31/01/2001
Press Release
SC/7002



Security Council

4269th Meeting (PM)


SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS UNOMIG MANDATE UNTIL 31 JULY


The Security Council this afternoon called upon the parties to the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, particularly the Abkhaz side, to negotiate the core political questions and all other outstanding issues, as it extended the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) until 31 July.


Unanimously adopting resolution 1339 (2001), the Council reaffirmed the unacceptability of the demographic changes resulting from the conflict and urged the parties to urgently address, and in a concerted manner, the undefined and insecure status of spontaneous returnees to the Gali district "which remains an issue of serious concern".


It stressed the need for acceleration of work on a draft protocol on the return of the refugees to the Gali district and measures for economic rehabilitation, as well as on a draft agreement on peace and guarantees for the prevention and for non-resumption of hostilities.  It expressed satisfaction with the joint assessment mission to Gali, carried out under United Nations’ aegis, adding it looked forward to carefully considering the Mission's recommendations on human rights, law enforcement and education. 


The Council welcomed the readiness of Ukraine to host the third meeting on confidence-building measures, and the commitment of the parties to meet in Yalta in March 2001, noting the important contribution a successful conference would make to the peace process.


It strongly supported the intention of the Secretary-General's Special Representative to submit a draft paper containing specific proposals to the parties on the question of the distribution of constitutional competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi, as a basis for meaningful negotiations. The Secretary-General was asked to brief the Council in three months on progress of the political settlement, including on the status of the draft paper being prepared by his Special Representative.


The Council expressed strong support for the sustained efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative (Dieter Boden), with the assistance of the Russian Federation in its capacity as a facilitator.  It also the efforts of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General and of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to promote the stabilization of the situation and the achievement of a comprehensive political settlement.  That settlement must include a settlement of the political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia, the resolution stated.


By other terms of the resolution, the Council condemned all violations of the Moscow Agreement of 14 May 1994 on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces

(document S/1994/583, annex 1), noting with particular concern the Abkhaz exercise conducted in November 2000.  [That exercise, on 9 and 10 November, involved the use of heavy weapons, according to the report of the Secretary-General.]


The representative of Georgia said that although the resolution addressed essential issues, comments on draft protocols and agreement on peace and on guarantees, contained in operative paragraph 4, was unacceptable and could be setting a dangerous precedent if interpreted as the Council applying pressure on a United Nations Member State to enter into the so-called “peace agreement” with a separatist region.


The full text of resolution 1339 (2001) follows.


The meeting, which began at 1:34 p.m., was adjourned at 1:41 p.m.


Draft Resolution


“The Security Council,


“Recalling all its relevant resolutions, in particular resolution 1311 (2000) of 28 July 2000, and the statement of its President of 14 November 2000 (S/PRST/2000/32),


“Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 18 January 2001 (S/2001/59),


“Recalling the conclusions of the Lisbon (S/1997/57, annex) and Istanbul summits of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) regarding the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia,


“Stressing that the continued lack of progress on key issues of a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, is unacceptable,


“Deeply concerned that, although currently mostly calm, the general situation in the conflict zone remains very volatile,


“Noting the holding of the twelfth session of the Coordinating Council of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides on 23 January 2001,


“Recalling the relevant principles contained in the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel adopted on 9 December 1994,


“Welcoming 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 remained very close, and stressing the importance of close cooperation between them in the performance of their respective mandates,


“1.   Welcomes the report of the Secretary-General of 18 January 2001;


“2.   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 the achievement of a comprehensive political settlement, which must include a settlement of the political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia;


“3.   Strongly supports, in particular, the intention of the Special Representative to submit, in the near future, the draft paper containing specific proposals to the parties on the question of the distribution of constitutional competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi as a basis for meaningful negotiations;


“4.   Stresses the need to accelerate work on the draft protocol on the return of the refugees to the Gali region and measures for economic rehabilitation, as well as on the draft agreement on peace and guarantees for the prevention and for the non-resumption of hostilities;


“5.   Calls upon the parties, in particular the Abkhaz side, to undertake immediate efforts to move beyond the impasse and to engage into negotiations on the core political questions of the conflict and all other outstanding issues in the United Nations-led peace process;


“6.   Welcomes the readiness of the Government of Ukraine to host the third meeting on confidence-building measures, welcomes also the commitment of both sides to the conflict to meet in Yalta in March 2001, and notes the important contribution a successful conference would make to the peace process;


“7.   Reaffirms the unacceptability of the demographic changes resulting from the conflict, and reaffirms also the inalienable right of all refugees and displaced persons affected by the conflict to return to their homes in secure and dignified conditions, in accordance with international law and as set out in the Quadripartite Agreement of 4 April 1994 (S/1994/397, annex II);


“8.   Urges the parties, in this context, to address urgently and in a concerted manner, as a first step, the undefined and insecure status of spontaneous returnees to the Gali district, which remains an issue of serious concern;


“9.   Expresses its satisfaction with the joint assessment mission to the Gali district, carried out under the aegis of the United Nations, and looks forward to the careful consideration of the mission’s recommendations regarding human rights, law enforcement and education;


“10.  Condemns all violations of the Moscow Agreement of 14 May 1994 on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces (S/1994/583, annex I), and notes with particular concern the Abkhaz military exercise conducted in November 2000;


“11.  Deplores the rise in criminality and activities of armed groups in the conflict zone, which constitutes a major destabilizing factor affecting the overall situation, calls upon the parties to increase their efforts at curbing them and to cooperate in good faith using the means provided by the Coordinating Council mechanism, condemns the recent killings of civilians and Abkhaz militiamen, and calls upon both sides, in particular the Georgian side, to investigate these incidents and bring to justice those responsible;


“12.  Condemns the abduction of two UNOMIG military observers on 10 December 2000, recalls that the Georgian and the Abkhaz sides bear the primary responsibility for the security of UNOMIG, the CIS peacekeeping force and other international personnel, and appeals to them to bring to justice the perpetrators of the hostage-taking incidents of October 1999, June 2000 and December 2000;


“13.  Calls upon the parties to ensure security and freedom of movement of the United Nations and other international personnel;


“14.  Welcomes UNOMIG keeping its security arrangements under constant review in order to ensure the highest possible level of security for its staff;


“15.  Decides to extend the mandate of UNOMIG for a new period terminating on 31 July 2001, 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, and 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;


“16.  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, and requests also the Secretary-General to provide for a briefing within three months on the progress of the political settlement, including on the status of the draft paper his Special Representative intends to submit to the parties as referred to in paragraph 3 above;


“17.  Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”


Council Work Programme


When the Council met this afternoon, it had before it the most recent report of the Secretary-General concerning the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia (document S/2001/59). 


In the report, which covers developments in the region since 25 October, the Secretary-General says that the continued lack of progress on the fundamental issue of the future political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia is regrettable, and could jeopardize the whole peace process in the future.  Both sides, he says, must show a stronger political will in order to overcome the present impasse.  He particularly appeals to the Abkhaz side to demonstrate more flexibility and willingness to address the core political questions of the conflict.


The situation of refugees and internally displaced persons is another issue of serious concern, the Secretary-General says.  As a significant first step towards a solution to this problem, both sides should act to enable people to return to the Gali district in conditions of dignity, safety and security.  In this context, the Secretary-General welcomes the cooperation extended by both sides to facilitate the recent joint assessment mission to the Gali district.  He urges the parties to assist also in the implementation of the mission’s recommendations.


The absence of effective law enforcement and the continuing extreme economic hardship in the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) area of operations contributed to the overall volatility of the situation, which, if not remedied, might deteriorate, the report says.  Bearing that in mind, and in the light of the obligation of UNOMIG under its mandate to “contribute to conditions conducive to the safe and orderly return of refugees and displaced persons”, the Mission will, together with the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, explore possibilities for increasing humanitarian aid to the population, including by allocating, in the UNOMIG budget, a sum for limited ad hoc assistance.


The Secretary-General hopes that the third Meeting on Confidence-building Measures, now planned for March 2001 in Yalta, will facilitate much-needed reconciliation and strengthen the ongoing positive trend towards establishing and developing mutual contacts at various levels between both sides, thus contributing to mutual understanding and confidence.  Both sides should seriously consider the positive impact which confidence-building measures can have on the peace process.


The restrictions imposed by the Abkhaz authorities on the Mission’s freedom of movement constitute a violation of the Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces of 14 May 1994 (documents S/1994/583 and Corr.1, annex I), as well as of the principles guiding United Nations peacekeeping operations, the Secretary-General says.  For UNOMIG to be fully effective on the ground, the Abkhaz side has to fully respect the Mission’s freedom of movement at all times.  The Secretary-General adds that the Georgian and the Abkhaz sides bear the primary responsibility for the security of UNOMIG military and civilian personnel. Recurrent abductions, the most recent of which occurred on 10 December, and the rampant criminality in the zone of conflict give rise to serious concern.


The Secretary-General appeals to the Government of Georgia to bring to justice the perpetrators of the hostage-taking incidents of October 1999, June 2000 and December 2000.  Security can be fully restored only if it is made clear that these acts are not allowed to pass with impunity.  The Georgian side also needs to create the necessary security conditions in the upper part of the Kodori Valley to allow UNOMIG to fully carry out its mandate in this area.


The Secretary-General remains convinced that UNOMIG, through its monitoring presence on the ground, plays a crucial role in the stabilization of the zone of conflict.  Its sustained efforts to further the negotiation process also represent a central element in the search for a peaceful settlement of the conflict.  He, therefore, recommends that the mandate of UNOMIG be extended for a further six-month period, until 31 July.


Annexed to the report is a table of current personnel contributions to UNOMIG and an overview of an expert level joint assessment mission to the Gali district.


General Background


The conflict in Abkhazia, in the north-western region of Georgia, began with social unrest and attempts by local authorities to separate from the Republic.  It escalated into a series of armed confrontations in the summer of 1992. A ceasefire agreement was reached on 3 September 1993 by the Republic of Georgia, the leadership of Abkhazia and the Russian Federation, which stipulated that “the territorial integrity of the Republic of Georgia shall be ensured”.  The agreement, however, was never fully implemented.  On 1 October 1993, the ceasefire collapsed.  In November 1992, a United Nations office opened in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, to assist in the peacemaking efforts of the Secretary-General. On 28 July 1993, a ceasefire was re-established.


On 24 August 1993, the Security Council, by resolution 858 (1993), established UNOMIG to verify compliance with the ceasefire agreement.  The ceasefire, however, broke down again on 16 September 1993.  By Council resolution 881 (1993) of 4 November 1993, UNOMIG was given an interim mandate to maintain contacts with both sides of the conflict and with a Russian military contingent.  On 14 May 1994, the Georgian and Abkhaz sides signed the Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces.  The parties agreed to the deployment of a peacekeeping force of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to monitor compliance with the Agreement, with UNOMIG monitoring implementation of the Agreement and observing the operation of the CIS force.


On 27 July 1994, the Council expanded the mandate of UNOMIG and increased its strength to up to 136 military observers.  The UNOMIG also includes the Human Rights Office established in December 1996 in accordance with Council resolution 1077 (1996).  Over the years, the Secretary-General and his successive Special Representatives, with support from representatives of the Russian Federation, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the group of Friends of the Secretary-General, have continued efforts to promote the stabilization of the situation and the achievement of a comprehensive political settlement, including a settlement on the future political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia and the return of refugees and displaced persons.  By its resolution 1311 (2000) of 28 July 2000, the Council extended UNOMIG’s mandate until 31 January 2001.


Statement


PETER CHKHEIDZE (Georgia) said the draft resolution addressed essential issues such as the determination of the future status of Abhkazia within the State of Georgia, the improvement of the security situation in the zone of conflict, the return of refugees to the Gali district as a first step towards the return of all refugees and internally displaced persons, the economic rehabilitation of Abkhazia, and confidence-building measures.  He was grateful to the Government of Ukraine for its initiative to host in Yalta the third meeting on confidence-building measures.


He said, however, that the introduction of operative paragraph 4 in the resolution might jeopardize the upcoming Yalta meeting and put the entire peace process on hold.   The draft protocols and agreement on peace and guarantees contained in that paragraph was unacceptable to his Government and had never been discussed by Council members.  The paragraph should not be interpreted as exerting Council pressure upon a United Nations Member State to enter into a so-called “peace agreement” with a separatist region, thus, setting a dangerous precedent from the standpoint of international law.

[Operative paragraph 4 reads:  “Stresses the need to accelerate work on the draft protocol on the return of the refugees to the Gali region and measures for economic rehabilitation, as well as on the draft agreement on peace and guarantees for the prevention and for the non-resumption of hostilities;”.]


He noted that the parties to the conflict had already signed several agreements renouncing the use of force in the settlement of the conflict.


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