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Georgia: Security Council extends mandate of UN force, urges sides to talk

Georgia: Security Council extends mandate of UN force, urges sides to talk

The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) through 31 July, while urging the parties to the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, to engage in talks on a new negotiating document.

That decision came through the unanimous adoption of a resolution which termed the document, titled "Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi," along with its letter of transmittal, "positive elements for launching the peace process between the sides."

The parties, particularly the Abkhaz side, were strongly urged to give “full and open consideration” to the document and letter, and to engage in constructive negotiations on their substance without delay. Those texts aim to facilitate UN-led negotiations between the parties on the status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia, and not “to impose or dictate any specific solution to the parties.”

Recalling that the process of negotiation leading to a lasting political settlement would require concessions from both sides, the Council called on the parties to "spare no efforts to overcome their ongoing mutual mistrust."

The Council also called for the "full and expeditious" implementation of a protocol signed by the two sides on 17 January regarding the situation in the Kodori Valley. This call was directed in particular at the Georgian side, while the Council also specifically urged the Abkhaz side to honour its undertaking not to take advantage of the withdrawal of Georgian troops. Recognizing the legitimate security concerns of the civilian population, the Council called on the political leaders in Tbilisi and Sukhumi to observe security agreements, and to dissociate themselves from militant rhetoric and demonstrations of support for military options or illegal armed groups.

In addition, the Council called on the parties to bring to justice those responsible for the shooting down of a UNOMIG helicopter last year. It also expressed concern at the “disturbing tendency” by the parties to restrict the freedom of movement of UNOMIG. The Georgian side in particular was reminded to uphold its commitment to put an end to the activities of illegal armed groups crossing into Abkhazia, Georgia, from the Georgian-controlled side of the ceasefire line.

Describing the continuing existence of refugees and internally displaced persons as a source of “deep dismay,” the Council reaffirmed the unacceptability of the demographic changes resulting from the conflict, and reconfirmed the inalienable right of all to return to their homes in secure and dignified conditions.