Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by congratulating Mr. Julian Hunte on the assumption of the Presidency of the 58th Session of the General Assembly and also express our heartfelt appreciation to Mr. Jan Kavan, for the outstanding leadership during the last session.
I would also like to pay tribute to Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello and the UN staff, who fell victims to a coward and blind rage in Baghdad. The dreadful terrorist attack perpetrated against these messengers of peace, once again highlighted the danger we face in many corners of the world.
In the recent years, the Untied Nations and the entire world community have come up against challenges, threatening the very basis of this organization and our collective efforts for global peace and security. International terrorism, a threat with a global dimension, affects each and every one of us. However, it has become evident that many of the new democratic states are particularly vulnerable to this threat. Scarce material resources and lack of qualified personnel undermine their efforts, highlighting the need for further intensified global cooperation.
Georgia is no exception when it comes to threats posed by international terrorism. However, despite the difficulties, with the active support and assistance from our partners, especially the United States, we have made substantial progress. Georgia successfully completed the anti¬criminal and anti-terrorist operation in the Pankisi Gorge. We have freed the territory from illegal armed groups and have seized a considerable number of arms and ammunition. Today, I can unequivocally state that the Pankisi Gorge, which has been freed of every illegally armed person, no longer poses any threat to Georgia or its neighbors.
However, unless the root cause of the Pankisi Gorge problem - the conflict in Chechnya - is settled, we cannot consider the problem eliminated. The lesson to be drawn from this experience is that the fight against terrorism will be successful only if carried on through concerted international efforts in all its complexity. A single fast relief operation can lead the problem to resurface at a later stage.
Many of the speakers before me have highlighted the importance of tackling the threat of international terrorism in all aspects. We cannot but share that notion. Protracted problems such as the unresolved conflicts in particular, resulting in creation of uncontrolled territories, have become a breeding source for terrorism. It is only a matter of time till we witness greater ties being forged between the leaders of separatists and terrorists.
One such vivid example is the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia.
This territory, under the control of the separatist regime, has turned
into a safe-heaven for criminals, human and drug traffickers, illegal
arms dealers and terrorist groups. The notorious Shamil Basayev, recently
included into the Anti-Terrorist Committee's list, has re-established
himself as a friend of the separatist authorities. He is maintaining active
links with the terrorist groups in Abkhazia. (During the armed conflict
there, Basayev served as a Deputy Defense Minister of the separatist regime
and was awarded the highest order for his special merits). In a near future
we will provide to the Anti¬terrorist Committee relevant information
on individuals involved in terrorist activities in Abkhazia.
The record of the United Nations in reaching a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, has been less than satisfactory. After more than ten years of the UN's involvement, we have not come even a step closer to the settlement. Blatant violations of human rights, ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population in Abkhazia continues unheeded. Despite numerous calls, we have failed to correct even the fundamental flaws in the entire UN - led peace process.
We welcome the fact that since the last session of the General Assembly the Geneva Process has gained a new dimension and we are hopeful that this will give a new impetus to the peace process. I would like to stress that this relatively new development is still rather fragile and should be aimed at results, not the process itself. We would also like to underline the importance of the recent CIS Summit, reinforcing the previous decisions of the CIS Heads of States setting forth restrictive regulations on political and economic with Abkhazia, Georgia.
However, inspite of these positive steps, very little has changed on the ground. What I have in mind here is unilateral illegal actions undertaken by representatives of the Russian side, especially by the leaders of the regional authorities, that significantly damage the peace process. The railway link between Sochi and Sokhumi is still operating unhindered. Despite our appeals at the last General Assembly, granting of Russian citizenship to the Abkhaz population en-masse, has never slowed down. Russian passports issued to the inhabitants of the secessionist region have already fallen into hands of the terrorists, who are making the best use of free passage in and out of Russia through the Abkhaz and Ossetian sections of the Georgian-Russian border, where a visa-free regime is unilaterally imposed by Russia.
Illegal acquisition of property in Abkhazia, Georgia, including possessions of the IDP's, by the state bodies, legal and physical persons of Russia still continues. Needless to say that these acts are carried out in flagrant violation of international law and represent an infringement on the sovereignty of Georgia. They run counter to the Georgian law that declares any transaction with the separatist regime null and void.
Illegal presence of the Russian military base in Gudauta is one more element exacerbating the situation in Abkhazia. Georgia insists that the commitment taken under the CFE Treaty on the removal of this base be implemented expeditiously and transparently.
There still must be hope. The hope that we are not going to again fail the 300 000 IDP and refugees, whose patience is running thin. The efforts must be redoubled to persuade the Abkhaz side to accept the so-called Boden Document on distribution of constitutional competences between Tbilisi and Sokhumi, as a basis for political negotiations.
We have repeatedly noted the failure of the CIS peace-keeping forces in providing security to the returnees. In fact, these forces, which are not even mandated by the UN, have done no more than sustain the status-quo, virtually functioning as border guards between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. We cannot hope for any improvement in the situation, unless the UN takes upon itself launching of a full scale peacekeeping operation in Abkhazia, Georgia in an internationalized format. It is through an increased role of the United Nations and the will of the international community that the unheeding Abkhaz separatists can be forced to compromise. If not so, the Government of Georgia has no other choice but to request the Security Council to resort to the measures envisioned under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
The Secretary-General and many of the world leaders have duly recognized that the United Nations is passing though one of the most critical phases of its history. The new global realities have made it clear that immediate measures ought to be undertaken if we want to ensure the UN's sustainability and strengthen the confidence of the member states in the organization.
In his speech at the 47th Session of the General Assembly in 1992, President Shevardnadze of Georgia stated: "We should not be afraid of reforms, when they are so necessary for us, primarily for the two interrelated fields: protection of peace and building of the new independent states". Those sentiments have been duly echoed at the current GA session. We should be courageous enough to recognize that the reform of the United Nations is essential for the interests of each of us, as well as for our collective good.
It is our belief that the member states can rally around the Secretary-General in his calls for creation of a High-Level Panel of eminent personalities, with a multitude of tasks aimed at reforming the United Nations.
I reaffirm Georgia's support to the enlargement of the Security Council. We join the calls to grant Germany and Japan permanent seats in the Security Council as well as to increase the number of non-permanent members in the Council. The decision - making process within the Council should also be made transparent and democratic, to ensure that the passage of necessary resolutions do not fall prey to special, narrow interest.
As we continue to collectively witness the changing global realities, the Government of Georgia welcomes the increasing role of the regional structures in achieving the fundamental objectives set by the United Nations. In this regard, the Balkans and the efforts of the European and Euro¬Atlantic structures is just one successful example.
Another vivid case is Afghanistan, where NATO has taken a leading role in the peace-building operation. The role of this organization will further increase as a result of the recent enlargement. Security issues have become a serious concern for such regional organizations as the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and the GUUAM. And here we would like to appeal to the Member States for support to the GUUAM's efforts to be granted an observer status in the UN General Assembly.
The Millennium Summit and the decisions taken there, in our view remain one of the most significant achievements of the United Nations. The consensus achieved at the Monterrey and Johannesburg Summits are roadmaps to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. The Government of Georgia supports the goals and strategies set forward in the both outcome documents, considering it imperative that the international community remain on course.
Globalization is becoming an everyday reality. Advances in modern technologies are making this process irreversible. However, it is up to the United Nations to take a more active role in guaranteeing an equitable distribution of resources among all the nations of the world. It is through increased cooperation, streamlining of actions within the United Nations bodies and establishing of new partnerships that the UN must prevail in achieving a global sustainable development.
Despite the rapidly changing global realities, one thing remains constant - there is a greater need and demand for the United Nations. We do remain hopeful that the common sense and common vision of future will prevail in this unique international body. We, on our part, are ready to do our utmost.
Thank you, Mr. President