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Conference of CE parliament chairs opens in Strasbourg with Russia’s participation

September 15, 2016, 3:13 UTC+3 STRASBOURG

The agenda for the conference includes three main topics: migrant and refugee crisis in Europe, promotion of democracy and human rights, and fight against inciting hate

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© AP Photo/Christian Lutz

STRASBOURG, September 15. /TASS/. The conference of chairpersons of parliaments of Council of Europe (CE) member countries will start in Strasbourg on Thursday. The long-anticipated event will bring together representatives of around 50 countries as it will set the tone for CE discussions in the next year. Russia will take active part in the conference, and Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko will head the Russian delegation.

Russia at conference

President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Pedro Agramunt said he is glad Russian parliamentarians have arrived in Strasbourg. He said Russia’s contribution to the Council of Europe’s activities is important.

The agenda for the conference includes three main topics: migrant and refugee crisis in Europe, promotion of democracy and human rights, and fight against inciting hate. At the bilateral meeting with Matviyenko on Wednesday, Agrmanut also touched upon the situation in Ukraine. He said there may be different assessments of certain aspects of the Ukrainian crisis but Russia and PACE agree on one thing - that it is necessary to put an end to violence and achieve comprehensive implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

Participation in PACE

Some participants in the Strasbourg conference say it is time to adopt a more constructive approach in discussions of Russia’s role. The Russian delegation does not currently participate in PACE’s work. In April 2014, Russia was stripped of its main powers, including the voting right, because of its reunification with Crimea.

"The decision to strip the Russian delegation in PACE of its voting right was a historical mistake that needs to be fixed," Jean-Claude Mignon, member of the French National Assembly, told TASS. "There can be no dialogue if one of the sides is stripped of the right to defend its position," he added.

Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko also noted positive shifts after her meeting with PACE President Pedro Agramunt. "There are grounds for Russia to return to PACE next year," Matviyenko told journalists adding that she believes in the sincerity of PACE leadership’s attempts to bring back the Russian delegation to Strasbourg.

She also said that the discussion on prospects of cooperation between Russia and PACE was "very constructive, very calm, without confrontation." "Everyone understands that this situation is not normal, and that it should be resolved," Matviyenko noted adding that roadmap for Russia’s return to PACE should be coordinated.

Kiev’s position

At the beginning of the week, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin said that Kiev will consider suspending its participation in PACE’s work if the Assembly decides to restore Russia’s powers in the organization. He said he "cannot order" Ukrainian MPs to do this but assured that he "will recommend radical measures" in this case.

Kiev’s statements were negatively assessed ahead of the start of the inter-parliamentary conference in Strasbourg. "Any threats are hardly appropriate here. They only aggravate disagreement and do not benefit anyone," the PACE’s bureau told TASS.

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