UN calls for end to Georgia-Abhazia violence

A UN Security Council resolution calls on Georgia and Abkhazia to comply fully with previous ceasefire agreements and put an end to violence and provocation. The Council unanimously voted to extend a UN observation mission in Georgia until next April.

Russia helped establish the force in 1993 to oversee a ceasefire agreement between Georgia and the break-away republic of Abkhazia.

Resolution 1781, co-sponsored by Russia, was unanimously passed by the UN Security Council extending the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia until April 2008.

The resolution also reaffirms the right for all Abkhazian refugees to return to their homes.

Immediate approval came Monday morning from two countries that rarely see eye-to-eye these days: Georgian Ambassador to the U.N. Irakly Alasania called the resolution “very balanced”. His Russian counterpart, Vitaly Churkin, echoed him, saying the Russian side was satisfied with the content of the resolution and “was sending all the right messages particularly to the Georgian side”.

The UN Security Council is also demanding Georgia ensure the free movement of Russian peacekeepers in the region.

Just last month, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, addressing the General Assembly, demanded that Russian peacekeepers be withdrawn and replaced with an international contingent.

“I hope that the Georgian side will read this resolution very carefully and abide by this resolution. If they do not, the consequences for the prospects of conflict resolution, and therefore for the Georgian side, are going to be very bleak,” Vitaly Churkin warned.

While the new resolution was praised, some hostile words were voiced concerning the September 20 incident in the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict zone where two soldiers were killed and seven border guards abducted.

Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin says a UN preliminary investigation found that the two Abkhazian soldiers were shot at point blank range on Abkhazian territory, a claim his Georgian counterpart has vehemently denied.

“There was a mutual shoot out, which means it was close combat, and the circumstances of death of the two insurgents still have to be studied because the report was inconclusive and they say they were going to continue the investigation. It means that the facts were really distorted by the high ranking Russian diplomat,” claimed Irakly Alasania.

Vitaly Churkin called this statement by the Georgian side 'rather risky':

“This is something which was investigated by the United Nations and there were certain facts established by the United Nations' very thorough investigation, so to try to somehow talk their way out of it, is very unwise for the Georgian side”.

The UN Mission in Georgia is currently comprised of 133 military observers and 19 police officers, including six from the Russian Federation.

While the United Nations has re-committed itself to the ongoing peacekeeping mission in Georgia, harsh rhetoric between Russian and Georgian officials seems to be escalating. The fear is that this volley of disagreement and accusation may actually delay the peace process that so many member states are striving for.