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UN chief to attend talks on Georgia in Geneva


New York : UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will take part in talks next week in Geneva to try to settle the Russia-Georgia conflict and determine the future role of the UN in the Caucasus, a UN spokeswoman said Friday.

Ban will join representatives of the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Geneva Tuesday, a day before the start of official negotiations on the Georgian conflict.

His special representative, Johan Verbeke of Belgium, will attend the talks beginning Wednesday, said UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe. The parties in the Georgian conflict are expected to attend the talks.

Fighting broke out Aug 8 between Russian and Georgian troops in South Ossetia, and spread to Abkhazia, two territories still claimed by the Georgian government in Tbilisi as its provinces. But South Ossetia and Abkhazia have since seceded from Tbilisi, in a move recognized by Moscow.

The conflict has put the UN mission of military observers in Georgia in jeopardy. On Thursday, the UN Security Council in New York extended the former UN mission in Georgia for just four months rather than a longer period because of the unsettled conflict.

The mission’s new mandate will expire in mid-February. Its 153 military observers were caught in the fighting between Russia and Georgian troops and had to be evacuated from their posts in the Kodori Valley that separates breakaway Abkhazia and the Tbilisi government.

For the next four months the mission has no specific name because of the uncertainty of the political outcome of the Geneva talks. It was originally called UN Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG).