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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Georgians Lambast Veto on UN Mission

TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgia on Tuesday criticized Russia for vetoing a resolution that would have extended the UN observer mission in the breakaway Abkhazia region, saying it showed Moscow's isolation from the world.

Russia's Security Council veto highlighted Moscow's unwillingness to budge even slightly on the issues surrounding Georgia and the fallout from the war last year between Russia and Georgia.

"Russia has used its veto power, which can be considered a failure of diplomacy," said Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze. "The veto is like an atomic weapon -- using it confirms the isolation of the user."

The small UN mission -- about 130 military observers and more than a dozen police -- has been in Abkhazia for 16 years. They were deployed following the end of fighting that resulted in Abkhaz militias routing the Georgian army, expelling ethnic Georgians and taking control of the Black Sea region.

The mission's importance increased after last year's war between Russia and Georgia, which wants to reassert control over Abkhazia and another region, South Ossetia. Moscow has recognized both regions as independent nations.

The dispute over the mission came down to its official title -- the UN Observer Mission in Georgia -- as well as references to Georgia's territorial sovereignty. A Western-backed plan had proposed extending the mission's mandate for another year, or even two more weeks, to work out a compromise.

But Russia -- one of five veto-wielding nations on the Security Council -- said it was improper to refer to the mission as being "in Georgia" since it considered Abkhazia an independent nation. The vote late Monday was 10 to 1 with four abstentions -- China, Vietnam, Libya and Uganda.

"It is understandable that in the new political and legal conditions, most of the names and terms previously used in the old documents are inapplicable," Russia's Foreign Ministry said Monday.

Russia's veto prompted criticism from other Security Council nations. The French Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it "deeply regretted" the veto and said Russia bears a heavy responsibility for opposing the UN resolution.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, meanwhile, accused Russia of "pursuing its own narrow interests."

The UN mission's mandate expired early Tuesday. Diplomats said it was unclear how long the mission had to pull out or whether some kind of presence could yet be salvaged.

UN mission head Johan Verbeke said failure to extend the mission would undermine stability in Abkhazia and leave roughly 60,000 ethnic Georgians there unprotected.

Military monitors of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have suffered a similar fate, and Monday's UN veto leaves the European Union alone with a 225-member mission, deployed after the war but unable to enter either South Ossetia or Abkhazia.