1.   The Assembly considers that maintaining the cease-fires, in force in the Transcaucasian conflicts, particularly in Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh since May 1994, should help to bring about political stabilisation in the zones of tension.

2.   Following the various hearings held by its Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries, it hopes that rapid, decisive progress towards a political settlement of these conflicts will be made.

3.   The three Transcaucasian countries - Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia - all hold special guest status and have applied for full membership of the Council of Europe. The Assembly considers that a genuine political will by all the parties to settle these conflicts would help to speed up the accession procedures.

4.   The Assembly appeals to all parties directly or indirectly involved in these conflicts to participate constructively in the mediation work conducted on the ground, particularly by the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

5.   Even though these two conflicts are different in nature, the Assembly stresses that their political settlement must be negotiated by all parties involved, drawing in particular on the following principles, which are based upon the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and the 1990 Paris Charter:

i.    inviolability of borders;

ii.    guaranteed security for all peoples in the areas concerned, particularly through multinational peacekeeping forces;

iii.   extensive autonomy status for Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh to be negotiated by all the parties concerned;

iv.   right of return of refugees and displaced persons and their reintegration respecting human rights.

6.   The Assembly considers that in the Transcaucasian countries, the Council of Europe should make a genuine contribution to establishing the rule of law, pluralist democracy, the protection of human rights and the creation of a social market economy.

A.      In connection with Abkhazia,

7.   The Assembly is interested to note certain signs of rapprochement between the positions of Tbilisi and Sukhumi and hopes that a negotiated political settlement will soon be reached on the basis of the above-mentioned principles.

8.   It hopes that the efforts of the parties concerned and also of the United Nations, the OSCE and the Russian Federation, will soon lead to an institutional balance acceptable to both Tbilisi and Sukhumi, so that the refugees can return under optimum security conditions and the populations of the region can return to peace and economic prosperity.

B.      With regard to Nagorno-Karabakh,

9.   The Assembly welcomes the continued dialogue between Armenian and Azeri parliamentarians, particularly as part of the seminar on the conflicts in Transcaucasia organised by its Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries in Strasbourg on 26 January 1997, and welcomes in this connection the resumption of the activities of the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh, which it encourages to continue negotiations with a view to securing an early settlement of the conflict.

10.  It appeals to all parties to the conflict to intensify direct negotiations with a view to achieving a political settlement to the conflict guaranteeing restitution of occupied territories and the return of refugees and displaced persons, satisfactory alternative status for Nagorno-Karabakh as well as its security.

11.  Finally, it expresses the wish that in the long run the three Transcaucasian countries - Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia - envisage the creating of a community of Transcaucasian states and the setting up of a joint parliamentary assembly.

Assembly debate on 22 April 1997 (10th and 11th Sittings) (see Doc. 7793, report of the Committee on Relations with European Non-Member Countries, rapporteur: Mr Seitlinger).

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