NATO Concerned Over Closure Of Abkhazia Crossing Points

NATO has expressed concern over the announced closure by Russia-backed separatists in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region of two crossing points on the boundary line with Georgian-controlled territory.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement of February 28 that closing the crossing points would "have a negative impact on the situation on [the] ground and stability in the region."

Abkhazia's separatist government decided to close two out of a total of four crossing points on December 28.

Lungescu also urged Russia "to reverse its recognition of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia as independent states," saying "NATO continues to support Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders."

Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries after fighting a brief war against Georgia in 2008, and maintains thousands of troops in the regions.

On February 25, the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that the crossing points' closure "would be contrary to efforts to normalize the situation."

The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi expressed "deep concern" over the situation in January. Also in January, the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said that the planned closure could “further restrict freedom of movement' for local residents.

With reporting by