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The path towards a renewed UN mission is difficult2009-02-03 17:37
Russia's delegation within the UN has expressed its willingness to discuss extending the organization's mandate in Georgia and Abkhazia with its Georgian colleagues. Russia's permanent representative Vitaly Churkin announced this on 2 February at the UN Headquarters in New York.
"If the Georgian diplomats," RIA Novosti quotes Churkin, "want to meet here in New York, we won't hide from them."
UN observers have been working in Georgia and Abkhazia since 1994 according to the Moscow ceasefire agreement. Until recently their mandate was automatically extended every half-year. However, ever since Russia and Nicaragua recognized Abkhazia's independence, the question of a change to the mandate has become extremely topical, starting with its name (for almost 15 years it has been called the "UN Mission in Georgia", but including Sukhumi).
It should be noted that both countries - Georgia and Abkhazia - are interested in the presence of international experts on their territory. Back in December Abkhazia's Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba spoke of a "compromise, which can always be found - should the desire be there".
And on 21 January the UN Secretary General's special representative on Georgia Johan Verbeke emphasized after a meeting with President Sergey Bagapsh in Sukhumi, according to Kavkazskiy Uzel:
"We have come to the mutual understanding that there is sufficient scope for carrying out concrete essential work aimed at continuing the activities of the UN Mission in Abkhazia, and that all this will not fail to take into account the views of the republic's leadership."
On 31 January the Georgians sent an official letter to the UN asking them to ensure immediately that the observers gain access not only to Abkhazia but also South Ossetia. Explaining the need for "immediacy" by pointing to the recent border incident (the killing of a Georgian policeman in the village of Knolevi).
"In order to establish firm security guarantees," Gazeta.ru quotes the letter, "and, ultimately, to stop the terrorist acts, it is necessary for international observers to be guaranteed immediate access to Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, and to urgently place international peace-keeping or political missions on these territories."