Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s special envoy for Abkhazia settlement negotiations, Edouard Brunner, has delivered a series of statements strongly supporting Russian and Abkhaz positions and clashing with those of Tbilisi. During a visit to Tbilisi Brunner has made the following statements to the local press: that authorizing the Russian "peacekeeping" troops to secure the Georgian refugees’ repatriation to Abkhazia would contradict the UN’s cost-driven plans to scale down peacekeeping operations; that the return of token groups of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia’s Gali district represents the promising beginning of an overall solution; and that on the refugee question Tbilisi should patiently wait for as long as 45 years — the period it took Israelis and Palestinians to begin negotiations toward a political settlement in earnest. Brunner stressed that he "highly appreciated the Russian peacekeepers` actions" in Abkhazia. (Interfax, October 9; Iprinda and Kontakt, October 8)
In his talks with Abkhaz leaders and at a news conference held in Abkhazia yesterday, Brunner unambiguously endorsed the planned Abkhaz parliamentary elections and held out the promise of international recognition of their result. Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba praised the UN and Russian stance. (Interfax, October 10)
The envoy’s comments dovetail with the Russian and Abkhaz views and clash head-on with those of Tbilisi. The comments appear designed to rebut the recent stream of statements and decisions by President Eduard Shevardnadze and the Georgian parliament and government. They have sharply criticized the Russian peacekeeping troops and Russian policy in general for freezing the situation on the ground in Abkhazia’s favor and encouraging separatism, including the holding of Abkhaz elections after the ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population. On the eve of Brunner’s visit, a NATO-sponsored international conference in Tbilisi on regional security in the Caucasus similarly concluded that "Russia’s mediation is extremely ineffective, and the Russian peacekeeping troops have lost credibility." (Interfax, October 8)
In a more discreet fashion, Tbilisi has also criticized the U.N. for passively following the Russian lead in Abkhazia. Boutros-Ghali is running for reelection as UN Secretary General with Russian support.
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