Monday, March 16, 2009

UN Says Georgian Refugees Stuck in Limbo

Tens of thousands of Georgians who fled last year's war with Russia in breakaway South Ossetia will probably not be able to go home unless a political solution to the conflict is found, a United Nations official said Friday.

Walter Kaelin, the UN secretary-general's representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said those who could not return to their homes for the foreseeable future were entitled to safety, housing and livelihood.

"I am concerned that tens of thousands remain displaced and will probably not return to their homes in the Tskhinvali region, South Ossetia and adjacent areas unless solutions to the underlying conflict can be found," Kaelin told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

He said humanitarian access to the area had been "politicized by both sides," a problem that prevented him from visiting South Ossetia during a trip to Georgia in October.

Goran Lennmarker, a European special envoy for Georgia, said last month that there had been "de facto ethnic cleansing" in South Ossetia.

Russia invaded Georgia last August to thwart an attempt by Tbilisi to re-establish control over South Ossetia.

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