New York: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the possibility of dispatching a United Nations fact-finding mission to Georgia, where nearly 160,000 people were uprooted by the conflict that rocked the Caucasus nation last month. “I have been personally engaged on Georgia on a near-daily basis since the outset of this crisis and have made clear the UN’s willingness to help in every way it can,” Mr. Ban told reporters in New York, adding that he sent UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres to the region immediately after the crisis started.
According to UN news service the details of the potential fact-finding mission have yet to be finalized, but the Secretary-General said it would comprise both humanitarian and human rights elements. The team would be lead by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, with the participation of other UN agencies. “I have offered my good offices to facilitate international discussions, and we will explore possible peacekeeping or other arrangements for Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Mr. Ban said, referring to the two breakaway Georgian provinces which witnessed fighting.
His new Special Representative for Georgia, Johan Verbeke, has toured European capitals and earlier this week, had a “good meeting” in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Last month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to a six-point plan, which includes a commitment by all parties to renounce the use of force; the immediate and definitive cessation of hostilities; free access to humanitarian aid; the withdrawal of Georgian forces to their places of permanent deployment; and the convening of international discussions on lasting security arrangements for Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The other principle stipulates the withdrawal of Russian forces to their lines of deployment before 7 August, and includes the additional provision that Russian peacekeeping forces may implement additional security measures pending the definition of an international mechanism.
Mr. Ban said that in line with that agreement, “the UN obviously has a role to play,” adding that the world organization can also contribute to international talks on Georgia slated for 15 October in Geneva. He also noted that UN agencies are striving to reach all those in need to supply relief.
A UN humanitarian convoy today was allowed in for the first time to deliver aid into the Russian-controlled area north of the town of Gori, which lies close to the border with South Ossetia. “This is a first step which we hope will lead to free and unimpeded access to previously inaccessible areas in Georgia,” said Robert Watkins, who serves as UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the country. “Humanitarian assistance must be provided to anyone wherever it is needed.”
Some four tons of supplies finally made their way into Patara Garadjivari, a rural farming village which saw a majority of its 1,500-strong inhabitants flee last month. Residents expressed concerns over their safety, and welcomed the UN aid as the first step towards rebuilding their lives. “I hope that access gained today by the United Nations will give rise to unimpeded humanitarian assistance to the areas north of Gori by all humanitarian actors,” Mr. Watkins said. Aside from supplies such as food, shelter, water and sanitation, and health care, conditions for dignified and safe return must be created, he said.-UN News Service