SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF UNOMIG UNTIL 31 JANUARY 199919980730
Deeply concerned at the continuing tense and confrontational situation in the Zugdidi and Gali regions of Georgia and at the risk of resumed fighting, the Security Council this afternoon decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) for a new period ending on 31 January 1999.
Unanimously adopting resolution 1187 (1998), the Council reiterated its grave concern at the resumption of hostilities in May. It called upon the parties to refrain from the use of force, and to display without delay the necessary political will to achieve substantial results on the key issues of the negotiations, with full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.
Welcoming the meeting of the parties held in Geneva from 23 to 25 July, it called upon them to continue and increase their active engagement in that process initiated by the Secretary-General aimed at achieving a comprehensive political settlement. It reiterated that the primary responsibility for achieving peace rested upon the parties themselves, and reminded them that continued assistance by the international community depended on their progress in that regard.
The Council also expressed deep concern at the significant outflow of refugees resulting from the recent hostilities, the extremely difficult humanitarian situation of the displaced persons from the Gali region and of those that remain, and the serious negative impact recent developments have had on international humanitarian efforts there.
Reaffirming the right of all refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes in secure conditions, in accordance with international law and as set out in the 1994 Agreement on voluntary return, the Council called upon both sides to fulfil their obligations in that regard. It demanded that the Abkhaz side allow the unconditional and immediate return of all persons displaced since the resumption of the hostilities in May. It condemned the deliberate destruction of houses by Abkhaz forces.
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By further terms of the resolution, the Council condemned the acts of violence against the personnel of UNOMIG and also the attacks by armed groups operating in the Gali region against the peacekeeping force of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). It demanded that the parties, in particular, the Georgian authorities, take measures to stop such acts which subvert the peace process.
In that connection, the Council reiterated its deep concern regarding the security of UNOMIG, and underlined the need for further arrangements in that regard. It also expressed its concern at the mass media campaign launched in Abkhazia, Georgia, and the acts of harassment against UNOMIG, and called upon the Abkhaz side to cease those acts. The parties were reminded of their commitments to ensure the security and safety of international personnel, and they were called upon to implement them fully and without delay.
The Council further expressed its intention to review the Mission in the light of the Secretary-General's report to be made three months after the adoption of the current resolution, taking into account the progress made by the two parties in creating secure conditions in which UNOMIG could fulfil its mandate and establish a political settlement.
The Foreign Minister of Georgia, Irakli Menagarishvili, told the Council that despite five years of efforts to peacefully resolve the Georgian/Abkhaz conflict, it was still premature to talk of serious progress. Irrespective of concrete proposals from the Georgian side, agreement on the political status of Abkazia had not been reached; some 250,000 refugees and displaced persons remained unable to return to their homes due to actions of the Abkhaz separatists; and the resumption of violence in the Gali district in May had raised questions about the overall peace process.
The time had come to set up solid mechanisms to ensure the security of the returnees, as well as United Nations and other international personnel on the ground, the Minister continued. Regrettably, the specific proposals of his Government, which included creating a provisional joint administration in the Gali sector and establishing a system of patrolling, had been rejected by the Abkhaz side.
Statements were made by and the representatives of Germany, France, Portugal, United Kingdom, Japan, China, Costa Rica, Sweden, Gabon, Gambia, Brazil, Slovenia, Bahrain, United States and the Russian Federation.
The meeting, which was called to order at 12:20 p.m., was adjourned at 1:33 p.m.
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia. It had before it a report of the Secretary-General in which he recommends an extension of the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) for a further six months ending on 31 January 1999 (document S/1998/647).
The Secretary-General states that during the period covered by the report, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, as well as the Russian Federation in its capacity as facilitator, was forced to address one immediate crisis after another, caused by the lack of willingness on the part of both sides to renounce violence and seriously consider peaceful options for the resolution of the conflict. Some 40,000 people from the Gali district had to seek refuge for the second time on the other side of the Inguri River, and the international community had to witness how its assistance and efforts literally went up in flames, when houses that had been constructed at a cost of more than $2 million, out of funds of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), were deliberately set on fire. He deplores such reprehensible acts, whose motive appears to be to expel people from their home areas.
Owing to the tense situation on the ground and the high risk of new confrontations, the Secretary-General had asked his Special Representative to make démarches to both sides to prevent the resumption of hostilities, the report states. The Special Representative is also maintaining a liaison with the parties in order to consider the organization of another high-level meeting in Geneva with a view towards bringing the Geneva process back on track.
The Secretary-General recalls that the Council President, in a letter of 10 July (document S/1998/633), informed him of the Council members' support for the practical measures concerning the security of the personnel and facilities of the UNOMIG, as envisaged in his earlier report of 10 June (documents S/1998/647 and Add.1). The Council President also reiterated the Council members' deep concern for the security of the mission. In his report of 10 June, the Secretary-General reviewed the concept of a self-protection unit and other options for the safety of UNOMIG. That option was not accepted by the Abkhaz side, and neither party supported reducing UNOMIG to the minimal possible presence.
The present report states that, in view of the Council's support for the Secretary-General's proposal to strengthen the mission's security, and bearing in mind the results of consultations with both sides on the question, the Secretary-General has instructed his Special Representative and the Chief Military Observer to keep the matter under constant review.
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In this context, the Secretary-General condemns attacks against peacekeepers of the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and reiterates that protection of unarmed United Nations military observers rests with the parties. Both sides still have to make substantial efforts to contain the threat on the ground. Activities in the Gali sector by armed groups require a determined effort by the Georgian authorities to contain them. At the same time, the Abkhaz side must do much more than it has done to protect the Mission elsewhere in Abkhazia, and the recent harassment campaign launched against UNOMIG there will only exacerbate the situation on the ground.
During the past six months, since the Council last extended the Mission's mandate, UNOMIG's ability to operate smoothly has been further hampered. Nevertheless, it has been proven time and again that its presence is essential. The Mission's presence continues to be a stabilizing factor in the area and to provide useful support for the political process. It also helps to create a sense of confidence and security among the local population of the Gali district, to which most of the refugees and internally displaced persons are expected to return, and to prevent further abuse of the population by Abkhaz militia and armed groups.
Reviewing the situation on the ground, the report finds that the situation in the Zugdidi and Gali restricted weapons and security zones remains unsettled and tense. While the ceasefire brokered on 25 May is generally holding, sporadic incidents of exchange of fire and mine attacks have continued in the Gali sector. Such attacks are directed largely against the CIS peacekeeping force and the Abkhaz authorities. On 12 July, an ambush by an unknown armed group on a patrol of the CIS peacekeeping force killed five soldiers and injured three others. The burning of houses in the Gali district continued for some time following the May hostilities.
Meanwhile, the Gali district appears to be under the effective control of the Abkhaz authorities, the report states. In the Zugdidi sector, a gradual reinforcement of forces belonging to the Georgian Ministry of Interior and the police of the Abkhaz Government-in-exile has been observed. However, UNOMIG assesses that the posture of these forces is defensive.
Both sides continue to violate the 14 May 1994 Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces, the report notes. The Georgian authorities and the Abkhaz side persistently deny UNOMIG access to the heavy weapons storage sites; several incidents of restriction of movement have been reported; and movement of armoured vehicles into the security and restricted weapons zones and visits by personnel of the armed forces of both sides continue to be cited. UNOMIG's repeated protests of these violations have gone unheeded by both sides.
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The report states that UNOMIG has been conducting limited operations in the Zugdidi and Gali sectors. Patrols are undertaken in two mine-protected vehicles at all times and are limited to main roads connecting population centres and checkpoints of the CIS peacekeeping force. Its team bases remain closed and its observers operate from the Zugdidi and Gali sector-headquarters. The administrative headquarters have been relocated from Pitsunda to Sukhumi, and only the transport workshop remains temporarily in Pitsunda. The joining of the Mission's administrative and military headquarters is expected to contribute positively to UNOMIG's effectiveness. The Mission maintains a liaison office in Tbilisi.
The report notes that the rotation of military observers, which was suspended in the wake of the 19 February hostage-taking incident, has now resumed with a view to bringing the strength of the Mission to 98 military observers. As at 10 July, the Mission's strength stood at 81 observers.
The report finds that while the Mission's rapport with the population in the Gali sector has been good, elsewhere in Abkhazia, a mass media campaign was launched against it, particularly after the May events. That campaign created anti-UNOMIG sentiment among the local Abkhaz population. In addition, various Abkhaz authorities initiated acts of harassment against the Mission, which could endanger the security of the Mission and hamper its ability to implement its mandate. To counter such developments, the Mission has stepped up its media programme on both sides of the Inguri River.
Furthermore, the Secretary-General states that the mission has been criticized by members of the community of the internally displaced persons in the Zugdidi area, who seemed to believe that the observers had not done enough to help avoid the recent hostilities. Such sentiments are also directed against the CIS peacekeeping force and the Government of Georgia.
Hostilities and subsequent events in the Gali district in late May negatively affected efforts by the Special Representative, the Russian Federation, in its capacity as facilitator, with the assistance of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the group of Friends of the Secretary-General to move the peace process forward, the report continues. Both sides have expressed deep concern about the volatile situation on the ground. They also continue to show interest in direct bilateral contacts and cooperation.
Humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable civilians in Abkhazia, Georgia, including the internally displaced persons, was severely disrupted during the reporting period, the report states. During and immediately after the May hostilities, some 40,000 persons fled across the Inguri River towards Zugdidi. Although hostilities subsided following the parties' signing, on 25 May, of the Protocol on a Ceasefire and Withdrawal of Armed Formations, looting and burning of houses by Abkhaz militia and armed groups was
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widespread. The UNOMIG provided logistical support for the UNHCR to visit the affected areas and assess the situation.
Also before the Council is a draft resolution (document S/1998/699), the text of which reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Reaffirming all its relevant resolutions, in particular resolution 1150 (1998) of 30 January 1998, recalling the statement of its President of 28 May 1998 (S/PRST/1998/16) and recalling also the letter of its President to the Secretary-General of 10 July 1998 (S/1998/633),
"Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 14 July 1998 (S/1998/647 and Add.1),
"Deeply concerned at the continuing tense and confrontational situation in the Zugdidi and Gali regions and at the risk of resumed fighting,
"Deeply concerned also at the unwillingness on the part of both sides to renounce violence and seriously consider peaceful options for the resolution of the conflict, "Supporting the vigorous efforts made by the Secretary-General and his Special Representative with the assistance of the Russian Federation in its capacity as facilitator as well as of the group of Friends of the Secretary- General and of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to prevent the resumption of hostilities and to give a new impetus to the negotiations within the United Nations-led peace process, and welcoming in this context the adoption by the parties of a Concluding Statement of the meeting held in Geneva on 23-25 July 1998 and the accompanying statement of the group of Friends of the Secretary-General (S/1998/647/Add.1),
"Reaffirming the necessity for the parties strictly to respect human rights, expressing its support for the efforts of the Secretary-General to find ways to improve their observance as an integral part of the work towards a comprehensive political settlement, and noting developments in the work of the United Nations Human Rights Office in Abkhazia, Georgia.
"Welcoming the role of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and of the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS peacekeeping force) as stabilizing factors in the zone of conflict, noting that the cooperation between UNOMIG and the CIS peacekeeping force is good, and stressing the importance of continued close cooperation and coordination between them in the performance of their respective mandates,
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"1. Welcomes the report of the Secretary-General of 14 July 1998;
"2. Reiterates its grave concern at the resumption of hostilities which took place in May 1998 and calls upon the parties to observe strictly the Moscow Agreement of 14 May 1994 on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces (S/1994/583, annex I) (the Moscow Agreement) and also the ceasefire protocol signed on 25 May 1998, as well as all their obligations to refrain from the use of force and to resolve disputed issues by peaceful means only;
"3. Expresses its deep concern at the significant outflow of refugees resulting from the recent hostilities, reaffirms the right of all refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes in secure conditions in accordance with international law and as set out in the Quadripartite Agreement of 4 April 1994 on the voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons (S/1994/397, annex II), calls upon both sides to fulfil their obligations in this regard, and demands in particular that the Abkhaz side allow the unconditional and immediate return of all persons displaced since the resumption of hostilities in May 1998;
"4. Condemns the deliberate destruction of houses by Abkhaz forces, with the apparent motive of expelling people from their home areas;
"5. Recalls the conclusions of the Lisbon summit of the OSCE (S/1997/57, annex) regarding the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, and reaffirms the unacceptability of the demographic changes resulting from the conflict;
"6. Expresses its deep concern at the extremely difficult humanitarian situation of the displaced persons from the Gali region as well as of those who remained in that area, and at the serious negative impact recent developments have had on international humanitarian efforts in the Gali region;
"7. Reiterates that the primary responsibility for achieving peace rests upon the parties themselves and reminds them that the continued commitment of the international community to assist them depends on their progress in this regard;
"8. Calls upon the parties to display without delay the necessary political will to achieve substantial results on the key issues of the negotiations, with full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, within the framework of the United Nations-led peace process and through direct dialogue, and to cooperate fully with the efforts made by the Secretary-General and his Special Representative, with the assistance of the Russian Federation as facilitator, as well as of the group of Friends of the Secretary-General and of the OSCE;
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"9. Welcomes the meeting of the parties held in Geneva on 23-25 July 1998 and calls upon them to continue and increase their active engagement in this process initiated by the Secretary-General aimed at achieving a comprehensive political settlement;
"10. Reminds the parties of their commitments to take all measures in their power and to coordinate their efforts to ensure the security and safety of international personnel and calls upon them to implement fully and without delay those commitments, including the creation of a joint mechanism for investigation and prevention of acts that represent violations of the Moscow Agreement and terrorist acts in the zone of conflict;
"11. Condemns the acts of violence against the personnel of UNOMIG, the renewed laying of mines in the Gali region and also the attacks by armed groups, operating in the Gali region from the Georgian side of the Inguri River, against the CIS peacekeeping force and demands that the parties, in particular the Georgian authorities, take determined measures to put a stop to such acts which subvert the peace process;
"12. Reiterates its deep concern regarding the security of UNOMIG, welcomes the measures already taken to improve security conditions to minimize the danger to UNOMIG personnel and to create conditions for the implementation of its mandated tasks, underlines the need to continue to make further arrangements in this field, welcomes also the Secretary-General's instruction that the security of UNOMIG be kept under constant review and calls upon the two parties to facilitate the implementation of practical measures resulting from that review;
"13. Expresses its concern at the mass media campaign launched in Abkhazia, Georgia, and the acts of harassment against UNOMIG, and calls upon the Abkhaz side to cease those acts;
"14. Decides to extend the mandate of UNOMIG for a new period terminating on 31 January 1999 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;
"15. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to keep the Council regularly informed, to report three months after the date of the adoption of this resolution on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, including on the operations of UNOMIG, and expresses its intention to conduct a review of the Mission in the light of the report of the Secretary-General, taking into account in particular the progress made by the two parties in creating secure conditions in which UNOMIG can fulfil its existing mandate and establishing a political settlement;
"16. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter."
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IRAKLI MENAGARISHVILI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said that despite five years of efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the Georgian/Abkhaz conflict, it was still premature to talk of serious progress. Moreover, the recent tragic events in the Gali district had clearly shown that the peace process was at a critical point and required a new, and possibly unconventional, assessment.
He said that despite the concrete proposals from the Georgian side, agreement on the political status of Abkhazia had not been reached. The problem of some 250,000 refugees and displaced persons remained unresolved, owing to the intransigence of the Abkhaz leadership. Further, it was unclear when those destitute people would return to their homes, given the fact that the Abkhaz separatists continued attempts to legitimize the demographic changes resulting from the conflict.
Regrettably, the events in the Gali sector in May had also put the Geneva peace process in question, he said. Despite such measures as the introduction of the UNOMIG and the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation into the conflict zone, and the expenditure of several million dollars by the international humanitarian organizations in support of refugees and displaced persons, the Abkhaz separatists continued a policy of terror against the Gali population. Punitive operations in the district had become systematic.
He said that following the resumption of hostilities in May, only the vigorous efforts of his Government had prevented Georgia's involvement in a full-scale war. The Abkhaz side continued to reject the implementation of its obligations regarding the unconditional return of refugees expelled during the May events. That violence represented the continuation of a policy of ethnic cleansing and attempt continued to legitimize the results of that policy. The punitive operations highlighted the fragility of the mechanism of the ceasefire regime in the conflict zone.
The time had come to activate solid mechanisms to ensure the security of the returnees, as well as the United Nations and other international personnel on the ground, he said. His Government's proposals included the creation, in the Gali district, of a provisional joint administration and of establishment of a system of patrolling. The massive laying of mines, however, would render any security measures useless without corresponding demining measures.
Regrettably, the Abkhaz side had rejected those proposals, he went on. While his Government would take all possible measures to protect the civilian population, peacekeepers and other personnel in the conflict zone, resolution of the problem would not be possible without international efforts and concrete steps on the part of the United Nations.
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He said it was necessary to create a mechanism of crisis management in the conflict zone. One such element would be the introduction of a United Nations self-protection unit. In addition, the Geneva peace process must become more viable by addressing the question of the political status of Abkhazia, while fully respecting the territorial integrity of Georgia. At the same time, there should be no linkage between the discussions on the political status of Abkhazia and the return of refugees. The effectiveness of the mechanism of conflict resolution depended considerably on the monitoring of the human rights situation, he noted.
The international community should adopt a decision which lived up to the aspirations of the Security Council and reflected the real situation in the conflict zone, he said. Such a resolution must differ from the previous 18 documents on the subject, notably by contributing to the decrease of tensions and by giving new impetus to peace negotiations.
GERHARD WALTER HENZE (Germany) said that as a member of the group of Friends of the Secretary-General on Georgia, Germany supported the draft resolution reflecting grave concern and a sense of urgency over the volatile political situation in and around Abkhazia, Georgia. The draft also voiced concern over the fate of the thousands of persons who had recently been forced to leave their homes, the lack of tangible progress towards a political settlement and the continuing danger UNOMIG and CIS peacekeepers faced.
Germany was willing to assist the parties in reaching a comprehensive political settlement, provided they showed a commitment to searching for peaceful solutions. The Georgian authorities must curb activities of the armed groups operating from the Georgian side of the Inguri River.
The Abkhaz side must allow the refugees from the Gali district to return to their homes immediately and without conditions, he said. The recent destruction of houses in the Gali sector by Abkhaz forces was totally unacceptable.
He said the patience of the Council was running out and unless there was improvement in the peace process and in the security situation on the ground, a reconsideration of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Abkhazia, Georgia, could not be excluded.
Determined steps against armed groups and mine-laying in UNOMIG's area of operations must be taken urgently, he said. The measures already taken by the Secretariat to improve security conditions would not be sufficient over a protracted period of time. He failed to understand why the Abkhaz leadership had not allowed UNOMIG to defend itself against persons or groups attacking it. Germany continued to favour the option of a self-protection unit for UNOMIG. He called on the Abkhaz leadership to reconsider its initial reaction and to understand that such a force would be limited strictly to self-defence.
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ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said that the resumption of hostilities last May had caused some 40,000 persons, who had earlier returned to the Gali district, to leave their homes again. The results of the work of the international community over the last few years to aid their return had been reversed. France condemned such actions as burning the homes, in an apparent desire to drive those people out.
With the continued tensions in the region, new clashes could not be excluded, he said. It was essential, therefore, for the parties to respect the Moscow Agreement of 14 May on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces. Only a lasting political settlement could ensure the region's stability. Efforts could only succeed if the two parties demonstrated the necessary political will.
While the recent meeting in Geneva had marked an important stage, it must be immediately followed by further negotiations on the other major points in the dispute, he said. It was also up to the parties to fulfil their commitment regarding the security of international personnel. The acts committed against those personnel in Georgia were condemnable, and measures must be taken by the two parties to end them. That was the substance of the draft text and the reason why France would vote in its favour.
ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal) said the parties must commit themselves to the search for a political solution, within the framework established by the United Nations. They must grasp the opportunity with both hands. He looked forward to concrete and substantive progress on the outstanding issues, including the definition of the political status of Abkhazia and return of refugees and displaced persons.
He called on the Abkhaz side, in particular, to allow the unconditional and immediate return of all persons displaced since the resumption of hostilities in May. He remained deeply concerned at the continuing deterioration of the security conditions and the attacks against UNOMIG and CIS personnel. The Council should be unequivocal in its intolerance of violence against peacekeepers. He demanded that the parties provide increased security for UNOMIG and other international personnel. Unless further arrangements were made in that field, the Mission could not return to its full operational levels or fulfil its mandate.
Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said that while the Geneva process had created a framework for the resolution of the conflict, the parties had not shown a sufficient willingness to tackle the key issues. Rather, they had limited themselves to a discussion of mechanisms over substance.
Neither side had lived up to its obligations, he said. Regarding the events in May, which had resulted in a new wave of refugees, both parties must
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bear their share of the blame. The events had set back the peace process while only serving to strengthen the hand of the extremists.
He said that the fact that last week's meeting in Geneva took place despite the current tensions showed that both sides wished to avoid a repeat of the May events. Nonetheless, the parties had failed to make progress on the key issues. While the international community stood ready to help bring about a peaceful settlement, the parties must first help themselves. The time had come for them to match their words with deeds.
The commitment of UNOMIG was not open-ended, he said. The situation on the ground must improve, or countries could not be expected to provide unarmed observers. The United Kingdom strongly favoured the deployment of a self- protection unit, as proposed by the Secretary-General, to provide security for the observers. Meanwhile, the draft resolution had his Government's full support. The Council would judge the parties by their actions over the coming weeks.
HISASHI OWADA (Japan) said the current situation with regard to the peace process was far from satisfactory. He called on both sides to take constructive actions and demonstrate the political will to rapidly promote the peace process and facilitate the return of refugees.
He said his Government fully supported the Secretary-General's condemnation of the attacks against peacekeepers. He stressed that the security and safety of international personnel was a problem of the utmost urgency that required the most serious attention of the Council and of the United Nations as a whole. The establishment of a self-protection unit would be most welcome and should be realized with the consent of both parties.
QIN HUASUN (China) said that the key questions now were the serious differences that persisted between the two sides with regard to the future political status of Abkhazia. In addition, the repatriation of refugees continued to be hampered. The independent and sovereign territorial integrity of Georgia should be safeguarded, we well as its ethnic composition.
He said that the final settlement of the question depended on the people themselves. Only when both sides had demonstrated their political will to do so could the efforts of the international community play a role. The recent high-level meeting between the two sides in Geneva was welcome, and he awaited the direct contacts between the Georgian President and the Abkhaz leader at an early date. That would be the first step to building confidence between the two sides, and would mark a beginning towards solving the current problems.
The UNOMIG had always maintained excellent relationships with both sides, as well as with the CIS peacekeeping force. It was disturbing that the Mission's security was threatened by the instability in the districts of Gali
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and Zugidi. China condemned the terrorist attacks and believed that the two parties must honour their promises to safeguard international personnel. It endorsed recommendation of the Secretary-General to extend the UNOMIG's mandate, and would vote in favour of the draft.
NAZARETH INCERA (Costa Rica) said her Government supported the extension of the mandate of UNOMIG. She was alarmed that civilians and international personnel continued to be subjected to violence and crime. The local authorities must ensure security in the areas under their control.
She stressed the importance of the humanitarian situation of the refugees and the displaced persons. First and foremost, she said, the parties must respect the rights of the individuals, including their right to live in peace and security. She was particularly concerned by the deterioration of security in zones in which UNOMIG was operating. She condemned attacks against the international personnel and reiterated Costa Rica's support for UNOMIG.
ANDERS LIDEN (Sweden) said that the lack of progress towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict was utterly disappointing. Reports of continued violence against civilians and peacekeepers were another source of deep concern. Sweden deplored the renewal of hostilities in May, which resulted in a major loss of lives and a further aggravation of an already precarious humanitarian situation.
Despite the ceasefire of 25 May, the situation on the ground remained very tense, he said. Sweden was particularly concerned about the plight of refugees and displaced persons. Both parties must fulfil their obligations to enable those people to return to their homes under secure conditions. Also, the renewal of mine-laying hampered the work of international personnel.
As a troop contributor to UNOMIG, Sweden was well aware of the crucial role the Mission played, he said. Nonetheless, the security situation severely restricted its ability to do its job. While Sweden supported the Council's decision to extend UNOMIG's mandate, the proposal for a self- protection unit to facilitate the work of the military observers should be kept in mind.
The present text sent a clear message to the parties, he said. They were expected to create the conditions in which UNOMIG could carry out its mandate. They were also expected to show the political will to move forward in the process of negotiations and to produce tangible results. While joint international action was indispensable for the promotion of a comprehensive settlement, the responsibility for finding such a settlement rested ultimately with the parties themselves. It was time for them to demonstrate their full readiness to assume that responsibility.
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CHARLES ESSONGHIE (Gabon) said the July meeting in Geneva had been a hopeful sign since. The two parties had seemed to be seeking a solution to the conflict. Unfortunately, that goal had not yet been achieved. He expressed keen concern over the current situation in the regions of Zugdidi and Gali.
He said Gabon would vote in favour of the draft resolution.
BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE (Gambia) said that his delegation condemned the recent violence and destruction in Georgia and called for the parties to cease such activities. The success of the peace initiatives depended mainly on the parties themselves. However, their activities had frustrated the process. The two sides owed it to the international community and to their own people to listen to the voice of reason.
The presence of UNOMIG was essential, he said. It not only served as a stabilizing factor, but it also supported the political process and helped to create a sense of confidence and security among the residents. His delegation supported the extension of its mandate. Without it, the already volatile situation might degenerate into an uncontrollable conflagration.
He said that both sides must remember that they could not continue to hold the international community hostage by their unwillingness to resolve their differences peacefully. The "belligerents" were urged to summon the necessary political will to settle their differences peacefully, and to implement fully all their commitments in that regard.
HENRIQUE R. VALLE (Brazil) said that ensuring the safety of the peacekeepers was the responsibility of both parties. It was essential that Georgians of different backgrounds learned to accept each other. He hoped that the Geneva peace process was capable of contributing to a sustainable dialogue and conciliation. Both sides had to live up to their commitments and deal with the radical and criminal factors in their midst.
DANILO TÜRK (Slovenia) said that the strenuous efforts of the Secretary- General's Special Representative and others could not bear fruit without the full engagement and cooperation of the parties. The responsibility to move the peace process forward lay with the parties themselves.
The humanitarian problem and violations of human rights continued to hinder the peace process, he said. The additional displacement during the latest round of fighting in the Gali sector, the extensive destruction of houses and other policies of the Abkhaz authorities regarding the return of refugees were unacceptable. Until safe return was ensured, there would be no solution to the conflict.
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The UNOMIG could not fulfil its mandate under such volatile and dangerous conditions, he said. Several incidents involving UNOMIG personnel, along with the reported mass media campaign and acts of harassment, had demonstrated a clear need for constant review of the matter. Additional practical security measures, including creating a self-protection unit, were needed.
JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) hailed the efforts of UNOMIG, the Special Representative, the Russian Federation, and all those who were trying to settle the crisis.
He said the parties had not discharged their obligations towards the international community, and he condemned the attacks directed against the peacekeepers. If the two parties did not cooperate with the United Nations, the situation would deteriorate even further. He urged them to exercise greater restraint and to take advantage of the opportunities to seek peace.
He said the refugees and displaced persons must be able to return to their homes in accordance with the agreement of April 1998. He supported the extension of the mandate.
NANCY SODERBERG (United States) said that the peace process in Georgia was now in a critical period. Although the May ceasefire continued to hold, the situation remained tense, and attacks against peacekeepers continued. The United States would vote to extend the mandate of the observer Mission because of its contribution to the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and its constructive role in the overall peace process.
She said the United States was concerned that the parties had not shown the political will to renounce violence and to take steps towards a comprehensive political settlement. The parties must engage in substantive talks on the real issues: the return of refugees and internally displaced persons; and the political status of Abkhazia. In that context, she welcomed further progress in the Geneva talks to address those basic issues and the upcoming meeting in Athens on confidence-building measures.
The United States condemned in the strongest terms the attacks on the CIS peacekeepers, she said. Her Government also remained deeply concerned about the physical safety of the personnel of UNOMIG. It was the parties' responsibility to protect the peacekeepers. To that end, both sides must rein in terrorist activity, and cease the violence and harassment against refugees and internally displaced persons.
So long as the parties failed to protect UNOMIG, further protection arrangements were essential, including the establishment of a self-protection unit, she said. The United States supported the provision in the draft resolution to assess the future of the Mission within the overall context of
Security Council - 15 - Press Release SC/6555 3912th Meeting (PM) 30 July 1998
progress to achieve a political settlement. The dedication of the personnel of UNOMIG in the pursuit of peace deserved high recognition.
SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said the Russian Federation aspired to a just settlement of the Georgian/Abkhaz conflict that was based on the maintenance of the territorial integrity of Georgia and the finding a form of self-government for Abkhazia that would allow for protecting the interests of its multinational population.
He said the use of force was counterproductive and could lead to an explosion in the entire Caucasus region. He expressed deep concern over the continuing tense situation in the Gali region. The Protocol on a Ceasefire and Withdrawal of Armed Formations and the Agreement on Peace and Guarantees for the Prevention of Armed Confrontation were not being implemented by either side.
The problems of refugees had once again exacerbated, he said. He demanded from the Abkhaz side the establishment of conditions for the speedy return of the peaceful civilian population that had left the region as a result of the hostilities. If the Abkhaz authorities posed obstacles to their return, such actions would be regarded as aimed at the implementation of ethnic cleansing in that part of Abkhazia, Georgia.
He said the collective peacekeeping forces were an important factor of stabilization in the conflict zone. He was appalled by the continuing subversive terrorist acts against the peacekeepers and demanded that the Georgian side take decisive steps to end them.
He expressed deep concern over the problem of the security of UNOMIG personnel and believed that the greatest responsibility in that regard rested with the Georgian and the Abkhaz sides, which must immediately take the measures that were needed. He reaffirmed the readiness of the collective peacekeeping forces to assist in ensuring the security of the United Nations military observers.
He had a positive assessment of the second meeting of the parties, he added.
Action on Draft
The Council unanimously adopted the draft text as resolution 1187 (1998).
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