Council of Europe Sends Fact-finding Mission to Georgia and Russia

28 August 2008

Council of Europe Sends Fact-finding Mission to Georgia and Russia

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is shortly to send the presidents of five of its political groups on a fact-finding tour of Georgia and Russia. Their purpose will be to gather information on the causes and consequences of the bloody war fought between the two states earlier this month over the secession of Georgian provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Thousands of dead, wounded and fleeing people paid the price of the irresponsible behaviour of both states and their serious breaching of international legal obligations.

Tiny KoxThe fact-finding mission of the five group presidents will serve as preparation for the plenary debates on the war and its aftermath which PACE will hold at the end of September. The debates will include consideration of what if any measures should be taken against the two member states of the Council of Europe.

SP Senator Tiny Kox, president of the left group in the Assembly, is determined to ensure that no one-sided conclusions are drawn or measures proposed which lay blame on just one party. He made this point in a joint meeting of PACE and European Parliament political group presidents in Brussels, called to discuss recent developments in the Caucasus. "The governments of Georgia and Russia bear primary responsibility," said Senator Kox. "President Sakaasvili broke his promise never to use military force to retrieve the rebel provinces. President Medvedev recognised the independence of the provinces with undue haste, despite the fact that earlier this year Russia, in my opinion quite rightly, objected strongly to the overhasty recognition of the Serbian province of Kosovo by countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and the United States.

"But it is not only the governments of Georgia and Russia which have failed to uphold their international obligations. The American government has thrown oil on the flames with its completely irresponsible policies in the Caucasus and eastern Europe. The European Union, as a major trading partner of both countries, did nothing to avert this catastrophe. And the Council of Europe, of which both countries are members, has done just as little to put anything in place which could have prevented it. Because of all that, tension in Europe has risen, rapidly and dangerously. Relations between NATO and Russia are wrecked, the European Union and Russia are at odds with each other, new conflicts threaten to break out with Ukraine and Moldavia, and the Americans have used the situation to push through their plans to build a rocket shield in Poland, in direct opposition to the Russians' views. All involved bear a heavy responsibility for this escalation and have the duty to do all that they can to halt this development and reverse it."

Kox recalled how earlier in the year, together with European Parliament left group president Francis Wurtz, he had described the recognition of Kosovo as "the opening of Pandora's Box". Pointing to the events in Georgia and the menacing escalation of comparable situations in eastern Europe, he noted that his prediction had unfortunately turned out to have been all too true. "We should all be ashamed of ourselves as a result of this. We saw it happening and we let it happen. So now we must do everything we can to prevent things getting still further out of hand in Europe. Otherwise history will judge us harshly."

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