Russia Backs Abkhazia at UN

Abkhazia will have a decisive say on whether United Nations peace monitors will be able to continue working in the region, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday.

The mandate for the UN observer mission expires on Sunday, and the separatist administration says it will allow them to operate after that only if their mandate is changed to acknowledge Abkhazia's assertion that it is an independent state.

Under UN rules, Abkhazia has no formal influence on the mandate, but Russia could use its veto as a permanent member of the Security Council to back the separatists' demands.

"The decisive say will belong to those sides that will host the corresponding international presences on their territory," Lavrov said at a news briefing with European Union foreign policy officials in Moscow.

"The final decision will depend correspondingly on the position of Georgia, as far as the international presence on its territory is concerned … and the position of Abkhazia as far as the presence of the UN on Abkhaz territory is concerned."

Georgia has said it will not accept a new mandate that undermines its sovereignty over Abkhazia, a position likely to be supported by Tbilisi's allies in Europe and the United States.

In New York, Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters on Tuesday that a group of key countries had drafted a resolution extending the mandate for four months. The Security Council is expected to pass it later this week, he said.