ST. PETERSBURG, March 26. /TASS/. Russia is not at present considering the issue of suspending its membership of European human rights watchdog the Council of Europe, a senior Russian diplomat said on Thursday.
Speaking at a forum in St. Petersburg, Ivan Soltanovsky, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's European Cooperation Department, said: "It's a difficult question. We are not putting it this way for now. We have our contractual obligations that are to be fulfilled."
"If we are talking about the parliamentary component, PACE [the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe], there is indeed a serious crisis there," Soltanovsky told journalists, adding that: "The situation also remains difficult in the Council of Europe. But there is no question at the moment of us walking out."
"The simplest thing would be just to go out with a bang. But no one wants it," he said. "We should hold our ground on all existing international platforms. The Council of Europe is a very important international platform and one of the pillars of the European architecture. We need to use all available tools."
The diplomat noted that "Russia cannot ignore the most acute crisis in PACE, connected with discriminatory measures taken against the Russian delegation".
"These decisions are unacceptable," he said. "But we will hope that our point of view will be better understood in the course of our further work within the Council of Europe."
Last year, PACE, the parliamentary arm of the 47-nation Council of Europe, which promotes democracy and human rights across the continent, stripped Russia of voting rights following Crimea’s accession to the country.
It suspended both Russia's right to sit on its governing bodies as well as Russian participation in election observer missions. Russian parliamentary delegates left the April session before its official completion as a gesture of protest and refused to take part in future PACE activities, staying away from the assembly's summer and autumn sessions.
At the January session, PACE extended its sanctions against Russia’s delegation until April. In response, Moscow severed contact with the group for another year.
Delegation chief Alexei Pushkov said Russia was now pulling out until the end of 2015, adding that the PACE's decision raised the issue of whether his country should quit the Council of Europe altogether.