Georgia

At UN-chaired session, Georgians and Abkhaz pledge to settle conflict peacefully

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The Georgian and Abkhaz sides have reiterated their commitment at a United Nations-sponsored meeting to use only peaceful means to settle the conflict in north-west Georgia, where Georgian Government and Abkhaz separatist forces fought a war 11 years ago that forced nearly 300,000 refugees to flee.

"They deemed that in light of the political changes in Tbilisi (the Georgian capital) and Sukhumi (in Abkhazia) in 2004 and 2005 it will be important to confirm at high-level their renewed commitments relating to non-resumption of hostilities and safe and dignified return of refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons)," the UN mission said today.

Yesterday's meeting in Tbilisi was chaired by Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Georgia Heidi Tagliavini with the participation of the so-called Group of Friends of the Secretary-General seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict - France, Germany, Russian Federation, Britain and the United States.

The two sides agreed to exchange proposals on a joint document by next month, making use of Ms. Tagliavini's good offices.

In recent reports to the Security Council, Mr. Annan has cited encouraging signals from both sides of their interest in settling their conflict by peaceful means.

The UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), which consists of some 130 uniformed personnel supported by more than 100 international civilian personnel and 184 local civilian staff, was established in 1994 after an accord reached in Moscow ended the fighting in Georgia's northwestern corner.