Abkhazia: UN Security Council Resolution on Georgia
On January 31, the UN Security Council will adopt another resolution on the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. While the bi-annual resolution and a parallel report by the UN Secretary General happen regularly, one of the main differences at this point is that Georgia is taking active steps to force the Russian-led CIS peacekeeping forces to either improve or withdraw.
In his report released on January 13, the UN General Secretary Kofi Annan called for the extension of the UN Observer Mission in Georgian (UNOMIG) mandate for another 6 months until July 31, 2006. "Both sides need to refrain from actions or statements that could damage emerging opportunities in the peace process. I urge again the Georgian side to take into due account the Abkhaz security concerns, and the Abkhaz side to effectively meet the security and human rights concerns of the local population and returnees to the Gali district," Annan writes in the report.
The Secretary General repeated his certainty that UNOMIG is vitally important to maintaining stability, carrying out the peace process, and finally resolving the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. The mission has been in Georgia since 1994 and currently consists of 122 military observers and 13 civilian police officers. The mission has an average budget of USD 2.88 million a month.
Georgia is not at all against UN peacekeeping observers working on Abkhaz territory but that cannot be said about Georgia's stance toward Russian peacekeepers. On October 12, 2005, the Georgian Parliament adopted a decree according to which Russian peacekeepers will be requested to withdraw if progress is not seen in conflict settlement by this summer.
The Georgian Parliament is unlikely to alter its stance toward the Russian troops and members take efforts to prove their backbone. "We will discuss Russian peacekeepers located on Abkhaz territory in June. And if by that time the peacekeeping forces do not fulfill their duties, then we will of course - despite Kofi Annan's call - be obliged to decide to remove them from the conflict zone," MP Givi Targamadze, head of the parliamentary defense and security committee, says in the newspaper Rezonansi.
While acknowledging the Georgian resolution, Kofi Annan makes no other comments of the issue in his report. Instead he notes numerous methods of cooperation between UNOMIG and the CIS peacekeepers. "Close cooperation between UNOMIG and the CIS peacekeeping force continued through regular liaison visits, weekly quadripartite meetings, information exchanges and joint patrols," he writes.
Other prospects for cooperation and frustration are moving nearer on the horizon. The restoration of the Georgian-Russian railway via Abkhazia has the potential to demonstrate cooperation in the conflict zone or serve as a warning for future economic projects. Already Georgia and Abkhazia are at odds over the possible deployment of Georgian customs and border agents along the Abkhaz-Russian border.
Annan makes special note of efforts to reach an agreement on a new non-resumption of hostilities document. "In an encouraging development, the Georgian and Abkhaz sides engaged constructively with the mediation of my Special Representative in exchanges on joint draft documents on the non-resumption of hostilities and the safe and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons, which hopefully could lead to a meeting between them at the highest level," he writes.
However, Tbilisi and Sokhumi are already at odds over recent changes in the proposed document. "We got an absolutely new document from Tbilisi that vividly shows that the Georgian side returned to its original position. This means that the whole process has to begin from the very beginning," says Sergei Shamba, the foreign minister of Abkhazia's de facto administration as quoted by the newspaper Khvalindeli Dghe.
The UN resolution that will be passed on Tuesday is in fact a regular event. More crucial events dealing with the peace settlement will occur in Geneva on February 2-3 when senior officials from all sides meet in the Group of Friends format.