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29 May, 2009 11:29

UN chief: Russia never blackmailed me

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has rejected a claim by Georgia that he changed a recent report on the Caucasus following blackmail by Russia.

Georgia’s UN envoy Aleksandr Lomaya said on Thursday that Moscow had threatened to veto an upcoming Security Council resolution on extending the UN mission in Georgia and Abkhazia unless the title and content of the report were amended.

Lomaya said that “an inexplicable delay” with the publication of the document had caused a suspension of talks in Geneva, Itar-Tass news agency reports. In the light of it, he expressed regret over the fact that the international community had succumbed to ostensible Russian blackmail. Lomaya also claimed at the new conference that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had reportedly exerted pressure on the UN Secretariat, although he refused to answer a question about the grounds on which he drew his conclusions from.

Lavrov visited New York from May 8 to May 11 to take part in an open meeting of the UN Security Council on the Middle East.

According to a UN spokesperson, the Secretary General has dismissed any suggestion that any threats were made to him in connection with the report. As for its title, Ban Ki-moon’s representative said it had been formulated this way to avoid an unnecessary politicizing of discussions at the UN.

Russia denies “blackmailing”

Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin also said Moscow had never threatened to veto anything, but presented its opinion on the content and the title of the report.

“I need no sources of information, as I was personally present at the meeting of minister (Lavrov) with the UN Secretary General, which [Lomaya] quotes and which took place on May 11,” Itar-Tass news agency quoted Churkin as saying.

“Russia did not threaten any veto in the process of drafting the report of the Secretary General. It simply outlined its opinion on various aspects of the report or the headline, which it should have,” Churkin said.

Lomaya’s “claims are wrong in all respects" and his sources are unreliable, Russia’s ambassador noted, adding that he supports the statement by the spokesperson of the UN Secretary General.

“What’s in a name?”

The stumbling block was the initial title of the report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the work of the UN mission to Abkhazia. The document was to be revealed on May 15, and the Caucasian republic insisted on its headline not calling the region “Abkhazia, Georgia”.

For reasons still unknown the report appeared May 18.

Abkhazia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba then said all phrasing to which his country had objected was finally dropped. That new version of the report, as compared to the earlier ones, was not to state that Abkhazia is part of Georgia.

Abkhazia was recognized by Russia as an independent state last fall, along with South Ossetia, following the attack by Georgia on South Ossetia and the ensuing Russia-Georgia war. All other UN members except Nicaragua consider Abkhazia to be a part of Georgia.