28 January 1999


Press Release
SC/6635



SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS GEORGIA MISSION UNTIL 31 JULY

19990128
The Security Council this morning extended the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) until 31 July 1999 and expressed its intention to conduct a thorough review of the operation at the end of its mandate.

By unanimously adopting resolution 1225 (1999), the Council demanded that the Georgian and the Abkhaz parties expand their commitment to the United Nations-led peace process, underlining the necessity for an early and comprehensive political settlement. That should include the political status of Abkhazia, and full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders.

Further by the text, the Council expressed its continuing concern at the situation of refugees and displaced persons, resulting most recently from the hostilities of May 1998. It reaffirmed that demographic changes resulting from the conflict were unacceptable, and that the right of all refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes in secure conditions was imprescriptible. It called upon the parties to implement measures guaranteeing the security of returnees. It welcomed the Special Representative's efforts to facilitate the safe return of refugees and displaced persons to the Gali region, and called upon the parties to intensify their bilateral dialogue to that end.

By other terms, the Council condemned the activities by armed groups, including the continued laying of mines, which endangered the civilian population, impeded the work of humanitarian organizations and delayed the normalization of the situation in the Gali region. It demanded that both sides take immediate steps to stop such activities and improve the security environment for all international personnel. Also, it reiterated its deep concern about the security of UNOMIG, requested the Secretary-General to keep the Mission's security under constant review and welcomed his intention to propose strengthening the Mission's civilian component.

Georgia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Irakli Menagarishvili, said the United Nations should not limit itself to just reaffirming Georgia's territorial integrity. Rather, it should elaborate proposals for a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict and submit them to the


parties for consideration. A provisional administration under international control should be considered during the initial phase of settlement, with the widest participation of returnees in self-governing and law enforcement bodies.

The meeting, which began at 11:49 a.m., adjourned at 12:10 p.m.

Resolution

The full text of resolution 1225 (1999) is as follows:

"The Security Council,

"Recalling all its relevant resolutions, in particular resolution 1187 (1998) of 30 July 1998, and the statement of its President of 25 November 1998 (S/PRST/1998/34),

"Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 20 January 1999 (S/1999/60),

"Noting the letter of the President of Georgia to the President of the Security Council dated 22 January 1999 (S/1999/71 annex),

"Deeply concerned at the continuing tense and unstable situation in the conflict zone and at the risk of resumed fighting,

"Deeply concerned also at the continued deadlock in achieving a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia,

"Welcoming in this context the contribution that the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS Peacekeeping Force) have made to stabilizing the situation in the zone of conflict, noting that the working relationship between UNOMIG and the CIS peacekeeping force has been good at all levels, and stressing the importance of continued close cooperation and coordination between them in the performance of their respective mandates,

"Recalling the conclusions of the Lisbon summit of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (S/1997/57, annex) regarding the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia,

"Reaffirming the necessity for the parties strictly to respect human rights, expressing its support for the efforts of the Secretary-General to find ways to improve their observance as an integral part of the work towards a comprehensive political settlement, and noting developments in the work of the United Nations Human Rights Office in Abkhazia, Georgia,

"1. Welcomes the report of the Secretary-General of 20 January 1999;


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"2. Expresses its concern at the failure of the parties to conclude, after bilateral contacts and the Athens meeting of 16-18 October 1998 on confidence-building measures, agreements on security and the non-use of force, the return of refugees and displaced persons and economic reconstruction, and urges the parties to resume bilateral negotiations to this end;

"3. Demands that both sides widen their commitment to the United Nations-led peace process, continue to seek and engage in dialogue, expand their contact at all levels and display without delay the necessary will to achieve substantial results on the key issues of the negotiations, and underlines the necessity for the parties to achieve an early and comprehensive political settlement, which includes a settlement on the political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia, which fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its international recognized borders;

"4. Emphasizes, in this context, that the readiness and ability of the international community to assist the parties depend on their political will to resolve the conflict through dialogue and mutual accommodation and on their acting in good faith to implement promptly concrete measures towards bringing about a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict;

"5. Strongly supports the sustained efforts made by the Secretary- General and his Special Representative with the assistance of the Russian Federation in its capacity as facilitator, as well as of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General and of the OSCE, to prevent hostilities and to give a new impetus to the negotiations within the United Nations-led peace process in order to achieve a comprehensive political settlement, and welcomes, in this context, the intention of the Secretary-General to propose a strengthening of the civilian component of UNOMIG;

"6. Demands that both sides observe strictly the Moscow Agreement of 14 May 1994 on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces (S/1994/583, annex I) and all their obligations to refrain from the use of force and to resolve disputed issues by peaceful means only, and calls upon them to display greater resolve and willingness to make the Joint Investigation Group functional;

"7. Expresses its continuing concern at the situation of refugees and displaced persons, resulting most recently from the hostilities of May 1998, reaffirms the unacceptability of the demographic changes resulting form the conflict and imprescriptible right of all refugees and displaced persons affected by the conflict to return to their homes in secure conditions, in accordance with international law and as set out in the Quadripartite Agreement of 4 April 1994 on the voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons (S/1994/397, annex II), and calls upon the parties to address this issue urgently by agreeing and implementing effective measures to guarantee the security of those who exercise their unconditional right to return;


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"8. Welcomes, in this context, the efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to facilitate, as a first step, the safe return of refugees and displaced persons to the Gali region, and calls upon the parties to resume and intensify their bilateral dialogue to this end;

"9. Condemns the activities by armed groups, including the continued laying of mines, which endanger the civilian population, impede the work of the humanitarian organizations and seriously delay the normalization of the situation in the Gali region, and deplores the lack of serious efforts made by the parties to bring an end to those activities;

"10. Reiterates its demand that both sides take immediate and determined measures to put a stop to such acts and ensure that the security environment of all international personnel improves significantly, and welcomes the first steps taken in this regard;

"11. Reiterates also its deep concern regarding the security of UNOMIG, welcomes the implementation of measures in this regard, and request the Secretary-General to keep the security of UNOMIG under constant review;

"12. Decides to extend the mandate of UNOMIG for a new period terminating on 31 July 1999, subject to a review by the Council of the mandate of UNOMIG in the event of any changes that may be that may be made in the mandate or in the presence of the CIS peacekeeping force;

"13. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to keep the Council regularly informed and to report after three months from the date of the adoption of this resolution on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia;

"14. Expresses its intention to conduct a thorough review of the operation at the end of its current mandate, in the light of steps taken by the parties to achieve a comprehensive settlement;

"15. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter."

Report of Secretary-General

As the Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, it had before it the Secretary-General's report covering the period from 29 October 1998 to 15 January 1999 (document S/1999/60). In it, he recommends that the Council extend the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) for six months until 31 July 1999, and urges the Georgian and Abkhaz sides to use that time for negotiations towards a settlement.

Although the political process towards a settlement has been slow, and at times blocked, according to the report, UMOMIG has been able to carry out its


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mandate, thus lessening tensions, preventing an exacerbation of potentially serious incidents and providing a climate for substantive political negotiations. It has conducted limited patrolling without serious security incidents in the last three months. Given the deployment of internationally recruited security personnel and the arrival of ballistic-protected vehicles, a return to patrolling patterns in effect before February 1998 might be contemplated in the coming months. However, the report stresses, the two sides must take substantive and tangible measures to curb criminal and terrorist activities.

Following the meeting of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides on confidence- building measures (16-18 October 1998), the Secretary-General's Special Representative continued to meet with the two sides and others concerned, according to the report. Negotiations focused on: security and the non-use of force; the return of refugees and displaced persons to the Gali district; and measures for the economic rehabilitation of Abkhazia. By early November 1998, the parties seemed close to reaching agreement on two draft documents addressing those issues. However, the talks broke down, reportedly over misunderstandings, and the Abkhaz side stated that it would no longer engage in direct contacts with the Georgian side. The stalemate in the peace talks was accompanied by rapid deterioration of the security situation in the zone of conflict.

To prevent further deterioration, the Secretary-General's Special Representative convened the sixth session of the Coordinating Council of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides from 17 to 18 December 1998. The two sides then decided to convene, in the Gali district, an urgent meeting of representatives of the two sides to prevent the destabilization of the situation in the zone of conflict and to agree on measures aimed at implementing the bilateral agreements contained in the protocols signed on 25 May 1998 in Gagra and on 24 September 1998 in Sukhumi. On 21 December, representatives of the two sides met in Gali and adopted a protocol providing a number of measures aimed at defusing the tensions.

Regarding the humanitarian situation, the report says that access to vulnerable people in the Gali district was impeded because of the mining of some roads and other activities, which placed both beneficiaries and aid workers at risk. As a result, many vulnerable people still lack the material assistance they require for the winter months, as well as the protection assistance that could be afforded to them through humanitarian agencies. In the tense security context, aid agencies were appealing for support from both sides.

The Secretary-General calls on both sides to address the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes as a matter of utmost urgency. Such returns were a strictly humanitarian question and should not be used as an instrument to advance political causes. He stresses that the right to return of refugees and displaced persons is imprescriptible.


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In May 1998, a majority of the people who had spontaneously returned to the Gali district again had to flee their homes, the report recalls. Since then, efforts by the Abkhaz side to encourage returns had been largely unsuccessful, primarily because the potential returnees lacked confidence about the security conditions in the district. The Abkhaz militia has failed to effectively check criminal acts, such as robbery and kidnapping, and have been repeatedly accused by the population of abetting crime. The UNOMIG is encouraging the efforts of the Gali local administration to redress this situation.

As a result of declining economic conditions in Abkhazia and persistent isolation since the war in 1992-1993, young adults and adolescents people were increasingly turning to crime, drug abuse and violent behaviour, according to the report. There is critical need for psycho-social support to the population of adolescents and young adults.

Regarding Georgia's financial situation, the report says that the deficit of the country's balance of payments is the most significant obstacle to the country's economic development. The deficit results from the Government's low level of revenue, which, in turn, is due primarily to its inability to collect taxes. During 1998, the Government was not able to meet minimal social expenditure targets. The Secretary-General stresses the need for the Government to fight corruption in public service and improve tax collection to enhance credibility in public administration and provide resources for public expenditures.

The cost of extending the mandate until 30 June 1999 would be limited to resources appropriated by the General Assembly in June 1998 of $19.4 million gross for the year ending 30 June 1999, the report states.

Established in 1993, UNOMIG consists of 102 military observers from 22 countries.

Statement by Georgia's Foreign Minister

IRAKLI MENAGARISHVILI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said that despite joint efforts to reach a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict, the peace process was more and more taking on the semblance of a closed circuit, and the present situation offered anything but optimism. His Government's concern and sceptism was based on the fruitless and protracted round of negotiations of the past six months.

He drew attention to the emerging tradition of those negotiations which, he said, was designed to mislead the international community. As a rule, such meetings tended to reach their peak before the meetings of the Security Council or other important forums on Abkhazia-Georgia. "At that point, with a surprising promptness, there pops up some absurd and unrealistic 'initiative', the sole


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purpose of which is to create an illusion about the progress in the peace process", he said. Every such "initiative" fell into oblivion until the next important forum on Georgia convened. The recent proposal of the leader of the separatists, Mr. Ardzimba, regarding the unilateral decision of the Abkhaz side to repatriate refugees and displaced persons, was clearly another such initiative.

The continuation of the conflict in Abkhazia played only into the interests of certain political forces and clearly constituted an example of a clash of values, he said. The international community must indicate that the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes was not a favour, but their fundamental right, and that the Abkhaz side bore the responsibility for its violation.

The time had come for the Security Council to seriously consider the question of ethnic cleansing committed by the Abkhaz side against the Georgian population, he said. The international community should warn the Abkhaz side that further attempts to obstruct the return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes would be viewed as the continuation of ethnic cleansing and might prompt the Security Council to employ relevant articles of the United Nations Charter to bring those responsible to justice.

Continuing, he said that there was no doubt that the peacekeeping operation under the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) had already exhausted itself under its current mandate. Georgia had opposed the extension of the mandate since last May, unless it reflected the realistic objectives provided for in the decisions of the CIS. Due to a lack of proper security conditions, UNOMIG had failed to fully discharge its functions. That had seriously affected United Nations activities in the conflict zone and threatened the situation in the region as a whole. Georgia had always supported the deployment of a self-protection unit in the conflict zone, and, without its introduction, UNOMIG could not function adequately.

The unresolved question of comprehensive demining measures was affecting the activities of international personnel and threatened the life of peaceful civilians, he said. Neither bilateral nor trilateral negotiations had yielded results regarding the political status of Abkhazia within Georgia. Under the circumstances, the United Nations should not limit itself by just reaffirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. Together -- with Friends of the Secretary-General -- the Organization should elaborate proposals for a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, and submit them to the parties for consideration.

He said the Security Council should once again reaffirm the right of all refugees and displaced persons to safely return to their homes, without preconditions and with adequate safeguards. The United Nations, together with the Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the


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Friends of the Secretary-General, should work out the mechanism for the start of that process. Consideration should be given to the creation of a provisional administration under international control during the initial phase of the settlement, with the widest participation of returnees in self- governing and law enforcement bodies. Measures should be taken to ensure the effective monitoring of the CIS peacekeeping operation.

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