The Security Council this morning, stressing that the lack of progress towards a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, was unacceptable and concerned by the continued volatility in the conflict zone, extended the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) until 31 July 2000.
The Council, adopting resolution 1287 (2000) unanimously, demanded that both parties to the conflict strictly observe the Moscow Agreement of 14 May 1994 on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces and expressed strong support for the sustained efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative to promote a comprehensive settlement, including a settlement of the political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia.
The Council also reiterated its call to the parties to deepen their commitment to the United Nations-led peace process, continue to expand their dialogue and display the will to achieve substantial results on key issues of the negotiations, in particular the distribution of constitutional competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi as part of a comprehensive settlement.
The Council further reiterated that it considers the holding of self- styled elections and referendum in Abkhazia, Georgia, unacceptable and illegitimate and called upon the parties to implement fully the confidence building measures on which they agreed at the Athens and Istanbul meetings in October 1998 and June 1999 respectively.
The Council requested the Secretary-General to report on the situation in three months and expressed its intention to conduct a thorough review of the operation at the end of its current mandate, in light of steps taken by the parties to achieve a comprehensive settlement.
The meeting began at 9:42 a.m. and adjourned at 9:44 a.m.
The full text of resolution 1287 (2000) reads as follows:
"The Security Council,
"Recalling all its relevant resolutions, in particular resolution 1255 (1999) of 30 July 1999, and the statement of its President of 12 November 1999 (S/PRST/1999/30),
"Having considered the report of the Secretary-General of 19 January 2000 (S/2000/39),
"Recalling the conclusions of the Lisbon and Istanbul summits of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) regarding the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia,
"Stressing that the lack of progress on key issues of a comprehensive settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, is unacceptable,
"Welcoming the results of the ninth session of the Coordinating Council of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides held under the chairmanship of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, with the participation of the Russian Federation in its capacity as facilitator and of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General and of the OSCE, in Tbilisi on 18 and 19 January 2000, in particular the signing by the parties of the protocol establishing a mechanism for joint investigation of violations of the Moscow Agreement of 14 May 1994 on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces (S/1994/583, annex I) and other violent incidents in the zone of conflict, and their decision to renew negotiations under United Nations auspices and with the facilitation of the Russian Federation on the draft agreement on peace and guarantees for the prevention of armed confrontations and on the preparation of a draft of a new protocol on the return of refugees to the Gali region and measures to restore the economy,
"Welcoming the decision on further measures for the settlement of the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, adopted by the Council of Heads of State of the Commonwealth of Independent States on 30 December 1999 (S/2000/52),
"Deeply concerned that, although currently calm, the general situation in the conflict zone remains volatile,
"Welcoming and encouraging efforts by the United Nations to sensitize peacekeeping personnel in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases in all its peacekeeping operations,
"Recalling the relevant principles contained in the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, adopted on 9 December 1994,
"Welcoming the important contributions that the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS peacekeeping force) continue to make in stabilizing the situation in the zone of conflict, noting that the working relationship between UNOMIG and the CIS peacekeeping force has been good at all levels, and stressing the importance of continuing and increasing close cooperation and coordination between them in the performance of their respective mandates,
"1. Welcomes the report of the Secretary-General of 19 January 2000;
"2. Encourages the parties to seize the opportunity of the appointment of a new Special Representative of the Secretary-General to renew their commitment to the peace process;
"3. Strongly supports the sustained efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative, with the assistance of the Russian Federation in its capacity as facilitator as well as of the Group of Friends of the Secretary- General and of the OSCE, to promote the stabilization of the situation and the achievement of a comprehensive political settlement, which includes a settlement on the political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia;
"4. Reiterates its call for the parties to the conflict to deepen their commitment to the United Nations-led peace process, continue to expand their dialogue, and display without delay the necessary will to achieve substantial results on the key issues of the negotiations, in particular on the distribution of constitutional competences between Tbilisi and Sukhumi as part of a comprehensive settlement, with full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders;
"5. Reiterates also that it considers unacceptable and illegitimate the holding of self-styled elections and referendum in Abkhazia, Georgia;
"6. Calls upon the parties to continue to enhance their efforts to implement fully the confidence-building measures on which they agreed at the Athens and Istanbul meetings of 16-18 October 1998 and 7-9 June 1999 respectively, and recalls the invitation of the Government of Ukraine to host a third meeting aimed at building confidence, improving security and developing cooperation between the parties;
"7. Reaffirms the necessity for the parties strictly to respect human rights, and supports the efforts of the Secretary-General to find ways to improve their observance as an integral part of the work towards a comprehensive political settlement;
"8. Reaffirms the unacceptability of the demographic changes resulting from the conflict and the imprescriptible right of all refugees and displaced persons affected by the conflict to return to their homes in secure conditions, in accordance with international law and as set out in the Quadripartite Agreement of 4 April 1994 (S/1994/397, annex II), and calls upon the parties to address this issue urgently by agreeing and implementing effective measures to guarantee the security of those who exercise their unconditional right to return, including those who have already returned;
"9. Demands that both sides observe strictly the Moscow Agreement;
"10. Welcomes UNOMIG keeping its security arrangements under constant review in order to ensure the highest possible level of security for its staff;
"11. Decides to extend the mandate of UNOMIG for a new period terminating on 31 July 2000, subject to a review by the Council of the mandate of UNOMIG in the event of any changes that may be made in the mandate or in the presence of the CIS peacekeeping force, and expresses its intention to conduct a thorough review of the operation at the end of its current mandate, in the light of steps taken by the parties to achieve a comprehensive settlement;
"12. Requests the Secretary-General to continue to keep the Council regularly informed and to report three months from the date of the adoption of this resolution on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia;
"13. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter."
When the Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, it will have before it the report of the Secretary-General (document S/2000/39) on that issue, which is submitted pursuant to Council resolution 1255 (1999) of 30 July and which recommends that the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) be extended until 31 July. The report provides an update of the situation up to 19 January.
In 1994, the Moscow Agreement on the political status of Abkhazia was signed by Abkhasian and Georgian sides under United Nations auspices, bringing two years of fighting to a halt, during which there had been grave human rights violations and a large number of refugees.
Addressing the political aspects of the Abkhazia, Georgia issue, the Secretary-General says that the negotiations on the peace process resumed on 18 and 19 January after a nine-month hiatus, when the ninth session of the Coordinating Council of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides was convened at Tbilisi under the chairmanship of his Special Representative, Dieter Boden. Participants included the Georgian delegation, the Abkhaz delegation, and representatives of the Russian Federation, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the group of Friends of the Secretary-General.
During the session the two sides reached agreement on: the protocol establishing a mechanism for joint investigation of violations of the Moscow Agreement and other violent incidents in the zone of conflict; the disinterring and reburial of Georgian remains buried near Sukhumi and assistance from the Georgian side in locating the buried remains of Abkhaz killed during the war; and further steps for the rehabilitation and use of the Inguri dam and power station. The sides also agreed to renew negotiations on a draft document on peace and the non-resumption of hostilities.
Detailing the operations of UNOMIG, the Secretary-General states that the mission continues to perform its mandate without structural changes and within the concept of "limited patrolling" introduced in February 1998 (see S/1998/497, para. 9). UNOMIG has expanded the use of its helicopters, since they are essential for access to remote areas and to areas such as lower Gali where the mine threat is significant. The helicopters also project a visible United Nations presence over the entire area of responsibility of UNOMIG and give it the capacity to rapidly deploy personnel to a trouble spot, as needed.
The joint fact-finding mechanism, which includes representatives of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, UNOMIG and the collective peacekeeping force of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), has continued to operate on an ad hoc basis, helping to clarify the facts surrounding violations of the Moscow Agreement of 14 May 1994 and other violent incidents in the zone of conflict. To date, 14 investigations have been initiated, and in four cases suspects have been detained by law enforcement agencies.
However, continues the Secretary-General, on 5 November 1999 the Russian Federation decided to close the Russian-Georgian border at the Psou River to all crossings, including by UNOMIG personnel and vehicles. This decision has blocked a possible exit route from the zone of conflict and is seriously complicating the procurement of supplies for the Mission.
The situation on the ground in the UNOMIG area of responsibility, says the Secretary-General, has remained calm. However, two significant violent incidents during the reporting period were related to the laying and explosion of anti-tank mines near the village of Achigvara (Gali sector) in the Restricted Weapons Zone. On 1 December 1999, five persons were killed. Then, on 1 January, a civilian bus detonated a mine on the main trunk road through the area. There were, however, no serious casualties. The explosion occurred before the passage of a UNOMIG patrol vehicle, whose occupants were able to assist the passengers of the bus. These incidents created serious concern about security in the area.
The high level of criminal activity along and across the ceasefire line and the lack of effective action and mutual cooperation by the law enforcement agencies on both sides is a cause for serious concern. A series of tit-for-tat kidnappings occurred in December 1999 when six persons were abducted in the Gali sector and five in the Zugdidi sector. Negotiations on the release of these hostages are continuing. There has also been a spate of criminal lootings by bandit groups in the Gali sector. These crimes are believed to be linked to the mandarin harvest.
On 17 January, two UNOMIG observers were abducted, held for two hours and then released unharmed by four armed and masked men in Gali city. The incident was assessed to be politically motivated and perhaps connected to the meeting of the Coordinating Council. All patrolling was therefore suspended for the time the Council was in session. On 24 November, a vehicle of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was shot at by unknown individuals in Gali town. Investigations by local authorities, monitored by UNOMIG, are ongoing but no motive has yet been established and the perpetrators have not been apprehended.
Since the kidnapping of UNOMIG personnel on 13 October 1999 in the Kodori Valley, the Georgian authorities have been unable to provide assurance for the security of a Mission presence in the Georgian-controlled upper part of the valley. Accordingly, the Chief Military Observer has decided that the UNOMIG team base in the valley is to be closed. Since 13 December 1999, UNOMIG ground and air patrols in the Abkhaz-controlled lower part of the valley have resumed on the basis of the security provided by the CIS peacekeeping force and the Abkhaz authorities.
The report states that good relations with the CIS peacekeeping force continued at all levels during the past three months. In the area of formal liaison, and on a more personal basis at the checkpoints, cooperation has been remarkably good while roles and operations have been kept distinct. The peacekeeping force has involved itself in local assistance projects and provided security assistance to UNOMIG and non-governmental organizations on request.
During the reporting period, international organizations continued to carry out humanitarian assistance programmes in Abkhazia, Georgia. However, the continuing instability along the ceasefire line negatively influences the human rights situation in the area. During the reporting period, some cases of looting were accompanied by gratuitous cruelty and violations of the personal integrity of the victims, including women and children.
Efforts by the law enforcement organs to stop such crimes have not had tangible results, the Secretary-General continues. The number of abductions for ransom has also increased. In one such case, the daughter of an UNOMIG local staff member was abducted and has now been missing for over two months. Here too, while the perpetrators or their accomplices are apparently known, the actions of the local authorities have not produced results.
The Secretary-General states that the general economic situation in Georgia remained relatively stable during the reporting period, but essential structural reforms have not yet been implemented. Early in December 1999, a mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced its intention to delay the provision of financial assistance to Georgia until such time as the Government and the IMF reached an agreement on the provisions of the State budget. Delays continue in the payment of wages and pensions. The implementation of a successful tax-collection regime and the eradication of corruption have also not yet been achieved.
Addressing financial aspects, the Secretary-General states that should the Council decide to extend the mandate of UNOMIG beyond 31 January 2000, the cost of maintaining the Mission until 30 June 2000 would be limited to the monthly amounts approved by the General Assembly. He will report to the Assembly on the additional requirements needed, if any, for the maintenance of the Mission beyond 30 June 2000. As at 31 December 1999, unpaid assessed contributions to the Special Account for UNOMIG amounted to $8.8 million. The total outstanding assessed contributions for all peacekeeping operations at that date amounted to $1.5 billion.
According to the Secretary-General, an important step in moving the peace process forward will be for the Coordinating Council and its working groups to continue to convene regularly, in order to provide a forum for both sides to exchange views and resolve specific issues regardless of perceived domestic constraints. The critical issue of the return of refugees and internally displaced persons is an unacceptable tragedy and needs to be addressed urgently, he states. The two sides and the international community must find a formula for their return, so as to enable the international community to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance and to facilitate the establishment of proper security conditions.
The Secretary-General emphasizes that the importance of concrete security measures, including measures to improve conditions for returnees to the Gali district, should be stressed. He calls on the sides to fully implement the protocol of 24 September 1998 and to engage in frequent bilateral contacts regarding those issues. He also calls on the sides to fully implement the confidence-building measures on which they agreed during the Athens and Istanbul meetings.
Of major concern, says the Secretary-General, is the prolonged absence of monitoring in the Georgian-controlled upper part of the Kodori Valley since the hostage-taking incident of 13 October 1999. The Georgian authorities are responsible for providing the necessary security conditions to enable the UNOMIG personnel to carry out their mandate in the Kodori Valley and they should take the necessary measures in that regard without delay. One indispensable step in that direction is the vigorous pursuit and prosecution of the perpetrators of the hostage-taking of 13 October, as well as of those involved in earlier hostage-takings that occurred in areas under Georgian control.
: S/1997/57, annex.