Abkhazia: Cease-Fire Extension
Below is an article published by: Associated Press
The U.N. Security Council agreed Friday [13 February 2009] to a four-month extension of a peacekeeping mission monitoring a cease-fire between Georgia and the separatist Abkhazia region.
The council's 15-0 vote gives the U.N. until mid-June  to assess whether to continue its 400-strong mission in the wake of the Georgia-Russian war.
The five-day war in August  and Russia's subsequent recognition of the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations further strained Moscow's relations with the West.
Major powers on the council agreed with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's assessment that the conflict and Russia's recognition of both areas changed the context in which the U.N. has operated for the last 14 years.
"We want to find a more durable arrangement that reflects the situation on the ground," British Ambassador John Sawers told reporters after the vote.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the council had approved a "very important resolution because it does not only extend the mandate for the mission but also sends a number of very important signals."
For the first time, Churkin said, the terms of the European Union cease-fire brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been "expressly welcomed" and accepted by the international community.
The Black Sea province of Abkhazia has been independently run since 1993, when two years of fighting with Georgian troops ended with a U.N.-monitored cease-fire.
The war began Aug. 7  with a Georgian offensive to regain control of South Ossetia. Neighboring Russia responded by sending troops in to the former Soviet republic, and quickly routed the Georgian military.
Ban's staff had reported to the council that Russia's military had affected the situation in the area of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict and beyond, with thousands of troops and hundreds of armored vehicles taking part in its operation.
Under an EU-sponsored cease-fire, EU monitors were deployed to Georgia and Russian forces were to leave Georgian territory. But Russia has been keeping thousands of troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a presence that U.S., NATO and the EU say violates its obligation under the cease-fire.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered economic sanctions this week against countries supplying weapons to Georgia. He did not specify what "special economic measures" Russia might impose.
Russia has accused several nations, including Ukraine, another former Soviet Republic, of encouraging Georgia by providing it with weapons in the run-up to the war. It has called for an international arms embargo against Georgia.