PACE should remove sanctions against Russia by 2019, Jagland says

23 January 2018

Sanctions against the Russian Federation should be removed in order to restore its participation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) by the time of the 2019 summit, Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said in a Jan. 22 address to the assembly. PACE’s rules should be amended in order to “bring onboard” all its member-states, he said, alluding to the sanctions against Russia. “Harmonizing the organization’s rules is a part of our work,” he said. “Achieving this would be the best path to commemorating 70 years of the organization’s founding.” The term “harmonization” refers to removing sanctions from the Russian delegation that were imposed for the illegal annexation of Crimea and military aggression in Donbas, reported the eurointegration.com.ua news site. “Europe should not be divided again. A new division would harm everyone.” Jagland said. He elaborated that Russia can be readmitted based on not having violated PACE’s key priorities forbidding the death penalty, torture, forced labor and slavery.

 

The first meeting will occur this evening of a PACE ad hoc committee to discuss the possibility of Russia returning to the organization, said PACE President Stella Kyriakides, as reported by the eurointegration.com.ua news site. Russian State Duma Deputy Chairman Pyotr Tolstoy and Federation Council International Affairs Committee Head Konstantin Kosachev will arrive in Strasbourg for the meeting, the report said.

 

Kurt Volker, the U.S .special envoy to Ukraine, will meet with his Russian counterpart, Russian presidential adviser Vladislav Surkov, in Dubai on Thursday to discuss the military conflict in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, among other topics. U.S. and European diplomats remain skeptical that Russian President Putin will make a deal, particularly ahead of the country’s March presidential election, the ft.com. news site reported. “But Thursday’s meetings are important to sound out Russian thinking and willingness to negotiate, either now or after the election,” the report said, citing U.S. officials. Volker will visit Ukraine and the Donbas conflict zone ahead of the meeting.

 

Zenon Zawada: As we’ve stated we believe Russia’s return to PACE would be a game-changer that would set the precedent for other European legislatures and politicians to relax or remove sanctions. Amid increasing pressure from business groups, these legislators – an increasing number of which represent Russian-aligned forces – are looking for justifications to begin normalizing relations, a trend that the Russians are counting on to win this conflict. At the same Jan. 22 PACE session, the head of Ukraine’s delegation, Volodymyr Ariev, was elected the assembly vice president. He is certain to lead the opposition to any relaxation in sanctions against Russia and a fierce battle is likely to be waged, given the high risks involved. It’s too early to say what the outcome will be.

 

The U.S. peace proposal this week will be based on the introduction of UN peacekeepers to restore control of the Ukrainian-Russian border within the occupied territory. We are confident that Russia will never accept this condition as it would severely hinder its ability to provide supplies to its proxies in Donbas and maintain control. If no progress is made, another round of U.S. sanctions is being planned, according to the ft.com report.

 

But while the U.S. remains hawkish on imposing sanctions, the EU is getting exhausted and is increasingly interested in compromise, as confirmed by Jagland’s declared intentions that we believe will weaken the U.S. position going into the talks. Moreover, we are confident the Russians won't make any sharp moves ahead of the March 2018 presidential elections, though the ft.com report indicated that the talks are meant to lay the groundwork for post-election talks.

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