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Georgian Parliament To Debate Meskhetians' Return Soon --> Georgian Conflict Resolution Minister Khaindrava (file photo) (ITAR-TASS) 31 January 2006 -- Georgia's Conflict Resolution Minister Giorgi Khaindrava said today that the Georgian parliament will this spring examine a bill that would facilitate the return of the Meskhetians, a 300,000-strong people that Soviet leader Josef Stalin deported to Central Asia in 1944.

Khaindrava made the announcement in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, where he was meeting with representatives of the Meskhetian community.

Azerbaijan is home to some 70,000 Meskhetians who settled there after the 1960s. Other Meskhetian communities live in Central Asia, Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey. Only a few individuals have returned to Georgia.

Of all the Soviet peoples exiled during World War II, the Meskhetians are the only ones who remain barred from returning to their former homeland. Local populations and many Georgian politicians argue that their return could destabilize the country.

The Council of Europe, of which Georgia is a member, has given Tbilisi until 2011 to repatriate the Meskhetians.

(Novosti-Gruziya, Prime News, Turan)

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