Security Council extends UN Mission in Georgia through March

The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Georgia until 31 March, and emphasized it would keep a close watch on events in the troubled country.Today’s unanimous vote came after a report earlier this month by Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed that the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) was “critical for maintaining stability” between the government side and Abkhaz separatists.Mr. Annan had recommended that the mission, whose mandate was due to expire today, be extended for a further six months until 31 July but the two-month extension will now allow Security Council members to further discuss the situation in Georgia.As of the start of this year, there were 122 military observers and 13 civilian police officers in UNOMIG, an operation that has been deployed in Georgia since 1993 monitoring peace agreements between the two sides.In his report, the Secretary-General said UNOMIG was focusing on three priority areas in the country, namely economic cooperation, the return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), and political and security matters. He stressed that political will on both sides of the conflict is key to progress.“The security of UNOMIG is of continuous concern,” Mr. Annan emphasized, calling on both sides to ensure the safety of the mission’s personnel at all times and urging them to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against UNOMIG, including those responsible for shooting down a helicopter in 2001.

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