Abkhazia, Georgia: Annan sees no progress in ending conflict, urges sides to talk

Abkhazia, Georgia: Annan sees no progress in ending conflict, urges sides to talk

The conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, shows no signs of abating, according to a new report by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who urges the two sides to begin negotiations on the future status of the area.

The conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, shows no signs of abating, according to a new report by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who urges the two sides to begin negotiations on the future status of the area.

“The situation in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone has, unfortunately, not improved,” Mr. Annan writes in his latest report to the Security Council. “In the absence of a substantive negotiation process on the core issue of the conflict – the status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia – upsurges of tension, including exchanges of gunfire, continued to occur with alarming frequency, while the population suffered from crime, partisan violence and the lack of economic development.”

In response, Mr. Annan calls on the Abkhaz side to reconsider its refusal to discuss a paper on “Basic Principles of the Distribution of Competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi” and its transmittal letter. Those documents, he adds, are “only the starting point for negotiations in which the legitimate interests of the multi-ethnic population of Abkhazia can be addressed.”

The Secretary-General also calls on the Georgian side to make more efforts to promote trust on the Abkhaz side. He adds that his Special Representative, Heidi Tagliavini, will continue her efforts, with the support of interested countries, to encourage advancement in the political process, but stresses that “the basic responsibility lies with the parties.”

Reporting on the activities of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), the Secretary-General says it will continue working to defuse tensions emanating from the Kodori Valley, which has been a source of friction for more than a year. The Mission will also continue its efforts to bring the sides together to address the underlying problems. “However,” he cautions, “again it is up to the parties, who exercise control in this area, to do their part to prevent destabilization and create the security conditions in which UNOMIG can function.”

The report deplores the lack of progress on the plight of refugees because of the lack of safe, secure and dignified conditions for their return required under international law and an agreement signed by the parties in Moscow in 1994.

Looking back on the shooting down of a United Nations helicopter in October 2001, Mr. Annan calls for “every effort” to be made to bring the perpetrators to trial, as well as those responsible for taking UNOMIG personnel hostage in several incidents between 1998 and 2000.

Comprised of 108 troops from nearly two dozen countries, UNOMIG’s tasks include monitoring both sides of the cease-fire, patrolling the Kodori Valley, and observing the operation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force within the framework of the implementation of the Moscow Agreement.