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UN observers in Abkhazia “not yet realistic”

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, September 3
Information reported by the media that Sukhumi is ready to deploy a new UN observation mission in Abkhazia is “far from the current political reality and is only possible in theory,” Vyacheslav Chirikba, the head of the de facto Abkhazian delegation at the Geneva negotiations said on Thursday. His comment followed reports by the Abkhazian media, quoting him as saying that the de facto Abkhazian administration is considering the possibility of letting UN observers into Abkhazia.

The de facto official said that no specific negotiations have been held on the issue of resuming the UN mission in Georgia’s breakaway regions, since Russia vetoed an extension of the UN observer mission’s mandate in Georgia in June, 2009. “Abkhazia maintains regular contact with the UN, especially in the Geneva talks; senior representatives of the organization visit Abkhazia and UN officials participate in Incidents Prevention and Response Mechanism meetings in Gali,” information agency Apsnypress quoted him as saying. “I hope that in the future, Abkhazia will become a member of this international organisation and then the presence of the official representation of the UN in the country will be completely natural. However, so far it is too early to talk about this,” he added.

Earlier, on September 1, Chirikba told Interfax news agency that the de facto Abkhazian administration is planning to propose a new project of a non-use of force agreement at the upcoming round of Geneva talks in October. “The Abkhazian version of the document consists of two main parts – a declaration on the non-use of force and the guarantee for maintaining peace in the region,” he said, adding that “possibly, one of the elements of realising the agreement will be deploying UN observers on the both sides of the Abkhazia-Georgia border.”

Officials in Tbilisi have reiterated Georgia’s firm position on the “unacceptability” of signing any kind of non-use of force agreement with the de facto administrations and the “inadmissibility” of deploying international observers in Georgia’s breakaway regions as in the independent entities. “The idea and the initiative of deploying UN observers in Georgia’s occupied region of Abkhazia belong to Georgia. We have been proposing the deployment of international observers in the conflict region at international forums; however Russia has always blocked this issue,” Chairman of the Temporary Parliamentary Commission on Territorial Integrity Issues, Shota Malashkhia said. “The deployment of observers is a positive step, however if they will be deployed in Abkhazia as in a separate entity and not as in Georgia, then it is completely unacceptable first of all to Georgia, as well as to the international community. A place where ethnic cleansing has taken place cannot be declared an independent state,” he told The Messenger.

Georgia has already signed a non-use of force document, Malashkhia said. “This is the Medvedev-Sarkozy-Saakashvili agreement. The ceasefire document envisages a non-resumption of military actions in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region,” he noted “The President of Georgia has repeatedly promised the guarantees of maintaining the identity of the Abkhazian and the South Ossetian people at the UN tribunal and at other international forums. Abkhazians and Ossetians do not face any danger from Georgia, while they are under the threat of assimilation by the Russian Federation,” he added.

The idea of allowing UN observers into Abkhazia is “predestined for failure from the outset,” analyst Mamuka Areshidze suggested. “If it is the same project that envisages signing the non-use of force document [between Georgia and its breakaway regions], then the Georgian side will not agree to it,” he said. “If Russia really wants to establish peace in the conflict zone, then it should agree to sign a non-use of force agreement with Georgia. However, the idea of the separatists that they will agree to let UN observers into the conflict region if the Georgian side agrees to sign a non-use of force document, is predestined for failure,” Areshidze noted.