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UN envoy says dialogue possible over Georgia-Abkhazia conflict; stresses police role

UN envoy says dialogue possible over Georgia-Abkhazia conflict; stresses police role

Heidi Tagliavini
The outgoing United Nations envoy for Georgia said today that there now exists a “possibility for a political dialogue” between Georgian authorities and Abkhaz separatists over a dispute that flared into open warfare 14 years ago, while stressing the important role being played by UN police in the region and the need for them to be allowed onto both sides of the conflict zone.

Summing up her four-year experience, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Georgia, Heidi Tagliavini said, “we started from a total deadlock in the negotiation in the peace process over very practical steps, to actually a possibility for a political dialogue now that I am leaving.”

Speaking to reporters in New York, she recalled the sequence of events leading to the present. “I called for an assessment mission on the security situation in the conflict zone and we deployed after its completion a United Nations police force in that region and unfortunately we could not deploy it on both sides…but I believe that the police is really the force that is needed in the conflict zone as the problems are not so much security-military related in the area but much more crime-related.”

Ms. Tagliavini, who is now returning to her home country, Switzerland, said she was also “confident” that because of the discussions over the past four years her successor would be able to get both sides to sign agreements on the return of internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees, as well as on security guarantees.

She also highlighted a meeting in May of the Coordinating Council of Georgia’s Government and Abkhaz separatists, its first gathering since 2001, as a “mechanism of negotiation” between the two sides and emphasized that any long-term solution to the conflict would depend on compromise.

“It is my deep belief that you cannot force a solution on anybody. A solution must be one which is mutually agreed and which requires unfortunately some sacrifices from both sides.”

Ms. Tagliavini briefed the Security Council on her past four years as head of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) yesterday, discussing the Secretary-General’s latest report on the conflict that called on all sides to implement and honour previous understandings and commitments, particularly regarding security and human rights.

The conflict in Abkhazia, strategically located on the Black Sea, began with social unrest and attempts by the local authorities to separate from the Republic. It escalated into a series of armed confrontations in the summer of 1992. A ceasefire agreement was concluded later that year but never fully implemented and the fighting that followed forced nearly 300,000 refugees to flee their homes.