Security Council extends UN observer mission in Georgia through January 2005

With peace talks between authorities in separatist Abkhazia and the Government of Georgia at a near standstill, the Security Council today unanimously extended the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) until the end of January 2005 to maintain stability along the ceasefire lines. Adopting resolution 1554, the Council called on the parties “to spare no effort to overcome their ongoing mutual distrust” and “to take concrete steps to revitalize the peace process.” Through the resolution, the Council also voiced its deep regret at the Abkhaz side’s continued refusal to agree to a discussion on the substance of a document on the “Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competencies” between the two parties, and stressed that negotiations leading to a lasting political settlement would require concessions from both sides.UNOMIG, which consists of some 130 military observers and police officers as well as a civilian component seeking to resolve the conflict in northwestern Georgia, was established in August 1993 after an accord reached in Moscow ended fighting that had forced nearly 300,000 refugees to flee. The Council stressed today the urgent need for progress on the question of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), calling on both sides to display a “genuine commitment” to focus special attention on returns and to work with both the UN Mission and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The 15-member body also recalled that the Abkhaz side bore a particular responsibility to protect the returnees and to facilitate the return of the remaining displaced people, reaffirming the unacceptability of demographic changes resulting from the conflict. On the deployment of UNOMIG civilian police to help with the relocations and the Mission’s work in general, the Council expressed concern that the dispatching of the remaining officers to the Gali district was still outstanding and called on the Abkhaz side to allow for a swift deployment of the police component in that region.