Aslan Bzhaniya: "The economic losses of Abkhazia due to the pandemic are very significant"

Thursday, 13 August 2020 12:32 958

Since there is no need to talk about a new outbreak of coronavirus there will be no re-closure of the borders of Abkhazia for tourists. President of the republic Aslan Bzhaniya stated this in an interview with Izvestia. He also spoke about the country's losses without Russian guests, direct negotiations with the Georgian authorities and possibility of opening international flights at Sukhum airport. 

- Aslan Georgievich, you managed to reach an agreement on the resumption of traffic between Russia and Abkhazia during your trip to Moscow: did the republic's economy suffer during the crisis without russian tourists and how much? 

- I consider it important to note that mutual understanding, flexibility and maximum consideration of mutual interests  have always distinguished bilateral relations between Abkhazia and Russia. And it cannot be otherwise. After all, our states and peoples are connected not only by the history of good relations, but also by the current agreement on strategic partnership. Yes, indeed, following the results of our last working trip, we made a decision to open the Russian-Abkhaz border on August 1. And for more than 10 days Abkhazia has been actively receiving Russian tourists. During this time, the number of guests arriving in our republic exceeded 100 thousand people. On the one hand, this is pleasant. On the other hand, in the context of persisting risks and threats associated primarily with coronavirus infection, it imposes on us additional responsibility for the safety and health of citizens - both ours and the Russian Federation. 

The economic losses of Abkhazia due to the pandemic and known restrictions are very significant. The situation was significantly aggravated by the disruption of the tourist season. It is well known that one of the key sectors of the national economy of Abkhazia is tourism, which forms more than 35% of the GDP of our country and 10 thousand jobs. 

But we do not give up. Despite the complexity and severity of the situation, we maintain a working and business spirit. We are acting on the basis of prevailing realities. Counting on the support of friendly Russia, we understand that the success of the way out of the crisis depends primarily on ourselves, on the quality and efficiency of management in extreme situations. 

- In Abkhazia, they immediately started talking about a new outbreak of coronavirus due to the influx of tourists. Can the republic close down again? 

- To put it mildly, it’s redundant to talk about the outbreak. The first days after the opening of the border were characterized by an increase of infection cases. But this has nothing to do with Russian tourists, but happened due to the neglect of sanitary standards in one of the hospitals in Sukhum. The prompt actions of the specialists made it possible to stop the threat of the further spread of the virus and to protect citizens - both residents of Abkhazia and guests arriving to us on vacation. 

The number of coronavirus patients in Abkhazia in total is 134 people. Of these, 38 recovered and three patients died. Currently, 42 patients are inpatient at the covid center in Gudauta. 

A group of doctors from Moscow, representing the Sechenov Medical University came to us on August 9. There are resuscitators, therapists, infectious disease specialists among them. They will visit the covid center in Gudauta, study and analyze the situation, and formulate recommendations. If necessary, taking into account the increasing flow of people arriving in the republic, they will help Abkhaz colleagues to resist such a dangerous virus. By agreement with the Russian Federation, both tourists and citizens of Abkhazia with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 will be sent for treatment to specialized medical institutions in the Krasnodar Territory. 

There is no issue of the state border re-closure. 

- Are there any positive changes in relations with Georgia? And are you ready for direct negotiations with the authorities of the neighbouring country?

- To date, there is no need to talk about positive changes. The key issue in relations between Abkhazia and Georgia is the signing of an agreement on the non-use of force. However, Tbilisi refuses to sign such a legal document. 

We proceed from the premise that if the Georgian leadership is really interested in peace, then it must show maximum responsibility. By actions, not by means of non-binding declarations of good intentions to convince Abkhazia and its people that the use of force in resolving political contradictions is finally and irrevocably excluded from the state practice of our neighbouring state. Only then can we talk about the gradual restoration of trust and constructive interstate interaction. It is important for Georgia to recognize the realities that have developed over the past decades, the key of which is that Abkhazia is an independent state with all the ensuing legal, political and other consequences. There can be no discrepancies. But at the same time, everyone needs peace. The peoples of Abkhazia and Georgia are interested in it. Our further dialogue, interaction and prospects for normalizing relations depends on such principles. 

- Are you negotiating with ICAO on assigning the necessary special code to Sukhum airport for accepting international flights? Could this happen anytime soon? 

- The topic of resuming the work of Sukhum airport, which practically does not function after the end of the War of Abkhazia of 1992-1993, is one of the priority state tasks and is constantly being worked out. 

In 2006, the International Civil Aviation Organization ICAO canceled the Sukhum airport code and removed information about it from its documents. 

All these years, the leadership of Abkhazia has been looking for a way out of difficult situation. Recently, the Sindika Group of Companies has actively shown its interest in cooperation. But the significant cost of the project against the background of an increasingly aggravating crisis has led to the loss of its relevance for our potential business partner. At the current stage, there are no proposals to continue activities in this direction. But the Republic of Abkhazia will consistently and persistently seek solutions and seek opportunities to implement a project to restore the airport and launch air traffic. 

The issue is complicated and multifaceted. Lack of resolution carries significant economic losses, hinders the development of Abkhazia and negatively affects the image of our state. Sukhum airport has a number of characteristics that predetermine very interesting prospects for its use as an active air harbor, which can and should work for the benefit of the republic and our strategic partner - the Russian Federation. We really need support, including at the ICAO level. Sooner or later, together we will come to success. I believe in it.

Last modified on Tuesday, 18 August 2020 13:13
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