With peace talks between the Georgia Government and Abkhaz separatists restarted, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has voiced hope that both sides will be able to agree to a non-resumption of hostilities and the safe return of internally displaced persons and refugees.
In a report to the Security Council released today, the Secretary-General stresses that progress is "contingent on the political will of both sides and their ability to credibly commit themselves without preconditions," and calls on both sides to avoid any actions or statements that will hamper the peace process.
"I urge the Georgian side to address the Abkhaz security concerns, and urge the Abkhaz side to meet practical and security concerns of the local population in the Gali district," he adds.
The report also notes that the Abkhaz side had previously committed to open a human rights sub-office in Gali, to permit the teaching of youth in their native Georgian language, and to accept the deployment of UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) police officers in the Gali district, commitments which they have so far not honoured.
The Secretary-General voices concern about the security of UN personnel and urges both sides to ensure their safety throughout the zone of conflict. Mr. Annan also urges the parties to bring to justice "the perpetrators of criminal acts against UNOMIG personnel," including those who shot down a UNOMIG helicopter in October 2001, others who ambushed a UN bus in September 1998, and various hostage takers over the past year.
In addition, both sides must give viable security guarantees so that the Mission, which consists of 121 military observers and 12 police officers, can resume patrols throughout the Kodori Valley, an essential part of their mandate, he says.
The peace process is being shepherded and monitored by a combined effort of the Secretary-General's Special Representative to Georgia, Heidi Tagliavini, and the Chief Military Observer, Major General Niaz Muhammad Khan Khattak, and assisted by the Group of Friends consisting of representatives from the Russian Federation, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States.