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UN resolution a small victory on an important issue

By M. Alkhazashvili
Monday, May 19
The UN General Assembly passed a resolution on May 15 strongly recognizing the right of return for refugees from the Abkhazian conflict.

The resolution says the body is “deeply concerned by the demographic changes”—the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of non-Abkhaz—wrought by the war.

Tbilisi hails the resolution, pointing to the inclusion of the term “ethnic cleansing” (quotation marks used in the resolution as well) as a landmark victory in getting the world to recognize the situation in and around Abkhazia.

Skeptics inside Georgia, including some opposition politicians, said the government was overdoing the jubilation, playing up a toothless resolution for political points.

It is in fact a small moral victory, but not much of a practical one.

14 nations voted for the resolution. They are important allies for Georgia, but the issue is hardly on the world’s frontburner. It contains calls to actions—a timetable for the return of refugees, keeping the conflict on the UN agenda—but little in the way of prescriptions for getting it done.

Nor could it. Russia led a bloc of odious nations, including Iran, Belarus and Myanmar, in voting against the resolution, saying it didn’t do enough to address the humanitarian side of the problem. It could have done more to address practical concerns if not for Russian obstructionism.

In the end, the resolution was a fortifying acknowledgement of Georgia’s position, and a sobering reminder of the thousands and thousands of refugees in need of action, not words. That should be beyond politics.