Abkhazia, Georgia: Annan reports ‘significant step forward’ in political process

Abkhazia, Georgia: Annan reports ‘significant step forward’ in political process

The political process in dealing with the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, took a significant step forward last month, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a new report, which also recommends a six-month extension for the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG).

The progress was achieved when, after two years of discussion, his Special Representative, Dieter Boden, was able to finalize a paper on the basic principles for the distribution of competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi, the Secretary-General says in his latest report to the Security Council on the situation in Abkhazia.

While the paper now enjoys the support of all the countries with an interest in the situation, known as the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General, there are continuing objections, particularly on the Abkhaz side.

"It is worth emphasizing, therefore, that the paper is simply a means to open the door to substantive negotiations, in which the parties themselves will work out a settlement," Mr. Annan writes, urging both sides "to seize the moment to advance along the road to a peaceful solution to the conflict."

As for UNOMIG's activities, the Secretary-General reports relative calm returning to the Mission's area of operations, but also notes that tensions remain high with the continuing presence of Georgian troops in the upper Kodori Valley and the uncertainty over the mandate of the peacekeeping force from the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Given that UNOMIG continues to play an important role in the stabilization of the zone of conflict and in the search for a political settlement, Mr. Annan recommends that the Security Council extend the Mission's mandate, set to expire at the end of this month, for an additional six months until 31 July. The Council is expected to hold consultations on the issue on Friday.