UN chief warns war in Abkhazia could be dangerous
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned Sunday that fighting in Georgia's Abkhazia could be "dangerously destabilizing" to the region following reports that the breakaway territory was mobilizing for a military operation, the dpa reported.
The United Nations said the fighting has spreaded beyond South Ossetia, where the Russian army engaged in fighting with Georgian troops since Thursday.
The UN Security Council - in which Russia is one of the five permanent members - scheduled a new fourth round of closed-door consultations on Sunday to update itself of the conflict in Georgia. The previous meetings ended without any results.
Ban said in a statement that he was "profoundly concerned" over mounting tensions in Abkhazia's zone of conflict, including the bombing of the Upper Kodori Valley and the ongoing military build-up along the security zone.
"In the context of the announcement by the Abkhaz de facto authorities of a military operation in the Upper Kodori Valley which could be dangerously destabilizing, I am calling for the exercise of maximum restraint by all concerned as well as the guarantee of the safety and security of the unarmed United Nations military observers."
Ban urges "all parties to immediately end hostilities and to engage, without delay, in negotiations to achieve a peaceful settlement."
Abkhazia on Saturday asked the UN to pull out its 15 military observers from the Upper Korori Valley, which was complied. The unit was moved to Sukumi.
Both South Ossetia and Abkhazia,inhabited by a majority of Russians, have been pressing for independence from Georgia.
Meanwhile in Strasbourg, the head of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, Lluis Maria de Puig, criticized both Russia and Georgia - both members of the European organisation - for their actions.
The Spanish politician accused Moscow and Tbilisi of "flagrant violation of basic democratic rights" in the conflict and noted that both countries, when they were accepted as members of the Council of Europe, had pledged a peaceful solution "without the use of violence."
He said Russia's military actions had gone "far beyond the responsibility for maintaining the peace" in the region.
Russia joined the Council of Europe in 1996 and Georgia three years later.