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Foreign minister visits Georgia and Russia

The Swiss foreign minister has paid a two-day visit to Georgia and Russia, focussing on the concerns of the Council of Europe which Switzerland currently presides.

Micheline Calmy-Rey arrived in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, on Saturday. During her visit, which lasted until Sunday afternoon, she met members of the government, political parties and non-governmental organisations.

At the centre of her discussions in Georgia was the progress of democratic reforms and the fall-out from the conflict with Russia in August 2008, which led to the secession of the autonomous republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Council of Europe still regards them both as part of Georgia.

After her meetings, Calmy-Rey said Georgia was making progress in implementing its obligations as a member of the Council of Europe, a press statement issued by the Swiss foreign ministry reported.

But she called on the authorities to do more in such areas as the protection of minorities, and urged them to ensure that the forthcoming local elections should be free and fair.

As for the 2008 conflict, she said the Council of Europe was willing to send experts to help in the search for missing persons. She called on the authorities to complete the exchange of prisoners and remains with the other parties to the conflict.

Calmy-Rey then flew to Moscow for a working dinner with her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

The two ministers discussed bilateral and international issues and Switzerland’s role in representing Russian and Georgian interests in each other’s capitals.

Calmy-Rey welcomed the vote by the lower house of the Russian parliament on Friday to ratify a key protocol in the European Convention on Human Rights, which should help the human rights' court to get through its business faster.

Calmy-Rey’s foreign trip started on Friday, with a visit to Slovenia, where she met her Slovene counterpart and discussed relations between the two countries.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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