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UN Extends Peacekeeping Mission in Breakaway Georgia Republic


The U.N. Security Council has extended the mandate of its peacekeeping mission in Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia. The Council adopted a resolution urging Georgia to refrain from provocative acts in the region.

The 15-member Council unanimously approved a Russian-sponsored measure calling on Georgia to seriously address Abkhaz security concerns, and to avoid steps that could be seen as threatening.

The resolution extends the mandate of a mainly Russian - U.N. peacekeeping unit in Abkhazia until next April.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called the measure part of Moscow's efforts to end the long-running Abkhazian conflict.

"It is mostly a resolution calling all parties to the conflict to go back to negotiating table, to work out difficulties and differences amicably, and the centerpiece of efforts of the Russian Federation playing an important part in trying to settle that longstanding conflict," he said.

Abkhazia has been a sore point in Russia/Georgia relations since the breakup of the former Soviet Union. Georgia accuses Russia of backing Abkhaz separatists.

Tensions flared last month when Georgia briefly detained four Russian army officers on spying charges. Moscow responded by cutting transportation and postal links.

Georgia's U.N. Ambassador Irakli Alasania welcomed the latest Security Council resolution. But he told reporters the measure ignores what he called "increased militarization" of Abkhazia. He sharply criticized the work of the U.N. peacekeeping force.

"The resolution falls far short of acknowledging that the peacekeeping force on the ground has not performed its main responsibility defined in its mandate, to create a favorable security environment for the return of the hundreds of thousands of ethnically cleansed Georgian citizens expelled from Abkhazia," he said.

Abkhazia, a region of northwest Georgia on the Black Sea, declared its independence after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Armed conflict broke out in 1992, ending the following year when the Abkhaz side captured the port city of Sukhumi. Officials say 10,000 people died in the conflict, and 300,000 Georgians fled or were expelled from Abkhazia.

Since then, a U.N. observer mission has been monitoring an uneasy ceasefire between Abkhazia and the Georgian government. Georgia accuses Russia of arming and financing the separatists.