June 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 May 2009
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EUROPE

Georgia

Expected Council Action
Council action is expected before the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) ends on 15 June. Resolution 1866, which on 13 February extended UNOMIG’s mandate for four months, expressed the Council’s intention to outline elements of a future UN mission by the end of the mandate. At press time on 27 May, the Council was scheduled to have closed consultations on the Secretary-General’s report which contains recommendations for the elements of a security regime and activities of a future mission.

Intense discussions are expected in early June. In the recent past, UNOMIG resolutions have been prepared by the Group of Friends (Germany, France, the UK, the US and Russia) before being presented to the Council. It is unclear if this procedure will be followed for the June decision.

Key Recent Developments
On 18 May the Secretary-General circulated the report requested in resolution 1866. For some 15 years, Secretary-General’s reports on this issue were entitled “The Secretary-General’s report on the situation in Abkhazia”. But the current report is titled “The Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to Security Council resolutions 1808, 1839 and 1866 .”

Moreover, the text also omits the mention of the name of the UN operation on the ground, UNOMIG. It is referred to as “the Mission”.

The Secretary-General describes the security situation in UNOMIG’s area of responsibility as “fragile, with a continued threat of incidents, including from mines and improvised explosive devices.” The local population remains in a precarious situation with limits on freedom of movement across the ceasefire line. He also indicated that the ceasefire regime, which had been the foundation for the separation of forces and stabilisation, continued to erode with heavy equipment and military personnel remaining.

Over the last few months, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Georgia, Johan Verbeke, consulted parties and international stakeholders on possible new security regimes. Based on these consultations the Secretary-General in his report recommended the following elements:

  • strict adherence to the ceasefire and the principle of noninterference;
  • a 12 kilometre security zone on both sides of the ceasefire line where there are no armed forces or military equipment (law enforcement and security personnel will be able to carry a limited amount of personal weapons);
  • a restricted zone extending yet another 12 kilometres where there will be no heavy military equipment or storage of heavy weapons ammunition and where a restricted number of armoured personnel carriers will be allowed;
  • advance notification of movement of personnel and equipment in both zones;
  • no military and reconnaissance aircraft allowed in either zone; and
  • maritime security zones extending 12 nautical miles off the coast and 12 kilometres on each side with no naval vessels and where only limited number of coast guard patrol boats will be allowed.

Other elements include regular monitoring of the security and humanitarian situation in the Kodori Valley; provision of information on and access to military installations; regular meetings of the joint incident prevention and response mechanism; UN investigation reporting of violations; and security and full freedom of movement of UN personnel.

The Secretary-General also provided recommendations for possible activities of a future mission:

  • monitoring and verifying implementation of the security regime;
  • maintaining contact with the parties and relevant actors;
  • facilitating freedom of movement of the local population across the ceasefire line;
  • contributing to provision of humanitarian assistance and creation of conditions for the return of internally displaced persons and refugees;
  • contributing to improved law enforcement and respect and promotion of human rights; and
  • facilitating contacts between parties to promote cooperation on practical issues, confidence-building and dialogue.

The May session of the Geneva talks stalled when Abkhazia refused to attend and Russia and the South Ossetian delegation walked out. These talks, set up by the 12 August ceasefire agreement which called for internationally mediated talks, are co-chaired by the UN, the EU and the Organisaton for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and involve Georgia, Russia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Some press reports indicated that Abkhazia had been unhappy with an earlier draft of the Secretary-General’s report which mentioned Abkhazia as a part of Georgia. Russia said that it had decided to “pause” its participation in the talks as the UN report asked for in resolution 1866 was not ready by the 15 May deadline (the report was released on 18 May). South Ossetia apparently did not want to participate without Abkhazia.

On 18 May the parties were eventually persuaded to meet. Among the issues discussed were questions related to security and stability, including the non-use of force and different types of security regimes. The next meeting is scheduled for 1 July.

Greece, holding the current OSCE chairmanship, suspended negotiations over extending the OSCE mission in Georgia on 14 May when Russia rejected its revised proposal to keep OSCE monitors in Georgia beyond 30 June. (The OSCE mission was given six months to withdraw after Russia opposed a proposal to extend the mission in Georgia beyond 31 December 2008.)

The Greek proposal had been careful not to mention Georgia or South Ossetia and to avoid the issue of the separatist region’s status, while specifying free movement for monitors across the August ceasefire line. It suggested that South Ossetia’s situation be addressed at status talks in Geneva while retaining a single OSCE mission in the country and thereby implicitly reaffirming Georgia’s territorial integrity. Russia produced its own proposal which, according to media reports, crossed out references to “free and unimpeded contact and movement across the truce line” and replaced it with a reference to such movement needing agreement from “relevant authorities”. Greece says its proposal is still on the table. The US voiced disappointment that consensus could not be reached on this issue.

In Georgia, opposition groups announced a “national disobedience campaign” and started daily protests on 9 April, calling for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to resign. Saakashvili met with opposition groups on 11 May but failed to win them over despite his offer to cooperate on a number of reforms. The Georgian government cancelled its traditional Independence Day parade on 26 May in order to avoid confrontation with protestors who had threatened to line the streets.

Heated accusations were exchanged between Russia and Georgia at the beginning of May as NATO exercises began in Georgia on 6 April. The Georgian permanent representative to the UN accused Russia of seeking to build up its military presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while Russia said Georgia was trying to increase troop numbers near the two regions. Georgian officials also accused Moscow of funding an alleged uprising 5 May at a Georgian military base in order to undermine NATO exercises. On 21 May the alleged organiser of this uprising was killed and two other suspects injured when they resisted arrest. Further escalation of tension was seen in April with the expulsion of two Russian diplomats from NATO headquarters in Brussels after they were accused of spying. Russia responded by expelling two Canadian diplomats working in NATO’s Moscow office.

Options
Possible options include:

  • a third technical rollover if the Council needs more time to negotiate the details for the mandate for the new mission;
  • a “bridging” resolution which would contain elements that can be agreed upon and the commitment to keep working on the areas of disagreement; or
  • a full-fledged resolution with a comprehensive mandate for a new mission based on recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report.

Shutting down the mission is also an option if there is no agreement.

Key Issues
The immediate key issue is whether the Council can agree on a security regime and mandate for the new mission before 15 June. (Given the diverse positions of members, some major concessions would need to be made in a relatively short time.)

A connected issue (also relevant in view of the short time) is engaging the Council members not involved in drafting the resolution. Keeping them informed and giving them the opportunity to provide feedback during the process may be a key challenge.

The constant exchange of accusations between Georgia and Russia remains an issue as well as whether this is merely verbal brinkmanship or a sign of possible future conflict. With UNOMIG’s future in question, the potential for further instability appears high, and this constitutes a central underlying issue along with the wider effect on the region if both the OSCE and the UN were forced to withdraw.

The stability of the Saakashvili government in the face of continuing demonstrations by opposition groups remains an issue.

Council Dynamics
Most Council members are cautious about expressing views over how this issue will be played out but they generally expect complex and sensitive negotiations. The obscure title of the Secretary-General’s report has already ruffled some feathers. Some question his right to change the name without Council agreement. Most members are gearing up for a tough fight.

Some fundamental positions appear to have hardened and key players do not appear willing to shift their red lines. Many read Russia’s recent position on the OSCE mandate renewal as a sign that it is in no mood to compromise. In the last few months observers had believed Russia was willing to take a more flexible approach to some key issues while waiting to see what the US “reset” of its relationship with Russia meant. However, recent indications seem to suggest that in order to reach agreement significant concessions will need to be made to meet Russia’s concerns. The US, also a key player on this issue, remains firmly committed to the territorial integrity of Georgia, a position also held by members like the UK, France and Austria.

Some elected members are increasingly uneasy with the lack of transparency in drafting resolutions on Georgia. The last resolution was drafted by Germany, discussed with the US, the UK, France and then Russia. Afterwards, it was circulated to other members during “silence procedure” where members were given a chance to either accept or object it within 24 hours. However, there is also acknowledgment that in the end, high-level contacts between the US and Russia could be significant in producing a breakthrough on the issue. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed Georgia when they met in early May. It is likely to be on the agenda when US President Barack Obama meets Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in July.

The Secretary-General’s recommendations appear to be acceptable to the US and the European members as a starting point. There is interest in a symmetrical security regime that applies to all. Some may wish to have more explicit references to the reasons for having a security zone, but this is unlikely to be acceptable to Russia. Some elements suggested by the Secretary-General such as transparency arrangements and access to military installations may be opposed by Russia.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/RES/1866 (13 February 2009) extended UNOMIG until 15 June 2009.
  • S/RES/1839 (9 October 2008) extended UNOMIG until 15 February 2009.

Selected Secretary-General’s Report

  • S/2009/254 (18 May 2009) was the report asked for in resolution 1866 on recommendations for future activities of the mission.
  • S/2009/69 and Corr. 1 (3 February 2009) was the February report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission

Johan Verbeke (Belgium)

Size and Composition

  • Size as of 30 April 2009: 129 military observers and 16 police officers.
  • Key troop-contributors: Germany, Jordon, Pakistan and Bangladesh30 October 2008: 102 international civilian personnel, 189 cal civilian staff and 1

Duration

August 1993 to present

Cost

1 July 2008-30 June 2009: $36.08 million (gross)

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