Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to renew the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) which expires on 15 April.
By 3 April, the Council should receive the Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Abkhazia. It expects to be briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Georgia, Jean Arnault, on 10 April. The report is expected to cover steps taken to meet the provisions of resolution 1716, which expressed concern about Georgian actions in the Kodori Valley.
Key Recent Developments
Tense relations between Georgia and Russia were further strained when, according to Georgian officials, three Russian helicopters had fired into the Kodori Gorge. Russia denied this. A fact-finding team comprising representatives of UNOMIG, Georgia and Abkhazia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force was sent to the Upper Kodori Valley on 13 March. Initial evidence suggests that Russian gunships may have been involved.
Abkhazia held a parliamentary election on 4 March but failed to form a government when only 18 members were elected in the 35-seat parliament. Runoff elections were held on 18 March. Although recognised by Russia some, including the US, Georgia and the EU, regard the elections as illegitimate.
Sporadic violence continues. On 5 January, one policeman was killed and another wounded in an attack on the Georgian village of Ganmukhur. UNOMIG condemned the attack, stressed the need for both sides to cooperate to prevent further violence and increased the number and frequency of patrols. However, at press time, UNOMIG had participated in only two joint patrols with CIS forces in the Kodori Valley since October. Joint patrolling is an important element in determining what is happening in the Kodori Valley and requires cooperation with the Georgian authorities.
On 12-13 January in Geneva, the Group of Friends (France, Germany, Russia, the UK, the US and, in New York, Slovakia) met with representatives from Georgia and Abkhazia. The two parties were urged to engage on security issues in the northwest and cooperate to reduce tensions. Both sides indicated willingness to move forward.
The most likely option is a mandate renewal for six months. Possible, though less likely, is a shorter period to put pressure on the parties to make greater progress. Another option is for the Council to request the Secretary-General to propose ways of bringing about a comprehensive political solution.
The short-term main issue is the lack of confidence between the two sides which means that the conditions are not there for a credible political process. Sustained dialogue is essential for progress.
A related issue of concern is continuing violence, which raises the question whether a stronger stand might be necessary.
A major concern will be achieving a smooth mandate renewal. In January 2006, Russia’s objections to traditional language reaffirming Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity led to a two-month technical roll-over. In October the renewal resolution required complex negotiations, and the Group of Friends was clearly divided for some time. This month, there will be little time between the release of the Secretary-General’s report and Council discussions, which could further complicate negotiations.
A more substantive issue is Georgia’s continued request for international peacekeepers to replace CIS forces. But there is little appetite in the Council to take up this issue.
An issue in the back of many minds will be comparisons between Abkhazia and the Council’s upcoming decisions on Kosovo. Russia maintains that if Kosovo is given independence then others seeking self rule should be able to follow. Georgia says the Kosovo comparison is invalid. But clearly some in Abkhazia might see Council-approved independence in Kosovo as a green light to take that route.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Most members prefer to focus on maintaining the status quo and ensuring the security situation does not deteriorate. When the mandate was last renewed, some members questioned Georgia’s intentions after it launched a special operation in the Kodori Valley. However, now most members have a more positive assessment of the Georgian position. Some new members like South Africa and Indonesia are paying special attention to the issue of territorial integrity.
Tens of thousands of people were displaced from Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the early 1990s. While the Georgian government has been developing an internally displaced persons (IDPs) strategy, there was no significant repatriation to Abkhazia in 2005-2006. Poor living conditions among IDPs may create unrest in the future.
|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: $33.38 million (gross)|
|Size of CIS troops: about 1,800 Russian troops|
Georgia: IDPs’ Living Conditions Remain Miserable as National Strategy Is Being Developed Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Norwegian Refugee Council, September 2006 (http://www.internal-displacement.org)
Press Statement of the Meeting of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General in Geneva on 12-13 February 2007
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