Noting with deep concern the continued failure of the parties in the Abkhaz conflict to achieve a comprehensive political settlement, the Security Council this afternoon called on the parties concerned, particularly the Abkhaz side, to achieve substantive progress towards such a settlement without delay.
In a statement read out by its President, Juan Somavia (Chile), the Council stressed that the primary responsibility for achieving a comprehensive political settlement rests on the parties themselves. It reaffirmed its full support for the Secretary-General's efforts, those of his Special Envoy and of the Russian Federation as facilitator aimed at achieving a comprehensive settlement of the conflict. That settlement should include the political status of Abkhazia and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.
While expressing its support for the Secretary-General's efforts to find ways of improving the observance of human rights in the region, as an integral part of the work towards a comprehensive political settlement, the Council welcomed the efforts of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in support of such a settlement.
The Council condemned mine laying in the Gali region which has resulted in loss of life, including of an observer of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG). Emphasizing that such mine laying should cease, the Council called on the parties to take all measures to prevent it. In that context, the Council stressed that the international community's ability to assist depended on the full cooperation of the parties especially in the fulfilment of the obligations regarding the safety and freedom of movement of international personnel.
In addition, the Council expressed deep concern at the deterioration of the security conditions in the Gali region which has a negative effect on the
ability of UNOMIG to meet its mandate. It noted the important contribution made by UNOMIG and the CIS Collective Peace-keeping Forces to the stabilization of the situation on the zone of conflict. The Council also expressed deep concern at the continued obstruction of the return of the refugees and displaced persons by the Abkhaz authorities as totally unacceptable.
For its consideration of the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, the Council had before it the Secretary-General's latest report on the matter, as well as a letter from Georgia transmitting the proposals of the Georgian Government on the status of Abkhazia.
In his report (document S/1996/284), the Secretary-General states that the Georgian-Abkhaz peace process remains stalled. Despite many months of vigorous efforts and intensive negotiations by the Russian Federation, as facilitator, neither side has signed the draft protocol on the principal elements of a settlement of the conflict, mainly because of continued disagreement over the political status of Abkhazia. While the stalemate continues, there is no significant improvement in the situation of displaced persons and refugees, whose plight is a cause of great concern.
The Secretary-General notes that the Abkhaz leadership now recognizes that Abkhazia will be part of a single Georgian State within the boundaries of the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic as at 21 December 1991. It also agrees that the State should be "federative" in nature. But, he states, pronounced differences remain over the constitutional definition of the Georgian State. While the Georgian side wants the draft protocol to reflect that Georgia is one single federal State within which Abkhazia enjoys certain state powers and rights, the Abkhaz side demands that the draft protocol describe the State as a union which came about as the result of a treaty between two subjects of equal status under international law.
Meanwhile, the Council of Foreign Ministers of the CIS has been unable to reach agreement on extending the mandate of the CIS peace-keeping force in the area, according to the report. While CIS troops are to remain deployed pending an agreement, the Abkhaz authorities have stated that they would not recognize a new mandate for the CIS peace keepers based on Georgia's proposals.
The report goes on to state that Georgian President Edouard Shevardnadze met in mid-March with President Boris Yeltsin in the Russian Federation. Both reaffirmed their commitment to the territorial integrity of States and strongly condemned terrorism and separatism. Subsequently, Russia undertook enforcement measures to implement the decisions of the CIS Council. The Abkhaz authorities reacted negatively, and their leader, Mr. Ardzinba, said on 27 March that if enforcement measures continued, he would hold a referendum on
Security Council - 3 - Press Release SC/6212 3658th Meeting (PM) 25 April 1996
whom the Abkhaz people would prefer to have ties with: Georgia or the Russian Federation. He also stated, meanwhile, that the Abkhaz side would not participate in any negotiations with Georgia on the political settlement of the conflict. There were reports, however, of talks held in Moscow in early April between the Abkhaz side and senior Russian officials.
Even if the draft protocol is signed in the near future, it seems unlikely that it will clearly define the political status of Abkhazia, the report states. However, it would serve as a framework for further negotiations and expert discussions on constitutional issues as well as on other areas such as economic matters, banking, finance, transport, communications, public policy, social affairs and military questions.
Regarding the role of the United Nations in the peace process, the Secretary-General states that it is in the planning for the implementation phase that he sees an important role for the Organization. This is especially the case as both sides, and the Russian Federation as facilitator, have recently asked the Secretary-General's Special Envoy to strengthen the Organization's role in the search for a comprehensive settlement. Such involvement will be closely synchronized with the Russian Federation's efforts, and those of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The Secretary-General also reports on the situation facing the UNOMIG, which continues at its full authorized strength of 136 military observers drawn from 23 countries. Some of them have faced the temporary restrictions on movement as a result of the threat posed by land-mines on the north side of the Inguri River. There is no clear evidence as to who is planting the mines. However, UNOMIG is exploring with both sides ways of enhancing the Mission's safety.
The UNOMIG's area of responsibility remains unsettled, with pervasive lawlessness in the Gali sector which was impeding the Mission's activities, the report continues. Incidents of murder, looting and hostage-taking as well as death and injury from road mines were reported. The lawlessness also includes robbery of UNOMIG personnel at gun point.
Reporting on the social and economic aspects of the situation in Georgia, the Secretary-General states that emergency relief and humanitarian aid continue to be the predominant modes of United Nations assistance and other donors' support to Georgia. At the same time, there is increasing awareness of the need to support transitional activities as Georgia moves into a post-emergency phase. In addition to a recent appeal meeting, there is a wide range of other development initiatives. The Bretton Woods institutions, the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and
Security Council - 4 - Press Release SC/6212 3658th Meeting (PM) 25 April 1996
bilateral donors are assisting Georgia to evolve from its current status of a recipient of humanitarian aid into a self-reliant State.
In the annex to his letter of 5 March (document S/1996/165), the Charge d'affaires of the Georgian Mission to the United Nations states that "it is unfortunate that the separatists continue to reject all proposals and ignore documents initialled by their own representatives, thereby intentionally stalemating, and thus dragging out, negotiations". Stating further that "a group of aggressive separatists" has succeeded in gaining control of nearly all the territory of Abkhazia, he said they have committed ethnic cleansing and genocide against the Georgian population of the region, murdering thousands and driving over 200,000 others from their homes. They have also expatriated nearly 100,000 residents of various other ethnic origins, including half the Abkhaz themselves. As a result, 75 per cent of the legal residents of Abkhazia are displaced or refugees.
The letter states that the Government of Georgia continues to seek a peaceful settlement of the conflict on the basis of determining the status of Abkhazia as a part of Georgia on the recommendations of the United Nations, the OSCE and the CIS. This would facilitate the immediate repatriation of those displaced, stabilization of the situation in the region and the building of democratic institutions in Abkhazia.
Stressing that the idea of building federal statehood is gaining momentum, the letter says that in Georgia's new Constitution, the issues of state and territorial arrangement are intentionally left open. The letter's annex lists the seven proposals regarding Abkhazia's status within the framework of a federal State. They would include the establishment of a united federal State will be established within the borders of what was the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic as from 21 December 1991. Abkhazia, as a subject of the federation, will exercise wide discretionary power and will have its own constitution, anthem, flag, emblem, parliament, the highest executive and judicial bodies, and other attributes of statehood, whose competencies will be determined by both the federal and Abkhaz constitutions and through a formal agreement on the delimitation of competencies between the federal State and Abkhazia.
The proposals also call for the Abkhaz language to have the status of State language along with Georgian on the territory of Abkhazia. The government of Abkhazia will exercise full authority over areas such as its supreme central and local state bodies and state management, the budget, taxes, forming a supreme court, issues related to culture, education and health care, trade, social welfare programmes and the use of natural resources. The competencies of the federal Government would include foreign policy and foreign economic relations, a defence policy, armed forces and security, monetary system, federal budget, the status and
Security Council - 5 - Press Release SC/6212 3658th Meeting (PM) 25 April 1996
protection of state borders, and protection of human rights, civil liberties and national minority rights.
Abkhazia may enter into international agreements within the framework of its competencies, while keeping the respective federal bodies informed, the proposals further stipulate. The federal State would, however, be a single entity in the conduct of international relations and foreign policy, and in holding membership in international organizations. The federal legislature would act within the limits agreed upon by both sides, incorporated into the Agreement on Delimitation of Competencies, and its decisions will be in effect over the entire territory of the federal State. An agreed number of seats would be reserved in the federal legislature for Abkhaz representation. Decisions of the federal legislature directly affecting Abkhaz interests will come into force only by the consent of a majority of the Abkhaz representatives to the federal Parliament. Questions related to the preparation of the Agreement on Delimitation of Competencies, as well as the structures and functions of federal bodies, would be the subject of separate negotiations.
The full text of the statement, which will be issued as document S/PRST/1996/20, reads as follows:
"The Security Council has considered the interim report of the Secretary-General concerning the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia of 15 April 1996 (S/1996/284). It has also read with appreciation the letter of the Government of Georgia (S/1996/165) and the proposals on the political status of Abkhazia contained therein.
"The Security Council notes with deep concern the continued failure of the parties to achieve a comprehensive political settlement. It also notes the adverse impact that this failure has on the humanitarian situation and economic development in the region. It calls upon the parties, in particular the Abkhaz side, to achieve substantive progress without further delay.
"The Security Council reaffirms its full support for the efforts of the Secretary-General, his Special Envoy and of the Russian Federation as facilitator aimed at achieving a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict, including on the political status of Abkhazia, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. The Council stresses that the primary responsibility for achieving a comprehensive political settlement rests upon the parties themselves.
"The Security Council welcomes the efforts undertaken by the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as set out in S/1996/74/Annex IV, in support of such a comprehensive political settlement.
Security Council - 6 - Press Release SC/6212 3658th Meeting (PM) 25 April 1996
"The Security Council remains deeply concerned at the continued obstruction of the return of the refugees and displaced persons by the Abkhaz authorities which is totally unacceptable.
"The Security Council expresses its support for the Secretary-General's efforts to find ways of improving the observance of human rights in the region, as an integral part of the work towards a comprehensive political settlement.
"The Security Council notes the important contribution made by the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and the CIS Collective Peace-Keeping Forces to stabilization of the situation in the zone of conflict. The Council recalls its encouragement to Member States to make contributions, in cash or kind, to the voluntary fund in support of the implementation of the Agreement on a Cease-fire and Separation of Forces and/or humanitarian aspects including demining. It welcomes the contributions mentioned in the report of the Secretary-General.
"The Security Council is, however, deeply concerned at the deterioration in security conditions in the Gali region which has a negative effect on the ability of UNOMIG to meet its mandated tasks. The Council condemns mine laying in the Gali region which has resulted in loss of life, including of a UNOMIG military observer. Such mine laying should cease. The Council calls on the parties to take all measures in their power to prevent it. The Council stresses that the international community's ability to assist depends on the full cooperation of the parties, especially the fulfilment of their obligations regarding the safety and freedom of movement of international personnel.
"The Security Council invites the Secretary-General to continue to keep it informed of the situation."
The meeting, which began at 12:24 p.m, was adjourned at 12:30 p.m.
* *** *