The Security Council today unanimously extended the mandate of the United Nations observers in Georgia for a further six months, until 31 July, and called for a settlement of the decade-old conflict between the Government and Abkhaz separatists that fully respected the territorial integrity of Georgia.
Acting on the recommendations of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's latest report, in which he called the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) vital to preventing a flare-up in a conflict that uprooted nearly 300,000 refugees, the Council stressed the need to define the status of Abkhazia within the state of Georgia.
The Council said it deeply regretted the refusal of the Abkhaz side to discuss the distribution of "competences" between the two parties on grounds of its 1999 unilateral "declaration of independence," and reaffirmed its commitment to "the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders."
UNOMIG, which consists of 130 uniformed personnel, including 119 military observers and 11 civilian police supported by 103 international civilian personnel and 184 local civilian staff, was established in 1994 after an accord reached in Moscow ended the fighting in Georgia's northwestern corner.
In its resolution, the Council welcomed the commitment of the Georgian side to a peaceful solution and called on both parties to pay urgent attention to the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, recalling that "the Abkhaz side bears a particular responsibility to protect the returnees and to facilitate the return of the remaining displaced population."
It called on the Abkhaz side to improve law enforcement involving the local population and to address the lack of instruction in their mother tongue for the ethnic Georgian population.
As in past resolutions, the Council underlined the primary responsibility of both sides to provide appropriate security for UNOMIG and ensure freedom of movement for the Mission as well as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force and other international staff, and it strongly condemned the repeated abduction of personnel of those missions.
It also again called on the parties to bring to justice those responsible for shooting down a UNOMIG helicopter in 2001, killing nine people.