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PACE adopts new resolution on August war

By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, January 30
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has adopted a new resolution concerning the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008.

The new resolution follows the document adopted by PACE in October which was negatively received by the Russian side. PACE has several times accused Moscow of not fulfilling the terms of the October resolution. The new document seems to be acceptable for both sides.

The PACE resolution, among other demands, calls for creating a mechanism to settle the situation in the South Caucasus, PACE Monitoring Committee Joint Spokesman Luc van den Brande of Belgium said. Speaking at the PACE winter session on Wednesday, van den Brande said the proposed negotiating mechanism should also involve representatives of Russia, Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He did not say in what capacity South Ossetia and Abkhazia should be represented.

The Parliamentarian presented a report on the implementation of the “Resolution on the Consequences of the War between Georgia and Russia” (the October resolution). “It is dialogue and not war which should facilitate the normalization of the situation, the protection of human rights and the termination of ethnic cleansing in the region. Both parties have agreed to this,” said van den Brande.

Matyas Eorsi, representative of Hungary, appealed to PACE not to rush to draw conclusions about who was guilty of unleashing the conflict in the Caucasus. He underlined that Georgia had fulfilled all the requirements of the October PACE resolution, while Russia had ignored most of them. Eorsi said it was necessary to remind Russia of the inadmissibility of recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, though this “turned out to be beyond the area of responsibility of the Council of Europe.” However in the draft of the new resolution this comment was removed.

PACE announced that it welcomes the establishment of an EU mission to investigate the facts and causes of the war. According to the Parliamentarians, “this is an important step towards finding the truth and reaching reconciliation between Russia and Georgia.” PACE lauded the support of Russia and Georgia for this process and their readiness for cooperation. PACE however did voice serious concern over the escalation of violence along the administrative borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Its members claimed that this destroys stability in the region and may lead to the resumption of clashes or the start of new military actions. PACE called for observers to have free access to South Ossetia and Abkhazia and to set up new international peacekeeping forces in the region.

The resolution also urged Georgia to refrain from any actions that may provoke or instigate tension along the administrative borders with South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In addition, PACE calls on South Ossetia and Abkhazia to immediately cease all provocations and attacks.

Both Russia and Georgia have already commented on the new resolution. Head of the Russian PACE delegation Constantine Kosachev stated that the new resolution is “softer” than the October one. He noted that, despite the different points of view Russia and other European countries have about it, still there is a “principal difference” between the October resolution and this one. “The October resolution called on Russia to renounce its recognition of [the Georgian breakaway regions of] Abkhazia and South Ossetia, however now PACE has just underlined the fact that it doesn’t agree with Russia’s decision [on recognition],” said Kosachev, speaking to Russian journalists.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry has published a statement hailing the resolution. “We welcome and highly appreciate the resolution under review and we hope that Moscow will eventually fulfill its international obligations in good faith, including those under the aforesaid six-point ceasefire agreement, and that the clear messages of this pan-European organization will be duly taken on board by the Russian side,” says the statement, published on January 28.

The Ministry’s statement especially notes that PACE “reiterates that, under international law, Russia bears full responsibility for violations of human rights and humanitarian law on the occupied territories as an occupying power, and condemns the ethnic cleansing and other human rights violations in the Tskhinvali region of Georgia as well as the failure of Russia and its proxy regimes to bring these practices to a halt and their perpetrators to justice. The European forum has expressed its particular concern over the recent provocations in the areas adjacent to the occupied territories that have caused the death of innocent civilians and Georgian law enforcers. The adopted resolution lists concrete demands that must be implemented and also states that the Assembly will review the response to its demands at the second part-session in April 2009.”

“Europe hasn’t given up its demands,” said Chair of the Georgian Parliament Davit Bakradze, noting that it’s important that PACE demands that Russia stops the ethnic cleansing in the region and withdraw its troops from the occupied territory. However Georgian political analyst and former Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili is not so optimistic about the resolution. “There shouldn’t be any illusion that Russia might have fulfilled the recommendations of PACE and disowned all the actions it has taken. PACE has no means of applying special pressure on Russia. Everyone knows that Russia has ignored the obligations it took on August 12 and September 8, that’s why the international community must make Russia respect the agreements it signed. The international community has to achieve this goal step by step,” said the analyst.