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UN prolongs its mandate in Georgia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, February 16
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution prolonging the mandate of the UN mission in Georgia for four months on February 13.

The resolution, which prolongs the UN Mission until June 15, was adopted unanimously. The mission is referred to simply as the “UN mission” rather than the original “UN Mission In Georgia,” a compromise aimed at satisfying the Russian UN delegation which supported the protests of the Abkhazian and South Ossetian separatists who had refused to cooperate with the UN mission if its name “will have any reference to Georgia.”

The resolution recalls previous UN resolutions which support “the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders.” It also refers to the August 12 EU-mediated ceasefire agreement saying that the UN “welcomes” this document.

The Security Council called on the parties to the conflict to respect the security regime outlined in the 1994 Moscow Agreement, which envisaged a 24 km disarmament zone on the both sides of the Abkhaz administrative border. This agreement was annulled after the August war, following Georgia’s withdrawal from the treaty. Georgia, however, subsequently signed a memorandum with the EU monitoring mission which committed it to restricting its troops and arms deployment within a 15 km radius of the Abkhaz administrative border.

The resolution “underlines the need… to ensure without distinction… the right of persons to freedom of movement and the protection of the property of refugees and displaced persons.” It also calls for facilitating internally displaced persons’ and refugees’ “voluntary, safe, dignified and unhindered return.” The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a special statement welcoming the UN resolution, stating it “contains elements of great significance for Georgia’s national security.” “It is important that the Resolution stresses the inadmissibility of ethnic discrimination and the need of safe and dignified return of internally displaced persons and refugees, as well as the necessity to protect their property. At the same time, the Resolution calls on the participants of the Geneva talks to employ all resources to take effective decisions concerning internally displaced persons and refugees, and calls on the UN Secretary General to facilitate the process of their return to their places of residence,” says the statement.

However, Tbilisi expresses its regret that the resolution “does not reflect all aspects of the reality that emerged in the aftermath of the August war. Following Russia’s large-scale aggression against Georgia and occupation of inalienable territories of Georgia, the UN Security Council could not, for understandable reasons, adopt a resolution giving a due assessment to Russia’s actions.”

“The Georgian side expresses its content regarding the adoption of UNSC Resolution 1866 and reaffirms its readiness to continue intensive work aimed at elaborating a new mandate for the UN Observer Mission in Georgia and a respective resolution. We hope that the UN Security Council will manage to adopt a decision on the deployment of an international, comprehensive, multi-dimensional mission with peacekeeping, police and monitoring elements, in the occupied territories of Georgia,” concluded the Ministry.

Meanwhile, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, said on February 13 that the UN Security Council members were close to agreeing the draft resolution. “A compromise has almost been reached in the UN, thanks to the fact that the corresponding resolution recognizes the need for the new realities to be taken into account,” Reuters quoted Lavrov as telling reporters in the Kremlin. “[The compromise] became possible because agreement was received, not only from Georgia about the monitors on their territory, but from Sokhumi on U.N. observers being present in Abkhazia,” he added. Russian envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin also noted that a “new security” regime should be created in the conflict region. He stated that Russia is ready to create a special zone near the administrative border that “will not allow the Georgian side to repeat its aggression.” He did not however mention anything about withdrawing Russian troops from the other side of the administrative border.

Western officials also welcomed the resolution. Rosemary DiCarlo, the United States UN envoy, said that the resolution “in no way undermines” Georgia’s territorial integrity, as the text mentions the previous resolution supporting this principle. John Sawers, the British UN Ambassador, said that the Security Council would now use the next four months before the mandate expires “in order to find a more durable arrangement that reflects the situation on the ground and the needs of the people on the ground.”