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UN General Assembly Backs Tbilisi's Abkhaz Resolution
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 16 May.'08 / 11:00

UN General Assembly passed Georgian-sponsored resolution on May 15 recognizing "the right of all refugees and internally displaced persons and their descendants, regardless of ethnicity" to return to Abkhazia.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry said the resolution was "a significant success of Georgian diplomacy, which was possible due to the help of Georgia's friendly states."

The resolution was adopted with small margin of 14 votes in favour to 11 against; 105 abstained.

The resolution expressed deep concern over "the demographic changes resulting from the conflict in Abkhazia" and said that it regretted any attempt "to alter the pre-conflict demographic composition there."

The Assembly underlined "the urgent need for the rapid development of a timetable to ensure the prompt voluntary return of all refugees and internally displace persons to their homes."

The resolution also emphasized the importance of preserving the property rights of refugees and internally displaced persons, "including victims of reported 'ethnic cleansing', and called upon all Member States to deter persons under their jurisdiction from obtaining property within the territory of Abkhazia, Georgia, in violation of the rights of returnees."

The resolution requested the UN Secretary General to submit the General Assembly a comprehensive report on the implementation of this resolution at its next, 63rd session.

Irakli Alasania, the Georgia's ambassador to the UN, said the resolution was a breakthrough of the Georgian diplomacy and of vital importance because of three reasons.

"The first one is that the term 'ethnic cleansing' has reappeared again," Alasania told the RFE/RL Georgian Service. "Russia had been trying to bury this term in past ten years. Second is that apart of recognizing right of IDPs and refugees to return, the right of their property is also reflected in this document. And the third one is that the UN Secretary General has been instructed to prepare a report the next General Assembly about what is being done in regard of return of IDPs."

Although UN General Assembly resolutions are generally non-binding, Irakli Alasania said the fact that the document calls on the UN Secretary General to submit a progress report of the resolution "already means a new dynamic," making the document more than just declarative.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in the statement that the resolution was "politically binding document for the Member States of the United Nations."

Alasania also said that the resolution had given "strength to Georgia to stand firmly on the international front."

"But to say the truth, making a real progress is up to Georgians and Abkhazians themselves and [the progress] depends on a dialogue between us; that is the most important part," Alasania, who paid a surprise visit to Sokhumi on May 12, added.

Apart of Georgia, Albania, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Ukraine and United States voted in favor of the resolution.

Armenia, Belarus, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Iran, Myanmar, Russia, Serbia, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela were against.

Russian representative, Ilya Rogachev, told the General Assembly that while addressing a humanitarian problem, the resolution took "a political approach to the conflict." He said that the resolution would "destabilize United Nations conflict-resolution activities," because the problem of return, while important, was not the only one. He also said that the document distorted real picture of the conflict and it would lead to a worsening of Georgian-Abkhaz relations.

France, Britain and Germany, which along with the United States and Russia, are part of the UN Secretary General's Group of Friends of Georgia dealing with the Abkhaz conflict, have abstained.

The German representatives said that he absolutely supported the swift return of internally displaced persons and refugees, but had abstained because the text ignored many other aspects of the situation. The French representatives cited that France did not believe the initiative would achieve crucial humanitarian and political objectives.

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