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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Tells OSCE No Rush in Chechnya




ISTANBUL, Turkey -- World leaders ended a 54-nation security summit Friday by calling for a political settlement with international help in Chechnya, but Russia said it was in no rush to receive a European peace mission.


The leaders adopted a landmark charter proclaiming that conflicts in one state are the legitimate concern of all.


They also signed a major new arms control treaty for Europe, updating limits on armed forces and heavy equipment set in the dying days of the Cold War in 1990.


The final summit declaration called for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to have both a political and a humanitarian role in Chechnya - a major concession by Russia, which had previously rejected any outside involvement in its military crackdown on the rebel Caucasian republic.


"We agree that a political solution is essential and that the assistance of the OSCE would contribute to achieving that goal. ... We welcome the agreement of the Russian Federation to a visit by the [OSCE] chairman in office to the region," it said.


The OSCE chairman, Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek, said he expected to visit Chechnya "before Christmas" and would talk to Chechen representatives.


But Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Vollebaek could only visit areas of Chechnya controlled by Russian forces because "we don't want him to become a hostage."


"We are not in a hurry," Ivanov said when asked whether the mission would take place before the end of the year. "We are going to fix the time through diplomatic channels. It is a subject of diplomatic negotiations," he said.


He said the Moscow government was already holding talks with local leaders in Chechnya and did not need outside help. "We do not need any mediators from anywhere," Ivanov said.


A top Chechen official, Ilyas Akhmadov, welcomed the OSCE call for a political settlement and said the organization should act as a mediator.


"We have two sides in this war and the world must accept this. Only with this realization will this problem become better, otherwise this will happen again," Akhmadov, foreign minister in Chechnya's government, said in Istanbul.


Russia's military assault on Islamic rebels in Chechnya, pressed throughout the two-day summit, dominated the agenda at the gathering, called to map the principles and role of the OSCE in the 21st century and sign the new conventional arms accord.


President Bill Clinton signed the agreements for the United States and Ivanov for Russia. President Boris Yeltsin flew home early, having told fellow leaders Thursday they had no right to criticize Russia's war on "bandits and killers" in Chechnya.


In deference to Moscow, the leaders said in their final declaration: "We fully acknowledge the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation and condemn terrorism in all its forms."


But in a bid to increase pressure on Russia to end its operation in Chechnya, Clinton said in a statement he would delay sending the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification until Moscow had come into compliance by cutting troop levels in the North Caucasus region.


The final declaration contained an agreement by Russia to reduce its troops in the former Soviet republic of Georgia and remove them completely from Moldova by the end of 2002, instead of the 2005 deadline it had initially set.


Beside some 170 Russian tanks, 130 armored vehicles and 2,600 troops, there are enormous stockpiles of arms in Moldova. Diplomats say Moscow wanted to offset criticism of its Chechnya campaign by reducing its forces stationed elsewhere in the old Soviet Union.


Russia said that by Dec. 31, 2000 it would have no more than 153 tanks, 241 armored vehicles and 140 artillery pieces stationed in Georgia.


NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson told the summit: "NATO countries - let me be blunt - are concerned about continued Russian non-compliance with certain treaty limits. However we positively note Russia's commitment to comply with all the treaty's main provisions, including flank limitations."


The leaders also signed a Charter for European Security mapping the principles and role of the OSCE in the 21st century.


Clinton told reporters he was encouraged both by Russia's acceptance of an OSCE visit to Chechnya and its willingness to sign the OSCE charter recognizing an international humanitarian interest in the internal affairs of other countries.


"We've got a lot of turns in the road in Chechnya before it's resolved but I would say that, compared to how things were when we all got here, those are the two things that I'm hopeful about," Clinton said.