TBILISI, DFWatch–A Russian member of parliament will be allowed to attend a meeting of the parliamentary assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Tbilisi between July 1 and 5, although he has violated a law in Georgia that bans visits to the two breakaway territories Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin Wednesday called on the Georgian government to abolish the law on occupation, as it prohibits Russian parliamentarians from attending the OSCE parliamentary assembly session in Tbilisi. Karasin made this statement in Geneva after meeting Zurab Abashidze, the Prime Minister’s special representative for Russian relations.
“Official representatives of Russia and ordinary citizens must be protected from any complications related to the so-called law on occupied territories. Several tourists have been harmed because of the law. We need solid guarantees, or it wouldbe better if they abolished this law. It will make it easier to have contacts,” Karasin said, adding that he discussed this issue with Abashize.
MPs from the parliamentary majority are not ruling out the possibility of amending the law on occupied territories. According to Gia Volsky, head of the Georgian Dream faction, the details of the legislative amendments are unknown, but they are considering making an exception to allow the Russian delegation to attend the OSCE meeting in Tbilisi.
Volsky said that Georgia has received urgent notices about this issue from partner countries and the parliamentary delegation of OSCE has to give Russian parliamentarians an opportunity to attend the session.
“There could be a person in this delegation who might have violated the law about occupied territories. It is also possible that we amend the law and allow an exception,” Volsky said.
Georgia’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani said the government is not planning to revise the law, but will take into account the OSCE’s desires and principles, that every OSCE member state should be able to participate in an event organized by OSCE, not by Georgia,” Zalkaliani said.
The law on occupied territories was passed in October, 2008. It prohibits entering Abkhazia and South Ossetia without going through Georgia. This means that if a foreigner or a person without citizenship goes to these regions from the Russian side, he or she might be jailed for up to four years.
After the change of the government in 2012, Paata Zakareishvli, State Minister of Reconciliation and Civil Equality, began talks about softening the law. He prepared a draft bill which would mean that offenders would only be given a 400 lari fine instead of being jailed.
Zakareishvili’s bill was passed at the first hearing in parliament on May 17, 2013, but not made into law because the process was dragged out and it never reached the second stage.
During the presidential election in 2013, two Russian members of parliament wanted to viisit Georgia along with a delegation from the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, but sionce they had offended the law on occupied territories they were not allowed to enter the country.