My delegation would like to thank the SG for his excellent report on the situation in Abkhazia (Georgia). I would like to thank also his Special representative, Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini for her presentation of the report and for her remarkable efforts in sustaining the peace process and for her kind welcome to the new members of the Security Council.
I would like also to thank the Minister of Special affairs of Georgia for his statement.
My delegation is pleased that the peace process has gained, in the course of 2003, some momentum though not yet in a decisive way and that the Group of friends has played such a positive role in the process. We hope that 2004 and the new political context in Georgia will open promising prospects for a global, lasting and acceptable political settlement.
In this regard, it is encouraging to hear that the two parties have reiterated their willingness to engage in a constructive dialogue on practical matters in the three areas of concern namely: economic cooperation, return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and political and security matters.
The efforts undertaken by the Group of friends complemented by the three working groups set up on the basis of the agreements signed at Sotchi in 2003 between the Presidents of the Russian Federation and Georgia have undoubtedly pushed forward the peace process.
In this respect, we welcome in particular the progress made in the economic field and the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
The decision to deploy a UNOMIG civilian Police component, preceded by a visit to the Balkans to study best practices, the UNDP–led rehabilitation feasibility survey and the cooperation in combating criminality, constitutes a step in the right direction in the sense that it will hopefully improve the security situation and encourage the return of the displaced persons.
This being said, the success of any repatriation operation depends on the improvement of the living conditions of the local population and the displaced persons who wish to return.
As to the political and security matters, a lot remains to be done. It is important to address the fundamental political issue that is the core issue of the conflict and to promote, in this context, the virtues of dialogue and cooperation to move towards a political settlement.
The document on“ basic principles for the distribution of competences between Tbilissi and Sukhumi” finalised two years ago and which carries the full support of the Group of friends and the Security Council should be the basis for constructive negotiations on the future status of Abkhazia as integral part of Georgia, which should start as soon as possible.
We support this document and we are hopeful that the Abkhaz side will accept it as a basis for the negotiation of a mutually acceptable and lasting solution
As a matter of fact, the keen interest shown by the abkhaz side for the stabilisation of the situation in Tbilissi and the continuation of the negotiations after the election of a new President and the formation of a new government is encouraging.
We sincerely hope that the third meeting of the Group of friends which will take place next month will create the conditions of a better cooperation between the two sides and for relaunching the peace process.
My delegation is very pleased that no violation of the Moscow agreement has been reported. The deterioration of the security situation in the area of conflict remains, however, a source of concern to my delegation.
Every effort should be made to improve the security situation for the benefit of the local populations as well as for UNOMIG personnel.
In this regard, the increasing of patrolling of UNOMIG in the Gali district, the efforts undertaken by the Georgian and abkhaz sides and the agreement signed between the UNOMIG and CIS peacekeeping force constitute a positive development which we welcome.
The integral deployment of UNOMIG civilian Police component will certainly help better combat criminal activities.
We finally share the view of the SG that the presence of UNOMIG is critical for maintaining stability in the zone of conflict and advancing the peace process towards a comprehensive political settlement. Therefore, we support his recommendation for a further extension of UNOMIG for six months.