AM 2008 Toronto bigThe OSCE PA's 2008 Fall Meetings took place from 18 to 21 September in Toronto, hosted by the Parliament of Canada. The meetings included a major inter-parliamentary conference focused on "The OSCE in an Open World: Trade, Migration, and Security." Bringing together Members of Parliaments from across the OSCE's 56 countries, the conference contributed to parliamentary dialogue on these important topics.

The Toronto meetings also included a session of the Assembly's Standing Committee of Heads of Delegations, a special debate on the situation in the South Caucasus and a Forum on the Mediterranean.

2008-FM-Toronto-Graffstein-Georgia-DebateWith the goal of developing stronger ties with the OSCE PA and the Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation, the annual Mediterranean Forum was chaired by Canadian Senator Jerry Grafstein, Vice-President of the Assembly. The 2008 Forum focused on multilateral initiatives to promote integration and co-operation in the Mediterranean, including the Union for the Mediterranean and the OSCE Mediterranean Dimension.

It was the best attended Forum since its establishment in Rome in 2003. High level parliamentary representatives from Algeria, Israel, Jordan, and Morocco actively contributed to the debate.

In his opening statements Senator Grafstein underlined the importance of economic co-operation and free trade in promoting stability and co-operation and highlighted the potential of the OSCE model for the Mediterranean as an inclusive security organization. Assembly President Joao Soares remarked that the annual Forum underlines the fact that Mediterranean issues are closely linked with OSCE issues, as has been recognized since the beginning of the Helsinki process.

The Fall Meetings also included a special session on the ongoing crisis in Georgia, with the two specially invited guests, Georgia's Foreign Minister, Eka Tkeshelashvili, and Russia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, leading the debate. It was the first time that Russia had debated the situation face to face in an open forum. In addition, OSCE PA President Emeritus and Special Envoy for Georgia, Goran Lennmarker, reported on his recent visit to the region.

Mr. Lennmarker said that refugees will define this conflict and suggested the creation of a "Catastrophe Commission" to try to reach the truth about what has happened during the hostilities, and particularly to answer the question whether or not ethnic cleansing has occurred. He said that the whole lesson of Europe is that there can be no ethnic cleansing, and we must see to it that this not take place in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"Recent weeks have been a very difficult time for many people in the OSCE region," said OSCE PA President Joao Soares in his introductory remarks. "Most importantly, my sincere sympathy goes to those hurt and killed during the conflict in Georgia. I am pleased that we could bring representatives from Georgia, Russia and the OSCE together here in Toronto to discuss this issue."

Other speakers in the debate included Ambassador Aleksi Harkonen, head of the Finnish OSCE Chairmanship Task Force, who informed the parliamentarians about the activities of the Finnish Chairman-in-Office in the Georgia crisis, and the Chairman of the Senate of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Over 40 parliamentarians of the 180 parliamentarians who attended the conference participated in the debate.