HELSINKI, May 17 (Xinhua) -- The meeting of Council of Europe (CoE) Foreign Ministers in Helsinki on Friday made progress towards facilitating the continued membership of Russia in the CoE.
Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini, the outgoing chairman of the Council, told a press conference that "some common ground was found".
Soini described the results of the meeting in Helsinki as a positive development, but said the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE (PACE) must take its own decisions.
The PACE some years ago restricted the voting rights of Russia as a protest against Russian actions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Russia then later suspended its payments to the Council.
The foreign ministers on Friday passed a declaration saying that all Council member countries have the same rights and obligations. They noted that "all member states should be entitled to participate in the Committee of Ministers and in the Parliamentary Assembly".
The sessions in Helsinki took place behind closed doors, but Soini told the media Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had said in the meeting that Russia wants to remain in the CoE.
CoE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland reminded at the press conference that the European Convention and the Council are not about the interests of states, but about the interests of the citizens.
Representatives of at least Ukraine and Lithuania told the media that they had opposed the declaration.
In the Helsinki meeting, chairmanship of the 47-nation CoE transferred from Finland to France.