May 19, 2006 -- Russia today took over the presidency of the Council of Europe, one of the continent's top rights watchdogs.
At a ceremony in Strasbourg, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov formally took over the presidency from Romania.
Lavrov said Russia intends to prove that is has the right "to be at the helm" of the Council of Europe, and will use the position responsibly.
"We are not going to abuse our presidency functions, we will use them responsibly and will try to work in such a way that the Council of Europe is focused on resolving concrete tasks stemming from its mandate," Lavrov said.
Lavrov also said the Council of Europe should try to establish a dialogue with non-member Belarus, and to try to avoid
isolating that country.
It is the first time Russia is holding the rotating six-month presidency since it joined the body in 1996.