Oct 18, 2006

Abkhazia: UN Adopts Resolution with Focus on Kodori

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on Abkhazia calling on Georgia to refrain from “provocative actions, especially in upper Kodori” Gorge, and noting the Russian peacekeeping troops’ important “stabilizing role”

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on Abkhazia on October 13 calling on Georgia to refrain from “provocative actions, especially in upper Kodori” Gorge, and noting the Russian peacekeeping troops’ important “stabilizing role” in the Abkhaz conflict zone.

The resolution has also extended the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) for six months to April 15, 2007.

President Saakashvili said on October 13 that although there are “several disputable aspects” in the text of the resolution, he still welcomes the fact that two basic demands of the Russian side were not reflected in the document.  

“The first is an unconditional denunciation of the Georgian police operation in upper Kodori Gorge that would have a serious legal force; and the second, the restoration of the status quo that existed in the gorge prior to this operation. This would have meant the withdrawal of the legitimate Abkhaz authorities from Kodori Gorge and the renaming of Kodori Gorge,” Saakashvili said.

Georgia’s Ambassador to the UN Irakli Alasania hailed the extension of the UNOMIG mandate, but noted at a news conference in New York on October 13 that the resolution does not reflect the failure of Russian peacekeeping forces stationed in Abkhazia under the aegis of the CIS to fulfill their duties.

He also said that the resolution puts too much focus on Tbilisi’s moves towards upper Kodori Gorge, which he said is surprising.

Georgia sent troops to upper Kodori in late July, cracked down on militias there and fully restored the central authorities control over this area of breakaway region. The move was condemned by Sokhumi and Moscow as a provocation.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry said that it will continue measures to achieve the replacement of the current Russian-led peacekeeping operation with an international one.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry hailed the resolution and said on October 13 that Tbilisi’s criticism towards Russian peacekeeping forces is in “dissonance” with the position voiced by the UN Security Council.

The UN Security Council resolution reads that “a new and tense situation has emerged between the Georgian and the Abkhaz sides, in particular as a result of the Georgian special operation in the upper Kodori Valley.”

The resolution expresses concern over “the actions of the Georgian side in the Kodori Valley in July” and “urges the Georgian side to address seriously legitimate Abkhaz security concerns, to avoid steps which could be seen as threatening and to refrain from militant rhetoric.”

Georgia’s UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania said that the police operation in upper Kodori was needed to restore order and security in order to allow UN Observers to monitor the area as is laid out in the 1994 Moscow cease-fire agreement. The monitoring was suspended in June 2003 when UN observers and their interpreter were kidnapped by gunmen while patrolling the gorge.

A joint patrol of Russian peacekeepers and UN observers monitored the upper part of Kodori on October 12 and found a 550-strong Georgian Interior Ministry police force. The presence of regular Defense Ministry troops is banned by the 1994 Moscow agreement in the upper Kodori Gorge.

The UN Security Council resolution also reaffirms the commitment “to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders” and again expresses support towards the principles contained in the “Paper on Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competencies between Tbilisi and Sukhumi.” This so-called “Boden Document” envisages broad autonomy of Abkhazia within Georgia.

The resolution also calls for a highest-level meeting between the conflicting sides “without preconditions” and for the finalization of documents on the non-use of violence and on the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to the Gali district.

In his address to the UN General Assembly Session on September 22, President Saakashvili made it clear that Tbilisi will sign an agreement on the non-resumption of hostilities only after the Russian peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone are replaced by a multinational police force.

The resolution also calls on the Abkhaz side “to address seriously the need for a dignified return of IDPs and refugees, including their security and human rights concerns” and to agree on the deployment of a UN police component in the Gali district of the breakaway territory.