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No progress in negotiations over future of Abkhazia, Georgia, Annan reports

No progress in negotiations over future of Abkhazia, Georgia, Annan reports

Negotiations on the future status of Abkhazia, Georgia have made little progress in the last year, Secretary General Kofi Annan says in a new report, recommending the continued presence of the United Nations Observer Mission in that country (UNOMIG) for another six months.

"The tone of the two parties has hardened, there is a deep mistrust between them and they show little sign of willingness to make the substantive compromises necessary for a meaningful peace process," he says, noting that the Abkhaz side has refused to even enter into discussions on the principles on which negotiations should be based. They have declined repeated offers for talks on the issue, and also denied Georgia access to a crash site where a UNOMIG helicopter was shot down on 8 October 2001.

Consultations on the future of Abkhazia will continue to be based on a paper entitled "Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi," which was submitted a year ago by the Secretary General's Special Representative for Georgia, Heidi Tagliavini, according to the report. They will also include informal discussions with senior representatives of the Group of Friends and resumed meetings of the Coordinating Council.

Mr. Annan welcomes the cooperation of both parties on the strengthening of law enforcement institutions to improve the situation for internally displaced persons, but regrets the lack of progress in implementing safe and secure conditions for a 1994 agreement on the voluntary return of refugees. He highlights the need for both the Georgian and Abkhaz sides to bring perpetrators of crimes against UN personnel to justice, and emphasized their responsibilities for the safety of civilian and military personnel.

Stressing that its presence “remains essential for maintaining stability in the conflict zone and for pursuing the process towards a political settlement of the conflict,” the Secretary-General recommends that the mandate of UNOMIG be extended until 31 July. In addition to its peacekeeping activities, the Mission also implements a series of quick-impact repair and refurbishment projects in the area.