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Council Of Europe: Differences Aired Concerning Caucasian Conflicts

Strasbourg, 27 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - A committee of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly yesterday held what it called a "seminar" on conflicts in the three Caucasian nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. All three have applied for membership in the Council, which already counts 16 Central and East European states among its 40 members.

The four-hour meeting was held behind closed doors at Council headquarters in Strasbourg. It was attended by members of the three countries' Special Guest delegations to the Assembly as well as by most of the 44 members of the sponsoring Committee, which deals with Council relations with European non-member states.

The Committee's Chairman, Jean Seitlinger of France, told our correspondent that the seminar reflected strong differences between Georgian and Russian representatives over the question of Abkhazia. Similarly, Seitlinger said, there were clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani delegates over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. He said that "these verbal clashes were expected."

Seitlinger called the seminar "only a first step" in the Parliamentary Assembly's efforts to narrow differences among the three countries over the long-standing Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh disputes. He said the next step would be an April visit by the committee to Georgia, when members hoped to visit the Abkhazian capital of Sukumi as well as Georgia's capital Tbilisi.

Parliamentarians from the three Caucasian nations were awarded guest status at the Assembly last year. The status allows them to participate in the Assembly's work without voting rights.

Today the full Parliamentary Assembly began a week-long Winter session in Strasbourg.