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PACE, Martynov agree they have differences

Envoys from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have announced intent to return the special-guest status to the Belarus delegation. This move is to break the 12-year-old absence of Belarus at the assembly.
The four-day-long consultations in Minsk have resulted in a certain compromise between PACE and the Belarusian foreign ministry. “We and (Belarus foreign minister) Mr Martynov have agreed that we have differences in our positions”, Goran Lindblad, who was heading the PACE delegation in Belarus, said at a news conference after the talks. The bottom line is that the Belarusian foreign ministry refuses to delegate even one opposition representative to PACE. Martynov has formal grounds for that, as no Belarusian oppositionist is a member of the House of Representatives. Only national legislators can be delegated to the Council of Europe's parliamentary body. Europe is not satisfied with this situation. But Andrea Rigoni, PACE Rapporteur on Belarus, still proposes European parliamentarians to break the 12-year isolation and let Belarusians join the work of the Parliamentary Assembly. Goran Lindblad: “For PACE it is very important to find a possibility so that opposition representatives are included into the Belarus delegation. There is no other country in the world, apart from China, maybe, where opposition is not represented in the parliament. Even in Iran, it is there. By inviting Belarus, we demand that opposition members become part of the Belarus delegation. It does not make any big difference how we are going to call such a delegation. The Belarus delegation can join as a special guest, because special guests enjoy special conditions. Thus, together with Belarusian deputies, we can also invite opposition representative to work at PACE”. According to Goran Lindbland, Europe regards the fall 2008 legislative elections in Belarus as “a surprising thing”. “We don’t consider them free or fair. And this is another reason why we put forward these demands”. Commenting on the remark by Belarus foreign minister Sergei Martynov that Belarus is not going to apply for a special-guest status at PACE, Lindbland said: “Every country is free to decide whether it should join the Council of Europe. But I believe the time has come to return Belarus into the family of European nations”.


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