Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bilateral Relations: Georgia-Abkhaz conflict - both sides reaffirm commitment to peace process

Two days of United Nations-backed talks on the Georgia-Abkhaz conflict have ended, with both sides reaffirming their commitment to a peace process led by the world body.

Senior representatives of Group of Friends of the Secretary-General – comprising France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – met in Geneva on 18-19 February to assess recent developments.

The gathering was chaired by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) Edmond Mulet and attended by Jean Arnault, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, and both sides.

According to a statement issued after the meeting, the two sides each presented suggestions on how to improve their relations which have deteriorated during the past year.

More than a decade ago, Georgia and Abkhaz separatists fought a war that forced nearly 300,000 refugees to flee.

At the Geneva meeting, the Friends voiced their concerns “over the lack of progress in the dialogue between the two sides,” the statement noted.

They emphasized the urgent need to restart security meetings among the sides, the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) forces.

In a report to the Security Council last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote that misrepresentations are escalating tensions between the sides and urged the communities on both sides of the ceasefire line to exercise restraint.

He pointed out “disconnect” between realities on the ground and media or official statements. As it is, an “image of the enemy” is already pervasive among communities on both sides of the ceasefire line, the report said, warning that “fanning fear and hostility through misrepresentation will only entrench it further.”