1. Hostilities of 1992
The conflict in Abkhazia, strategically located on the Black Sea
in the northwestern region of the Republic of Georgia, began with
social unrest and the attempts by the local authorities to separate
from the Republic. It escalated into a series of armed confrontations
in the summer of 1992 when the Government of Georgia deployed 2,000
Georgian troops in Abkhazia. Fierce fighting resulted in some 200
dead and hundreds wounded. The Abkhaz leadership abandoned the Abkhaz
capital of Sukhumi and retreated to the town of Gudauta.
A ceasefire agreement was reached on 3 September 1992 in Moscow
by the Republic of Georgia, the leadership of Abkhazia and the Russian
Federation. The agreement stipulated that "the territorial integrity
of the Republic of Georgia shall be ensured". It also set out, as
the basis of the peace settlement, a ceasefire to take effect as
of 5 September 1992 and other issues including, inter alia, the
disarming of illegal armed formations, the reduction of the armed
forces and the exchange of prisoners.
The agreement, however, was never fully implemented. The situation
remained very tense with both sides accusing one another of ceasefire
violations. On 1 October 1992, the ceasefire collapsed and the fighting
resumed. The Abkhaz forces, supported by fighters from the North
Caucasus region, quickly captured the major towns, and threatened
to bring nearly 80 per cent of Abkhazia, including the capital city
of Sukhumi, under their control. The raging fighting forced some
30,000 civilians to flee across the border to the Russian Federation.
The parties to the conflict accused one another of human rights
violations committed against the civilian population. By November
1992, the outbreak of inter-ethnic fighting in the North Caucasus
region of the Russian Federation added another dimension to the
already tense situation in the area.
2. Establishment of UNOMIG
The United Nations sought to revive the peace process by diplomatic
means, consulting with the Conference on Security and Cooperation
in Europe (CSCE) [now redesignated the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)] so as to ensure effective coordination
of activities. In November 1992, a United Nations office opened
in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to provide an integrated United
Nations approach in the region and to assist in the peacemaking
efforts of the Secretary-General.
In May 1993, the Secretary-General appointed a Special Envoy for
Georgia. His first mission to the region reaffirmed that all parties
supported an active role of the United Nations in reaching a peaceful
resolution to the conflict. On 27 July 1993, a new agreement was
concluded between the Government of Georgia and the Abkhaz authorities
in Gudauta, which re-established a ceasefire as of 28 July. The
agreement provided for the immediate commencement of a phased demilitarization
of the conflict zone. To monitor this process, international observers
were to be deployed within 10 to 15 days of the date of the ceasefire.
On 4 August, the Secretary-General proposed the deployment of
an advance team of up to 10 United Nations military observers to
help verify compliance with the ceasefire. The advance team would
then become part of the observer group if the Security Council decided
to establish one. The Council agreed to this proposal. The advance
team arrived in Abkhazia on 8 August 1993 and established its headquarters
in Sukhumi. The team then initiated regular road patrols to monitor
compliance with the agreement. Initial reports received from the
team confirmed that the ceasefire was holding. On 24 August 1993,
the Security Council, by resolution
858 (1993), decided to establish the United Nations Observer
Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), comprising up to 88 military observers,
plus minimal civilian support staff, to verify compliance with the
3. Renewed Fighting
The ceasefire, however, broke down again on 16 September 1993.
Abkhaz forces, with armed support from outside Abkhazia, launched
attacks on Sukhumi and Ochamchira. Notwithstanding the Security
Council's call for the immediate cessation of hostilities and its
condemnation of the violation of the ceasefire by the Abkhaz side,
fighting continued. In the next few days, the military situation
developed rapidly. On 27 September, the Abkhaz side occupied Sukhumi
and a few days later all of Abkhazia. As a result of the fighting,
hundreds of thousands of civilians, mostly Georgians, were displaced.
Following the breakdown of the ceasefire, further deployment of
UNOMIG was suspended. The strength of the Mission was limited to
four military observers and four civilians in Sukhumi; one observer
in Tbilisi; and seven observers in Sochi, a city within the territory
of the Russian Federation, where they were when hostilities resumed.
The conflict led to the almost complete devastation of vast areas
and the massive displacement of population. There were reports of
numerous and serious human rights violations in Abkhazia. A United
Nations fact-finding mission, dispatched by the Secretary-General
in October 1993, reported that both Georgian government forces and
Abkhazian forces, as well as irregulars and civilians cooperating
with them, were responsible for such violations.
4. UNOMIG's Mandate Expanded
After UNOMIG's original mandate had been invalidated by the resumed
fighting in Abkhazia in September 1993, the Mission was given an
interim mandate, by Security Council resolution
881 (1993) of 4 November 1993, to maintain contacts with both
sides to the conflict and with the Russian military contingent,
and to monitor and report on the situation, with particular reference
to developments relevant to United Nations efforts to promote a
comprehensive political settlement.
On 14 May 1994, after several rounds of difficult negotiations
chaired by the Secretary-General's Special Envoy, the Georgian and
Abkhaz sides signed in Moscow 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, following the recommendation
by the Secretary-General, the Security Council expanded
the mandate of UNOMIG accordingly and increased its strength to
up to 136 military observers. The Mission was entrusted with the
following tasks: to monitor and verify the implementation by the
parties of the Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces;
to observe the operation of the CIS peacekeeping force within the
framework of the implementation of the Agreement; to verify, through
observation and patrolling, that troops of the parties do not remain
in or re-enter the security zone and that heavy military equipment
does not remain or is not reintroduced in the security zone or the
restricted weapons zone; to monitor the storage areas for heavy
military equipment withdrawn from the security zone and the restricted
weapons zone in cooperation with the CIS peacekeeping force as appropriate;
to monitor the withdrawal of troops of the Republic of Georgia from
the Kodori Valley to places beyond the boundaries of Abkhazia, Republic
of Georgia; to patrol regularly the Kodori Valley; to investigate
reported or alleged violations of the Agreement and to attempt to
resolve or contribute to the resolution of such incidents; to report
regularly to the Secretary-General, in particular on the implementation
of the Agreement, any violations and their investigation by UNOMIG,
as well as other relevant developments; to maintain close contacts
with both parties to the conflict and to cooperate with the CIS
peacekeeping force and, by its presence in the area, to contribute
to conditions conducive to the safe and orderly return of refugees
and displaced persons.
UNOMIG also includes the Human Rights Office established in December
1996 in accordance with Security Council resolution 1077 (1996).
It is jointly staffed by OSCE and the Office of the High Commissioner
for Human Rights (OHCHR). The Office forms part of UNOMIG and reports
to the High Commissioner for Human Rights through the Head of Mission
5. Current Situation
Over the years, the Secretary-General and his successive Special
Representatives, with support from representatives of the Russian
Federation, as facilitator, OSCE and the group of Friends of the
Secretary-General - comprising France, Germany, the Russian Federation,
the United Kingdom and the United States - 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. Despite those
efforts, however, little substantial results have been achieved
on the key issues of the negotiations, and the Georgian-Abkhaz peace
process has remained stalled.
With the impasse in the peace process, the situation on the ground
also remained unsettled. UNOMIG continued to carry out its mandate
by means of daily ground patrols from its headquarters in Sukhumi
and the two sector headquarters at Gali and Zugdidi, as well as
through regular helicopter patrols. By these means, UNOMIG was able
to cover its entire area of responsibility, with the exception of
the upper Kodori Valley, where patrolling remains suspended for
The Chief Military Observer of the Mission chaired meetings of
the Joint Fact-finding Group established on 19 January 2000, which
included representatives of the CIS peacekeeping force, as well
as of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides. The UNOMIG engineering and
construction programme in support of the Mission's operational needs
was also continuing. The Mission also continued to provide advice,
good offices and logistical assistance for projects aimed at building
confidence between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides. Cooperation between
UNOMIG and the CIS peacekeeping force remained very close.
Situation on the ground
The general situation in the conflict zone remained mostly calm
but very volatile. Criminality and lawlessness continued to be major
destabilizing factors, putting in jeopardy the overall security
situation. Complaints had repeatedly been lodged by the local population
in both sectors about terrorizing and intimidation by armed groups.
Repeated violations of the Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation
of Forces of 14 May 1994 and restrictions on the freedom of movement
of UNOMIG continued.
The security and safety of UNOMIG personnel remained an issue
of high priority to the Mission. While partisan activities were
of concern, the main threat to the security and safety of UNOMIG
personnel was the high level of criminality in the area of conflict
and the inability of local law enforcement agencies to deal with
the problem effectively. The inadequacies of Abkhaz law enforcement
were particularly evident in the lower Gali security zone, while
the Georgian authorities did not seem to exercise full control over
the upper part of the Kodori Valley.
Some of the incidents that directly affected UNOMIG operations
and personnel included the blocking of one of the main roads in
early July 1999, which hindered the Mission's freedom of movement;
an explosion at the fence of the Sukhumi headquarters on 9 July;
the throwing of a grenade over the fence of the newly opened Zugdidi
office on 27 September; and the kidnapping of seven UNOMIG personnel
on 13 October, all of whom were released by 15 October. In addition,
two UNOMIG military observers were abducted on 17 January 2000 and
held for two hours; several international and local staff and their
homes were subjected to armed theft in March and April; two military
observers, one interpreter and two non-governmental officers were
taken as hostages in the Kodori Valley on 1 June and held for several
days; and a UNOMIG patrol vehicle was fired upon in Gali on 15 June.
Very serious security incident occurred in the Kodori Valley on
10 December 2000, when two United Nations military observers were
abducted by unidentified armed individuals and held for three days.
They were released on 13 December. Following this incident UNOMIG
patrolling in the Kodori Valley was suspended for security reasons.
In addition, the threat of mines continued to be of great concern.
UNOMIG relied on the assistance of the HALO Trust to dispose of
the mines. In violation of the Moscow Agreement, there was also
a disturbing tendency by the two sides to restrict the movement
of UNOMIG personnel, thereby hindering the ability of the Mission
to fulfil its mandate.
Humanitarian situation and human rights
situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, remained serious. International
humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations continued
to address the acute food and medical needs of vulnerable segments
of the population and to conduct mine clearance and small-scale
rehabilitation activities. There were no indications of improvement
in the field of human rights. The major issues of concern to the
Nations Human Rights Office in Abkhazia, Georgia, remained violations
of the right to life, the right to physical integrity and the right
to liberty and security of person. The human rights situation was
particularly precarious in the Gali region.
The Secretary-General reviews the situation
to the Security Council on 18 January 2001, the Secretary-General
stated that the continued lack of progress on the fundamental issue
of the future political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia
was regrettable and could jeopardize the whole peace process in
the future. Both sides, he said, must show a stronger political
will in order to overcome the present impasse. He particularly appealed
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 was
another issue of serious concern, the Secretary-General wrote in
his report. 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 welcomed the cooperation extended
by both sides to facilitate the November 2000 joint assessment mission
to the Gali district, led by the head of the United Nations Human
Rights Office. The absence of effective law enforcement and the
continuing extreme economic hardship in the UNOMIG's area of operations
contributed to the overall volatility of the situation.
The Secretary-General hoped that the third Meeting on Confidence-building
Measures, planned for March 2001 in Yalta, would 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.
[The third meeting of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides on confidence-building
measures was held at Yalta on 15-16 March at the invitation of the
Government of Ukraine. Calling that meeting "an indispensable element
of the peace process," the Secretary-General urged both sides to
implement the obligations they undertook in the final documents
of the meeting. For further details please see the report of the
Secretary-General dated 24 April 2000 -- S/2001/401]
In a further report
to the Security Council on 19 July 2001, the Secretary-General stressed
the fact that the meaningful negotiations on the future political
status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia had not yet begun.
In the absence of such negotiations, the entire peace process remained
in jeopardy. He also said that the pledge by the two sides to facilitate
a safe, secure and dignified return of all refugees and internally
displaced persons to their places of previous permanent residence,
as stipulated in the Quadripartite Agreement on the Voluntary Return
of Refugees and Displaced Persons of 4 April 1994, still awaited
Having noted that confidence-building measures were an indispensable
part of the peace process and should be addressed in their own right,
without conditions relating to other matters under negotiation,
the Secretary-General invited the parties to follow up on their
Programme of Action, as agreed during the Yalta meeting in March
2001, and to implement the proposals in a purposeful and cooperative
The Secretary-General pointed out that the Moscow Agreement remained
a cornerstone of the United Nations peace effort. The increasing
number of violations of this Agreement gave rise to grave concern.
The same applied to restrictions of movement imposed on UNOMIG,
which prevent the Mission from carrying out its mandate to the full.
He appealed to both sides to immediately reinstate full compliance
with all the stipulations of the Moscow Agreement. As to the security
of UNOMIG personnel, it was the responsibility of both sides to
provide appropriate security conditions for the work of the Mission
at all times
Concluding the report, the Secretary-General emphasized that,
as developments on the ground had shown, UNOMIG continued to play
a crucial role in the stabilization of the zone of conflict. Its
efforts to advance the negotiation process constituted a central
element in the search for a peaceful settlement. He therefore recommended
that its mandate be extended for a further six-month period, until
31 January 2002.
On 31 July, the Security Council extended the mandate of UNOMIG
for six months, through 31 January 2002. Acting unanimously, the
Council adopted resolution
1364 (2001) which blamed the deterioration of the situation
in the zone of conflict in Abkhazia on "ongoing violence, hostage-taking
incidents, the rise in criminality and the activities of illegal
armed groups in the conflict zone, which constitutes a constant
threat to the peace process."
The Council expressed its intention to conduct a thorough review
of the operation at the end of the extension, "in the light of steps
taken by the parties to achieve a comprehensive settlement." The
Council expressed strong support for the efforts of the Secretary-General
and his Special Representative, with the assistance of the Russian
Federation, to stabilize the situation and achieve a comprehensive
political settlement, including a settlement of the political status
of Abkhazia within Georgia.
The Council also recalled the Special Representative's intention
to submit a draft paper on the distribution of constitutional competencies
between Tbilisi and Sukhumi "as a basis for meaningful negotiations,
and not as an attempt to impose or dictate any specific solution
to the parties." The resolution stressed 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.
The parties, particularly the Abkhaz side, were called upon to
move beyond the impasse and engage in negotiations on the core political
questions of the conflict and all other outstanding issues in the
UN-led peace process. The Council also urged the parties to work
together in order to clarify recent kidnapping incidents, secure
the release of the remaining hostages, and bring the perpetrators
The Council expressed concern at the "disturbing tendency" by
the parties to restrict the freedom of movement of UNOMIG, and called
upon both sides to ensure the security and freedom of movement of
UN and other international personnel.
Shooting Down of UN Helicopter
In August-October 2001, the situation on the ground seriously
deteriorated with the resumed fighting in the conflict zone between
Abkhaz forces and armed irregulars. During that period, UNOMIG continued
its patrols throughout the mission area, except the Georgian-controlled
upper part of the Kodori Valley. These patrols were conducted from
UNOMIG headquarters in Sukhumi and sector headquarters in Gali and
Zugdidi. The sectors also carried out helicopter patrols over their
areas of responsibility, with special attention to inaccessible
areas and the security zone along the ceasefire line.
On 8 October, on the basis of security assurances provided by
Georgia and following clearance of the flight by the Abkhaz authorities
as well as their assurances that the irregulars had been driven
northwards, UNOMIG undertook a regular helicopter patrol to the
Kodori Valley. Shortly after the helicopter took off, it was shot
down close to the entrance of the valley, 20 kilometres east of
Sukhumi. All nine unarmed people on board were killed, including
four United Nations military observers, two locally employed United
Nations staff members and the three members of the contracted helicopter
crew. This was the most serious security incident in the history
On the same day, a UNOMIG search and rescue patrol, with an armed
escort of the CIS peacekeeping force, recovered five bodies. However,
because of continued fighting near the crash site, the four remaining
bodies could only be recovered two days later by the Abkhaz military.
A team from United Nations Headquarters was sent immediately to
Sukhumi to assist in the technical investigation of the crash and
to provide administrative support to UNOMIG. A technical investigation
committee was also set up under the chairmanship of Ukraine (the
country of registration of the helicopter), with the participation
of the United Nations and in cooperation with Georgian and Abkhaz
authorities. The Security Council was briefed twice about the incident.
Since 9 October, due to the precarious security conditions on
the ground, UNOMIG's Sukhumi headquarters and Gali sector were placed
on a state of alert. Operational patrolling from these sectors was
suspended and only resumed on 18 October 2001, after the fighting
Reporting to the Security Council on 24 October, the Secretary-General
said that the fighting in the Kodori Valley and surrounding areas
of Abkhazia, Georgia, as well as the shooting down of a UNOMIG helicopter,
represented a serious deterioration of the situation and a setback
in efforts to achieve a political settlement. He said that both
sides must unequivocally respect the ceasefire, renew their commitment
to seek a resolution of the conflict by political means, stop encouraging
military action and return to the peace process without reservation
According to the report, those events were a painful demonstration
of the fact that, in the absence of meaningful negotiations on the
future political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia,
the entire peace process could be jeopardized. The Secretary-General
appealed again to the Group of Friends to expedite, in close cooperation
with his Special Representative, the process of finalizing the draft
paper on the distribution of competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi
and to bring it to a successful conclusion.
The Secretary-General described the shooting down of the UN helicopter
as "an outrage" and reminded both sides of their obligation to provide
for the safety and security of United Nations personnel. The perpetrators
of criminal acts against UNOMIG must be brought to justice, he said.
Some Political Progress Achieved
The following three months saw some progress in the political
process. A significant political step was taken in mid-December
when the Secretary-General's Special Representative, in consultation
with the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General, was able to
finalize, after two years of discussions, the paper on "Basic Principles
for the Distribution of Competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi".
The document is intended to serve as a basis for meaningful negotiations
on the future status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia.
Meanwhile, relative calm returned to the UNOMIG area of operation
following the hostilities of late summer and early autumn. Nevertheless,
tensions remained high, fuelled by militant rhetoric and uncertainty
about the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force. Another major factor
was the continued presence of Georgian troops in the Kodori Valley
in violation of the 1994 Moscow Agreement. These troops were deployed
in October 2001 in connection with the fighting and bombardments
in the area.
On 15 and 17 January 2002, the Special Representative brought
the two sides together for direct talks on the situation in the
Kodori Valley. They agreed on a protocol providing that UNOMIG would
resume patrolling on 1 February 2002 based on security arrangements
to be worked out with both parties and would confirm that there
were no heavy weapons in the lower Kodori Valley and the Tqvarcheli
area; that simultaneously Georgia would begin the withdrawal of
its troops; and that the Abkhaz side would undertake not to deploy
forces in the upper part of the valley and not to take military
action against the civilian population.
On 18 January 2002, the Secretary-General reported
to the Security Council on the situation in the region. He noted
that the paper on the distribution of competences between Tbilisi
and Sukhumi enjoyed the support of all members of the Group of Friends,
but there were continuing objections, particularly on the Abkhaz
side. The Secretary-General, however, emphasized that this document
was "simply a means to open the door" to substantive negotiations,
in which the parties themselves would work out a settlement. He
said the parties should "seize the moment" to advance along the
road to a peaceful solution to the conflict. He urged, in particular,
the Abkhaz side to review its position.
The Secretary-General welcomed the agreement reached on 17 January
on the withdrawal of Georgian troops and expressed hope that an
agreement would be reached on extending the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping
force. At the same time, he said that the safe return of refugees
and displaced persons continued to be of prime importance and that
the Abkhaz side bore a particular responsibility to protect returnees
in the Gali district and facilitate the return of the remaining
Ensuring the safety and security of UNOMIG personnel was also
a concern. It was deplorable, the Secretary-General said, that neither
those who shot down the UNOMIG helicopter on 8 October 2001 nor
those who had taken UNOMIG personnel hostage on several occasions
between 1997 and 2000 had yet been identified and brought to justice.
Concluding the report, the Secretary-General said that UNOMIG
continued to play an important role in the stabilization of the
conflict zone and in the search for a political settlement. He recommended
an extension of the Mission for a further six months, until 31 July
Situation in the Area, January 2002 - January 2003
On 31 January, the Security Council, by its resolution
1393 (2002) extended the mandate of UNOMIG until 31 July 2002.
It also decided to review the mandate if the CIS peacekeeping force
were not extended by 15 February 2002, noting that the Georgian
authorities had agreed on 31 January 2002 to extend that mandate
until the end of June 2002.
The Council called on both sides to overcome mutual mistrust and
condemned violations of the Moscow Agreement of 14 May 1994 on a
Ceasefire and Separation of Forces. It called on political leaders
in Tbilisi and Sukhumi to publicly separate themselves from militant
rhetoric, support for military options and the action of illegal
It urged parties, especially the Abkhaz side, to fully consider
the document "Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competencies
between Tbilisi and Sukhumi" and its transmittal letter, and negotiate
on their contents immediately thereafter.
The Council strongly supported the protocol on the Kodori Valley
signed by the parties on 17 January 2002, called for it to be speedily
implemented, and urged the Abkhaz side not to take advantage of
the withdrawal of Georgian troops.
Under further terms, the Council called on the parties to identify
those responsible for shooting down of a UNOMIG helicopter on 8
October 2001 and bring them to justice. It expressed concern at
the parties' disturbing tendency to restrict the Mission's movement,
stressing that both sides must provide security and ensure freedom
of movement for international personnel.
The Council expressed dismay at the lack of progress on refugees
and internally displaced persons, stressing that demographic changes
due to the conflict were unacceptable. It called on the Abkhaz side
to improve law enforcement for the local population, as well as
instruction for the ethnic Georgian population in their mother tongue.
On 29 July 2002, the Security Council, by its resolution 1427
(2002) extended the mandate of UNOMIG until 31 January 2003.
The Council acted on the Secretary-General's report (S/2002/742)
dated 10 July, in which he noted a regrettable lack of progress in
negotiations between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides on the future status
of Abkhazia. Although tensions in the Kodori Valley had decreased,
the potential for a new flare-up of hostilities continued to exist.
The report urged the two sides to spare no efforts in working out
a mutually acceptable arrangement for the security of the population,
so as not to play into the hands of those who seek to slow down the
In his further report (S/2002/1141
of 14 October 2002), the Secretary-General observed that the
situation in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone had not improved.
To reduce the tensions, he said, the Abkhaz side needed to reconsider
its refusal even to discuss the paper "Basic Principles of the Distribution
of Competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi". The Georgian side,
for its part, needed to make more efforts to promote trust and confidence
on the Abkhaz side. The Secretary-General emphasized that his Special
Representative would continue her efforts, with the support of the
Group of Friends, to encourage advancement of the political process,
but the basic responsibility lay with the parties.
Speaking of the situation in the Kodori Valley, the Secretary-General
said that it had been a source of tension for more than a year.
The UNOMIG military observers continued to perform their mandated
tasks through daily ground patrols in the Gali and Zugdidi sectors,
as well as two or three-day patrols in the Kodori Valley, the latter
jointly with the CIS peacekeeping force. On three occasions the
patrols had to be cancelled because of the lack of security guarantees.
Patrolling by helicopter remained suspended. The Secretary-General
said that UNOMIG would continue its efforts to defuse tensions emanating
from the area and bring the parties together to address the underlying
problems. However, again it was up to the parties to do their part
to prevent destabilization and create the security conditions in
which UNOMIG could function.
"Grounds for Optimism" reported
In his 13 January 2003 report
(S/2003/39) to the Security Council, the Secretary-General stated
that when he had reported to the Council last January, there had
been grounds for optimism. However, after one year of strenuous
efforts by the Special Representative and the Group of Friends,
the two sides had not moved much closer to the start of negotiations,
the report continued. The tone of the parties had hardened, there
was a deep mistrust between them and they showed little sign of
willingness to make the substantive compromises necessary for a
meaningful peace process. The Abkhaz side, in particular, continued
to refuse to even enter into discussions on the principles on which
negotiations should be based. In order to overcome the present impasse,
the Secretary-General intended to invite senior representatives
of the Group of Friends to an informal brainstorming session on
the way ahead.
The Secretary-General believed that the resumption of Coordinating
Council meetings was essential for further progress to be made in
the Georgian-Abkhaz peace process and, in particular, to turn the
recommendations of the working groups into firm commitments. A prompt
convening of the next session of the Council -- which last met in
January 2001 -- would also make it possible for a timely decision
to be made on a fourth conference on confidence-building and for
preparations to begin.
The return of internally displaced persons to their homes in safe
and secure conditions remained a burning issue, stated the Secretary-General.
No progress had been made in the implementation of the 1994 quadripartite
agreement on the voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons.
An assessment mission was conducted regarding strengthening law
enforcement institutions, and the Secretary-General welcomed the
cooperation of the two sides as a positive sign of their willingness
to improve the situation for returnees and internally displaced
The Secretary-General emphasized once again that both the Georgian
and Abkhaz sides bore responsibility for the safety of UNOMIG civilian
and military personnel, as well as for safeguarding their freedom
of movement at all times. They must also bring the perpetrators
of crimes against United Nations personnel to justice.
As the presence of UNOMIG remained essential for maintaining stability
in the conflict zone and for pursuing the process towards a political
settlement of the conflict, the Secretary-General recommended a
further extension of the Mission's mandate for six months, until
The Security Council, unanimously adopting resolution
1462 (2003) on 30 January 2003, extended the mandate of UNOMIG
until 31 July. It also strongly supported continuing efforts to
promote the achievement of a comprehensive political settlement,
which must include a settlement of the political status of Abkhazia
within the State of Georgia.
The Council reiterated its support for the document on "Basic
Principles for the Distribution of Competences between Tbilisi and
Sukhumi". At the same time, it regretted the lack of progress on
the initiation of political status negotiations and deeply regretted
the repeated refusal of the Abkhaz side to agree to a discussion
on the substance of the document. It again strongly urged the Abkhaz
side to receive the document and its transmittal letter, and urged
both parties to give them full and open consideration.
Stressing that the continued lack of progress on key issues of
a comprehensive settlement of the conflict was unacceptable, the
Council strongly urged the parties to ensure the necessary revitalization
of the peace process in all its major aspects, including considering
holding a fourth conference on confidence-building measures.
In addition, the Council welcomed the additional safeguards for
helicopter flights instituted in response to the shooting down of
a UNOMIG helicopter on 8 October 2001, and called, once again, on
the parties to take all necessary steps to identify those responsible
for the incident and to bring them to justice.
New momentum in peace efforts despite lack of progress
New proposals and bilateral agreements had injected fresh momentum
into efforts to reactivate the Georgian-Abkhaz peace process despite
the continued lack of progress on the core political issue of the
future status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia, the Secretary-General
said in his report
to the Security Council dated 9 April 2003.
The Secretary-General indicated that for the first time in approximately
four years, the Abkhaz de facto authorities at the ambassadorial
level had received the Group of Friends in Sukhumi. The Group -
comprising France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom
and the United States - conveyed the recommendations that resulted
from an informal session held in February in Geneva at the Secretary-General’s
“The Abkhaz side raised a number of objections to the recommendations,
in particular the inclusion of the political aspect in the third
task force," the Secretary-General said. "The Abkhaz side continued
to refuse to discuss the status issues and rejected the paper on
competences as a basis for substantive negotiations as, in its view,
the status of Abkhazia has long been determined." In contrast, the
Secretary-General said the Georgian side had taken "a cautiously
positive stance towards the proposals," and had declared its readiness
to work towards their implementation.
"I would like to remind the parties, in particular the Abkhaz
side, that the status question cuts across every aspect of a final
peaceful settlement. Without its satisfactory resolution, a sustainable
settlement is likely to remain elusive," the Secretary-General warned.
On 5 June, two UNOMIG military observers, one UNOMIG medic and
their Georgian interpreter were taken hostage by an unidentified
armed group while on a routine patrol of the Georgian-controlled
upper Kodori Valley. The four military personnel from the CIS peacekeeping
force participating in the patrol were disarmed and immediately
set free. The Secretary-General's Special Representative and Chief
Military Observer worked closely with the Georgian leadership, which
has ultimate responsibility for the safety of UNOMIG personnel,
to secure the safe release of the detainees. All four hostages were
released unharmed on 11 June following negotiations between the
Georgian authorities and the hostage takers. The Georgian authorities
confirmed that, in line with United Nations policy, no ransom had
been paid and force had not been used.
UN police Component Added to UNOMIG
On 21 July 2003, the Secretary-General reported
that his Special Representative continued, with the support
of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General, to build upon
the positive momentum begun at a brainstorming session in Geneva,
in February and followed-up in Sochi, Russian Federation, with agreements
between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Georgian President
Edoard Shevardnadze in March. Three sets of issues were identified
as key in advancing the peace process: economic cooperation, return
of internally displaced persons and refugees, and political and
The Secretary-General said, however, that while the parties had
moved ahead on economic cooperation and refugee return, little progress
had been made on political and security matters, including the future
status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia. The Abkhaz side
continued to express reservations about the inclusion of the political
aspects in any negotiations, based on its unilateral "declaration
of independence" of 1999. It also persisted in its refusal to receive
the paper on the distribution of competences and its transmittal
letter on the same grounds.
The Secretary-General strongly condemned the hostage-taking incident
of 5 June. He noted it was the sixth such incident since the establishment
of the Mission in 1993 and that none of the perpetrators of criminal
acts against UNOMIG personnel had ever been identified or brought
to justice. This impunity needed to end, he stated.
Following recommendations formulated by a security assessment
mission in late 2002 on improving the security situation in the
Gali district, the Secretary-General recommended that a civilian
police component of 20 officers be added to UNOMIG to contribute
to creation of conditions conducive to the safe and dignified return
of internally displaced persons and refugees. He also recommended
extending the mandate of the Mission for another six months.
Accordingly, the Security Council, by its resolution
1494 (2003) of 30 July, extended the mandate of UNOMIG until
31 January 2004 and also endorsed the Secretary-General's recommendation
to add a police component of 20 officers to the Mission.
While the Council stressed again its strong support for the document
on "Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competences between
Tbilisi and Sukhumi" and for its letter of transmittal, it deeply
regretted the continued refusal of the Abkhaz side to agree to a
discussion on the substance of that document. It strongly urged
the Abkhaz side to receive the document and its transmittal letter.
Further, the Council regretted the lack of progress on the initiation
of political status negotiations, and called again on the parties
to ensure the necessary revitalization of the peace process in all
its major aspects.
The Council also strongly condemned the abduction of four UNOMIG
personnel on 5 June and deeply deplored that none of the perpetrators
had ever been identified or brought to justice.
UNOMIG in 2004
In his report
dated 14 January 2004, the Secretary General welcomed the momentum
that the United Nations-led peace process had gained in the course
of 2003, as well as the increased involvement of the Group of Friends
and the renewed willingness of the sides to engage constructively
on practical matters in areas of key concern - economic cooperation,
return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and political
and security matters.
He said, however, this progress had remained painfully slow, and
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 Shevardnadze
in November have put the peace process temporarily on hold.
He added that two years after the finalization of the paper on
various competences, negotiations on the future political status
of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia had not yet started. Therefore,
he once again appealed to the Abkhaz side to abandon its uncompromising
position and take advantage of the change of leadership in Tbilisi
to negotiate a mutually acceptable and lasting settlement.
Acting on his recommendations, the Security Council, by its resolution
1524 (2004) of 30 January, extended the mandate of UNOMIG until
31 July 2004.
In his further report dated 14 July 2004 and covering the period since 20 April 2004 (please note that the Secretary-General also reported to the Security Council on 20 April 2004, S/2004/315), the Secretary-General noted that, on the political front, while the Georgian and Abkhaz sides continued with practical cooperation, particularly in the security domain, a substantive dialogue on the key issues of the conflict was still lacking. “It is widely believed that the existing complex political situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, on the eve of the ‘presidential elections' scheduled for October, is one of the main factors negatively affecting the positions of the Abkhaz side in the Georgian-Abkhaz peace process and the pace of the peace process in general.” He expressed his strong hope that with time, the leadership in Sukhumi would reconsider its stance and respond constructively to the offer by the new Georgian leadership for a renewed and direct meaningful dialogue on all substantive issues of the conflict.
In the meantime, the Secretary-General said that UNOMIG continued its efforts on the three issues identified as priority areas for advancing the peace process – political and security matters, return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and economic cooperation. The Group of Friends of the Secretary-General continued to provide invaluable support in those efforts. However, it was clear that without a comprehensive settlement of the conflict, there would be neither lasting security nor economic prosperity.
The Secretary-General welcomed the discussions that took place between the parties on security guarantees and the return of refugees. He pointed out that early agreement and implementation of measures in these key areas would improve the confidence between the parties and the overall climate in the zone of conflict. He urged the parties to pursue more actively the implementation of the related recommendations of the joint assessment mission of 2000 and the security assessment mission of 2002 and again appealed to the Abkhaz side to facilitate, as agreed, the deployment of the UNOMIG police on its side of the ceasefire line.
Regarding the security of UNOMIG personnel, the Secretary-General stated that the readiness of both sides to provide meaningful assurances towards that end must be followed up with resolute action to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of criminal acts against Mission personnel. That included those responsible for the ambush of a UNOMIG bus in Sukhumi in September 1998, the shooting down of a UNOMIG helicopter in the Kodori Valley in October 2001, and those behind hostage-taking incidents.
In view of the absence of a political settlement, the Secretary-General said that the situation in the conflict zone would continue to be unsettled and prone to destabilization. The role played by UNOMIG in preventing the resumption of hostilities and pursuing a lasting solution of the conflict remained relevant and important, he concluded.
Acting on the Secretary-General's recommendation, the Security Council, by resolution 1554 of 29 July 2004, extended the mandate of UNOMIG for a further period of six months, until 31 January 2005. While reaffirming the independence and territorial integrity of Georgia and the necessity to define the status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia, the Security Council deeply regretted the continued refusal of the Abkhaz side to agree to a discussion on the substance of the “Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi”. The Council called on the parties to spare no efforts to overcome their ongoing mutual mistrust and underlined that negotiations towards a lasting political settlement acceptable to both sides would require concessions from both sides. The Council further called on the Georgian side to provide comprehensive security guarantees to allow for independent and regular monitoring of the situation in the upper Kodori Valley by joint UNOMIG and CIS peacekeeping force patrols.
Reporting to the Security Council on 18 October 2004, the Secretary-General said that the Georgian-Abkhaz peace process had come perilously close to a standstill. While his Special Representative was still in close and frequent contact with both sides, the parties themselves had not met at the political level since July, and even the regular working level contacts through the weekly quadripartite meetings and joint fact-finding group were suspended. The Secretary-General added that he remained “deeply convinced that further progress in the peace process is possible only through participation of both sides in genuine negotiations, which should ultimately address the core issue of the conflict, namely the political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia”.
In his further report to the Security Council dated 17 January 2005, the Secretary-General stated that 2004, particularly the second half of the year, had not been an easy one for the Georgian-Abkhaz peace process. While the parties came together during the course of the year on some substantive issues, efforts to advance a dialogue encountered serious challenges. Renewed tension in the zone of conflict led to a chain of events that brought all contacts between the sides to a halt by mid-year and, over the past five months, the Mission’s main efforts focused on finding ways to re-establish the dialogue and avoid regression.
The political uncertainty in Sukhumi also seriously limited the possibility of continued dialogue, the report said. However, the high-level meeting of the Group of Friends, which took place on 13 and 14 December 2004 in Geneva, was a timely opportunity to reflect on the overall state of the peace process and to discuss how best to address the challenges to the pursuit of a lasting and comprehensive solution to the conflict. The support of the Group of Friends remained invaluable for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative.
Convinced that UNOMIG continued to play a key role in preventing instability on the ground and in promoting a political settlement of the conflict, the Secretary-General recommended that the Mission’s mandate be extended to a new period of six months, until 31 July 2005.
The mandate of UNOMIG was extended accordingly by Security Council resolution 1582 (2005) of 28 January.
Situation in the Area, January—July 2005
The Secretary-General further reported to the Security Council on the situation in Georgia in April and July 2005. In his July report, the Secretary-General recommended that the Mission’s mandate be extended to a new period of six months, until 31 January 2006.
The Secretary-General stated that resumed participation of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides in the United Nations-chaired Geneva meetings of the Group of Friends and in meetings addressing various practical aspects of the peace process after a prolonged suspension of direct contacts was an encouraging development. He appealed to both parties to seize the new opportunities for dialogue and the improving regional environment to achieve concrete progress in priority areas and related confidence-building measures.
The Secretary-General urged the Georgian side to be forthcoming in meeting the Abkhaz security concerns and the Abkhaz side to effectively address practical and security concerns of the local population and returnees and honour previous commitments of accepting the deployment of UNOMIG’s police officers in the Gali district. He also urged the Abkhaz side to allow the opening of a human rights sub-office in Gali and the teaching of local youth in their native Georgian language. At this juncture, concrete actions would do much to restore confidence between the sides and advance negotiations on the priority areas.
The freedom of movement of UNOMIG personnel must be respected and unimpeded, the Secretary-General stated. He urged both sides to make “concerted and resolute” efforts to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of criminal acts, including the ambush of a UNOMIG bus in Sukhumi in September 1998, the shooting down of a UNIOMIG helicopter in the Kodori valley in October 2001 and hostage-taking incidents. Regular patrolling in the Kodori valley remained an integral part of UNOMIG’s mandate, and he urged both sides to cooperate on security-related matters and actions that were essential for its resumption.
The Secretary-General noted further that, with the expected finalization of an agreement with the European Commission, project activities in the zone of conflict were likely to increase. He emphasized, in that regard, the need for both the Georgian and Abkhaz sides to actively support those efforts, not least by ensuring security and safety of those who would be working on the implementation of the projects, including UNOMIG, UNDP and the European Commission. He also stressed the importance of ensuring the safety and security of personnel from UNHCR involved in the conduct of the registration and counting process in the zone of conflict.
On 29 July, the Security Council extended the mandate of UNOMIG, which was to expire on 31 July, for a further six months, until 31 January 2006. Unanimously adopting resolution 1615 (2005), the Council, while reaffirming the independence and territorial integrity of Georgia and the necessity to define the status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia, deeply regretted the continued refusal of the Abkhaz side to agree to a discussion on the substance of the “Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi”, and again strongly urged the Abkhaz side to receive the document and its transmittal letter. It also regretted the lack of progress on the initiation of political status negotiations.
The Council called on the parties to spare no efforts to overcome their ongoing mutual mistrust and underlined that negotiations towards a lasting political settlement acceptable to both sides would require concessions from both sides. It also called on both parties to publicly dissociate themselves from all militant rhetoric and demonstrations of support for military options and to take concrete steps to revitalize the peace process in all its major aspects.
The Council further called for the rapid finalization and signature of the letter of intent on returns [of refugees and internally displaced persons] proposed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, recalling that the Abkhaz side bears a particular responsibility to protect the returnees.
Reiterating its concern that, despite the start of the deployment of a police component as part of UNOMIG, the deployment of the remaining officers in the Gali sector was still outstanding, the Council called on the Abkhaz side to allow for a swift deployment of the police component in the region. It further called 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.
The Council called on the Georgian side to provide comprehensive security guarantees to allow for independent and regular monitoring of the situation in the upper Kodori valley by joint UNOMIG and CIS peacekeeping force patrols.
The Council regretted the cancellation of the meeting on security guarantees planned for July, but welcomed the signing on 12 May of a Protocol with measures to strengthen implementation of the 1994 Moscow agreement on ceasefire and separation of forces, as well as the positive developments towards the reopening of the railways between Sochi and Tbilisi and towards the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
Situation in the Area, July 2005—January 2006
During that period, the Secretary-General submitted two regular reports to the Security Council—in October 2005 and in January 2006 —on the developments in Abkhazia, Georgia.
In his January 2006 report, the Secretary-General, stressing that the United Nations remained committed to assisting the Georgian and Abkhaz sides in the search for a peaceful and comprehensive settlement, noted that, in an encouraging development, both sides engaged constructively with the mediation of his Special Representative in exchanges on joint draft documents on the non-resumption of hostilities, as well as the safe and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
He called on both sides to refrain from actions or statements that could damage emerging opportunities in the peace process. The Georgian side was urged to take into due account the Abkhaz security concerns and the Abkhaz side effectively to meet the security and human rights concerns of the local population and returnees to the Gali district.
Stressing that the free movement of UNOMIG personnel in fulfilling their mandate was of continuing concern, the Secretary-General urged the two sides to ensure their safety at all times. They were urged again to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of criminal acts against Mission personnel, including the September 1998 ambush of a UNOMIG bus in Sukhumi, the October 2001 shooting down of a UNOMIG helicopter in the Kodori Valley, and various hostage-taking incidents. Regular patrolling of the Kodori Valley remained an essential part of UNOMIG’s mandate, and cooperation in security-related matters, including provision of effective security guarantees, was key for its resumption.
Expressing his conviction that UNOMIG’s presence remained critical to maintaining stability on the ground, advancing the peace process in the priority directions, and ultimately promoting a peaceful and comprehensive settlement of the conflict, the Secretary-General recommended an extension of the Mission’s mandate until 31 July 2006.
Besides the Secretary-General’s observations and recommendations, the report also covered the political process, operational activities, policing issues, cooperation with CIS peacekeeping forces, human rights and the humanitarian situation, support issues and financial aspects.
On 31 January 2006, the Security Council extended the mandate of UNOMIG until 31 March 2006 by adopting resolution 1656 (2006).
Situation in the Area, January—March 2006
In his further report dated 17 March 2006, the Secretary-General provided an update on developments since the report of 13 January. He reported that on 2 and 3 February, senior representatives of the Group of Friends had met in Geneva, under the chairmanship of the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. The Friends underlined the need for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in the framework of the relevant Security Council resolutions, and reaffirmed their commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. They agreed on the need to address the core political issues of the conflict, in addition to continuing work on confidence-building measures.
The report stated that it was essential that the Georgian and Abkhaz sides actively follow up on the understandings reached at the Geneva meeting of the Group of Friends. In particular, early finalization of the documents on the non-use of force and on the return of internally displaced persons and refugees would be a strong indication of their commitment to make tangible progress in the peace process. Moreover, a substantive meeting between their highest leaders would be a major confidence-building measure and a welcome step forward.
On 31 March 2006, the Security Council, by its resolution 1666, extended the mandate of UNOMIG until 15 October 2006. Reaffirming the commitment of all Member States to Georgia’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, the Council expressed its support for all efforts by the United Nations and the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General to promote a settlement of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, only by peaceful means and within the framework of Security Council resolutions.
Situation in the Area, March—September 2006
In his further report submitted to the Security Council on 28 September 2006, the Secretary-General discussed new tensions in the long-running dispute between the Government of Georgia and the de facto Abkhaz authorities. He said that the new tensions stemmed in part from an operation by Georgian special forces in the Kodori Valley on 25 July, after which the Abkhaz side questioned the usefulness of attempting to reach further agreements in the framework of the settlement process.
The report noted that the Government of Georgia made it known that it considered the current settlement process ineffective and called urgently for its restructuring around the two basic principles, namely direct dialogue between the two sides and greater international involvement.
In the report, the Secretary-General urged dialogue between the two sides, adding that a resumption of violence would be the worst possible outcome. He also urged both sides to strictly observe the Moscow agreement that ended the fighting, particularly the provisions on transparency in movement of armed forces, maintenance of communication channels and monitoring of the Kodori Valley.
Citing the increased tension in the region, the Secretary-General recommended that UNOMIG’s mandate, which was due to expire on 15 October be extended for another six months.
On 13 October, the Security Council adopted resolution 1716 by which it extended the mandate of UNOMIG until 15 April 2007.
Acknowledging that the “new and tense situation” resulted, at least in part, from the Georgian special operation in the upper Kodori Valley, the Council urged the country to ensure that no troops unauthorized by the Moscow ceasefire agreement were present in that area.
It urged the leadership of the Abkhaz side to facilitate the dignified, secure return of refugees and internally displaced persons and to reassure the local population in the Gali district that their residency rights and identity will be respected.
Calling on both parties to follow up on dialogue initiatives, it further urged them to comply fully with all previous agreements regarding non-violence and confidence-building, in particular those concerning the separation of forces.
Regarding the disputed role of the CIS peacekeeping force, the Council acknowledged the important role of that force and of UNOMIG in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone, stressed the importance of close and effective cooperation between them and looked to all sides to continue to extend the necessary cooperation to them.
The Council also noted with satisfaction the resumption of joint patrols in the upper Kodori Valley by UNOMIG and the CIS peacekeeping force and reaffirmed that such joint patrols should be conducted on a regular basis.
Situation in the Area, September 2006—March 2007
During the period from September 2006 through March 2007, the Secretary-General submitted to the Security Council two periodic reports on the situation in Georgia—in January and April 2007—covering the political process; developments in the UNOMIG’s area of responsibility; cooperation with the CIS collective peacekeeping forces; human rights issues; humanitarian and human rights activities; support issues; and financial aspects
In his 3 April 2007 report, expressing his continuing belief that the Mission’s presence contributes to security in the conflict zone and to international efforts for the promotion of political dialogue between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, the Secretary-General welcomed the progress made towards implementation of Security Council resolution 1716 (2006). He noted with satisfaction that no heavy weapons were observed in the Kodori valley—jointly patrolled by UNOMIG and the CIS peacekeeping force—and that the number of armed personnel had decreased in comparison with the situation observed in October 2006.
The Secretary-General also welcomed the expansion of UNOMIG assistance to the Gali district in terms of both the activities of the United Nations police advisers and the full-time presence there of the Human Rights Office in Abkhazia, Georgia.
Against this positive background, however, the events of 11 March 2007 in the upper Kodori valley were a major setback, the report said. While causing no casualty, the incident offered a reminder of the risks with which the conflict was still fraught and the potential for existing tensions to take a violent course. After the October 2006 incident, in which three surface-to-surface missiles landed in the upper Kodori valley, this new development highlighted the need for the parties and the international community to approach the situation in the Kodori valley also in terms of prevention.
While the Kodori valley had been the scene of the most dramatic development during the reporting period, the Secretary-General regretfully noted that the situation along the ceasefire line had remained tense since his January 2007 report to the Council. Cooperation between the two sides on security issues and combating crime was almost non-existent, in contrast to the situation during the same period last year. At a meeting held in Geneva on 13 and 14 February 2007, both sides acknowledged the deteriorating situation along the ceasefire line and expressed their readiness to redress it.
Recalling that both sides reaffirmed in Geneva their support for dialogue, including at the highest level, the Secretary-General pointed out that the provisions of resolution 1716 (2006) remained unimplemented in this area. Direct negotiation was irreplaceable in addressing security matters, rehabilitation and economic cooperation, and the larger issues relating to a political settlement, he said.
On 13 April, the Security Council, by its resolution 1752 extended the mandate of UNOMIG until 15 October 2007. The Council, welcoming progress achieved by both sides towards the implementation of resolution 1716 (2006), called on the Georgian side to ensure that the situation in the upper Kodori valley was in line with the Moscow agreement of 14 May 1994 and called on the Abkhaz side to exercise restraint in connection with the Georgian commitments with regard to the Kodori valley.
The Council condemned the attack on villages in the upper Kodori valley carried out in the night of 11 and 12 March, and urged all sides to extend full support to the ongoing investigation conducted by the joint fact finding group under leadership of UNOMIG.
Stressing that the situation on the ground in the areas of security, return of internally displaced persons, rehabilitation and development must be improved, the Council called on both sides to resume dialogue without preconditions in those areas. It urged the sides to address seriously each other’s legitimate security concerns, to refrain from any actions that might impede the peace process and to extend the necessary cooperation to UNOMIG and the CIS peacekeeping force.
Dramatic Changes in the Mission’s Area of Operations in 2008
submitted to the Security Council on 3 October 2008, the Secretary-General
noted that the situation in the Mission’s area responsibility
witnessed dramatic changes following the outbreak of hostilities in South
Ossetia on 7 and 8 August 2008, which profoundly impacted the situation
in the Georgian-Abkhaz zone and the overall conflict-settlement process.
As UNOMIG’s mandate was limited to the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, the report referred only to information on events and military operations carried out in and around
the Mission’s area of responsibility.
The report further noted that, on 26 August, the Russian Federation recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, and that, on 28 August, Georgia’s Parliament declared the two territories occupied by a Russian force. On 8 September, the French presidency of the European Union and the President of the Russian Federation elaborated a number of provisions for the implementation of the 12 August six-point plan, which reaffirmed that UNOMIG observers would continue to carry out their mandate in their areas of responsibility at the same level as existed 7 August, subject to future adjustments decided on by the Security Council.
According to the report, UNOMIG and the CIS peacekeeping force continued to maintain close cooperation in fulfilling their respective mandates. The developments in August had led to some difficulties in communication, however, between the UNOMIG sector commanders and the respective CIS peacekeeping force commanders on the ground. Nonetheless, cooperation at the leadership level remained close and effective, especially during critical moments.
The Secretary-General observed that almost two months after the end of hostilities, the military situation had not yet been fully clarified and that consultations were ongoing with regard to the international mechanisms envisaged in the 12 August ceasefire agreement. There was also little clarity as to the future status of UNOMIG’s area of responsibility, namely the security zone, where no military presence was permitted; the restricted weapons zone, where no heavy weapons could be introduced; and the Kodori Valley. It seemed unlikely that the CIS peacekeeping force would have any role in the separation of forces. Under those circumstances, it was too early to define the role that UNOMIG may play in the future.
In that context, the Secretary-General recommended a technical extension of the Mission’s mandate for four months. The United Nations should continue to place the experience of UNOMIG at the disposal of the two sides and the international community, in order to respond to the demands of conflict prevention and conflict resolution. In the coming four months, consultations by the Secretary-General and his Special Representative would intensify, including at the Geneva talks, with a view to exploring whether and how it would be possible for the United Nations to follow up on the expressed support of the two sides for the continuation of United Nations involvement.
On 9 October 2008, the Security Council, by its resolution 1839, extended the mandate of the United Nations mission until 15 February 2009. The Council took no other decisions through its action, though it referred to the Secretary General’s 3 October report, in which he observed that, following the recent Russian-Georgian conflict in South Ossetia, UNOMIG’s area of responsibility was unclear.
The CIS collective peacekeeping force, which had been in place in the conflict zone for 14 years, was officially terminated as at 15 October 2008 by the decision adopted at the meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of CIS, held in Bishkek on 9 October. Notwithstanding these new challenges, UNOMIG continued its activities, including through active patrolling, observation and liaison with the parties in its area of responsibility.
In the meantime, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the mission’s leadership maintained regular contacts with the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, urging them to comply with the spirit of the Moscow Agreement. The SRSG invited their views on a possible future of the United Nations mission. He also held consultations with senior representatives of the Russian Federation, the United States of America, the European Union and its members, as well as the OSCE on the same subject.
The mandate of UNOMIG extended for four months
On 13 February 2009, the Security Council extended the mandate of UNOMIG until 15 June 2009, while expressing its intention to outline by that time the elements of a future United Nations presence in the region.
By the terms of the resolution, the Council called for the provisions set out in the 1994 Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces to be respected, pending consultations and agreement on a revised security regime, while taking note of recommendations on the security regime contained in the report of 3 February.
In his report, the Secretary-General suggested that an effective security regime should include, among other things: strict observation of the ceasefire on land, at sea and in the air; a “security zone” on both sides of the ceasefire line where the presence of armed forces and equipment will not be allowed; a ban on overflights by military aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles in that and additional zones; and designation by each party of authorized representatives who would liaise with a view to exchanging information, preventing tensions and resolving incidents.
In its resolution, the Council underlined the need to refrain from the use of force or from any act of ethnic discrimination against persons, groups or institutions, and to ensure, without distinction, the security of persons, their right to freedom of movement and the protection of the property of refugees and displaced persons. It also called for facilitation—and refraining from placing any impediment to—humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict, including refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as efforts to facilitate their voluntary, safe, dignified and unhindered return.
The Council also called for intensification of efforts to address the issue of regional security and stability, and the issue of refugees and internally displaced persons, through the discussions currently under way in Geneva. It also requested the Secretary-General to report by 15 May on implementation of the resolution, the situation on the ground and any recommendations on future activities.
In his report, the Secretary-General noted that the dramatic developments in August 2008 and subsequent events had “considerably affected” the context in which UNOMIG was working. Those events included the Russian Federation’s recognition of Abkhazia’s independence and Georgia’s withdrawal from the May 1994 Moscow Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces.
According to the Secretary-General, persisting tensions in Georgian-Russian relations continued to affect the overall situation in the region. Georgia had adopted a law on 23 October declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “occupied territories”. On 4 November, the Parliament of the Russian Federation ratified the Russia-Abkhaz and Russia-South Ossetia treaties on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance. Russian officials stated that the presence of Russian armed forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia would be based in those documents and announced plans for the establishment of military bases and the deployment of 3,700 troops, respectively, in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Secretary-General also described the three rounds of discussions held in Geneva co-chaired by the his Special Representative, Johan Verbeke, representatives of the European Union and the OSCE in Geneva, and attended by delegations from Georgia, the Russian Federation and the United States, as well as Abkhaz and South Ossetian representatives. The meeting discussed joint incident prevention and response mechanisms, although no agreement was reached.
On 15 June 2009, the Security Council failed to extend the mandate of UNOMIG after Russia vetoed a technical roll-over for the mission. UNOMIG, thus, ceased to exist at midnight on the same day.
“The Secretary-General regrets that the Security Council has been unable to reach agreement on the basis of a package of practical and realistic proposals he submitted to the Security Council aimed at contributing to a stabilization of the situation on the ground,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement issued by his spokesperson.