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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Says Chechnya Open to 2 Monitors

LISBON, Portugal -- Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told the European Union on Thursday that Moscow will allow two international human rights monitors to be stationed in Chechnya, but his offer failed to allay EU concerns about reported rights abuses by Russian forces.

Ivanov told EU representatives two human rights experts from the Council of Europe could be stationed in a Russian human rights office to be set up in Chechnya.

Senior EU officials meeting with Ivanov welcomed the offer, which follows sustained Western demands for permanent rights observers to be based in the war-torn republic. However, they expressed frustration Ivanov had not offered more concrete guarantees that allegations of rights abuses by Russian troops would be subjected to an impartial investigation.

"We're like ships that pass in the night ... I don't have the remotest notion of what the Russian view is of the remit of the Council of Europe observers," EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten told reporters after the meeting.

In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry announced Thursday that Ivanov had invited Mary Robinson, the UN high commissioner for human rights, to visit Moscow and the North Caucasus in early April.

The ministry had previously criticized Robinson for what it called her "nonobjective, biased and one-sided" criticism of the war in Chechnya.

[Only Wednesday, Russia's representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Vasily Sidorov, told journalists Robinson was not welcome in the North Caucasus, Itar-Tass reported.]

Patten also appealed to the Russians to facilitate the supply of humanitarian aid to civilians displaced by the fighting. He offered to supply EU food aid to the region, and urged Ivanov to work with the EU to urgently draw up a plan to allow aid agencies to work more freely in Chechnya.

Ivanov rejected the latest offer of talks from Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. "We will not conduct any negotiations with Maskhadov," he told a news conference.

The EU said there were no plans to reverse a decision taken in December to divert economic aid to Russia to purely humanitarian projects in protest over Chechnya. Nor was there any consideration of further economic sanctions from Russia's largest trading partner.

Chechnya dominated Ivanov's talks with a panel of EU officials. The situation in the republic will also take center stage Friday when U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joins the talks.

Thursday's talks also touched on Kosovo, with Ivanov warning against any moves toward independence for the Serbian province.

He said Russia had called a UN Security Council meeting to discuss concerns Kosovo was heading toward independence and moves to break away from Serbia would lead Russia to "seriously review" its role in the international peacekeeping force.