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Moscow Times
September 30, 2009
Georgia Feud Erupts In Council of Europe
By Nikolaus von Twickel

The Council of Europe became a parliamentary battleground in a new dispute over Georgia on Tuesday.

Russian lawmakers reacted with anger and indignation over motions that accused Moscow of continued aggression in Georgia and called for the Russian delegation to the council’s Parliamentary Assembly to be stripped of its voting rights.

The two documents were forwarded during the assembly’s fall session, currently held at the council’s headquarters in Strasbourg, France.

The first, which was still being debated late Tuesday, demanded that Russia let international observers enter the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Moscow says that since it has recognized the two republics as independent, the question has to be put directly to them.

“Last year, Georgia’s president could not return South Ossetia by force, and now the Saakashvili regime is trying to use the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly for this. … But he will fail,” said Leonid Slutsky, a State Duma deputy for the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and deputy head of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee, Interfax reported.

Moscow has cut all ties to the administration of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili since the war.

The second motion, signed by 72 of the Parliamentary Assembly’s 321 deputies, argues that Russia should lose its voting rights because it remains in blatant breach of the EU-brokered cease-fire agreement over South Ossetia and has not prevented ethnic cleansing there after the war. It will be debated Thursday.

Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the Russian delegation and chairman of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee, said the motion’s backers were the same people who liked to remind Moscow of Stalinist crimes.

Yet Georgia, in its “so-called internationally recognized borders” is also a Stalinist crime because Stalin, who was Georgian, had included the Ossetian and Abkhaz people against their will in his native republic, said Kosachyov, a member of United Russia, Interfax reported.

He added, “A year ago the whole world watched Mr. Saakashvili tasting his tie. The day after tomorrow, you can eat your own tie, tied around your neck by the Stalin’s modern heir.”

Russian officials mocked Saakashvili after he was caught on camera with his tie in his mouth last year.

The dispute overshadowed Tuesday’s election of Norwegian Thorbjorn Jagland as the new secretary-general of the Council of Europe, a human rights and democracy watchdog comprising 47 nations.

Jagland, a former prime minister of Norway, obtained 165 of 245 votes cast, the council said on its web site. The only other contestant, former Polish Prime Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz got 80 votes. Jagland will be sworn in for a five-year term on Oct. 1.

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