STRASBOURG, January 25 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Georgia held their first unmediated meeting in five years this week, after the two sides attended the winter session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) to discuss a report on humanitarian issues arising from the war fought between them in 2008.
Russian and Georgian forces clashed in August that year after Georgian forces moved into South Ossetia, which Tbilisi claims is a breakaway region, but which had enjoyed de facto independence after an earlier separatist conflict with Georgia in 1992. Russian forces pushed the Georgian army out of South Ossetia, prompting ethnic Georgians in the area to flee.
The two sides made an unexpected statement of “possible dialog on humanitarian issues,” during a discussion on a report by Sweden’s Tina Acketoft on Russian-Georgian relations after the five-day conflict in South Ossetia in 2008.
The Russian delegation, however, stressed that dialog will concern humanitarian issues only and ruled out political discussions with the Georgian delegation to PACE.
The PACE session ended with a resolution, largely based on Acketoft’s report, that urgent humanitarian needs have been dealt with following the conflict, but significant long-term humanitarian challenges remain to be solved.
The resolution says “a slow but sure freezing of the conflict” is underway, which “makes progress on the humanitarian front difficult.”
“The preoccupation on all sides, about status issues, access across the administrative boundary line (ABL) and terminology issues poisons the possibility of progress on the humanitarian front,” the resolution says. “These issues are political in nature and should be secondary and not primary in any humanitarian discussion.”
The two sides have also agreed to hold an extended meeting during the PACE spring session due in April.
The PACE session also discussed a Russian ban on US nationals adopting Russian children which came into force on January 1. PACE General Rapporteur on Children Marlene Rupprecht said she was worried Russian children have become hostages of transatlantic diplomatic tensions and called on the Russian authorities to revoke the law.
She said the law, passed by the State Duma in December 2012, could affect large numbers of children, given that about 650,000 Russian children are currently estimated to be growing up without parental care and about 60,000 have been placed in American families in the past 20 years.