Press Releases

    27 February 2004

    Georgia’s President, Briefing Security Council, Pledges “Unwavering Commitment” to Peaceful Resolution of Abkhazia Conflict

    NEW YORK, 26 February (UN Headquarters) -- Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakshvili, briefing the Security Council this morning, pledged his unwavering commitment to the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Abkhazia and appealed to the Council to enhance its efforts to advance the cause of lasting peace and stability in his country.

    Social unrest in Abkhazia, the north-west region of Georgia, escalated into separatist violence in 1992.  The United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) was established in August 1993 to verify compliance with ceasefire agreements and to monitor human rights.  The Council unanimously extended the mandate of UNOMIG on 30 January until 31 July 2004 through resolution 1524.

    Over the years, the Secretary-General and his successive Special Representatives, with support from the representatives of the Russian Federation, as facilitator, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General -- comprising France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States -- have continued efforts to promote the stabilization of the situation and the achievement of a comprehensive political settlement, including a settlement on the future political status of Abkhazia within the State of Georgia and the return of refugees and displaced persons.

    Today, President Saakshvili stated, Georgia still suffered from the painful wounds of civil conflict, wounds that had left hundreds of thousands homeless, separated families and destroyed the future of a generation.  Referring to the “Revolution of Roses”, he said the citizens of Georgia created history during the month of November.  Using peaceful, non-violent methods, they rose up in defence of the principles of freedom and democracy.

    Encouraged by certain positive developments, he said the task forces established in the framework of the Geneva process might form a powerful mechanism for the entire peace process.  Also, the deployment of a civilian police unit in the Gali region was a real and positive step forward that should be fully implemented.  That was particularly necessary for the return of internally displaced persons and refugees.

    Following a “very constructive and positive” meeting with President Putin in Moscow, he said that, for the first time since Georgia regained its independence in 1991, he began to sense that a new door was opening leading towards the establishment of positive relations between the two countries.  At the same time, real challenges lay along the path towards establishing a long-term positive relationship.

    In concrete terms, he noted, that would mean ending Russia’s policy of providing citizenship to the population of the conflict regions.  It would also mean ending the visa-free regime now in place in Abkhazia and the former South Ossettia, and putting a stop to illegal acquisition of property on Abkhazian soil.  He appealed to the Security Council to work towards reversing those damaging policies, which reduced the chances for lasting peace and security.

    Presenting his vision for achieving progress in the United Nations-led peace process, he said that the definition of Abkhazia’s political status, as outlined in the Boden Paper, provided the key to resolving the conflict.  He issued a call to the Abkhaz people to rise above the confrontation and seize the unique window of opportunity, opened due to the recent changes in Georgia.  That window of opportunity offered a chance to build a new, common future -- a future defined and based on the firmest guarantees of security, human rights and the promise to live in a free and open society.

    To promote that process, he was ready to guarantee the highest possible degree of autonomy to Abkhazia, within the Georgian State.  He was committed to dedicating enormous resources towards the development of Abkhazia’s economy.  However, Abkhazia’s economic potential could only be realized when internally displaced persons of all ethnicities were allowed to return.  The political process must provide an institutional framework for return, reconciliation and lasting stability.  The new Government had demonstrated its firm political will by cracking down on those forces that believed the solution to the conflict lay in violence and the use of force.  It was time for the de facto leadership in Abkhazia to make moves for the promotion of peace.

    If the Security Council was serious about bringing lasting peace to Abkhazia and finding a genuine solution, common efforts must be enhanced and strengthened.  The Council must make it clear that those who were not on the side of peace would be held accountable.  He stated that the new Government in Tbilisi was ready to be held accountable and ready to provide the necessary leadership and political will.

    At the outset of the meeting, Council President Wang Guangya (China) expressed the Council’s profound sadness at the tragic death of Boris Trajkovski, President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as conveyed its condolences to the bereaved family and the Government and people of the country.

    The meeting began at 10:17 a.m. and adjourned at 10:43 a.m.

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