Georgia's New President
Assures Security Council of Commitment to Peace in Abkhazia
News Center, New York --
February 2004 – Pledging his
unwavering commitment to the peaceful resolution of the separatist conflict in
Abkhazia, Georgia's new President Mikhail Saakashvili
the United Nations Security Council today to enhance its efforts to advance
lasting peace and stability in his country.
To promote that process, Mr. Saakashvili told the 15-member
body he was ready to guarantee the highest possible degree of autonomy to
Abkhazia within the Georgian State.
The UN has maintained an observer mission in Georgia (UNOMIG)
since 1994 after an accord reached in Moscow ended fighting in northwestern
Georgia between government and separatist forces that forced nearly 300,000
refugees to flee.
Today, Georgia still suffers from the painful wounds of civil
conflict that had separated families and destroyed the future of a generation,
President Saakashvili said. But encouraged by certain positive developments,
task forces established in the framework of the Geneva process might form a
powerful mechanism for the entire peace process, he added.
The framework involves the so-called Group of Friends of the
Secretary-General - France, Germany, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and
the United States - working to help achieve peace. At a meeting last week,
attended by Georgia but not the Abkhaz side, the group hailed progress in
political and security matters, refugee returns and economic cooperation.
Mr. Saakashvili called the deployment of a civilian UN police
unit in the Gali region, on the Abkhaz side of the ceasefire lines, a real and
positive step forward that should be fully implemented. It was particularly
necessary for the return of refugees, he added.
He appealed to the Council to work towards ending the "damaging"
Russian policies of providing citizenship to people in the conflict region,
granting a visa-free regime and illegally acquiring property on Abkhazian soil,
all of which reduced chances for lasting security. At the same time, he said his
recent "very constructive" talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin signalled
a new era of improved relations between the two countries.
In his latest report to the Council last month
Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that talks on Abkhazia's future status within
Georgia had still not started, with the Abkhaz side continuing to invoke its
unilateral 1999 "declaration of independence." He appealed to them to abandon
their "uncompromising position."