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Tensions build over Russian absence at PACE Committee meeting

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, September 17
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia released a statement concerning the Russian Parliamentarians’ Refusal to Attend Meeting of PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights in Tbilisi on September 16-17. The MFA Spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said that the delegation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation to the PACE had to attend the meeting with others but on September 10 the Georgian side informed the Russian delegation that PACE Committee member and State Duma Deputy Sergey Markov would be denied an entry visa. The denial was on the grounds that he had visited the occupied – Abkhazia and Tskhinvali – Regions of Georgia without the prior permission of the Government of Georgia.

“To avoid possible new provocations against members of the Russian delegation in the territory of Georgia, all the Russian parliamentarians had to withdraw from the meeting of the Committee. Unfortunately, in its anti-Russian, heat of the moment regime of Saakashvili knows no bounds and is willing to sacrifice even the normal hosting of international events on its territory. It is clear that this policy has nothing to do with the democratic norms and standards of the Council of Europe and with the right of citizens to free movement,” Nesterenko said recalling the Article 13 of the General Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the Council of Europe stressing that “no administrative or other restriction shall be imposed on the free movement to and from the place of meeting of Representatives.”

Stressing that the Georgian side had not accepted the Russian occupation, the First Deputy Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia Mikheil Machavariani recollected the CoE based resolutions and mechanisms which Russia still has not obliged. “Russian occupants have placed military bases on the Georgian territories – Abkhazia and Tskhinvali - so that there are Russian armies within 30-35 kilometers of the Georgian Parliament. Unfortunately none of the international organizations have managed to enter the territories and spread their control there,” Machavariani reminded the CoE members. Speaking of the strategy concerning the occupied territories, the First Deputy Chairman highlighted the importance of the international organizations in fulfilling its defined goals.

The Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Akaki Minashvili explained that the blocking of the Russian Delegation had been defined by the Law on Occupied Territories. “The foreign citizen who visits the Georgian occupied territories without the Georgian Government’s permission loses the right to enter Georgia. It’s common knowledge that the senior MP and a member of the PACE Legal Committee Sergey Markov had been in the occupied Abkhazia. The decision of the rest of the delegation on whether or not to participate had been up to them,” Minashvili stated.

Analyst Gia Khukhashvili told The Messenger that the Government of Georgia has taken itself down a blind alley. “It’s propaganda when our Government expresses the constant readiness to negotiate with Russia but blocks the Russian Delegation’s visit to our country. I think it is a negative trend – Russia has caused lots of damage to Georgia but one should prove the truth, not hide... I doubt that the Council of Europe would approve the step made by the Georgian side,” explained the analyst.