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Georgia: UN Security Council Concerned At Stalled Abkhaz Peace Process

  • Robert McMahon

The UN Security Council has expressed concern at the absence of dialogue between Georgia and its separatist Abkhaz region. Abkhaz leaders suspended talks in July to protest Georgian maritime actions and the province has since become embroiled in a dispute over its presidential elections. The Security Council issued a statement stressing the need for renewed efforts to reach a lasting political solution and signaled that there would be high-level talks soon to try to advance the process.

United Nations, 28 October 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The Security Council formally considers any self-styled elections in Abkhazia unacceptable and illegitimate in the absence of a settlement to the republic's status.

But council members acknowledge that Abkhazia's presidential elections -- unresolved after three weeks -- are a key factor in attempts to advance its political process with Georgia. The two sides have failed to resolve their conflict since a civil war erupted in 1992.

The council issued a short statement yesterday urging a new commitment to political talks. But there is a realization that the process is dependent on a leader emerging from Abkhazia's presidential elections, according to Britain's Deputy Ambassador to the UN Adam Thomson, whose country holds the council presidency.

"I think it's fair to say that a majority of those who spoke in the council [yesterday] recognize that the peace process at the moment is almost at a standstill and that has largely to do with the lack of a clear interlocutor on the Abkhaz side," Thomson said.

Thomson told reporters after the council meeting that council representatives -- known as the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General for Georgia -- plan to hold a high-level meeting before the end of the year to try to advance talks.

He said the meeting would be attended by special envoys from the Group of Friends, which includes the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany.
Abkhazia's Supreme Court has ordered a recount of all ballots cast during the disputed presidential election.

Earlier this week, Abkhazia's Supreme Court ordered a recount of all ballots cast during the disputed presidential election on 3 October.

The republic's election commission had pronounced opposition candidate Sergei Bagapsh the winner with more than 50 percent of the vote. But government candidate and former minister Raul Khadjimba appealed the decision, saying the election was fraudulent and demanding that a new vote be held. One of them would succeed Vladislav Ardzinba, who has led the republic since its secessionist war with Georgia in 1992.

Russia, which is Abkhazia's main partner, has indicated its support for Khadjimba. Russian Ambassador to the UN Andrei Denisov told reporters yesterday that he expected the electoral dispute to be settled in the near future.

"In the absence of one [party] you cannot restart," Denisov said. "That is why we really call to keep patience and tolerance. It's a matter of several days. Russia -- I want just to assure everybody -- Russia is doing everything it can in order to mobilize political will on both parts and bring them closer to each other and restart talks."

Council members said the UN special representative for Georgia, Heidi Tagliavini raised the issue of the council sending a mission to the region. They said it was not clear whether the proposal had enough support.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Tagliavini said she was eager to resume talks with both sides on a range of issues, especially security in the conflict zone and economic links.

She said the election represents a possible new chapter in the development of the republic.

"For me it was clear that these elections would inaugurate a new time, because 10 years after the conflict and ten years after a situation with one leader, Abkhazia was for the first time in a situation where they had to make a real choice," Tagliavini said. "It has proved to be a very difficult choice."

Tagliavini said she wants to press ahead with Abkhaz leaders on plans to introduce international police officers to the Abkhaz-controlled Gali district to help provide security for returning displaced persons from the rest of Georgia.

She said the conflict zone -- a prime area of instability in the past -- has become calm and a range of infrastructure projects, involving roads, electricity, sanitation, and water, are under way.

Tagliavini credited Georgian leaders with helping to rein in armed groups who had been active in the region.

"The Georgian side has done a lot, President [Mikheil] Saakashvili himself, if I may use such a term, to clean up the region from criminals, and this has helped to improve the situation quite clearly," Tagliavini said.

Tagliavini said she is close to reaching agreement with European Union officials on providing development funds for the conflict region.