Georgia

UN facilitates hostage swap in Georgia

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The United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) today successfully completed a hostage exchange between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides.
Four men held by the Georgians and seven men and one woman held by the Abkhazis were simultaneously swapped in an "all-for-all" exchange brokered by Dieter Boden, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Georgia, a UN spokesman said today in New York.

During the operation, which was agreed upon by the parties in early February at Mr. Boden's initiative, one helicopter carried the four on the Georgian side from Senaki to Sukhumi, while a second helicopter transported the eight held on the Abkhaz side in the reverse direction. The helicopters landed at their respective destinations at 5:45 a.m. New York time, spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

The exchange, which was supported at the highest level by both sides, ends a series of "tit-for-tat" abductions that have been a cause of growing tension. The four Abkhazis held were two young law enforcement officers taken from their post late last year, and two other men involved in a shooting incident in January.

The eight Georgians include two men held since 1998 and six other people kidnapped along the ceasefire line in December 1999 and January 2000. UNOMIG staff said the operation went smoothly, to the satisfaction of all involved.