Saturday 24th of August 2019, 17:40 CET
Three UN observers kidnapped in Georgia
June 5, 2003
Reuters

Written by Niko Mchedlishvili
Posted by HW on August 24, 2019

Two Germans and a Dane
Two Germans and a Dane, monitoring the border between Georgia and separatist Abkhazia for the United Nations, were kidnapped on Thursday in a remote gorge, a senior Georgian official said.

Monitoring contingent
The three were part of a contingent of 100 U.N. observers monitoring a truce between Georgia and Abkhazia, which proclaimed itself a separate state in 1993 following the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Under fire
Marian Staszewski, a political adviser to the U.N. mission, said the observers were monitoring the gorge with peacekeepers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a grouping of former Soviet countries, when their car came under fire.

Unharmed
The observer team's Georgian interpreter was also kidnapped in the incident, the United Nations said in New York, adding that the four had been able to report back by radio that they were unharmed.

"We were told that no one was injured in the shooting," Staszewski told Reuters, adding that the Russian peacekeepers who had been with them had been disarmed and then released.

Nothing new
The kidnap took place in the remote Kodori Gorge, where U.N. observers have been taken hostage several times in the past but released without conditions, according to official information.

In the last such incident, two U.N. observers from Poland and Greece were held for a few days in December 2000.

Concerned
In New York, the 15-nation U.N. Security Council was briefed on the hostage-taking and Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov said afterward council members were "very concerned."

"We join in the demand to release these hostages immediately, without any conditions," said Lavrov, the council president for the month of June.

Accusations
Georgia has accused Russian peacekeepers of abetting Abkhazian separatists. In January, it accused Russia of annexing the region and appealed to the U.N. Security Council to "assume effective leadership over the peace process."

Negotiations
The United Nations has drawn up a document meant to be a basis for negotiations between Georgia and Abkhazia. But Abkhazia's leaders have so far refused even to discuss it.
 
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