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Jagland promises to defend rights of those affected by Russian-Georgian war

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, July 5
The Georgian Government is fulfilling all the commitments it undertook after joining the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, the Council of Europe’s Secretary General, said after meeting Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze on Friday. However he said that there are more things which remain to be done.

“We discussed further deepening the relations between Georgia and the Council of Europe,” Jagland said. “Since Georgia became a member of the CoE a lot has been done in the country,” he added. The CoE will make “all efforts” to defend the rights of the people damaged by the [Russian-Georgian] war. “The rights of all people should be defended, especially those who suffer in war,” Jagland told journalists.

During his two-day visit to Georgia Jagland also met Reintegration Minister Temur Iakobashvili. The sides discussed the Strategy on the Occupied Territories adopted by the Georgian Government in January. “The strategy worked out by the Georgian Government towards its occupied territories is a good document,” the CoE Secretary General said. “The Council of Europe should get actively involved in fulfilling some of the proposals and initiatives included in the action plan,” he added.

Iakobashvili said that the CoE representatives presented him with specific projects in which the organisation will get “actively involved.” “There are five projects in all, concerning establishing communication between Georgian journalists and journalists living on the occupied territories, education, information exchange, culture and heritage and national identity maintenance issues. We think that in these spheres we could closely cooperate with the CoE,” the Minister said, adding that the Georgian side will discuss the proposals.

There is a need to develop projects which will involve large numbers of people, not only 10-15, according to Iakobashvili. “Our aim is to give the opportunity for communication to as many people as possible from both our and the occupied territories. I think that the CoE could be a very serious player in this direction,” he said. “We do not need monitoring for the sake of monitoring,” the Reintegration Minister said “We need a mechanism which will be effective. The main thing is that the monitoring is followed by concrete results. People who at the risk of their lives and health tell the monitors the truth about the situation there [in Abkhazia and South Ossetia] should see that they are not only heard, but that some specific results follow,” Iakobashvili said after the meeting with Jagland.

As part of his visit to Georgia, his first since he was appointed CoE Secretary General in September 2009, the Norwegian diplomat also visited the village of Ergneti, at the administrative border with the de facto South Ossetia.

Concern was expressed by some Georgian analysts about the Secretary General’s approach to Georgian-Russian relations. One, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that since Jagland’s appointment, Russia is no longer obliged to commit itself to abandoning the concept of a privileged sphere of interest in its near abroad, as no mention of this was included in the report drawn up by the new Secretary General. Nor was their any mention of Moscow being asked to commit itself to resolve the border conflicts by peaceful means. It was also expressed concern that the Secretary General had only got round to visiting Tbilisi months after visiting Moscow in December 2009. “In diplomatic terms this is a bad sign,” he said.

In its statement released on June 29, the Georgian Foreign Ministry also said that “the Georgian authorities plan to share with the CoE leadership their position on the forward-looking approach of the Secretary General regarding the consequences of the war between the Russian Federation and Georgia. The Ministry expects that these consultations will shed more light on some outstanding issues related to the reporting system of the Secretary General.”