The UN Security Council discussed on April 10 a new resolution on Abkhazia against the background of sharp confrontation between U.S. and Russian officials. The latter slammed the U.S Embassy for its alleged refusal to grant an entry visa to Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba, while the United States criticized Russia for trying to draw parallels between Abkhazia and Kosovo.
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said that the United States had made a “serious diplomatic and political mistake” in refusing to allow the Abkhaz Foreign Minister to come to New York and attend the UN Security Council session, Reuters reported on April 11. According to the report, Churkin left the Council without waiting to hear other speeches.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Alejandro Wolff said that of a six-nation Group of Friends of Georgia, which includes Russia, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Slovakia, only Russia supported Shamba’s attendance at the UN General Assembly.
In any case, U.S. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said on April 10 that the United States had not refused to issue an entry visa to Shamba. Shamba, he said, had applied for a visa, but then had withdrawn his application.
“It is our hope that following the passage in the coming days of a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia, we would see sufficient progress toward an Abkhazian settlement to merit a Geneva-style discussion of Abkhazia in New York, which is apparently the reason why he was intending to travel to New York. So essentially, you have to solve a process issue in order - in our view - to merit his travel to the United States,” McCormack said at a news briefing in Washington.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff accused the Russian side of “a mischievous effort” to raise “false analogies” between Abkhazia and Kosovo, thus “complicating the discussion.”
Earlier, Churkin had said that Shamba's nonattendance was comparable to “the international community ... listening only to the Serb side” during the Kosovo crisis.
Shamba, in a statement distributed by Russian officials at the United Nations, also slammed the Security Council for failing to consult both sides. He said it “makes us think that the UN is a biased party.” He also demanded recognition for the region’s independence.
His comments follow similar accusations made by the Abkhaz foreign minister. He had said that the UN Security Council's “partial attitude” towards the Abkhaz side was forcing a rethink on the expediency of continuing talks under the UN aegis. The issue is due for discussion at a summit of the leaders of breakaway Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdnestria as soon as the new resolution on Abkhazia is adopted.
Meanwhile, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli addressed the UN Security Council session on April 10 over the current situation in the Abkhaz conflict zone. He reiterated that the Georgian authorities remain committed to the peaceful resolution of the Abkhaz conflict, adding that Abkhazia’s status should be defined within the internationally recognized borders of Georgia. In his speech Nogaideli also focused on the issues of return of refugees and internally displaced persons to the entire territory of Abkhazia, the shelling of the Tbilisi-controlled upper Kodori Gorge and the current situation in the Gali district of breakaway Abkhazia. He expressed Tbilisi’s readiness for a bilateral dialogue with separatists, even at the highest level.
The UN Security Council is expected to adopt the new resolution on Abkhazia on April 13. Tbilisi hopes that it will reflect the progress achieved in the region following the previous UN resolution.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin noted progress in the implementation of the previous UN resolution on Abkhazia, adding that debate is still ongoing over the actual text of the resolution.
“However, the resolution has not been implemented, as a whole and we want this to be reflected in the new resolution,” RIA Novosti news agency quoted Churkin as saying.
However, he added that all members have agreed to prolong the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) for another six months. UNOMIG’s current mandate expires on April 15.
The Russian envoy also rejected Tbilisi’s demand for the replacement of Russian peacekeepers with UN peacekeepers.
“The current [peacekeeping] format should be preserved. Reducing the number of Russian peacekeepers is beyond discussion,” Churkin said.