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OSCE Summit: Shevardnadze Wants Bolder Action Against Violent Regimes

  • Roland Eggleston

Lisbon, 2 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Georgia's president Eduard Shevardnadze has told the European security summit that governments must be bolder in combatting illegal and violent governments.

He said it was hard to believe some of the things which were taking place at the end of the 20th century, including some events in his own country.

He mentioned specifically "local wars, the sum total of whose devastations may eventually match global-scale destruction". He also condemned "militant nationalism or aggressive separatism whose brutalities are no less than those of the Nazis."

Shevardnadze said he represented a country where these things were personal experiences, not just something seen on television. As such he had a right to ask how the international community was responding. The answer was not encouraging.

"We are appeasing criminal regimes and making them equal to legitimate governments. By closing our eyes to their actions we allow a creeping legitimization of ethnic cleansings and territorial misappropriations. We fear calling genocide by its name and we are shy to name the perpetrators of crimes against humanity," he said.

He said the result was tragedy -- in his own country from Abkhazia to the north Caucasus.

Shevardnadze called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to establish dimensions which would protect common values, including the cultural heritage, and rule out any kind of conflict.

"Not the least of these dimensions should be the responsibility for even a minor challenge to our common security," he said. "Anyone -- whether a regime, a group of people or even a state daring to encroach on European peace should face the inevitability of punishment."

He suggested that as a means of doing so, the OSCE should consider making the 10 principles agreed in Helsinki in 1975 a politically-binding document. At present they have no legal force although they are often quoted. The principles cover territorial integrity, sovereignty, non-aggression, human rights, minority rights and religious rights.

Shevardnadze asked the other heads of state and government: "Is the time not ripe to start thinking of a new Helsinki whose document would become the supreme European law, a constitution of Europe for the 21st century."