Georgia: Meeting under “Any Other Business”
Tomorrow (10 August), Security Council members will discuss the situation in Georgia under “any other business”. Albania, France, Japan, Malta, the UK, and the US requested the meeting to mark the 15th anniversary of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. A representative of the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) is expected to brief.
Since its independence in 1991, Georgia has faced multiple internal secessionist movements, notably in South Ossetia, Ajaria and Abkhazia. The population in those regions had close historical links with Russia, and in 1992, South Ossetia and Abkhazia fought a war to break away from the newly independent Georgia. In July 1993, following international diplomatic efforts, the parties signed a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement. In August of that year, the Security Council established the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) to monitor the ceasefire.
On 8 August 2008, following a period of worsening relations between Russia and Georgia, Russia attacked Georgian troops in South Ossetia in response to Georgian military activity in that area. The conflict came to an end on 12 August, when a ceasefire agreement was reached amid mounting international pressure. Since 2008, Moscow has maintained a military presence in the two areas and has signed a series of bilateral agreements with the de facto authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
To date, disagreements persist between Russia, on the one hand, and the US and several European countries, on the other hand, regarding the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. While Russia considers these entities independent states, several other member states view them as part of Georgia’s sovereign territory. In November 2011, the European Parliament passed a resolution recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia as occupied Georgian territories.
The Security Council has discussed the situation in Georgia on several occasions since the closure of UNOMIG in June 2009. On 6 December 2016, and again on 28 March 2017, Council members discussed the issue under “any other business” at the request of then-Council member Ukraine. On both occasions, Ukraine proposed that Council members issue a press statement reiterating support for the territorial integrity of Georgia. However, both attempts were blocked by Russia.
Meetings on Georgia to mark the anniversary of the 2008 war have become an annual practice in the Council in recent years. On 8 August 2019, 5 August 2020, 4 August 2021, and 15 August 2022, Council members discussed the situation in Georgia under “any other business”, marking the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th anniversaries of the outbreak of conflict in Georgia, respectively. Following each of these meetings, the US and European Council members held a press stakeout and issued a joint statement, often including some incoming Council members.
At tomorrow’s meeting, the DPPA representative may refer to the 2022 Annual Report of the UN Country Team in Georgia, published on 11 May, which states that “Georgia’s political, economic, social and security situation in 2022 was profoundly shaped by Russia’s war in Ukraine”. The report notes that the war in Ukraine has led to rising costs of living and a substantial flow of mixed migration from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, which has placed additional pressure on state institutions. In this regard, the DPPA representative may highlight the UN’s role in mitigating such effects as well as supporting conflict-affected communities in Georgia, including in Abkhazia.
Several Council members are expected to draw parallels between the situation in Georgia and Russia’s war against Ukraine. They may point out that Russia’s actions in Georgia 15 years ago marked the start of what they perceive to be a trend of aggressive behaviour by Russia towards its neighbouring countries. In this regard, they may reaffirm their support for Georgia’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders, and condemn Russia’s continued military presence in, and steps toward the annexation of, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These members are expected to call on Russia to reverse its recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and to fulfill its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions.
Most Council members are expected to call on all parties to intensify their efforts to establish a durable peace, while recognising the importance of the Geneva International Discussions (GID). Established in accordance with the 12 August 2008 ceasefire agreement, the GID was launched in October 2008 to address the consequences of the Russia-Georgia war. It is co-chaired by the EU, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the UN, and brings together representatives of the parties to the conflict and the US. Divided into two working groups, the GID aims to address security and stability issues, as well as humanitarian and socio-economic concerns.
Fundamental differences between the parties have hindered substantial progress in the GID format. During the latest round of discussions, held on 11 and 12 July, participants were unable to reach a common understanding on the issues of the non-use of force and international security arrangements. In a 12 July statement, the UN Representative to the GID observed that “the issue of internally displaced persons and refugees could not be fully covered…due to a walkout by some participants”.
Some members may underline the urgent need for unimpeded humanitarian access to all internally displaced persons and refugees residing in conflict-affected areas of Georgia. These members may refer to the General Assembly resolutions on the status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia. The latest resolution on this topic, adopted by the General Assembly on 7 June, recognised the right of return for Georgia’s displaced persons and underlined the need to develop a timetable to ensure their voluntary, safe, dignified and unhindered return. The resolution received 100 votes in favour, nine against, and 59 abstentions. Among Security Council members, Russia voted against the resolution, six abstained—Brazil, China, Gabon, Mozambique, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates—and the remaining eight voted in favour. During its explanation of vote, Russia argued that the resolution undermined the normalisation of the situation in the region.
Russia is likely to deny accusations of aggressive behaviour towards its neighbouring countries. It has previously argued that cooperation between Russia and Abkhazia and South Ossetia is a stabilising factor in the South Caucasus. Instead, Russia may suggest that Western countries are to blame for the volatility in the region. In an 8 August statement, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused “certain players” of sabotaging the Geneva discussion, adding that Russia’s “Western opponents have insisted on the cancellation of several GID meetings under far-fetched pretexts”.
Some members may question the value of the Council’s engagement, emphasising the primary role of the GID for addressing security, stability and humanitarian issues in Georgia. Following the adoption of the General Assembly resolution on 7 June, Brazil argued that the General Assembly should “abstain from influencing sensitive issues under consideration in relevant negotiations in Geneva”.
Following tomorrow’s meeting, several current and incoming Council members are expected to deliver a joint statement at a press stakeout reaffirming their support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and condemning Russia’s military presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.