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Former CIS: Council Of Europe Cites Refugee Problems

Strasbourg, 25 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly has expressed concern at what it sees as a worsening refugee problem throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

The assembly approved a resolution yesterday that said some nine million people had become refugees in the CIS. It cited as the cause worsening socio-economic conditions, civil armed conflicts, ultra-nationalism and disregard for minority rights. The resolution was passed based on a report by Russian delegate Vadim Filimonov.

The resolution called on Moldova, Ukraine and Russia, all current members of the 40-member pan-European body, to ratify as soon as possible the Council of Europe's general convention on minority rights as well as sign the European Charter on Local Languages.

The assembly said it would look carefully at the local refugee situation in considering whether to admit Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to the Strasbourg-based Council. It said the Caucasus had one of the worst refugee problems outside the former Yugoslavia.

The resolution said there were some 900,000 refugees in Azerbaijan and about 300,000 others in both Armenia and Georgia. It called on Baku and Yerevan to put aside differences and work together to repatriate the Azerbaijani refugees, most of whom fled as a result of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The parliamentary assembly also called on Tbilisi to become a signatory to the 1951 European Convention on Refugees. It also urged Georgia to create favorable conditions for repatriating ethnic Georgian Muslims, known as Meskhetians. The Meshketians were expelled from Georgia following World War II, with most being resettled in Central Asian states.