Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), which expires on 31 March. However, this may require adopting another technical rollover.
On 31 January, the Council adopted a technical rollover of UNOMIG. It was triggered by Russian objections to standard UN language reaffirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and supporting a political solution for the inclusion of Abkhazia within Georgia’s boundaries. (See our Update Report of 2 February 2006 for details.)
This development has been associated with the deterioration in Russian-Georgian relations. But Russian President Vladimir Putin also linked the issue to Kosovo, warning that Russia could recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The “Group of Friends” held a regular meeting in Geneva on 2-3 February as part of the peace process. The meeting also aimed at breaking the UNOMIG deadlock. The issue seemed to have taken a positive turn when the chairman’s statement restated the traditional UN language. (The “Friends” are comprised of the US, the UK, France, Germany and Russia, and Slovakia in the Council.)
But on 15 February the Georgian parliament adopted a resolution recommending the replacement of peacekeepers in South Ossetia with an international force. It is widely seen as a preview of the position it may take when it reviews the status of Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia (deployed through the Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS) by 15 July. However:
The resolution is reportedly not binding on the Executive. The Georgian government has not indicated its final decision, and the Kremlin has indicated opposition to withdrawal. But Georgia has consistently voiced frustration with Russian policies, equating them to de facto annexation.
South Ossetians and Abkhazians signed a mutual defence pact and have opposed the replacement of Russian troops.
The 2,000 CIS troops operate checkpoints in the demilitarised security zone and provide security for UN personnel, while the 122 UNOMIG observers patrol that zone, the restricted weapons zone and other areas. UNOMIG resolutions have highlighted that the mission is subject to review “in the event of changes in the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force”.
There has never been any appetite to truly internationalise peacekeeping in the region, possibly in recognition of the sensitivity of Russian interests towards the former Soviet republics.
Because Tbilisi has tried to tone down the tension created by the parliamentary resolution after pressure from the “Friends” and because of the positive indications in the Geneva statement, there is some optimism in the Council that the crisis can be defused.
However, there are still uncertainties about the Russian position. A compromise on the UNOMIG resolution by 31 March may be difficult and another technical rollover may be needed. But there is anxiety, especially within the UN, about the possible lack of a regular mandate for an extended period of time.
Most members of the Council will support the traditional language reaffirming sovereignty and territorial integrity.
China will be concerned about the implications of Russia challenging traditional UN support for the territorial integrity of states. Other Council members, particularly Greece, will be aware of the implications for other stalled situations before the Council such as Cyprus.
It is likely therefore that the issue will remain in the “Group of Friends” until a solution is found, rather than coming before the full Council.
At the time of writing, the likely option is another technical rollover of UNOMIG, given the uncertainties surrounding the final Russian position on the matter. Another option, however, would be a regular resolution including some sort of compromise language that still indicates Georgia’s territorial integrity.
adopting a package of decisions on the return of Georgian IDPs, particularly to the Gali sector in Abkhazia, and on the non-use of force;
opening a UNOMIG human rights sub-office and the deployment of UNOMIG police in Gali, opposed by Abkhazia; and
resuming the use of the Georgian-language in schools in Abkhazia.
Georgia is refraining from accepting a document on non-use of force until it sees guarantees on the return of IDPs to Abkhazia and improvements in human rights, particularly in the Gali sector. Abkhazia is keen on achieving progress on non-use of force before accepting the rest, and is anxious about Georgia’s bid to join NATO.
The last meeting of the “Friends” seems to have identified support for moving away from the paper on “Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competencies between Tbilisi and Sokhumi” as the basis for substantive negotiations.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Reports|
For historical background please refer to the January 2006 Forecast Report.
Other Relevant Facts
|Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission|
|Heidi Tagliavini (Switzerland)|
|Size and Composition of Mission|
|August 1993 to present|
|1 July 2005 – 30 June 2006: $36.38 million (gross)|
|Size of CIS troops: about 2,000; Contributors: Russia|
Useful Additional Sources
Mackinlay, John and Cross, Peter (eds.), Regional Peacekeepers: The Paradox of Russian Peacekeeping (New York: UN University Press, 2003)
Georgia: What Now?, International Crisis Group Europe Report, no. 151 (3 December 2003)
Georgia: Avoiding War in South Ossetia, International Crisis Group Europe Report, no. 159 (26 November 2004)
Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) website
Georgian parliament website