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State Duma speaker, PACE faction leaders discuss relations

July 14, 2014, 21:25 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The PACE faction leaders also met with members of the Russian delegation to the Assembly

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Alexei Pushkov

Alexei Pushkov

© ITAR-TASS/Sergei Fadeichev

MOSCOW, July 14. /ITAR-TASS/. State Duma (lower house of parliament) Speaker Sergei Naryshkin met with the leaders of three factions in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Monday, July 14, to discuss relations between Russia and this European organisation.

Pedro Agramunt of the Group of the European People's Party (EPP/CD), Tiny Kox of the Group of the Unified European Left (UEL), and Jordi Xucla of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) took part in the meeting which “focused on relations between Russia and the PACE and was held in an atmosphere of mutual interest”, a Duma spokesperson said.

“The exchange of opinions between the interlocutors was open and constructive,” he added.

The PACE faction leaders also met with members of the Russian delegation to the Assembly to discuss “how to make relations between Moscow and Strasbourg more constructive”, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs and Ties with Compatriots Leonid Slutsky told ITAR-TASS.

At the same time, he noted that as long as the PACE sanctions against Russia were in effect, the Russian delegation would not return to full-format work in the organisation.

State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Alexei Pushkov said earlier he was hopeful that Russia’s mandate in the PACE would be restored in January 2015.

“I hope we will be able to prepare conditions for Russia’s mandate to be resumed in 2015 without any sanctions,” Pushkov said.

He noted that the mandates of all parliamentary delegations would be renewed in January 2015 “regardless of whether sanctions were applied or not”. “If the PACE understands that the recommencement of sanctions will not allow Russia to take part in its work for another year and if the crisis over Ukraine subsides, we will resume full-scale work,” the MP said.

“Unfortunately, we have not seen any major progress or official statements to this effect so far,” he added.

Pushkov said the Russian delegation would most likely not attend PACE sessions until the end of 2014.

“With sanctions against us still in force, we refuse to take part in the PACE work. Since the decision on the sanctions will be effective until the end of the year, the Russian delegation is unlikely to take part in the work of the PACE until the sanctions are lifted,” he said.

In his opinion, the PACE “has betrayed its principles”.

Pushkov said he expected “more and more PACE members to understand this with time”.


PACE's resolution on Russia

On April 10, the PACE passed a resolution that will keep the Russian delegation silent and excluded it from all PACE governing bodies until the end of the year for the reunification with Crimea. The resolution was passed by a 145-21 vote with 22 abstentions. In reply, the Russian delegation walked out of the session room.

Pushkov stressed that the most extremist attitudes had not prevailed in the PACE. “The proposal to evict Russia from PACE did not prevail in the final run, as only 55 delegates voted for it and this proves the majority of them have retained common sense,” Pushkov said.

However, the decision to limit all rights of the Russian delegation, including its participation in the Bureau, the right to vote and participate in monitoring missions is “the crudest possible encroachment on our delegation’s rights”, he said. “We believe this fact alone furnishes us with enough grounds for considering the prospects for further participation in PACE activities,” he said.

“We will not participate in the further work of this session and will reserve the right consider the question of further participation of Russia in the PACE,” Pushkov said.

Slutsky, who is the deputy head of the Russian delegation to the PACE, believes that the PACE decisions to restrict the Russian parliamentarians’ powers “look more like those of the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO but not of the Assembly which is called upon to bring together the East the West and build Europe free of dividing lines”.

“This is an unspeakable show of double standards, a pathologically biased approach. The redline, up to which we considered it possible to continue working in the PACE, was crossed by passing an amendment that deprived us of the right to participate in the Assembly’s governing bodies and monitoring missions,” he said.

“We want to be here but we cannot agree with the infringement of the rights and authority of great Russia,” Slutsky stressed.

Pushkov said Russia “is ready to be in the PACE if our colleagues are prepared to conduct a dialogue” but “if our colleagues are prepared only to yell, make noise and condemn, we will not hold on to the PACE and we made this clear”.

The PACE passed a resolution on Ukraine which laid all the blame for the crisis in that country on Russia.

The Russian delegation voiced strong protest against the resolution. “This is an appalling document, which calls white black and black white. It boils down to defaming Russia and its actions in Crimea, while supporting utterly unacceptable fantasies,” Slutsky said.

However, Duma Speaker Naryshkin said Russia had no intention to quit its membership in the PACE and regarded the Council of Europe and the PACE as “important forums for discussion”.

Naryshkin said Russia would watch the PACE activities closely.

He said Russia was disappointed by the PACE decision to silence its delegation until the end of the year but would continue dialogue with this European organisation and has no intention to secede from it.

Having adopted the sanctions against Russia, the PACE “has isolated itself from dialogue” the speaker said and called it “a cowardly position” indicating that European parliamentarians “are afraid of hearing our arguments”. However, Russia “is ready for dialogue, is seeking it and is not afraid of defending its point of view”, he said.

Naryshkin recalled the principles set out in the PACE Charter: Europe free of dividing lines. “We would like this organisation to do what it is intended do,” he added.

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