The head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs met Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigol Vashadze, Minister for Reintegration Issues Temur Iakobashvili, and Prisons Minister Khatuna Kalmakhelidze. She also had discussions with ombudsman Giorgi Tugushi, and with representatives of the judicial system, members of the opposition and representatives of NGOs.
The discussions centred on subjects within the Council of Europe's remit, the priorities being the safeguarding of human rights and the promotion of the rule of law and democratic structures. At the end of the discussions, Mrs Calmy-Rey noted that Georgia had made progress in the fulfilment of its obligations as a Council of Europe member State. She invited the authorities to complete the remaining legislative amendments, particularly concerning the protection of minorities and the signature of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. She emphasised how important it was for the forthcoming local elections and the election campaign to be free and transparent.
The Council of Europe has given high priority to the consequences of the conflict in Georgia ever since the hostilities in the summer of 2008. Mrs Calmy-Rey welcomed the commitment and success of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, whose activities in recent months had been centred on cases of persons who were in detention or had disappeared. She encouraged her interlocutors to continue to support his efforts and, on behalf of the Council of Europe, she offered to make available experts to assist with the search for disappeared persons.
Observation of the human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict was another contribution that the Council of Europe could make. Finally, Mrs Calmy-Rey called on the authorities to complete the exchange with the other parties to the conflict of prisoners and of the remains of victims of the conflict.
The Council of Europe is represented by an office in Tbilisi. As well as making regular reports, the Council of Europe is supporting a number of projects in Georgia, particularly in respect of reform of the judicial system, criminal justice system and election legislation. Other projects relate to the needs of victims of the conflict (such as displaced persons).
After these talks in Tbilisi, Micheline Calmy-Rey will meet the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday evening in Moscow for a working dinner. The two ministers will discuss bilateral and international issues, notably the representation of Russian and Georgian interests within the protective power mandates of Switzerland, as well as issues related to the Swiss chairmanship of the Council of Europe.
Address for enquiries:
Tel.: (+41) 031 322 31 53
Fax: (+41) 031 324 90 47