Georgia Ban Kimoon calls last months rocket attacks major setback to peace

Last month’s rocket attacks in Georgia’s upper Kodori valley were “a major setback” to efforts to bring peace to the northwest of the country, but there have been other welcome signs of progress recently between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his latest report on the work of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there.Mr. Ban cites the continued joint patrols of the Kodori valley by the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force as one example of the progress being made, adding that the patrols observed no heavy weapons and a reduction in the number of armed personnel since a similar patrol in October last year.The recent expansion of UNOMIG assistance to the Gali district, from UN Police advisers to the full-time presence of a Human Rights Office in Abkhazia, Georgia, is also welcome, Mr. Ban says in his latest report to the Security Council on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia.“I hope that the appointment of a presidential commissioner for human rights by the de facto Abkhaz authorities will enable them to address better human rights issues raised by UNOMIG as well as local non-governmental organizations (NGOs),” he writes.The Secretary-General also voices hope that both the Georgian and Abkhaz sides will take further measures to build confidence between them, in line with the commitments they made during a UN-chaired meeting with the Group of Friends in Geneva in February.But he calls the rocket attacks of 11 March – although they caused no casualties – “a major setback” and “a reminder of the risks with which the conflict is still fraught, and the potential for existing tensions to take a violent course.”He hopes that the investigation being carried out by the Joint Fact-Finding Group, comprised of representatives of UNOMIG, the Georgian Government, the Abkhaz side and the CIS peacekeeping force, “will help clarify the circumstances behind this incident.”The Kodori valley has long been a scene of clashes, and on the evening of 11 March a series of rockets were fired at the villages of Chkhalta and Adjara, with damage reported to buildings in Chkhalta. A CIS force checkpoint in the lower Kodori valley also reported observing or hearing flares, bursts of automatic weapons fire and truck movements.So far the Joint Fact-Finding Group has carried out two visits to locations in the upper Kodori valley to examine the impact sites, collect evidence and interview witnesses. It has also held four sessions to discuss its findings.UNOMIG was set up in 1993 and expanded following the signing by the parties of the 1994 Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces to verify compliance, with patrols of the Kodori valley a specific part of its mandate.As of last month, the Mission has some 140 uniformed personnel, including 127 military observers and 12 police, supported by 100 international civilian personnel and 178 local civilian staff. 5 April 2007Last month’s rocket attacks in Georgia’s upper Kodori valley were “a major setback” to efforts to bring peace to the northwest of the country, but there have been other welcome signs of progress recently between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his latest report on the work of the United Nations peacekeeping mission there. read more

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