30 July 1999


Press Release
SC/6708



SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MISSION IN GEORGIA UNTIL 31 JANUARY 2000

19990730

Resolution 1255 (1999) Adopted Unanimously

Deeply concerned at the continuing volatile situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, the Security Council this afternoon decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) for a further period terminating on 31 January 2000, subject to review by the Council of the Mission's mandate in the event of any changes that may be made to it or in the presence of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping forces.

The Council took that action as it unanimously adopted resolution 1255 (1999) in which it demanded that the parties to the conflict widen and deepen their commitment to the United Nations-led peace process, continue to expand their dialogue and contacts at all levels, and display without delay the necessary will to achieve substantial results on key issues of the negotiations.

By the terms of the text, the Council further demanded that both sides strictly observe the Moscow Agreement of 14 May 1994 on a ceasefire and separation of Forces. It condemned the ongoing activities by armed groups, which endanger the civilian population, impede the work of humanitarian organizations and seriously delay the normalization of the situation in the Gali region. It also reiterated its concern regarding the security of UNOMIG.

Also by the text the Council expressed its continuing concern at the situation of refugees and displaced persons. It reaffirmed the unacceptability of the demographic changes resulting from the conflict and the 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 as set out in the Quadripartite Agreement of 4 April 1994 on the voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons.

By other terms of the text, the Council underlined 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 internationally recognized borders. The Council also considered unacceptable and illegitimate the holding of self-styled elections in Abkhazia, Georgia.


Security Council - 1a - Press Release SC/6708 4029th Meeting (PM) 30 July 1999

Further by the text, the Council strongly supported the sustained efforts of the Secretary-General, his Special Representative and the Russian Federation, in its capacity as facilitator, as well as the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to promote the stabilization of the situation and to give new impetus to the negotiations within the United Nations-led peace process in order to achieve a comprehensive political settlement.

The Foreign Minister for Georgia, Irakli Menagarishvili, told the Council, "We deal with the same humanitarian catastrophe, against which the international community voiced its firm stance in Kosovo". He said that while not drawing parallels, he wished to focus attention on the unacceptability of classifying conflicts into "first rate" and "inferior ones", and attributing the latter to the so-called "frozen conflicts" which had long included Georgia.

The outright obstruction of negotiations by the Abkhaz sides raised a question as to how long "we can accept" the status quo in the region established as a result of such fruitless negotiations. The seeming "calm" in Abkhazia was just an illusion; as a matter of fact, the situation was sharply deteriorating. Political, social and economic conditions were disastrous. Abkhazia had become a scene of raging crime and impunity.

He said that, regrettably, the violence and the assaults against the peaceful population still continued. Ethnic-related killings and executions were frequent. It was now necessary to urgently consider the question of ethnic cleansing carried out against the Georgian population, and to reflect the findings in relevant documents of the Council. The decision of the Abkhaz authorities to hold the so-called "presidential elections" in Abkhazia in the fall of 1999 was also one more attempt to establish demographic changes as a result of the conflict.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, France, United States, China and Argentina.

The meeting, which began at 3:55 p.m, was adjourned at 4:40 p.m.


Security Council - 2 - Press Release SC/6708 4029th Meeting (PM) 30 July 1999

Council Work Programme

When the Council met this afternoon it had before it a report of the Secretary-General concerning the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia (document S/1999/805), which recommends that the Council extend by six months the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) until 31 January 2000. The report, covering the period from 21 April to 10 July, details: political developments; UNOMIG activities; cooperation between the Mission and the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS); the situation on the ground and security arrangements; the humanitarian situation and human rights; social and economic conditions; and financial aspects of the situation in Abkhazia.

Among other observations, the Secretary-General states that negotiation towards a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia remains difficult, but that contacts between the sides at all levels continue to grow, mainly through the encouragement and logistic facilitation of bilateral contacts on political, cultural, humanitarian and economic questions. Contacts through concrete projects, such as those creating jobs, are extremely important for the peace process as a whole, since they break down psychological barriers and create a vested interest in a shared future. Two meetings on confidence-building measures proved of key importance in developing contacts and elaborating concrete projects for cooperation. Also, revival of the working groups within the framework of the Coordinating Council provides an ongoing forum for discussion, cooperation and implementation.

The report goes on to say, however, that the key issues of the settlement process remain unresolved. Each side must now demonstrate the political will to take a major step forward by reaching agreement on the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to the Gali district in its old borders, as well as on measures for the economic rehabilitation of Abkhazia, Georgia. That will be a first step towards the ultimate goal of a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict. With regard to security, there have been recent improvements along the separation line between forces, but the full separation of forces remains to be accomplished.

The report calls for both sides to immediately implement the decisions for separation of forces, as reached by Working Group I of the Coordinating Council on 25 June. Further, both sides are expected to reach agreement and sign a protocol on a joint group for establishing facts concerning violations of the Moscow Agreement of 14 May 1994 and on terrorist and subversive acts.

The Secretary-General reports that his Special Representative to Georgia, Liviu Bota, will resign effective 31 July. The issue of Mr. Bota's succession will be reverted to the Security Council in due course.

The Council also had before it a draft resolution (document S/1999/832), which reads as follows:

"The Security Council,

"Recalling all its relevant resolutions, in particular resolution 1225 (1999) of 28 January 1999, and the statement of its President of 7 May 1999 (S/PRST/1999/11),

"Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 20 July 1999 (S/1999/805),

"Noting the letter of the President of Georgia to the Secretary-General dated 19 July 1999 (S/1999/809, annex),

"Stressing that, notwithstanding positive developments on some issues, the lack of progress on key issues of a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, is unacceptable,

"Deeply concerned at the continuing volatile situation in the conflict zone, welcoming in this regard the important contributions that the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS peacekeeping force) continue to make in 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 continuing and increasing close cooperation and coordination between them in the performance of their respective mandates,

"Recalling the conclusions of the Lisbon summit of the Organization 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, and 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,

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

"2. Demands that the parties to the conflict widen and deepen their commitment to the United Nations-led peace process, continue to expand their dialogue and contacts at all levels and display without delay the necessary will to achieve substantial results on the key issues of the negotiations;

"3. Strongly supports the sustained efforts of 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 promote the stabilization of the situation and to give new impetus to the negotiations within the United Nations-led peace process in order to achieve a comprehensive political settlement, and commends the tireless efforts of the retiring Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Liviu Bota, in carrying out his mandate;

"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. 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 internationally recognized borders, and supports the intention of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative, in close cooperation with the Russian Federation, in its capacity as facilitator, the OSCE and the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General, to continue to submit proposals for the consideration of the parties on the distribution of constitutional competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi as part of a comprehensive settlement;

"6. Considers unacceptable and illegitimate the holding of self-styled elections in Abkhazia, Georgia;

"7. Expresses its continuing concern at the situation of refugees and displaced persons, in particular those resulting from the hostilities of May 1998, reaffirms the unacceptability of the demographic changes resulting from the conflict and the 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;

"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 emphasizes, in this regard, that the lasting return of the refugees cannot be ensured without concrete results from the bilateral dialogue between the parties which produce the necessary security and legal guarantees;

"9. Takes note with appreciation of the agreements reached at the meetings of 16-18 October 1998 and 7-9 June 1999, hosted respectively by the Governments of Greece and Turkey, aimed at building confidence, improving security and developing cooperation, and calls upon the parties to enhance their efforts to implement those decisions in an effective and comprehensive manner, notably at the prospective meeting in Yalta at the invitation of the Government of Ukraine;

"10. 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 takes note with appreciation, in this context, of the substantial progress reported towards setting up a joint investigation mechanism for violations of the Agreement, as well as of the greater restraint exercised by the parties along the line of separation of forces;

"11. Condemns the ongoing activities by armed groups, which endanger the civilian population, impede the work of the humanitarian organizations and seriously delay the normalization of the situation in the Gali region, reiterates its concern regarding the security of UNOMIG, welcomes the implementation of measures in this regard and requests 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 January 2000, subject to a review by the Council of the mandate of UNOMIG in the event of any changes 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 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."

Statements

IRAKLI MENAGARISHVILI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said the problem of Abkhazia was the most complex and painful issue in Georgia's recent history. Its urgent settlement was, therefore, essential to the restoration of stability to the whole region. Regrettably, the peace process was stalled, and despite joint efforts there was no tangible process in the negotiations.

He reminded the Council of the danger the separatist trend posed to international peace. If not handled adequately, those conflicts might well graduate into large-scale confrontations, implicating other countries and regions, he said. The example of Kosovo clearly indicated the need for taking urgent measures in volatile regions, so that force did not become the only alternative action. It was also time to assess the violence in Abkhazia, which had resulted in 300,000 refugees and displaced persons who had been waiting desperately for six years to return home.

"We deal with the same humanitarian catastrophe against which the international community voiced its firm stance in Kosovo", he stressed. While not inclined to draw parallels, he was trying to focus attention on the unacceptability of classifying conflicts into "first rate" and "inferior ones", and attributing the latter to the so-called "frozen conflicts", which had long included Georgia. The outright obstruction of negotiations by the Abkhaz side raised a question about how long the status quo could be accepted. The seeming "calm" in Abkhazia was just an illusion. As a matter of fact, the situation was sharply deteriorating. Political, social and economic conditions were disastrous. Abkhazia had become a scene of raging crime and impunity. Despite the efforts of the Georgian Government, the plight of the displaced persons and returnees was unspeakable.

He said that, regrettably, the violence and the assaults against the peaceful population continued. Ethnic related killings and executions were frequent. It was necessary to urgently consider the question of ethnic cleansing carried out against the Georgian population and to reflect the findings in relevant documents of the Council. The decision of the Abkhaz authorities to hold the so-called "presidential elections" in Abkhazia in the fall of 1999 was one more attempt to cement the demographic changes brought about as a result of the conflict. It constituted an outright disregard of the position of the international community, which could in no way accept the holding of such elections when more than half of the population was disenfranchised and expelled from their homes.

The most complicated issue in the peace process was clearly the question of the repatriation of refugees and displaced persons, he continued. The main stumbling block seemed to be the absence of security conditions. Past experience had also shown that the CIS peacekeepers, within their present mandate, could not guarantee the safety of returnees. It was, therefore, deemed appropriate to work out the structure of an interim international administration for the Gali District, which would facilitate the repatriation of the refugees and, at the same time, carry out the regulation and management of social and economic issues until a fundamental political agreement was reached. Such a model would ensure the participation of the returnees in a system of governance and would also contribute to public confidence-building.

He said it was also imperative to grant returnees a special status, which would provide them with the necessary immunity to ensure their constitutional rights. The United Nations should also confirm the right of all the refugees and displaced persons to the private property they possessed before fleeing the region. "We believe that the Council should categorically indicate to the Abkhaz side that the return of the refugees and displaced persons is not just a favour offered by the Abkhaz authorities, but constitutes the right of all refugees and displaced persons under the principles of international law", he said.

Georgia had always supported the idea of the introduction of self- protection units in the conflict zone, he added. The purpose of those units would be to protect and promote the United Nations Mission. The future of the CIS peacekeeping operation was still a problem. He believed that the full- fledged functioning of the CIS peacekeepers would become possible only after the implementation of the principle decisions adopted at recent summits of the CIS. Unfortunately, the Abkhaz side blocked the fulfilment of those decisions, leaving CIS peacekeepers in the conflict zone with expired mandates.

GEORG WITSCHEL (Germany) said that, as a member of the Friends of the Secretary-General on Georgia, his country supported and welcomed the draft resolution before the Council. The territorial integrity of Georgia remained the only basis for any solution of the Abkhaz conflict. There must not be any solution to the conflict other than a peaceful arrangement between the parties. Only a substantial dialogue marked by genuine political will to come to a fair settlement could bring about a durable solution. All the mechanisms for that dialogue were in place and the parties were called upon to use them in good faith. The progress achieved in the United Nations-led Geneva process and the momentum gained through the two meetings on confidence-building measures in Athens and Istanbul must not be lost.

He said one of the most crucial problems remained that of refugee return. The parties to the conflict were urged to reach a sustainable and credible agreement on that matter. The security situation remained very delicate, despite some progress, making it impossible for UNOMIG to completely fulfil its tasks. Elements operating from the Georgian side of the demarcation line were partly responsible for the unsatisfactory security situation. He urged Georgia to take determined steps to stop guerrilla attacks and the laying of mines in UNOMIG's theatre of operations.

GENNADY GATILOV (Russian Federation) said the draft resolution was meant to advance the process of settling the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia. His country's efforts stemmed from the heartfelt desire to help the people of Georgia to resolve the crisis situation, so that they could concentrate their forces on sustainable economic growth and form a political system based on democracy. The Russian Federation intended to facilitate the speedy settlement of the conflict. In close cooperation with the United Nations, his country was continuing the search for an optimal formula. The call for the use of force to resolve the conflict was counter-productive. That would only complicate the process and lead to the explosion of the whole volatile situation in the Caucasus region.

At the current stage, he continued, the most acute problem was the return of refugees to the Gali region. It was important that the parties to the conflict showed the necessary will and signed documents on issues that had been mutually agreed upon. A fairly effective mechanism that had been established by the United Nations was the system of working meetings between Georgia and the Abkhaz sides. Those meetings had made it possible for progress to be made on mutual confidence-building measures. It was important that such progress be put into practice.

He said the CIS peacekeepers, now in their fifth year, had rendered explosive devices harmless and had also demined large tracts of land. The Russian Federation supported the further six-month extension of UNOMIG, as well. Recently the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, had considerably improved, though it still remained rather fragile. He had serious concerns about the terrorist activities of uncontrolled armed groups in the Gali region. Those groups were the main factors contributing to the tension and instability in the region.

DAVID RICHMOND (United Kingdom) said that a durable peace in Georgia would only come about if all concerned made a serious and sustained political commitment to achieve a settlement. The onus for doing that remained with the two parties. Both sides needed to demonstrate the political will to break the current deadlock. An important first step was early agreement on the guarantees on security and legal status, which would make it possible for refugees to return safely and permanently to the Gali district.

A comprehensive settlement must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, he said. Any action contravening that basic principle was unacceptable. The Government of the United Kingdom regarded the holding of self-styled Abkhaz elections as both illegitimate and unhelpful to the search for a settlement.

The volatile security situation in Georgia was also a major concern, he continued. The United Kingdom reiterated its condemnation of terrorist activities in Gali and other parts of Georgia and called on both sides to work actively to prevent further incidents and provocations.

He acknowledged the valuable role played by the CIS peacekeeping force, in cooperation with UNOMIG, and stressed the importance of its continued presence.

ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said the absence of any significant progress in defining a status for Abkhazia which respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia was a matter of concern. The holding of elections in Abkhazia, Georgia, seemed to be another setback. The selection of voters on the basis of race or religion, in violation of the most basic international norms, was totally unacceptable and must be condemned unreservedly. Any ballot resulting from such practices must be considered as null and void.

He said that, overall, the prospects for a political settlement seemed blocked. The persistence of the status quo, which violated international legality and caused instability in the region, was unacceptable. The goodwill of all concerned was necessary in order to facilitate a political settlement.

A. PETER BURLEIGH (United States) said that, despite recent confidence- building measures held in Athens and Istanbul, there was concern about the absence of real progress on the negotiating front. There had been too many false hopes of important agreements that had been dashed at the eleventh hour. The United States and the international community wanted the peace process to go forward. For that to happen, the sides must demonstrate the will to proceed. The international community and the Friends of Georgia were ready to help with assistance, particularly with the refugees from Gali. The two sides, however, needed to demonstrate their commitment to that goal.

He said that, with the upcoming Georgian elections, both sides might see excuses for delay. He hoped that was not the case, because time might not be on the side of peace. The United States called on both sides to negotiate seriously and in good faith, to honour their commitments and the ceasefire, and to fulfil their obligations to safeguard international peacekeepers. The ultimate success or failure of the peace process was their responsibility. "These are the clear and unambiguous standards which form the foundation of the peace process that we all seek", he said.

CHEN XU (China) said that for seven years the international community had not halted its mediation efforts to end the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia. Recently, there had been some positive progress, but the political settlement had reached an impasse. The proposed elections in the coming fall had also cast a new shadow over the peace process. The rights of the multi-ethnic populations of the Abkhazia region should be respected, as should the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Georgia. The unilateral decision to hold presidential elections in Abkhazia, Georgia, was illegitimate and should not receive international recognition.

He said the ultimate solution to the crisis lay with the people of Georgia themselves. The two sides should resolve their differences through negotiation. Since its inception, UNOMIG had maintained very good cooperative relations with both sides and the CIS peacekeepers. The Mission had played an important role in stabilizing the situation on the ground. He hoped the continued presence of the Mission would help to promote the peace process. He also hoped that UNOMIG would continue to faithfully implement the mandate of the Council. FERNANDO ENRIQUE PETRELLA (Argentina) paid tribute to the Secretary- General, the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General and to the OSCE for their efforts in the search for peace in Abkhazia, Georgia.

He said the draft resolution before the Council encouraged positive developments. In order to arrive at a settlement, political will was needed to begin and maintain a political dialogue. The forthcoming elections in Abkhazia should be regarded as illegitimate.

Action on Draft

The Council then unanimously adopted resolution 1255 (1999).

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