VILNIUS - Russia is using its power to both support and influence separatist movements in the South Caucasus, which have split and torn the region's countries, said Lithuanian Parliamentary speaker Arturas Paulauskas during his official visit to the area.
"Both Georgians and Azerbaijanis have unambiguously said that Russia is a player in South Caucasus and is not without influence, not without contribution to forming a majority of separatist movements and establishing autonomous regions," Paulauskas told Ziniu Radijas radio over the phone on June 8. "Russia supports the leaders of these autonomous formations and is not helping Georgia and Azerbaijan settle the issues of territorial state integrity."
Azerbaijan, he said, which had been at war with Armenia and Mountain Karabakh, is concerned over plans to withdraw Russia's troops from Georgia to Armenia.
The latter, unlike Azerbaijan and Georgia, has not set EU and NATO integration as a national objective. Instead, the country links its future to Russia.
In Paulauskas' words, Azerbaijan has "very clearly" declared its orientation toward NATO and has started speaking about Euro-integration processes. Meanwhile, Georgia has already confirmed its goals of Euro-Atlantic integration through parliamentary resolution.
The chairman of Parliament noted, however, that on its way to NATO and the EU, Georgia still has to solve "a number of problems," but its leaders' enthusiasm gives hope that this will be done.
"I believe that Georgia will cope with the set tasks," Paulauskas said, adding that Georgia could be considered a South Caucasus "region leader."
Parliamentary European Affairs Committee Chairman Vydas Gedvilas, member of Parliament's speaker-led delegation, has signed a declaration on cooperation between Lithuania's European affairs committee and Georgia's European integration affairs committee in Tbilisi.
According to a press release from Parliament, this is the first declaration of its kind for a country seeking EU membership.
In the declaration, the committee commits itself to supporting Georgia in efforts to promote regional cooperation, create administrative capabilities and train public officials in European integration issues, while sharing Lithuania's experience with reform implementation.
Lithuania became a full-fledged member of the EU and NATO last year. Since then, they have received international attention, along with Poland, for their role in helping Ukraine find a peaceful solution to the election crisis in December, and facilitating democratic development.