30/01/2004
Press Release
SC/7993



Security Council                                           

4906th Meeting (AM)                                         


SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS GEORGIAMISSION UNTIL 31 JULY


The Security Council this morning extended the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) until 31 July 2004.


By the terms of Council resolution 1524 (2004), the extension was subject to a review of UNOMIG’s mandate in the event of changes in the mandate of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force.


Unanimously adopting the text, the Council welcomed the start of the deployment of a civilian police component of UNOMIG and looked forward to an early confirmation by the Abkhaz side that the deployment in the Gali district of the remaining police officers could proceed.


Deploring the deterioration in the security environment in the Gali sector, including repeated killings and abductions, the Council called in particular on the Abkhaz side to improve law enforcement involving the local population.


The Council stressed the urgent need for progress on the question of refugees and internally displaced persons, and called on both sides to display a genuine commitment to make returns the focus of special attention and to undertake that task in close coordination with UNOMIG and consultations with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Group of Friends.


Recalling that the Abkhaz side bore a particular responsibility to protect the returnees and to facilitate the return of the remaining displaced population, the Council reaffirmed the unacceptability of demographic changes resulting from the conflict.  It reaffirmed also the inalienable right of all refugees and internally displaced persons affected by the conflict to return to their homes in secure and dignified conditions.


Stressing its strong support for the document on “Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi”, the Council regretted the lack of progress on the initiation of political status negotiations.  Further, it deeply regretted the continued refusal of the Abkhaz side to agree to a discussion on the substance of that document.  It underlined further that the process of negotiation leading to a lasting political settlement acceptable to both sides would require concessions from both sides.


The Council underlined that it was the primary responsibility of both sides to provide appropriate security for UNOMIG and to ensure freedom of movement for the Mission, for the CIS peacekeeping force and other international personnel.  It strongly condemned the repeated abduction of personnel of those missions and deeply deplored that none of the perpetrators had ever been identified or brought to justice.  The Council urged the parties once again to take all necessary steps to identify those responsible for the shooting down of a UNOMIG helicopter on

8 October 2001 and to bring them to justice.


Beginning at 11:42 a.m., the meeting adjourned at 11:44 a.m.


Resolution


Following is the full text of Council resolution 1524 (2004):


“The Security Council,


“Recalling all its relevant resolutions, in particular resolution 1494 (2003) of 30 July 2003,


“Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 14 January 2004 (S/2004/26),


“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,


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


“Deploring that the perpetrators of the shooting down of a helicopter of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) on 8 October 2001, which resulted in the death of nine people on board, have still not been identified,


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


Welcoming, however, the positive momentum given to the United-Nations-led peace process by regular high level meetings of the Group of Friends in Geneva and the Georgian-Russian summit meeting in March 2003,


“Noting the holding of presidential elections in Georgia in January and encouraging the new Georgian leadership as well as the Abkhaz side to pursue a comprehensive, peaceful political settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia,


Welcoming the important contributions made by UNOMIG and the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS peacekeeping force) in stabilizing the situation in the zone of conflict, and stressing its attachment to the close cooperation existing between them in the performance of their respective mandates,


“1.   Welcomes the report of the Secretary-General of 14 January 2004 (S/2004/26);


“2.   Reaffirms the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders, and the necessity to define the status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia in strict accordance with these principles;


“3.   Commends and 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;


“4.   Stresses, in particular, its strong support for the document on “Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi” and for its letter of transmittal, finalized by, and with the full support of, all members of the Group of Friends;


“5.   Deeply regrets, the continued refusal of the Abkhaz side to agree to a discussion on the substance of this document, again strongly urges the Abkhaz side to receive the document and its transmittal letter, urges both parties thereafter to give them full and open consideration, and to engage in constructive negotiations on their substance, and urges those having influence with the parties to promote this outcome;


“6.   Regrets the lack of progress on the initiation of political status negotiations, and recalls, once again, that the purpose of these documents is to facilitate meaningful negotiations between the parties, under the leadership of the United Nations, on the status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia, and is not an attempt to impose or dictate any specific solution to the parties;


“7.   Underlines further that the process of negotiation leading to a lasting political settlement acceptable to both sides will require concessions from both sides;


“8.   Welcomes the convening of regular meetings of senior representatives of the Group of Friends in Geneva and the intention expressed by the parties to accept the invitation to participate in the forthcoming meeting and calls upon them to participate again in a positive spirit;


“9.   Urges the parties to participate in a more active, regular and structured manner in the task forces established in the first Geneva meeting (to address issues in the priority areas of economic cooperation, the return of internally displaced persons and refugees, and political and security matters) and complemented by the working groups established in Sochi, and stresses that results oriented activities in these three priority areas remain key to building common ground between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides and ultimately for concluding meaningful negotiations on a comprehensive political settlement based on the paper entitled “Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi” and its transmittal letter;


“10.  Welcomes the joint Georgian-Abkhaz high level visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, led by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, as agreed in the second Geneva meeting;


“11.  Calls on the parties to spare no efforts to overcome their ongoing mutual mistrust;


“12.  Calls again on the parties to ensure the necessary revitalization of the peace process in all its major aspects, including their work in the Coordinating Council and its relevant mechanisms, to build on the results of the Yalta meeting on confidence-building measures in March 2001 (S/2001/242), to implement the proposals agreed on that occasion in a purposeful and cooperative manner, and to consider holding a fourth conference on confidence-building measures;


“13.  Reminds all concerned to refrain from any action that might impede the peace process;


“14.  Stresses the urgent need for progress on the question of the refugees and internally displaced persons, calls on both sides to display a genuine commitment to make returns the focus of special attention and to undertake this task in close coordination with UNOMIG and consultations with UNHCR and the Group of Friends and recalls the understanding in the Sochi summit that the reopening of the Sochi-Tbilisi railway will be undertaken in parallel with the return of refugees and displaced persons, starting in the Gali district;


“15.  Reaffirms the unacceptability of the demographic changes resulting from the conflict, reaffirms also the inalienable right of all refugees and IDPs 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) and the Yalta Declaration;


“16.  Recalls that the Abkhaz side bears a particular responsibility to protect the returnees and to facilitate the return of the remaining displaced population;


“17.  Welcomes the mission led by the United Nations Development Programme to the Gali region (December 2003) to assess the feasibility of a sustainable recovery process for the local population and potential returnees and to identify further actions to improve the overall security conditions and ensure sustainable return and looks forward to the publication of the resulting report;


“18.  Welcomes the positive consideration by the parties given to the recommendations of the joint assessment mission to the Gali district, urges them once again to implement those recommendations and in particular calls upon the Abkhaz side to agree to the opening as soon as possible of the Gali branch of the human rights office in Sukhumi and to provide security conditions for its unhindered functioning;


“19.  Welcomes the start of the deployment of a civilian police component as part of UNOMIG, as endorsed in resolution 1494 (2003) and agreed by the parties, looks forward to an early confirmation by the Abkhaz side that the deployment in the Gali district of the remaining police officers can proceed, and calls on the parties to cooperate and actively support the police component;


“20.  Calls in particular on the Abkhaz side to improve law enforcement involving the local population and to address the lack of instruction in their mother tongue for the ethnic Georgian population;


“21.  Calls on both parties further to publicly dissociate themselves from any militant rhetoric and demonstrations of support for military options or for the activities of illegal armed groups, notes the efforts undertaken by the Georgian side to put an end to the activities of illegal armed groups and encourages the parties, in particular the Georgian side, to maintain their efforts;


“22.  Condemns any violations of the provisions of the Moscow Agreement of 14 May 1994 on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces (S/1994/583, annex I);


“23.  Welcomes the continuing relative calm in the Kodori Valley and the intention reaffirmed by the parties to resolve the situation peacefully, recalls its strong support to the protocol signed by the two sides on 2 April 2002 regarding the situation in the valley and calls on the sides to continue to fully implement this protocol;


“24.  Deplores the deterioration in the security environment in the Gali sector including repeated killings and abductions;


“25.  Welcomes the holding of a Quadripartite meeting with high level representation by the parties on 19 January 2004, and their signing of a protocol on security issues and urges the parties to abide by the provisions of that protocol and the protocol signed by them on 8 October 2003 and to cooperate more closely with each other to improve security in the Gali sector;


“26.  Calls on the Georgian side to continue to improve security for joint UNOMIG and CIS peacekeeping force patrols in the Kodori Valley to enable them to resume monitoring of the situation independently and regularly when road conditions permit;


“27.  Underlines that it is the primary responsibility of both sides to provide appropriate security and to ensure the freedom of movement of UNOMIG, the CIS peacekeeping force and other international personnel; strongly condemns the repeated abductions of personnel of those missions, deeply deplores that none of the perpetrators have ever been identified or brought to justice and reiterates that it is the responsibility of the parties to end this impunity;


“28.  Urges the parties, once again, to take all necessary steps to identify those responsible for the shooting down of a UNOMIG helicopter on 8 October 2001, to bring them to justice, and to inform the Special Representative on the steps taken;


“29.  Decides to extend the mandate of UNOMIG for a new period terminating on 31 July 2004, subject to a review as appropriate of its mandate by the Council in the event of changes in the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force;


“30.  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;


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


Background


Before the Council was the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2004/26), dated 14 January 2004, in which he recommends extending the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) until 31 July 2004.  Updating the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, since the report of 17 October 2003 (document S/2003/1019), the report states that UNOMIG’s presence continues to be critical for maintaining stability and advancing the peace process towards a comprehensive political settlement.


The Secretary-General welcomes the increased involvement of the Group of Friends in 2003 and the renewed willingness of the sides to engage constructively in such areas of key concern as economic cooperation, return of refugees and internally displaced persons, political and security matters.  To assist with the prioritization and implementation of these tasks, the set of available peace process mechanisms has been expanded by the United Nations-chaired high-level meetings of the Group of Friends and complemented by the working groups set up following the Georgian-Russian summit meeting in March 2003.


While these initiatives have led to some progress, particularly in the areas of return and security, this progress has remained painfully slow, the report states.  It took sustained efforts by UNOMIG, supported by the Group of Friends, to keep the sides focused on moving forward.  Meanwhile, the increasingly complex political situation on both sides of the ceasefire line and the events that led to the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze in November have put the peace process temporarily on hold.  The third United Nations-chaired meeting of the Group of Friends, scheduled for early 2004, will provide an opportunity to seek renewed progress on priority tasks.


Encouraging both sides to continue with the implementation of outstanding recommendations of the 2000 joint assessment mission and the 2002 security assessment mission, the report says that neither the opening of a branch of the Human Rights Office nor the resolution of the dispute over the language of instruction in the Gali district should be delayed any further in light of the precarious human rights situation.  If the two sides are truly committed to improving security, criminal acts irrespective of their character, should be investigated more effectively and prevented in the future.  UNOMIG’s civilian police component stands ready to assist the local law enforcement agencies.


Two years after the finalization of the paper on competences and its transmittal letter, negotiations on Abkhazia’s future political status within the State of Georgia have not yet started, the report notes.  Key Security Council members continue to reaffirm their unequivocal support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  The Secretary-General appeals once again to the Abkhaz side to abandon its uncompromising position and to take advantage of the change in leadership in Tbilisi to negotiate a mutually acceptable and lasting settlement.


Emphasizing his continuing preoccupation with the security of UNOMIG personnel, the Secretary-General reminds both sides of their responsibility to ensure their safety at all times, backing up their assurances with concrete action such as the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of the various criminal acts against Mission personnel.  These include the shooting down of a UNOMIG helicopter in 2001.  Timely and effective cooperation on security-related matters will also enable a resumption of patrolling in the Kodori Valley, which remains an essential part of UNOMIG’s mandate.


* *** *