Russia sends the UN mission packing from Georgia-Abkhazia

The UN's observer mission on the Georgia-Abkhazia border zone will wrap up its work on the ground. It comes after Russia vetoed a Security Council draft on prolonging the UN Caucasus mandate.

The UN Georgia mandate expires on 16 June at 4am GMT. The UN Security Council had to either prolong or create a new UN mandate in the Caucasus region. But fundamental issues ended the mission – Russia stood against the resolution supported by ten members of the Council – and blocked it with the power of veto.

Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, gave his reaction.

“Many colleagues talked about the territorial integrity, it's a very important principle. But one interesting thing: I don't remember how many meetings of the council we have held after the August 2008 events, but never once have those who support the territorial integrity condemned the aggression of Georgia against South Ossetia. Nobody mentioned this even once. That is an oversight that became one of the reasons why our work on the resolution ended,” Churkin said, stressing that Moscow regretted the outcome.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also expressed his regrets.

The reason is rather simple, yet some still find it difficult to grasp. The Western-backed document ignored the existence of two new Republics in the region.

“The international community must clearly realize all the consequences of the barbaric attack on peaceful Tskhinval on August 8th 2008. Through its offensive, the Saakashvili regime put an end to the territorial integrity of its country, and on the map of the world two new states appeared,” said Vitaly Churkin, Russian Ambassador to UN.

New geopolitical realities

Earlier, Russia received the text of the draft resolution from its partners on the Security Council, but later said it could not accept it in its current form. The reason was that the draft still refered to the region as “Georgia,” and didn't recognize that Abkhazia had become a sovereign state.

Another reason is that the resolution referred to a resolution that was adopted long before August 2008, the month Georgia began a military offensive in South Ossetia. After the violence, both Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence. Both were soon recognized by Russia as independent states. But Saakashvili’s government seems to not want to come to terms with the fruits of its actions, and continues to point the finger at Russia.

“The Government of Georgia deeply regrets the termination of the UN observer mission in Georgia, due to the unconstructive position of the Russian government,” said Alexander Lomaya, Georgian Ambassador to UN.

Russia is insisting that unless these new geopolitical realities are recognized by the Security Council and reflected in the new resolution, the document will not be passed.

“I was quite surprised by one comment, which was made by one colleague at today’s consultations, when he was arguing in favor of retaining this reference to the resolution 1801. He said, ‘The only saying which changed since April 15 was Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.’ The thing which changed since then was not our recognition. It was Georgian aggression against South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which made their living together impossible and which brought all this sequence of events,” Churkin said earlier.

“So, we cannot keep inserting those resolutions that date back to before the birth of Christ into the new resolutions. This is not acceptable,” he added.

As for the Western nations playing the role of protectors some don’t want to acknowledge the real situation on the ground, failing to reflect the new republics in the resolution they were pushing for.

“I also want to again reiterate the United States’ strong commitment to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia,” U.S. Deputy Ambassador to UN Rosemary Di Carlo said.

During the war in South Ossetia, the Bush administration was said to have given a greenlight to Saakashvili’s regime.

“The main acting guardians of Georgian aggression against South Ossetia have stepped off the political arena, but their shadows, apparently, still keep floating above us. We have to get rid of these apparitions,” Vitaly Churkin said.

While Georgia gets to be present at the Council’s meetings – even though it is not a member – Russia’s calls to get the Abkhazian side of the matter were left unnoticed.

“Throughout the years, they did not allow the views of the Abkhaz side to be heard by members of the Security Council. To me, it’s a somewhat ridiculous situation,” said Vitaly Churkin.

In the dying hours of the UN’s mandate, Russia offered a compromise – giving one more month to the Security Council to work on a text that would reflect real life on the ground in Abkhazia. But what it says it saw was “poison instead of medicine”.