Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 63

The summit meeting (though most likely not all the countries but only those interested in the matter) extended the deployment of "CIS peacekeeping" troops in Abkhazia until July 31 and endorsed a broadened mandate, as approved at the March 26 Councils of Foreign Ministers and of the Defense Ministers. (See Monitor, March 27) Georgia had fought long and hard to change the mandate of the nominally CIS, but de facto Russian contingent, and to end its "role as border guards for Abkhazia" — a goal that Georgian foreign minister Irakly Menagarishvili declared to have been achieved at this summit.

The new mandate expands the troops’ geographic area of responsibility to the entire Gali district of Abkhazia, and broadens the troops’ mission to include escort of returning Georgian refugees and protection of their settlements — i.e., against possible Abkhaz raids. It further tasks the troops with eliminating Abkhaz minefields, military obstacles, and fortifications in the area. An accompanying resolution calls for "stronger monitoring" of the January 1996 CIS summit’s decision to subject Abkhazia’s external communications and trade to Tbilisi’s authorization. Russian border troops have until now undermined the implementation of that decision.

These decisions may also remain unrealized, however. The documents are still to be referred to the Councils of Foreign Ministers and of the Defense Ministers for further work, then to be referred within a month to the Council of Heads of State for final approval of the new mandate. However, the next summit is scheduled for June, and the Russian "peacekeepers" mandate will have to be renewed in July. Finally — and crucially — the summit resolution instructs the troops’ command to "coordinate these issues with the conflicting sides." Moscow and Abkhazia thus receive ample opportunity to frustrate the enlargement of the troops’ mandate if the Russian government so decides. For the moment at least, the Abkhaz leadership has reacted nervously. (Interfax, March 28-29; Radio Tbilisi, March 30)

Russian Chairmanship Preserved, Follow-Up Summit Scheduled.