A delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) which has arrived in Georgia on a three-day visit, has gone to the Pankisi Gorge, where it will meet with representatives of the authorities.
The trip to Pankisi on Thursday was preceded by the participation of parliamentarians from a number of European countries, Russia and Georgia in a conference on the situation in the Gorge. The meeting which was held behind closed doors, was also attended by Georgia's interior and state security ministers.
As Horst Schade, executive assistant of PACE Secretary General, said after the conference, "our main aim is to get acquainted on the spot with the situation in Pankisi and to see whether or not militants are there." "Depending upon that it will be possible to forecast the further course of events in the Gorge," he said.
Koba Narchemashvili, Interior Minister of Georgia, declared in his turn that the conference discussed special measures which the law-enforcement bodies of Georgia have already carried out in the Pankisi Gorge, as well as further prospects of improving the situation in the region. He said that the participants in the conference were particularly interested in the results of cooperation between Russian and Georgian special services in Pankisi.
The participants in the meeting also discussed the statement by Dmitry Rogozin, head of a State Duma (Lower House of the Russian Parliament) Committee in which he did not rule out that the Chechens detained in Georgia could have possessed information on the October 23 act of terrorism in Moscow, and their timely extradition to Russia could have prevented the seizure of hostages.
State Duma deputy Yuri Sharandin, member of the PACE delegation from Russia, confirmed to journalists that this question was really discussed. He said that "the Georgian side refutes the possibility of this connection, but we have a somewhat different opinion."
The delegation consisting of parliamentarians of a number of European countries, as well as Russia and Georgia arrived on the previous day in Tbilisi at the joint proposal of Russian and Georgian parliamentarians that was expressed at the PACE September session in Strasbourg.
According to a report from PACE's Strasbourg headquarters, the aim of the visit of the delegation of Europarliamentarians is "to contribute to the peaceful resolution of the conflict between Russia and Georgia over the possible presence of Chechen militants in the Pankisi Gorge.
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