Georgia: Annan recommends six-month extension for UN observer mission

Georgia: Annan recommends six-month extension for UN observer mission

Citing a "regrettable" lack of progress in jumpstarting negotiations between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) be extended six months, until 31 January 2003.

"I remain convinced that UNOMIG's presence is essential for creating the conditions for a political process towards a settlement of the conflict, and for moving this process forward," the Secretary-General says in his latest report to the Security Council on the situation in Abkhazia, which was released today at UN Headquarters in New York.

The Secretary-General says that concerted efforts by his Special Representative, Dieter Boden, with the full support of the Group of Friends, will continue in order to achieve a breakthrough on the key issue of starting political status negotiations between the two sides.

He also appeals to the Abkhaz side in particular to agree to a discussion on the substance of the paper on competences, and to use the opportunity to begin negotiations on a settlement that would guarantee the rights and interests of the multi-ethnic population of Abkhazia.

Turning to the Mission, Mr. Annan urges both the Georgian and the Abkhaz sides to respect their responsibility for safeguarding UNOMIG personnel at all times, "especially when hazardous conditions prevail, and to ensure that the Mission's air and road movements are not restricted."

He says that the technical investigation into the shooting down of a UN helicopter last October has reached its final stages. "I urge the sides to undertake all requisite measures to bring the perpetrators of this barbaric act to justice, as well as those responsible for the 21 September 1998 Sukhumi ambush and for previous hostage-taking incidents," the Secretary-General writes.

The Council is expected to discuss the report on Wednesday.