Russia calls for Georgia to restart dialogue

RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mordasov
The head of the Russian delegation to PACE has called for the Georgian side to restart dialogue, while comparing the 2008 Georgia-Russia conflict to the current international effort in Libya.

­Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Russian delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the lower house of the Russian Parliament said on Wednesday that Russia considers the Georgian people as its friend. But he noted that the Georgian side is constantly pushing PACE into considering the events of the August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia.

“Back then, Saakashvili tried to do to the people he thought were his own the same that Gaddafi is currently trying to do in Libya. Russia reacted the same way the international community is reacting to the events in Libya,” the Russian official said.

Kosachev approved as a whole of the report on Georgia, prepared by PACE rapporteurs and presented to the members of the session, but noted that it lacked the Georgian opposition’s evaluations of what is going on in the country. “I have over 50 testimonies that say that there are political prisoners in Georgia,” the Russian parliamentarian said.

Another Russian official, deputy head of the Russian delegation in PACE Leonid Slutskiy said that though Georgia has done a lot since 1999 to promote democratic standards there still is a lot to be done. The official also called upon the Georgian authorities to boost the dialogue with Russia as it is stated in the Charter of the Council of Europe.

He reminded that the Georgian side refuses to participate in the work of the PACE commission on overcoming the consequences of the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia and also shunned the special hearings on the subject held in Paris on January 17. “This causes regret. The ‘empty chair’ policy and ignoring of the dialogue has never led to a result,” Slutskiy said.

Georgia insists on its position that the states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are parts of Georgian territory. When President Saakashvili attempted to bring South Ossetia under his rule by military force in 2008 there were numerous casualties among the civilian population and among Russian peacekeepers stationed in the region under an international treaty. The Russian military had to intervene and quickly rebuffed the attack. After this, Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and entered the treaties with both states that allowed military presence for peacekeeping purposes. In response, Georgia accused Russia of occupation.

Russia’s move, together with the unwillingness of the Georgian authorities to recognize the independence of the newly emerged states, effectively blocks Georgia’s much wanted participation in NATO. Therefore, Georgia is still blocking Russia’s entry into the WTO.

Following the debates, the Parliamentary Assembly on Wednesday approved the resolution on Georgia in which it was noted that Tbilisi authorities made “significant efforts” in honoring their remaining obligations and “considerable progress” was achieved since the last monitoring report in 2008. At the same time, the resolution read that the monitoring procedure would continue “pending further progress” on key issues.

The resolution also condemned the continuing human rights violations as a result of the 2008 war, including the grave violations of the principle of freedom of movement and right of refugees to return, a point earlier raised by South Ossetia.

It stressed that the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections will be a test for the consolidation of a mature, more inclusive and robust democratic system in the country and recommended that Georgia adopts an entirely new election code.