With the peace process between the parties to the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, in jeopardy, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) be extended for a further period of six months, through next January.
Mr. Annan makes this recommendation in a new report to the Security Council, which set up UNOMIG in 1993 to verify compliance with the ceasefire agreement between the Government of Georgia and the Abkhaz authorities in the country. The mission, he says, continues to play a crucial role in stabilizing the zone of conflict. "Its efforts to advance the negotiation process constitute a central element in the search for a peaceful settlement," he notes.
The peace process remains fragile, however, as evidenced by the fact that meaningful negotiations on the future political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia have not yet begun. "Clearly, in the absence of such negotiations, the entire peace process remains in jeopardy," the Secretary-General warns. He appeals to interested States - known collectively as the "group of Friends" - to submit a framework document on the distribution of competencies between Tbilisi and Sukhumi to the two sides as soon as possible.
Referring to two recent incidents in which six people were killed and two taken hostage, Mr. Annan says both sides should work together to clarify the clashes, release the remaining hostages and bring the perpetrators to justice. In addition, he reiterates his call on both sides to live up to their commitment to facilitate a safe, secure and dignified return of all refugees and internally displaced persons to their previous residences.
The Secretary-General also voices deep concern regarding the security of UNOMIG personnel. "It is the responsibility of both sides to provide appropriate security conditions for the work of the Mission at all times," he stresses.
The Security Council is scheduled to consider the report in closed consultations on Wednesday.