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Will the UN mission withdraw from Abkhazia?

By Messenger Staff
Friday, February 6
The mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia – UNOMIG – expires on February 15. Most probably the issue will be discussed in New York on Monday. If its mandate is not renewed, the mission will have to leave.

The problem is that Russia, as always, is blackmailing the international community, threatening to veto any decision apart from its own. Moscow considers the UN mission in Georgia unacceptable because it wants to promote its illegally-recognized puppet entities and thus indirectly force their recognition. Russia is insisting that UNOMIG be renamed the United Nations Mission in Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, thus once again violating Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Moscow’s arrogance conflicts with the desire of international organizations to preserve the UN presence in the region. In 1993 Georgians enthusiastically cheered UNOMIG’s appearance in Abkhazian territory, hoping this would facilitate the resolution of the conflict. But as the years passed neither was the conflict regulated nor the crawling annexation of territories by Russia halted. Thanks to the negligent and unwise policy of both previous and current Georgian administrations Russia declared itself the senior peacekeeper in the region. How efficiently the Russians used their peacekeeping mandate was witnessed by the entire world in August 2008.

Georgian Minister for Foreign Affairs Grigol Vashadze assures the Georgian population that the country will make no concessions and a new resolution on UNOMIG will clearly define Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The resulting document should fix once again the necessity of prolonging the UN peacekeeping mandate in the region and ensure the return of IDPs to their birthplaces. This principled position should be welcomed of course but on the other hand if Georgia tries to remain uncompromising Russia will also become stubborn and definitely veto any alternative option to its own.

In reality Russia wants the UN to withdraw from the region, and to achieve this will veto any observer troupe, just as it did the OSCE mission monitoring the situation in the Tskhinvali region. Moscow does not want any international witnesses of its atrocities and the activities it conducts with its puppet regimes in this region. It is in Georgia’s best interests to somehow maintain the UN mission in Abkhazia. “If we don’t want to lose absolute control of Abkhazia the mission should remain on Abkhazian territory,” thinks political analyst Paata Zakareishvili.

Political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze thinks that Russia will choose limited compromise and make slight concessions. The blocking of the OSCE mission in Georgia hurt Russia’s image and if it blocks the UN mission as well it will spoil its image further, demonstrating to the whole world its aggressiveness in suffocating impartial international monitoring. Russia insists that UN missions must be located in Tbilisi, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali and thus indirectly recognize that Sokhumi and Tskhinvali are beyond the control of Tbilisi. Sakvarelidze thinks that Russia might agree to the suggested formula of a ‘UN mission in Abkhazia (Georgia).’ The position of the so- called Abkhaz leadership need not be taken into account because it will do whatever Moscow prompts it to do, Sakvarelidze thinks.

Analysts think it will be very important to hear the wording of the statement/report of the Secretary General of UN on this issue, which as a rule is aired five days prior to its discussion. However the UN has another, more acute issue to discuss, which is passing a resolution on the August war. Vashadze does not exclude that Russia will veto any UN Security Council resolution on the August war, which will create further problems. Monitoring missions are sent with a clear picture of why they are there, which they will not have if the UN cannot agree on what happened in August and therefore has created what they will be observing now.

Significantly, the Russian aggression against Georgia is the only war since the existence of the organization on which UN Security Council has not adopted a special resolution. So next week’s discussions will be crucial for Georgia, and will demonstrate how much effective support it has in the international community.