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16 May, 2008 06:17

Breakaway region dismisses UN backing for Georgian refugees

Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia has brushed off a UN resolution backing refugees who want to return to the region following a bloody conflict in the 1990s. More than a quarter of a million people, mostly Georgians, left the region during the arme

The document adopted by the General Assembly of the UN is said to guarantee rights for displaced people, including their ownership of property.

It warns against the purchase of homes which previously belonged to refugees.

But Abkhazia's leadership says the resolution is of no significance to the republic, because the details were not agreed with it.

The resolution was drawn up by the Georgian delegation to the UN. However, the decision-making process did not involve Abkhazia.

Russia voted against the UN document while 105 other countries abstained.

Meanwhile, many Georgians who had lived in Abkhazia before the conflict, say they intend to return home.

Abkhazian officials say they are concerned about Georgian refugees, but they blame Georgia for using international organisations to put pressure on Abkhazia.
Abkhazia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba says Georgia should use peaceful means instead of scare tactics against its breakaway republic. If Tbilisi behaved in a friendly way, he said, Abkhazians would gladly allow the refugees come back, not only to the Gali district, but also to other regions.

“Georgia has been threatening and terrorising Abkhazia for 15 years, and that makes the Georgians' return to Abkhazia problematic. It should take more friendly steps towards the republic – only then a trust could be gained within Abkhazian society,” he said.

The latest UN resolution is supposed to help ethnic Georgian refugees return to Abkhazia. But the Abkhazians themselves are sceptical. They say resuming direct talks is the only way out.

“Only an agreement reached by the two sides in direct talks will work,” said Shamba .

Meanwhile, Russia's foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Georgia is not interested in settling conflicts with its breakaway regions.

“There are attempts to make the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Osetia an international matter, instead of working within the already developed schemes, which are based on mutual agreements, and instead of following on the responsibilities undertaken during the negotiations,” Lavrov stated on Friday. “This shows that Tbilisi is not interested in the real solution of the situation, which should be based on the balance of interests and respect of the small nations,” he added.