The Council is expected to renew the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), which expires on 15 October 2006.
A vigorous discussion of recent developments, including the Georgian parliament’s non-binding request for withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers, is possible.
The Council will also be briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Georgia, Jean Arnault, on the Department of Peacekeeping Operation’s September fact-finding mission.
Key Recent Developments
In late July, the Georgian police forces disbanded a local militia force in the upper Kodori Gorge but did not capture the commander, Emzar Kvitsiani. The Georgians claimed that they acted within the ceasefire agreement, but the Abkhaz separatist government and Russia have disputed this claim.
The Georgian parliament on 18 July passed a resolution asking the government to suspend the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping operations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and for the withdrawal of the Russian armed forces. It also asked for an international police force. However, the current peacekeeping mandate remains in force unless the government repudiates the peacekeeping agreements. Russia reacted in a letter to the Secretary-General referring to the decision as a “provocative step designed to aggravate tension.”
In his speech to the General Assembly on 22 September, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said that the current framework for negotiation and peacekeeping in Abkhazia and South Ossetia needed to be replaced. He also proposed a new “roadmap” that would include the demilitarisation of the conflict zone, direct dialogue between parties on the ground, and the establishment of an international police presence.
The Coordinating Council, which is made up of Abkhaz and Georgian representatives and was established in 1997 to discuss practical issues, cancelled its August meeting due to the upper Kodori Gorge incident. (It had only just resumed its sessions after a five-year suspension.) The working groups on security, on refugees and internally displaced persons have each met once since May.
In mid-September, Georgian authorities charged 14 opposition leaders with treason, alleging they were planning a Moscow-backed coup d’etat.
In July, Jean Arnault of France was appointed as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Georgia and Head of UNOMIG, succeeding Heidi Tagliavini of Switzerland.
A second option is for the mandate to be renewed for a short period contingent on a review of UNOMIG’s mandate. This is a possible option if the situation deteriorates further prior to Council consideration and perhaps also if Russia were to seek to utilise this option to secure leverage in negotiations of a resolution putting pressure on Georgia.
The main issue facing the Council is whether the increasingly tense situation will create incentives for Council action beyond a simple six-month renewal of UNOMIG in October. In this regard, the increasingly difficult relationship between Moscow and Tbilisi is likely to cloud the Council’s discussions.
A related issue is the apparent evolution in Russia’s position on breakaway regions. For the second time this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin on 9 September said that if Kosovo was given independence then the same could apply for other regions seeking self-rule. The recent referendum in Transdnestria in Moldova supporting independence and future unification with Russia, along with the upcoming South Ossetia referendum on 12 November, are no doubt related to Moscow’s position on this.
In this regard it is important to note that resolution 1666 extended UNOMIG’s mandate subject to review if there were changes in security conditions, including changes in the mandate of the CIS force. If Tbilisi insists on a withdrawal of the CIS Russian peacekeepers, a review will be needed.
An issue on the minds of Council members is likely to be the need to revitalise the negotiation process between the parties. The Coordinating Committee has not met since re-establishing the political dialogue in May, although it had agreed to meet every two months. In early September the Georgian government produced a non-paper that focused on the need to change the current peacekeeping arrangements and argued that the Russian peacekeeping presence was one of the main obstacles to progress.
There is a general consensus in the Council on the need to renew UNOMIG’s mandate. However, tense relations between Moscow and Tbilisi may affect Council discussions. Earlier this year UNOMIG’s mandate renewal ran into problems when Russia objected to traditional language reaffirming sovereignty and territorial integrity used in all previous resolutions. (See our March 2006 Forecast for details.) The Group of Friends continues to lead on this issue and will be working on ironing out any issues with the resolution ahead of the Council meeting in October. The Group consists of the US, the UK, France, Germany and Russia; Slovakia, as the Eastern European representative on the Council, is included when they meet in New York.
|Latest Security Council Resolution|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Report|
| Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission
|Jean Arnault (France)|
|UNOMIG: Size and Composition|
|August 1993 to present|
|1 July 2006 – 30 June 2007: $36.83 million (gross)|
|Size of CIS troops: about 1,800 Russian troops|