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Putting Secessionist Conflicts Under the International Spotlight
/ 14 Sep.'06 / 13:52
Civil Georgia

GUAM-member states have successfully lobbied for a discussion of “protected conflicts” in the Black Sea-South Caucasus region at the 61st UN General Assembly, despite Russia’s objection.

The decision to include the issue in the working program of the General Assembly session -which was pushed for by GUAM-member states Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova - was adopted “following a contentious procedural debate,” according to the UN press center.

The approval has reversed a decision adopted by the General Committee that recommended on September 12 to exclude the item entitled “protracted conflicts in the GUAM area and their implications for international peace, security and development” from the agenda.

16 countries, including the Baltic States, GUAM-member states (Georgia was absent at the session), the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Romania and Turkey voted in favor of including the item into the agenda of the General Assembly session.

15 countries – Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Cyprus, Eritrea, Greece, Guinea, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Panama, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe – voted against; while 65 abstained.

The representative of Ukraine spoke on behalf of the GUAM-member states, saying that “GUAM’s aim was not to change the format of existing negotiations, but to have the chance to bring the matter to the international community through the Assembly.”

The Russian Federation’s representative voiced his objection to the move, saying that “the insistence on including the item was aimed at undermining existing mechanisms to negotiate settlements of the conflicts.”

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is expected to leave for New York to participate in the UN General Assembly Session on September 19.

Discussing the secessionist conflicts at the Session is part of Georgia’s policy to intensify international efforts to peacefully resolve the Abkhazia and South Ossetian conflicts. In recent weeks especially, officials in Tbilisi are focusing more on the South Ossetian conflict.

The issue is also expected to be high on the agenda during Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili’s visit to Brussels on September 14-17, where he will meet with top officials from EU and NATO. Following this trip Bezhuashvili plans to visit Washington and then New York.

Meanwhile, some strongly worded statements have been voiced towards the secessionist authorities in breakaway South Ossetia following the Georgian authorities’ intensive calls on western powers to react on what Tbilisi describes as “outrageous provocations” staged by the unrecognized republic’s leadership.

Recent weeks have seen a series of incidents in the conflict zone, including firing on a Georgian army helicopter, a clash that led to the deaths of four people, and sporadic overnight shootouts. Secessionist authorities’ announcement of plans to hold an independence referendum and presidential polls on November 12 has further fueled tensions. 

Officials in Tbilisi have warned that the Georgian side may use force if Tbilisi fails to secure “an appropriate” international support.

On September 12 a group of western diplomats, including British, French, German, Italian and U.S. Ambassadors in Georgia, traveled to Tskhinvali and met with South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity. Western diplomats have strongly condemned the September 3 helicopter incident, triggering the anger of the South Ossetian leadership.

On September 13, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Terry Davis said secessionist authorities in South Ossetia “are wasting time and effort on the organisation of a 'referendum on independence' in November."

Also on September 13, EU envoy for the South Caucasus issues Peter Semneby said that the referendum will be “meaningless” to the European Union.  

At the same time, the Russian Foreign Ministry has backed an upcoming independence referendum in Moldova’s breakaway region Transdnestria, scheduled for this Sunday, and said in a statement issued on September 13 that the European Union should not ignore the results of the referendum. The Russian State Duma Council, the lower house of the Parliament, plans to send its observers to the November 12 polls in breakaway South Ossetia.

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