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Russia Demands Access to PACE for Abkhazia, S.Ossetia (22.04.13)

A deputy head of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Leonid Slutsky, demanded on Monday that Georgia’s breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia be granted access to PACE activities on a par with Kosovo.

“The Russian delegation demands that Abkhazia and South Ossetia be given similar rights as Kosovo parliamentarians,” Slutsky, who chairs the Russian State Duma’s committee for CIS affairs and ties with compatriots, said as he was speaking in PACE.

The Russian lower house lawmaker said the PACE Bureau earlier agreed to grant Kosovo parliamentarians the right to work in PACE commissions and attend plenary sessions without the right to vote.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The international community is divided on the issue of Serbia’s independence. Most NATO and EU members have recognized it, while Serbia, Russia and some other countries have not.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in August 2008 over South Ossetia, after which Tbilisi broke off diplomatic ties with Moscow. Russia recognized both republics as independent shortly after the war, but most nations consider Abkhazia and South Ossetia part of Georgia’s territory.

Slutsky recalled that PACE had adopted in 2009 Resolution 1647 on the consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia, in which it tasked its Bureau to set up a special committee, in which both Georgian and Russian MPs would discuss their differences and develop specific proposals to address the consequences of the war.

The Assembly said in that resolution that it would also “welcome the possible participation of representatives of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian communities, from both the de facto authorities and those that favor integration with Georgia, in the work of the committee.”

“That decision has never been implemented. The dialog has not been started up until now,” Slutsky said.

“Why does Kosovo have preferences and these two countries do not?” he asked. “Why is dialog of the same level as for Kosovo representatives not held with them?”

Slutsky said representatives of countries that recognized Kosovo constitute a majority in PACE, but added that “from the viewpoint of democratic norms, that majority should not block dialog with representatives of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”