BRUSSELS -- The president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has been stripped of his leadership powers after he joined Russian State Duma deputies on a trip to Syria to meet with President Bashar al-Assad.
The Bureau of PACE on April 28 said PACE President Pedro Agramunt is "no longer authorized to undertake any official visits, attend meetings, or make public statements on behalf of the assembly in his capacity as president."
Agramunt, who says he traveled to Syria in his capacity as a Spanish senator, had first gone to Moscow and then boarded a Russian plane to Damascus.
Agramunt is regarded by many as pro-Russian and has worked to bring Moscow back into the fold of the assembly after its delegation was stripped of its voting rights in 2014.
Russia has since boycotted PACE meetings and did not register a delegation for the current PACE session, which started in January.
PACE Senior Vice President Roger Gale said, "The bureau felt it necessary to take these steps" to issue a vote of no confidence and to strip him of his powers because the president "cannot be compelled to resign."
"The president chose not to attend the bureau today and has not presented a letter of resignation," Gale said.
He added, "The standards and principles of the Parliamentary Assembly are more important than any individual member, and the integrity of our assembly must be upheld."
Ukraine's Oleksiy Goncharenko, an assembly member, said, "It is sickening to see that the president of this assembly has been photographed with someone who has gassed his own population," referring to charges that Assad's regime used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.
Agramunt became the president of the Strasbourg-based PACE in January 2016.
PACE is made up of more than 300 members of national parliaments across Europe. It gathers in Strasbourg to discuss matters related to human rights, the rule of law, and anticorruption measures.