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Annan calls for extension of UN peacekeeping force in Georgia through July

23 January 2006 Describing the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Georgia as “critical for maintaining stability,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan today recommended that the Security Council extend its mandate in the troubled country for a further six months until 31 July 2006.

In his latest report, which covers operations in the past three months by the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), Mr. Annan said that while there had been some “encouraging” developments between the government and Abkhaz separatists, the security and human rights situation in the conflict zone remained “precarious.”

“I urge again the Georgian side to take into due account the Abkhaz security concerns, and the Abkhaz side to effectively meet the security and human rights concerns of the local population and returnees to the Gali district,” Mr. Annan said, referring to an area in the conflict zone.

As of the start of this year, there were 122 military observers and 13 civilian police officers in UNOMIG, an operation that started in Georgia in 1993 to monitor peace agreements between the two sides and whose current mandate is due to expire on 31 January.

The Secretary-General said UNOMIG was focusing on three priority areas in the country, namely economic cooperation, the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and political and security matters, but he said “political will” on both sides of the conflict was key.

“The security of UNOMIG is of continuous concern,” Mr. Annan emphasized, calling on both sides to ensure the safety of the Mission’s personnel at all times and urging them to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against UNOMIG, including those responsible for shooting down a helicopter in 2001.

The Security Council is scheduled to discuss the report on Thursday.

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