A UN mission in Georgia has now ended after Russia vetoed a draft sponsored by UN Security Council members to extend the UN's mandate in the country. Russia cited opposition to Georgian sovereignty over the rebel region of Abkhazia.
AFP - Russia Monday vetoed an extension of the mandate of the UN mission in Georgia, effectively ending its activities, citing opposition to Georgian sovereignty over the rebel enclave of Abkhazia.
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin cast his veto during a Security Council vote on a draft sponsored by Western countries which had called for a two-week extension of the mandate and indirectly reaffirmed the council's commitment to Georgia's territorial integrity.
Ten of the council's 15 members voted in favor while four -- China, Libya, Uganda and Vietnam -- abstained.
With the Russian veto, the UN mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) ends at midnight (0400 GMT Tuesday) with the expiration of its mandate, which is concerned only with monitoring the conflict between Georgia and the breakaway enclave of Abkhazia.
The force, which currently fields 131 military observers and 20 policemen, was created in 1993 to oversee a ceasefire accord between the Georgian government and Abkhaz separatist authorities.
The draft sponsored by Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Turkey, Britain and the United States was meant to extend the status quo for two weeks to allow more time for negotiations with Russia over the fate of the mission and a new security regime for Abkhazia.
Explaining the reason for his veto, Churkin said the text was "clearly unacceptable" as it would be "denying the existence of Abkhazia as a state."
He said Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili "put an end to the sovereignty of his own country" over Abkhazia by sending his troops into breakway South Ossetia last August.
The United States and Britain both expressed deep regret over the Russian action and both reaffirmed their commitment to Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty over Abkhazia.
Speaking before the vote, Britain's deputy UN ambassador Philip Parham said that once the UN mission ceased to exist, the European Union would have to look at how its monitoring mission on the ground in Georgia "will help ensure there is not a return to conflict."
In February the Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the UN mission for four months pending security arrangements in Abkhazia to be worked out by Moscow and Tbilisi.
And for the past three weeks, the so-called Group of Friends of Georgia -- Britain, Croatia, Germany, France and the United States -- had been negotiating a way out of the impasse in the wake of last year's Georgia-Russia conflict and Moscow's subsequent recognition of the breakaway enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.
Churkin earlier told reporters that the council had three options: the Western sponsors rework their draft to accommodate Russian concerns; the mission "passes away peacefully;" or the sponsors push for a vote and face a certain Russian veto.
The Russian delegation put forward its proposal for a United Nations Stabilization Mission (UNSMIS) -- a name proposed by UN chief Ban Ki-moon -- for "an initial period terminating on December 2009."
Under the Russian proposal based on Ban's report, security zones and restricted zones would be set up 12 kilometers (seven miles) on each side of the border between Georgia and Abkhazia.
No armed forces or military equipment would be allowed in the security zones, which would be patrolled by no more than 800 security personnel equipped with up to 15 armored personnel carriers with standard weapons.
In Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry issued a statement urging "the Security Council colleagues to review their inertial politicized positions that ignore the real interests of the peoples of the Transcaucasus and call into question stability in the region.
"Otherwise the responsibility for wrapping up the UN presence in Transcaucasus will rest entirely with our partners," it added.
Russia sent troops deep into Georgia in August 2008 to beat back a Georgian military attempt to retake South Ossetia, a territory which had received extensive backing from Moscow for years.
Russian forces later withdrew to within the rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia under a ceasefire brokered and monitored by the European Union. Moscow recognized the two regions as independent despite protests from the West and from Georgia itself.
Date created : 2009-06-16