New momentum in Georgian-Abkhaz peace efforts despite lack of progress - Annan
New proposals and bilateral agreements have injected fresh momentum into efforts to reactivate the Georgian-Abkhaz peace process despite the continued lack of progress on the core political issue of the future status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan says in a report released today.
Mr. Annan's latest report to the Security Council provides an update of the situation in Abkhazia since January. It also discusses the continued efforts by the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) to initiate negotiations between the parties on the basis of the "Basic Principles of the Distribution of Competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi" paper and its transmittal letter. Heidi Tagliavini, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Georgia, submitted the paper a year ago.
For the first time in approximately four years, the Abkhaz de facto authorities at the ambassadorial level received the Group of Friends in Sukhumi, Mr. Annan says. Ms. Tagliavini also attended the meetings.
The Group - comprising France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States - conveyed the recommendations that resulted from an informal session held in February in Geneva at Mr. Annan's invitation. It also presented the position of the international community and listened to the Abkhaz viewpoint, Mr. Annan adds.
"The Abkhaz side raised a number of objections to the recommendations, in particular the inclusion of the political aspect in the third task force," the Secretary-General says. "The Abkhaz side continued to refuse to discuss the status issues and rejected the paper on competences as a basis for substantive negotiations as, in its view, the status of Abkhazia has long been determined."
In contrast, Mr. Annan says the Georgian side has taken "a cautiously positive stance towards the proposals," and has declared its readiness to work towards their implementation.
"I would like to remind the parties, in particular the Abkhaz side, that the status question cuts across every aspect of a final peaceful settlement. Without its satisfactory resolution, a sustainable settlement is likely to remain elusive," Mr. Annan warns.
The period under review was also marked by increased bilateral activity between the Russian Federation and Georgia, which should open the doors to progress on the return of displaced persons and refugees, Mr. Annan says. Last month, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Eduard Shervardnadze agreed to proceed with the re-opening of the railway traffic between Sochi and Tbilisi, among other things.