Council of Europe condemns Georgia and Russia

3 October 2008

Council of Europe condemns Georgia and Russia

Georgia and Russia both stand condemned by the Council of Europe for this summer's war between the two countries. After a tough, heated, three day debate in which 120 parliamentarians from forty-seven member states took the floor, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) came to this difficult conclusion. Georgia and Russia are both members of the Council of Europe and thus bound by treaty obligations designed to prevent both war and breaches of human rights.

Both member states are called upon to recognise their responsibility and do everything possible to put right the damage they have each caused. The Parliamentary Assembly will shortly send its President and the Chairs of five political groups to Tbilisi and Moscow, where meetings at the highest level will clarify how the two member states intend to react to the Council of Europe judgement.

Hundreds of dead and wounded, thousands who lost their homes and tens of thousands forced to flee represent the toll of a war which should never have begun. Not only did both countries fail in their responsibilities, but international organisations were at fault in their failure to prevent the war. The role of a number of NATO countries should be further investigated as part of a major international enquiry into the causes and consequences of the August war in the Caucasus, according to the PACE resolution.

SP Senator Tiny Kox, Chair of the United European Left group in the Council of Europe, said that he was happy with the outcome of the debate and the action plan resulting from it. "The claims of both countries that the other was to blame were not accepted. Georgia began the war in conflict with international law and the Russian intervention clashed just as surely with its responsibilities under that same international law. Both countries accuse the other of grave violations of human rights. They must now accept their responsibilities to restore the safety and security of the public and rebuild as far as possible everything which has been destroyed. It is also important that the role of certain NATO countries is investigated. The United States paid for and trained the Georgian army and in so doing paved the way for war. Other NATO countries also supplied weapons, where they would have been better employed exerting as much pressure as possible on both countries to prevent it."

What the result will be of the forthcoming meeting with the Russian and Georgian authorities is, says Senator Kox, impossible to predict. "In Strasbourg the Georgian and Russian delegations were at complete odds. A lot of hard words were exchanged between them. The positive side was that both stayed for the debate and participated in the vote on the final resolution, making it their resolution, too, even if they may not have been in agreement with a number of its conclusions. The political group Chairs want to hear, in Tbilisi and Moscow, in the short term, whether they are prepared to allow international aid into the war zone and to make a start on reconstruction and in the longer term at least that they will not block reconciliation before it starts."

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