Expected deal on ceasefire observers in Gerogia is near in the United Nations that will allow monitorsrs to continue working in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, Russia said on Friday.
The mandate for the United Nations observer mission in Abkhazia, which expires on Feb. 15, became a highly politicised issue after last year's brief war between Russia and Georgia over another breakaway region, South Ossetia.
Separatists in Abkhazia, who are backed by Moscow, said this month they would not allow U.N. monitors to continue working unless the mission's name was changed to reflect separatists' assertion that they are independent from Georgia.
"A compromise has almost been reached in the U.N. thanks to the fact that the corresponding resolution recognises the need that the new realities should be taken into account," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in the Kremlin.
He did not give any details about how the new resolution on the observers' mandate will differ from the old version.
"It (the compromise) became possible because agreement was received not only from Georgia about monitors on their territory, but also the agreement of Sukhumi on U.N. observers being present in Abkhazia," he said.
Sukhumi is Abkhazia's capital. The Kremlin recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states after the war, a step that was condemned by Europe and the United States.
Western governments say the U.N. mission plays a central role in preventing new hostilities between separatist and Georgian forces, who are locked in a tense standoff after Abkhaz forces drove out Tbilisi's troops in fighting in the 1990s.
Negotiations over the mandate for the U.N. mission are seen by many observers as a test of Russia's willingness to work with the international community after it angered many Western states with its war with Georgia last year.
Georgia said it wanted the mandate left unchanged.
"It's very important that there is support of Georgia's sovereignity and territorial integrity in this resolution," Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze told reporters in Tbilisi.
Russia last year blocked the renewal of the mandate for a separate Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) observer mission in South Ossetia, saying the mandate had to be changed to acknowledge the region's statehood.
The OSCE said at its headquarters in Vienna this week agreement had been reached to extend the mandate for most of the observers until the end of June. But their long-term status remains unclear.
"In Vienna many countries are trying to keep hold of their old ideological approaches ... so it was not possible to find agreement so that the presence of the OSCE could be based on a consensus," Lavrov said.
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