral documents", all those in Abkhazia and Osetia who have been fighting against Georgia in a number of wars over the last 20 years, will just forget about the past and will rush to Tbilisi to acquire the "neutral docs" with the only purpose, of course - visiting the country of Beavus and Butthead (a dream of every sane Abkhaz or Osetian :-))).

by: rick from: mian
June 09, 2012 23:15
what kind of democracy is that
who refuses to give a visa

based only on residence?

By wich principle of equality 2
people with Russian passports
but with different residence
may be treated differently?

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