Expected Council Action
In July the Council is expected to receive the Secretary-General’s quarterly report on the situation in Abkhazia and a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Georgia, Jean Arnault. Discussions are expected to be limited. Some members may raise the report of the Joint Fact-Finding Group (JFFG) which investigated the firing in the Kodori Valley on 11 March. This could lead to discussions on possible ways to reduce the risk of further escalation this summer. No formal action is expected at this stage.
The UN Observer Mission in Georgia’s (UNOMIG) mandate expires on 15 October.
Key Recent Developments
At press time, the JFFG’s report was expected to be released at the end of June. The JFFG, which was formed to investigate a report by Georgian officials that three Russian helicopters fired into the Kodori Gorge on the night of 11 March, is headed by UNOMIG and comprises representatives from the Georgian government, the Abkhazia de facto government and peacekeeping forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
At the Russian and Georgian leaders meeting ahead of the informal summit of CIS leaders on 10 June, Russia agreed to lift sanctions on Georgian products on a “step-by-step” basis.
The leaders of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova met in Baku on 18 June 2007 at a summit of the Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development (ODED, more commonly known as GUAM). The creation of a joint peacekeeping force which could be deployed in the breakaway regions was among the issues discussed.
In early June the Abkhazians and South Ossetians adopted a joint statement stating that they have as much right to independence as Kosovo. The Transdniester Republic, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh in mid-June signed a joint declaration on “principles for peaceful and just settlement” of their respective situations.
On 4 May three Georgian students detained by the Abkhaz authorities for illegally crossing “Abkhaz borders” on 1 March were released. In return, Sergey Bagapsh, the de facto Abkhaz leader, called on Georgia to release Abkhaz official Davit Sigua, but so far there has been no response.
This summer Georgia will run two “patriotic” youth camps on the border of Abkhazia. There is concern that locating the camp so close to Abkhazia could increase tension between the two parties.
At press time the Group of Friends (France, Germany, Russia, the UK, the US, and in New York, Slovakia) was scheduled to meet with representatives from Georgia and Abkhazia in Geneva and Austria at the end of June.
A related issue is whether there are any initiatives to restart dialogue between the two parties.
Another issue is Georgia’s reaction if the findings of the JFFG are inconclusive. Georgia may once again push to replace Russian CIS forces with international peacekeepers as it believes Russia was involved in the helicopter attacks. It has also said that it will ask the Council to take up this issue if it is not satisfied with the conclusions of the JFFG.
Given the number of incursions into the Kodori Valley in recent years, a key issue is how to lower their frequency. UNOMIG has been looking into reopening its team base in Adjara, in the Upper Kodori Valley, but has not moved particularly quickly on this.
A future issue is how Abkhazia will react to any decision on Kosovo. A Council decision to give Kosovo independence may spur the Abkhaz authorities to push for independence.
Council and Wider Dynamics
With the Council focusing on Kosovo, most members prefer Georgia to be low key at the moment. Members are watching carefully signals coming out of the Abkhaz capital Sukhumi. Recent developments like the youth camps have heightened concerns.
|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: US$33.38 million (gross)|
|Size of CIS troops: about 1,800 Russian troops|