Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 13 May 1997

Vol. 479 No. 2

Written Answers. - Conflict in Abkhazia.

Austin Deasy


51 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government's position regarding the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia; and the steps if any, he intends to take in order that a political settlement of the conflict is reached. [12998/97]

Jim Mitchell


55 Mr. J. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government's position regarding the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia; and the steps, if any, he intends to take in order that political settlement of the conflict can be finally reached. [12629/97]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 55 together.

With European Union partners, Ireland is concerned to see a comprehensive, peaceful and lasting settlement to the conflict in Abkhazia. Both in its political dialogue with Georgia, and in co-operation with the United Nations and the OSCE, the European Union has been working to promote a negotiated solution.

United Nations military observers were sent to Abkhazia under the UN Security Council resolutions 881 and 892 of November 1993 and January 1994. Recently, the mandate of the UN mission (UNOMIG) was extended until 31 July 1997. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN, Ambassador Edouard Brunner, has been in constant contact with both parties to the conflict, and has spent considerable time on the ground in the region. The OSCE has also been active in promoting dialogue between the parties.

In recent times, Russia has played an important role as a "facilitator" in encouraging dialogue. A peace-keeping force of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is in place in Abkhazia, where it operates alongside the United Nations Observer Mission. The mandate of the CIS peace-keepers has also been extended until 31 July 1997, following agreement at the CIS Summit on 28 March this year to intensify efforts towards a solution to the conflict and the return of refugees and displaced persons.

While the ceasefire between the two parties, agreed in July 1994, continues to hold, concerns remain regarding the humanitarian situation, acts of lawlessness, including the attacks on members of the peace-keeping force and observer mission, and the safety and security of the local population. The unilateral decision taken by the Abkhaz authorities to hold Presidential elections in November 1996 was considered a serious deterioration in the peace process. Under the Irish Presidency, the Union made clear its view that such elections should take place only in the framework of a comprehensive political settlement which would include the determination through negotiations of the political status of Abkhazia, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders, and with the guaranteed possibility of full participation of all refugees and displaced persons. The Union also fully supported the statement made by the President of the UN Security Council that the conditions for the holding of such elections were not present at that time.
However, notwithstanding the setback arising from the presidential elections, bilateral contacts between both parties are continuing. The Secretary-General of the UN, in his most recent report, noted that both sides seem determined to continue these direct contacts and to broaden their bilateral relations. He considered that there was no better recipe for progress than the current contacts, and noted that it was now less likely that either side would resort to force to attain its objectives.
The proposal by the Secretary-General to extend UN involvement in Georgia is a welcome development. The new special representative to Georgia will be a resident envoy, and will be based in both Tbilisi and Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia. The UN will also strengthen its political involvement through the deployment of additional offices throughout the UNOMIG area. A particularly significant step has been the opening of the UN office for the protection and promotion of human rights in Abkhazia. This new office has begun its work and has been receiving the co-operation of the Abkhaz authorities. The Secretary-General intends to convene a meeting of the two parties to the conflict in the near future where it is hoped that concrete political progress can be made.
Ireland and the European Union strongly support the efforts being made to achieve a lasting political settlement to the conflict, and will continue to work, both with the Georgian authorities, and in the framework of the United Nations and the OSCE, to achieve this objective.