SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS GEORGIA MISSION UNTIL 31 JANUARY 2005, UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTING RESOLUTION 1554 (2004)

29 July 2004
SC/8158

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS GEORGIA MISSION UNTIL 31 JANUARY 2005, UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTING RESOLUTION 1554 (2004)

29/07/2004
Press ReleaseSC/8158

Security Council                                           

5013th Meeting (AM)                                         

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS GEORGIAMISSION UNTIL 31 JANUARY 2005,

UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTING RESOLUTION 1554 (2004)

The Security Council this morning extended the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), which was to expire on 31 July, for a further six months, until 31 January 2005.

Unanimously adopting resolution 1554 (2004), 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 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.

Expressing concern that, despite the start of the deployment of a civilian police component as part of UNOMIG, the deployment of the remaining officers in the Gali sector is still outstanding, the Council 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 KodoriValley by joint UNOMIG and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force patrols.

The meeting started at 11:25 a.m. and was adjourned at 11:27 a.m.

Council Resolution

The full text of resolution 1554 (2004) reads, as follows:

The Security Council,

Recalling all its relevant resolutions, in particular resolution 1524 of 30 January 2004 (S/RES/1524),

Welcoming the report of the Secretary-General of 14 July 2004,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“2.   Commends and strongly supports the sustained efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative, with the assistance of the Russian Federation in its capacity as facilitator, as well as of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General and of the OSCE, to promote the stabilization of the situation and the achievement of a comprehensive political settlement, which must include a settlement of the political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia;

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

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

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

“6.   Calls on the parties to spare no efforts to overcome their ongoing mutual mistrust and underlines that the process of negotiation leading to a lasting political settlement acceptable to both sides will require concessions from both sides;

“7.   Welcomes the commitment by the Georgian side to a peaceful resolution of the conflict and calls on both parties further to publicly dissociate themselves from all militant rhetoric and demonstrations of support for military options;

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

“9.   Welcomes the convening of regular meetings of senior representatives of the Group of Friends and the United Nations in Geneva and, while regretting that the Abkhaz side did not participate in the last meeting, looks forward to the constructive participation of the parties in the forthcoming meetings;

“10.  Urges the parties to participate in a more active, regular and structured manner in the task forces established in the first Geneva meeting (to address issues in the priority areas of economic cooperation, the return of internally displaced persons and refugees, and political and security matters) and complemented by the working groups established in Sochi in March 2003, and reiterates that results-oriented activities in these three priority areas remain key to building common ground between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides and ultimately for concluding meaningful negotiations on a comprehensive political settlement based on the paper entitled “Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi” and its transmittal letter;

“11.  Encourages the sides in that respect to continue their discussion on security guarantees and welcomes the meeting in Sukhumi on 20 May on this issue;

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

“13.  Stresses the urgent need for progress on the question of the refugees and internally displaced persons, calls on both sides to display a genuine commitment to make returns the focus of special attention and to undertake this task in close coordination with UNOMIG and consultations with UNHCR and the Group of Friends;

“14.  Calls for the rapid finalization and signature of the letter of intent on returns proposed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and welcomes the recent meetings with the participation of the SRSG and UNHCR of the Sochi working group on refugees and internally displaced persons;

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

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

“17.  Welcomes the report of the mission led by the United Nations Development Programme to the Gali region (December 2003) to assess the feasibility of a sustainable recovery process for the local population and potential returnees and to identify further actions to improve the overall security conditions and ensure sustainable return, and looks forward to further consultations by UNDP and UNOMIG with the parties aimed at implementing its recommendations;

“18.  Urges the parties once again to implement the recommendations of the Joint Assessment Mission to the Gali sector (November 2000), regrets that there has been no progress to that effect despite the positive consideration by the parties given to those recommendations in the first Geneva meeting, and calls again upon the Abkhaz side to agree to the opening as soon as possible of the Gali branch of the human rights office in Sukhumi and to provide security conditions for its unhindered functioning;

“19.  Expresses concern that despite the start of the deployment of a civilian police component as part of UNOMIG, as endorsed in resolution 1494 (2003) and agreed by the parties, the deployment of the remaining officers in the Gali sector is still outstanding and calls on the Abkhaz side to allow for a swift deployment of the police component in that region;

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

“21.  Welcomes the measures taken by the Georgian side to put an end to the activities of illegal armed groups and encourages the maintenance of these efforts;

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

“23.  Welcomes the continuing relative calm in the Kodori valley, condemns the killings and abductions of civilians, as well as the attack on CIS checkpoints in the Gali district;

“24.  Urges the parties to abide by the provisions of the protocols on security issues in the Gali district signed on 19 January 2004 and 8 October 2003, to continue their regular meetings and to cooperate more closely with each other to improve security in the Gali sector;

“25.  Calls 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;

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

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

“28.  Decides to extend the mandate of UNOMIG for a new period terminating on 31 January 2005, subject to a review as appropriate of its mandate by the Council in the event of changes in the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force;

“29.  Requests the Secretary-General to continue to keep the Council regularly informed and to report three months from the date of the adoption of this resolution on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia;

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

Background

The Council had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia (document S/2004/570), in which he recommends a further six-month extension of the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) until 31 January 2005.

In making that recommendation, the Secretary-General stresses that, in the absence of a political settlement between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, the Mission’s role in preventing the resumption of hostilities and pursuing a lasting solution to the conflict remains relevant and important.  The continued efforts by UNOMIG, headed by his Special Representative, have been crucial in ensuring stability in the zone of conflict and maintaining the dialogue between the parties.  However, it is clear that without a comprehensive settlement conflict, there will be neither lasting peace nor economic prosperity.

Dated 14 July and covering the period since 20 April 2004 (see document S/2004/315), the present report notes that 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 is 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.”

Turning to the security of UNOMIG personnel, the Secretary-General states 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 includes those responsible for the ambush of a UNOMIG bus in Sukhumi in September 1998, the shooting down of a UNOMIG helicopter in the KodoriValley in October 2001, and those behind hostage-taking incidents.

Regarding the political process, the report says 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 support United Nations efforts.  That support was complemented by activities in the framework of the Sochi working groups, which implement agreements reached between the Russian and Georgian Presidents at Sochi, Russian Federation, in March 2003.

The report states that on 20 May in Sukhumi the Secretary-General’s Special Representative chaired the third meeting on security guarantees between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides.  It served as a welcome confidence-building measure in view of Abkhaz apprehensions of possible actions in support of the Georgian Government in the Gali district and ahead of 26 May, the National Day of Georgia, and in the wake of events in Ajaria, where demonstrations had led to the resignation of the Ajarian leader, Aslan Abashidze, in early May.  On 26 and 27 May, the Russian Federation convened in Moscow a meeting of the Sokhi working group on the return of refugees and internally displaced persons in which the Abkhaz side participated for the first time.

While incremental progress was made on specific conflict-related issues, regional and domestic attention was focused on Ajaria and the separatist South Ossetia region of Georgia, the report states.  While the crisis in Ajaria had ended with the resignation of Mr. Abashidze, high-level tensions continued in South Ossetia following Georgia’s establishment of anti-smuggling checkpoints and the deployment of special forces to protect them in late May.  Having followed those developments with considerable concern, Abkhaz anxiety focused on statements by Georgian politicians that Sukhumi would be next in their reintegration effort.  An enhanced Abkhaz security presence was established in the Gali district in the lead-up to Georgia’s 26 May National Day.

According to the report, Georgian President Saakashvili reiterated in his National Day address that one of his Government’s core aims was reunification with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  He appealed to Abkhaz and Ossetians to start talks, stressing that Tbilisi was prepared to consider any model that took their interests into account and ensured their future development.  Although the President confirmed Georgia’s policy of reintegration exclusively through dialogue and peaceful means, offering the highest possible federal status under international guarantees, the Abkhaz side rejected his overture.  While it was ready to discuss the non-resumption of hostilities and the restoration of trust and normal relations, Abkhazia’s status was not open for discussion.

The precarious human rights situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, showed no sign of improvement, the report states.  The rule of law, the administration of justice and law-enforcement mechanisms remained weak, failing to provide adequate protection of the right to life and physical security, as well as public order, particularly in the Gali district.  Murders, abductions and robberies mostly went unpunished.

United Nations agencies, as well as international and non-governmental organizations, continued to provide food, medical aid and infrastructural assistance, the report says.  In addition to purely humanitarian work, some development-related activity also took place.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) completed the last portion of its school rehabilitation project benefiting more than 14,000 children in 80 schools.  In addition, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) continued to deliver health and education assistance, including the second consignment of immunization supplies, and to work with local partners in improving vaccine storage, delivery and monitoring.

The report also covers operational activities; cooperation with the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS); policing issues; and financial aspects.

The Council also had before it a letter dated 26 July from the Permanent Representative of Georgia (document S/2004/595), who stressed that the new government envisioned a resolution to the conflict through peaceful negotiated means.  Listing accomplishments such as fighting corruption and organized crime in Georgia, disarming illegal armed formations that have no connection to the Government or to internally displaced persons, and detaining criminal groups operating in regions adjacent to Abkhazia, he writes the Government has begun a relentless fight against anyone who choose a criminal path. 

He notes that the upcoming elections for de facto president of the separatist Abkhaz regime, while illegal and illegitimate, may bring some new elements to the peace process.  It might be the right time for the Council to visit Abkhazia, Georgia, in order to learn the reality on the spot and demonstrate to the new leadership the will and vision of the international community and address the issue of refugees and internally displaced persons.

He writes that the way out of the situation lies through the unified and resolute Security Council, capable of taking decisive actions.  The Council should utilize all resources to ensure progress in the peace process, in particular the return of the refugees and internally displaced persons, political and security issues and economic cooperation.  Only a firm position taken by the Council will finally be heeded by the Abkhaz separatists. 

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For information media. Not an official record.