Statement by the Chairman
High-level meeting of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General
27-28 June 2007, Bonn
From 27 to 28 June 2007, senior representatives of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General met in Bonn under the chairmanship of the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping. Representatives of the Georgian and Abkhaz sides and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General participated in the meeting.
This meeting was convened out of concern over tensions in the zone of conflict, the absence of dialogue between the sides and the need to promote the set of confidence building measures presented to the sides at the last Geneva meeting, which were subsequently endorsed by the Security Council.
While acknowledging some progress in several areas, the Chairman emphasized outstanding difficulties. He recalled that UNOMIG continued to assess the overall security situation as tense. He mentioned the need to bring down the level of tension in the Gali district and referred specifically to the possibility of incidents linked with the establishment of the patriotic youth camp in Gunmukhuri. He also noted that the dialogue between the two sides remained suspended and expressed the fear that in the absence of such dialogue, existing mistrust and suspicions would further deepen and the possibility of escalation would increase. The Chairman stated that both sides had a primary responsibility to refrain from any acts of violence or provocation. In stressing the need for a resumption of dialogue, he emphasized that for the CIS Peacekeeping Force as well as UNOMIG the opportunity to meet regularly with both sides to address security issues was part and parcel of the effectiveness of the peacekeeping arrangement. Finally, he also expected from the two sides further discussion and implementation of the confidence building measures paper presented by the Group of Friends in February, and stressed the United Nations’ view that recent developments in the Georgia-Abkhaz conflict only confirmed that the creation of basic levels of trust between the sides and their respective communities remained a fundamental dimension of the settlement.
The Georgian side stressed its concern over what it described as a persistent lack of will of the Abkhaz side to engage in direct dialogue, and expressed its readiness to address some of the obstacles to its resumption. In particular, it confirmed its proposal to launch a Joint Fact Finding Group investigation into the disappearance of David Sigua. The Georgian side also confirmed its readiness to participate in the regular Quadripartite meetings as soon as the terms of reference and rules of procedure prepared by UNOMIG were finalized. Acknowledging continuing issues with the transit by military vehicles through the security zone, the Georgian side pledged to continue working with UNOMIG to achieve full and timely notification. It reaffirmed its commitment to the 600 ceiling in the deployment of law enforcement personnel in the Security Zone. With regard to the situation in the upper Kodori valley, the Georgian side stressed that the Ministry of Internal Affairs personnel there had decreased considerably since July 2006, and it now included a significant number of local personnel. While stressing its compliance with the Moscow Agreement, the Georgian side confirmed its intention to align its deployment in the upper Kodori valley with the policy applied in other regions of Georgia, including a further increase in the representation of the local population in the police force. It indicated that the number of Ministry of Internal Affairs personnel deployed in the upper Kodori valley could be reviewed in the light of the security situation, including the findings of the investigation into the 11 March attack in the Kodori valley. With regard to recent reports on the presence of unidentified armed people in the lower Kodori valley, the Georgian side denied any presence of Georgian security forces in areas under Abkhaz control, called for a full investigation into this matter, and expressed its concern about the threat such a presence may pose to the upper Kodori valley.
In relation to confidence building measures, the Georgian side reaffirmed its readiness, expressed in February, to facilitate contacts between the Abkhaz side and the Abkhaz community in Turkey. It was also prepared to discuss the modalities for the establishment of maritime communications between Sukhumi and Trabzon, Turkey. Reiterating the critical importance of the return of internally displaced persons to Abkhazia, Georgia, the Georgian side urged the resumption of the Commission for the return of internally displaced persons and refugees, established under the 1994 Quadripartite Agreement on returns. Likewise, it offered its support for the work of the Commission on Missing Persons. It expressed its readiness to continue to cooperate with the Abkhaz side on combating swine fever. The Georgian side once again reiterated its readiness for a meeting between the highest leadership without preconditions. Finally, the Georgian side suggested holding monthly meetings between the parties, the Friends and the United Nations to monitor implementation.
The Abkhaz side stressed its concern over what it described as a continuing military build up in and around the zone of conflict and the Kodori valley. It expressed a particular concern over reports of alleged new Georgian checkposts established in the lower Kodori valley. In order to resolve security and other issues, the Abkhaz side stated its support for the resumption of the Quadripartite meetings and its willingness to participate in a Joint Fact Finding Group investigation into the disappearance of David Sigua. It also reiterated the Abkhaz readiness to discuss ways and means to ensure law enforcement in the upper Kodori valley through the involvement of the local population.
With regard to confidence building measures, the Abkhaz side reiterated its interest in the intensification of contacts between the Abkhaz side and the Abkhaz community in Turkey, as proposed by the Georgian side in February. It also proposed the establishment of maritime communication between Sukhumi and Trabzon and was ready to discuss ways and means to ensure transparency and accountability in relation to custom control with the support of the international community. The Abkhaz side also expressed its readiness to cooperate in the area of missing persons as proposed by ICRC and to continue its cooperation on combating swine fever, in accordance with the mechanisms established in January 2006 in relation to the avian flu. The Abkhaz side reiterated that it was prepared to consider a meeting between the two sides at the leadership level provided that it be well prepared and resulted in concrete security or economic outcomes such as a commitment to the non-use of force or the lifting of the CIS economic restrictions.
The Abkhaz side welcomed the continuation of informal dialogue involving civil society representatives. Finally, the Abkhaz side suggested that with regard to these confidence building measures, UNOMIG should pave the way to direct dialogue by developing proposals acceptable to both sides.
The Friends stressed the priority that they attach to security and the preservation of peace. In this respect, they expressed their concerns about reported movements of unidentified armed personnel in the lower Kodori valley. They urged that this matter be investigated and resolved. The Friends also reiterated their serious concern about the location of the patriotic youth camp in the vicinity of the ceasefire line, and urging the sides to exercise maximum restraint, requested that it be relocated away from the security zone. They welcomed the two parties’ agreement to participate in the Quadripartite meetings and noted their readiness to hold the first meeting in July 2007. They also welcomed the readiness of the sides to participate in a JFFG investigation into the Sigua case and proposed that it start as soon as possible. The Friends invited the sides to follow-up on their commitment to several of the confidence building measures endorsed by the Security Council, in particular the establishment of maritime communication between Sukhumi and Trabzon, Turkey with appropriate custom control. With regard to economic cooperation, the Friends welcomed the agreement of both sides to resume the work of the Steering Committee of the EC-funded rehabilitation program in the zone of conflict. They also encouraged the two sides to start cooperating on issues such as missing persons; and to continue cooperating in combating the swine fever. They stressed the importance of holding a meeting at leadership level. Finally, the Friends reiterated their undertaking given in February to monitor closely implementation of the Proposals for Confidence Building Measures and the assurances given by the parties during the meeting.
The Friends encouraged UNOMIG to assist the two sides in the implementation process and expressed their full support for the mission in this regard.
Bonn, 28 June 2007