‘When war breaks out, politics has failed'

30 September 2008

‘When war breaks out, politics has failed'

Today the Council of Europe began an extended debate in Strasbourg over the consequences of this summer's war between Georgia and Russia. As Chair of the United European Left group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), SP Senate leader Tiny Kox was one of those who spoke first in the debate. Senator Kox drew attention to the contradiction between on the one side the suffering people of the affected region, the dead and wounded and those put to flight, and on the other the cynical attitude of the political leaders involved. "In Moscow, Tbilisi and Tsinvali they told me last week that absolutely nothing wrong had occurred and that they had only considered the interests of the people," said Senator Kox, in a reference to his participation in the PACE fact-finding mission which was sent to Russia, South Ossetia and Georgia to prepare the ground for the debate. "But when war breaks out, politics and politicians must have failed."

Tiny Kox “The month of August demonstrated that it takes only a brief war to ruin so many people's lives for good." This was how Kox summarised his feelings when he looked back over the last few weeks. Asserting that Georgia had begun the war on the pretext that it was seeking to restore the country's constitutional order, he noted that the Georgian army had pursued this goal by means of a massive bombardment of the South Ossetian capital of Tsinvali and shooting at Russian peace-keeping troops, who were present under UN mandate. As a result Russia intervened militarily in order to protect South Ossetia and Russian citizens living there from Georgia. "All of that sounds understandable, but when it led to the terrible results which we have seen, it shows that the arguments used were invalid."

Senator Kox went on to call, on behalf of his political group, for an international independent enquiry to be backed by the Council of Europe. "What went wrong and why," the enquiry would ask, and "who bears responsibility, who is going, as far as is possible, to repair the damage caused?"

Such an enquiry, Kox argued, must extend to the role played in the conflict by other countries and by international organisations, by which they were at least partly responsibility for the failure to forestall war. These included the Council of Europe itself, of which both Georgia and Russia were members, but also the European Union, NATO and the United States. The US had, Kox said, paid for and trained the Georgian army, readying it for war.

He went on to emphasise the importance of an enquiry for discovering just what happened so that it could be prevented from occurring again. “Now that we have entered a period of the worst international relations since the end of the Cold War, we are living in dangerous times. Comparable conflicts could quickly turn into new wars and it is our duty to do everything to prevent that," he said.

According to Kox, Georgia, Russia and South Ossetia must, as rapidly as possible, come to an agreement which would give international and national aid organisations the opportunity to offer their help to all of the war's victims. Security in the former war zone must be assured and refugees given the chance to return home in safety. From now on international law must be respected rather than treated with contempt. This would contribute to the reconstruction of the rule of law, human rights and democracy in this part of Europe.

130 parliamentarians from the Council of Europe's forty-seven member states were present for the debate, an all-time record. The debate will continue on Thursday, ending with a vote on a resolution currently in preparation. The resolution will include a statement regarding what the consequences of the war should be for the Council of Europe and for the two member states involved.

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