UNbacked peace brokers in GeorgiaAbkhaz conflict urge talks to enhance security

At a two-day meeting in Geneva, the so-called Group of Friends of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States – highlighted the need to refrain from any action that could impede progress or undermine confidence, and urged both sides to take into account one another’s sensitivities and cooperate to deescalate tensions. Mr. Ban’s Special Representative for Georgia Jean Arnault and representatives of both sides attended the talks, which wrapped up on Tuesday. The Group of Friends referred to the zone of conflict and also to the upper Kodori valley, which has in the past been the scene of clashes. Last October, a rocket attack occurred in the valley. Last December, the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) resumed patrols in the sector after a break of three years. UNOMIG was set up in 1993 and expanded following the signing by the parties of the 1994 Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces to verify compliance, with patrols of the Kodori valley a specific part of its mandate, but it stopped patrolling the upper part of the valley in 2003 when four mission members were held hostage for a few days by unknown armed elements.Just last month the UN Security Council cited the resumption of patrols as a positive development but expressed unease at the continuing tension between the two sides. In a report to the 15-member body, Mr. Ban warned that recent violence could escalate and he called on all sides to engage in dialogue. He highlighted the killing of three members of the Abkhaz militia in and also an attack on a Georgian checkpoint in early January that killed one policeman and wounded another. UNOMIG currently has some 140 uniformed personnel, including 127 military observers and 12 police, supported by 100 international civilian personnel and 178 local civilian staff. 14 February 2007A United Nations-backed group of countries involved in the peace process between the Georgian Government and Abkhaz separatists have called on both sides to immediately tackle security issues in north-west Georgia, where they fought a war 13 years ago that forced nearly 300,000 refugees to flee.

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