Visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the United States will recognize "status-neutral" documents
issued by Georgia's government, which would allow residents of its separatist Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions to travel to the West.
Clinton was speaking after a meeting with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia's Black Sea port of Batumi on June 6.
Clinton said she and Saakashvili "discussed ways Georgia can reach out to the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions," including providing travel documents and identification cards.
She called the measure "a strong step toward reconciliation" between Georgia and the two territories.
"Soon, U.S. Embassies and consulates around the world will accept the status-neutral travel document for any resident from these regions who chooses to use them for travel or study in the United States," Clinton said. "This would be a strong step toward reconciliation that supports a peaceful and just resolution of the conflict."
Russia recognized the independence of Abkazia and South Ossetia after fighting a brief war with Georgia in August 2008.
Since the war, residents of the two territories have had to use passports issued by either Russia or the separatist authorities.
However, those passports are not recognized by most countries, which continue to view Abkhazia and South Ossetia as parts of Georgia.
Separatist officials have immediately criticized Clinton's announcement about the status-neutral documents.
The separatist Abkhaz foreign minister, Vyacheslav Chirikba, called the documents' introduction "unacceptable."
Chirikba said on June 6 that his delegation at a two-day meeting in Geneva on security in the Caucasus will “fight for the recognition of Abkhaz passports or Russian passports used by Abkhaz citizens.
The head of the South Ossetian delegation, Boris Chochiev, also said he would protest against the status-neutral documents and the term “occupied territories” that Clinton used to describe Abkhazia and South Ossetia because of the presence of Russian troops there.
Based on reporting by Interfax, RFE/RL, and RYuO-Novosti