SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESSES CONCERN AT FAILURE TO ACHIEVE COMPREHENSIVE SETTLEMENT OVER ABKHAZIA, GEORGIA

14 November 2000
SC/6949

SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESSES CONCERN AT FAILURE TO ACHIEVE COMPREHENSIVE SETTLEMENT OVER ABKHAZIA, GEORGIA

14 November 2000

Press ReleaseSC/6949

SECURITY COUNCIL EXPRESSES CONCERN AT FAILURE TO ACHIEVE COMPREHENSIVE SETTLEMENT OVER ABKHAZIA, GEORGIA

20001114

Having considered the Secretary-General’s report concerning the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, the Security Council this afternoon noted with deep concern the continued failure to achieve a comprehensive political settlement, which included a settlement of the political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia.

In a statement read by Council President A. Peter van Walsum (Netherlands), the Council called on the parties, particularly the Abkhaz side, to undertake immediate efforts to move beyond the impasse and urged them to spare no efforts to achieve substantive progress without further delay.

In that regard, the Council strongly supported efforts of the Secretary- General’s Special Representative, undertaken with the support of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General, to address the issue of the future constitutional status of Abkhazia, and particularly his intention to submit proposals to the parties on the distribution of competencies between Tbilisi and Sukhumi as a basis for meaningful negotiations on that issue.

The Council strongly condemned the murder of Zurab Achba, legal assistant to the United Nations Human Rights Office in Sukhumi. It recalled the commitment of the Abkhaz side to keep the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) fully informed on the course of the investigation into that crime, and urged the Abkhaz side to shed light on the matter. It also deplored the abductions of United Nations and humanitarian personnel.

The Council called on the parties to agree on and to take concrete steps towards implementing effective measures to guarantee the security of those refugees and internally displaced persons who exercised their unconditional right to return to their homes. In particular, the undefined and insecure status of spontaneous returnees to the Gali district was a matter that had to be addressed urgently. Therefore, the parties were urged to engage in genuine negotiations to resolve concrete aspects of the matter and not to link the issue to political matters.

It noted that the situation on the ground in the UNOMIG area of responsibility had remained generally calm, although unstable during the reporting period. It also welcomed the contribution that UNOMIG and the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) continued to make in stabilizing the situation in the zone of conflict.

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Further, the Council welcomed the readiness of Ukraine to host the third meeting on confidence-building measures in Yalta at the end of November, and noted the important contribution a successful conference would make to the peace process.

[The full text of the statement is attached to this press release.]

The meeting was convened at 3:44 p.m. and adjourned at 3:53 p.m.

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Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in Abkhazia Georgia. It had before it a report from the Secretary-General on that issue (document S/2000/1023). In its resolution 1311 (2000), the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) until 31 January 2001 and asked the Secretary-General to report to it three months from the adoption of the text. The current report provides an update on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, since the Secretary-General's last report on 17 July (document S/2000/697).

According to the report of the Secretary-General, the Mission continues to be headed by his Special Representative for Georgia, Dieter Boden, who is assisted by the Chief Military Observer, Major General Anis Ahmed Bajwa (Pakistan). The strength of UNOMIG, as of 16 October 2000, stood at 103 military observers.

The Secretary-General says that during the reporting period, Mr. Boden, in cooperation with the Russian Federation, the members of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General for Georgia, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), continued his efforts to move the peace process forward. At the same time, the Special Representative addressed the issue of the future constitutional status of Abkhazia, the improvement of the security situation, the return of refugees, economic rehabilitation and confidence-building measures.

The report states that the Mission continues to perform its mandate by means of daily ground patrols originating from mission headquarters in Sukhumi and the two sector headquarters in Gali and Zugdidi, as well as through frequent helicopter patrols. In this way, UNOMIG military observers are able to regularly cover the Mission's entire area of responsibility, with the exception of the Georgian-controlled upper part of the Kodori Valley, which was only accessed twice by UNOMIG personnel during the reporting period.

According to the Secretary-General, after extensive consultations in the aftermath of the October 1999 and June 2000 hostage-taking incidents in the upper Kodori Valley, the Government of Georgia assured UNOMIG in early August that the necessary security conditions now existed to resume helicopter patrolling of the valley. In meetings with UNOMIG, the local population welcomed the prospect of a renewed UNOMIG presence in the valley. A further patrol was carried out on 19 September, and there are plans to visit the area initially at least once a month.

The report states that this positive development in the Kodori Valley took place as the peacekeeping force of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) prepare to open a new checkpoint on the ceasefire line between the upper Kodori Valley and the Abkhaz-controlled lower part. This is another development which should enhance general security in the area and improve freedom of movement for UNOMIG patrols. It is hoped that the checkpoint may also become the venue for regular meetings between representatives of the upper Kodori Valley, the Abkhaz side, UNOMIG and the CIS peacekeeping force.

The Secretary-General reports that the general situation in the zone of conflict remained calm, but unstable. In July, Georgian police conducted an operation against Colonel Akaki Eliava in western Georgia. Colonel Eliava, who had remained at large after staging an unsuccessful armed mutiny against the Government of Georgia in October 1998, was killed during the action. After his death, his supporters publicly threatened to abduct UNOMIG personnel in order to pressure the Government of Georgia to release other members of Eliava's group. On the advice of Minister for Internal Affairs Kakha Targamadze, UNOMIG suspended operations in the Zugdidi area for a few days until the tension was defused.

The Secretary-General goes on to say that the security and safety of UNOMIG personnel remains the highest priority for the Mission. During the reporting period, a number of robberies occurred in the living quarters of the Mission's local and international staff, particularly in the Zugdidi area. Generally, however, the security situation remains sufficiently under control for UNOMIG to carry out its mandate satisfactorily, but not to the extent that the security measures instituted in May 1998 can be lifted.

During the reporting period, continues the Secretary-General, the humanitarian situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, remained unsatisfactory, with large segments of the population dependent on humanitarian assistance, facing serious problems of food security, accommodation and shelter, sanitation and access to health care. The continued deterioration of the infrastructure and a lack of economic development exacerbate the problems, as does the precarious security situation. Humanitarian organizations and non-governmental organizations continue to provide vital assistance to the vulnerable population of Abkhazia, Georgia.

The Secretary-General states that, on 15 August, Zurab Achba, a legal assistant to the human rights office, was shot and killed in Sukhumi. Mr. Achba was widely known and respected, both for his professionalism in the field of jurisprudence and his personal commitment to the cause of protection and promotion of human rights. The Special Representative has received the commitment of the Abkhaz side to keep UNOMIG fully informed about the course of the investigation into this crime, although these assurances have not been fully kept.

The Secretary-General states that the two sides, with direct support from Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba, have demonstrated a willingness to engage, in a restricted format under the chairmanship of his Special Representative, in detailed talks on key aspects of a political settlement. However, the lack of progress so far on the critical issue of defining the status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia is deeply regrettable. The Secretary-General appeals to both sides, and particularly to the Abkhaz side, to undertake immediate efforts to move beyond this impasse.

According to the report, negotiations on the draft paper on basic principles for the distribution of competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi, which will be presented to the parties by Mr. Boden and the Group of Friends of the Secretary- General, must be the next step. In this context, it is imperative that the members of the Group seek, and reach as soon as possible, a shared position on the draft paper which takes into account the Council's view that any solution to the conflict must to be based on the territorial integrity of Georgia.

The late summer harvest season brought with it what appears to be the largest spontaneous return of population to the Gali district since the end of the war in 1993, notes the Secretary-General. It is disturbing that this substantial de facto returnee population continues to live in an undefined and insecure state, and that it should continue to endure daily social and economic hardship, insufficient protection of its human rights, and a continuing lack of appropriate representation in local administrative structures.

The Secretary-General stresses that the two sides should treat the return of refugees and internally displaced persons as a matter of the most urgent humanitarian concern, engage in genuine negotiations with each other to resolve concrete aspects of the matter, and not link this issue to other political matters.

According to the report, the increasing vitality of the Coordinating Council mechanism as the central element of the Geneva peace process is commendable. The Secretary-General is pleased to see the active rejuvenation of Working Group I on security issues and calls upon both sides to cooperate with his Special Representative in his efforts to revive Working Groups II and III, as well. Close integration of the Working Groups with the Council itself would be constructive and would broaden the political base on which to build a comprehensive political solution.

The Secretary-General welcomes the readiness expressed by the Georgian and Abkhaz sides to accept the invitation by the Government of Ukraine to the third meeting on confidence-building measures, to be held in Yalta in late November. That meeting is intended to establish and build contacts between the sides in various fields and to foster the public climate necessary for an eventual settlement of the conflict. Both sides should prepare actively for the event and be ready to take decisions that will improve confidence and contribute to the overall peace effort.

The Secretary-General reminds both sides that the provision of security, for the local population and for UNOMIG, is primarily their responsibility. They should implement the measures agreed upon within the framework of the Coordinating Council, and in particular cooperate in combating crime and improving the work of their respective law enforcement agencies. They should also work closely with the Mission and the peacekeeping forces of the CIS to improve the functioning of the Joint Fact-finding Group, so that it may make a real contribution to the improvement of security conditions in the zone of conflict.

The Secretary-General also stresses that it is still necessary that the perpetrators of the October 1999 and June 2000 hostage-taking incidents in the Kodori Valley be brought to justice.

Council President Statement

Following is the full text of the statement by the Council President:

“The Security Council has considered the report of the Secretary-General concerning the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, of 25 October 2000 (S/2000/1023).

“The Security Council welcomes the efforts by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to enhance contacts at all levels between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, in close cooperation with the Russian Federation, in its capacity as facilitator, the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It notes with appreciation the expansion of such contacts, which resulted recently in a series of meetings and steps towards the implementation of concrete cooperation projects between the two sides. It notes the holding of the 11th session of the Coordinating Council and urges further reinvigoration of this mechanism. It welcomes the readiness of the Government of Ukraine to host the third meeting on confidence-building measures in Yalta at the end of November, and notes the important contribution a successful conference held in a timely fashion would make to the peace process.

“The Security Council notes with deep concern, however, the continued failure of the parties to achieve a comprehensive political settlement, which includes a settlement of the political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia. It calls upon the parties, in particular the Abkhaz side, to undertake immediate efforts to move beyond the impasse and urges them to spare no efforts in order to achieve substantive progress without further delay. In this regard, it strongly supports the efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary- General, undertaken with the support of the Group of Friends of the Secretary- General, to address the issue of the future constitutional status of Abkhazia and, in particular, his intention to submit, in the near future, a draft paper containing proposals to the parties on the question of the distribution of competencies between Tbilisi and Sukhumi as a basis for meaningful negotiations on that issue.

“The Security Council calls upon the parties to agree upon and to take, in the nearest future, concrete steps towards implementing effective measures to guarantee the security of the refugees and internally displaced persons who exercise their unconditional right to return to their homes. In particular, the undefined and insecure status of spontaneous returnees to the Gali district is a matter that must be addressed urgently. The Council, therefore, urges the parties to engage in genuine negotiations to resolve concrete aspects of the matter and not to link this issue to political matters. In this regard, it joins the Secretary-General in encouraging the Abkhaz side to muster the requisite political will to resolve the problem of Georgian language education in the schools of the district, as well as to find the resources that those schools need, which the Secretary-General notes may affect directly the magnitude of the seasonal migration in the area.

“The Security Council welcomes the achievements reached within the framework of the policy implemented by the Government of Georgia, the United Nations Development Programme, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the World Bank, aimed at ensuring that the internally displaced persons enjoy their right to be treated in the same manner as all other Georgian citizens.

“The Security Council notes that the situation on the ground in the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) area of responsibility has remained generally calm, although unstable, during the reporting period. It welcomes all efforts which have been undertaken, in particular by the Special Representative, with a view to alleviating tensions and increasing

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confidence between the parties. It urges the parties to cooperate closely in combating crime and improving the work of their respective law enforcement agencies.

“The Security Council strongly condemns the murder of Mr. Zurab Achba, legal assistant to the United Nations Human Rights Office in Sukhumi, recalls the commitment of the Abkhaz side to keep UNOMIG fully informed on the course of the investigation into this crime, and urges the Abkhaz side to shed light on this matter. It also deplores abductions of United Nations and humanitarian personnel. In this context, the Council recalls the relevant principles contained in the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel adopted on 9 December 1994 and the statement of its President of 10 February 2000 (S/PRST/2000/4). It calls on the parties to refrain from any actions which could increase tensions on the ground and to ensure the safety of UNOMIG personnel.

“The Security Council welcomes the contribution that UNOMIG and the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS Peacekeeping Force) continue to make in stabilizing the situation in the zone of conflict, notes that the working relationship between UNOMIG and the CIS Peacekeeping Force has remained close, and stresses the importance of continuing and increasingly active cooperation and coordination between them in the performance of their respective mandates. It calls on the parties to observe their obligations to prevent acts that violate the Moscow Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces of May 1994 (S/1994/583, annex 1) and could pose a threat to the life and security of UNOMIG, CIS Peacekeeping Force and other international personnel.”

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For information media. Not an official record.