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Resolution To Georgia Issue No Quick Fix, Ban Says

Parties need ‘breathing space,’ UN envoy says after Georgia talks wrap up

15 October 2008 – Today’s high-level talks on Georgia have wrapped up with the parties deciding to continue their discussions next month and to create “breathing space” to address some outstanding procedural points, a senior United Nations envoy said.

The meetings held today in Geneva between representatives of Georgia, Russia, the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the UN encountered some procedural difficulties, forcing officials to suspend the afternoon sessions and continue with consultations.

Speaking to reporters after the talks ended, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Georgia, Johan Verbeke, said one should not dramatize the “procedural incident” that happened today.

Without going into the details of what took place, he noted that all participants had been present, had expressed their views, and had acted in a responsible way.

Mr. Verbeke said it had been decided to create some “breathing space” to address the few outstanding procedural points, adding that the current suspension of work was only temporary. It was also decided that the next meeting will be held on 18 November.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was in Geneva last night for discussions ahead of today’s technical level meetings, has emphasized the need for patience, noting that it will take time to address all the various aspects of the conflict that broke out in the Caucasus country in August and resolve outstanding issues.

Speaking to reporters following a working dinner with EU and OSCE officials, Mr. Ban referred to today’s talks as a “beginning” and that they should not be seen as the end.

“It may take time, so we need to have some patience on addressing this issue,” he said. “In a short time we need to try our best efforts among the parties concerned to restore confidence so that we can establish a good conflict resolution process in the end.”

The Secretary-General said he was encouraged by the general consensus among the parties to resolve the issue through dialogue, and that the accord initiated by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia provided a “good framework” on which to begin discussions.

He also noted that the UN has been engaged in Georgia since 1993 through UNOMIG, the observer mission entrusted with overseeing the ceasefire accord between the Government and Abkhaz separatists in the country’s north-west.

“The United Nations has gained over 15 years of accumulated experience and know-how in terms of military observation, human rights, policing, humanitarian assistance, displaced persons and good offices. We have been in contact with the authorities of Abkhazia and they also further indicated that the United Nations should also continue to operate in that area. This is a good sign,” he said.

In a recent report, Mr. Ban noted that the changes brought about by the Russian-Georgian conflict in South Ossetia in August have cast some uncertainty over the future function of UNOMIG.

“We should not be too impatient or in a hurry to have a so-called ‘quick fix’ resolution of this issue. This may take time,” he said last night. “In the later stage, we need to look at all these issues in a comprehensive manner after dealing with more practical issues.”

The Security Council last week extended UNOMIG’s mandate on a technical basis until 15 February 2009, as recommended by Mr. Ban.

In a related development, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) today issued its order on a number of provisional measures in the case brought by Georgia against Russia with regard to alleged violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Georgia filed the case in August, asking the ICJ – the UN’s principal judicial organ – to impose provisional measures to preserve its right under the Convention to “protect its citizens against violent discriminatory acts by Russian armed forces, acting in concert with separatist militia and foreign mercenaries” on and around its territory.

The court today indicated that both parties shall refrain from any act of racial discrimination and from sponsoring, defending or supporting such acts, and that they shall facilitate humanitarian assistance.

In addition, they shall refrain from any action which might prejudice the respective rights of the parties or might aggravate or extend the dispute, the ICJ added in its order.


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