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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

PACE Calls for an Office in Chechnya

STRASBOURG, France -- The Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly on Wednesday called for Russia to allow it to set up a permanent office to observe the human rights situation in Chechnya.

In a report passed by the 602-body assembly, European lawmakers said it was "imperative" to boost political efforts to bring the conflict in Chechnya to an end.

"The general situation in the Chechen republic has not improved enough to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights and rule of law by the population," the assembly said.

It called on the Russian government to "ensure a long term Council of Europe presence" by setting up an office in the region to "improve the humanitarian situation."

If approved by the council's 43 member nations, the office would be jointly run by the council and the European Union, officials said.

It slammed Russian authorities for their lack of progress in efforts to bring fighting to a stop and to improve human rights.

"Progress made so far in the sphere of human rights has been slow and far from satisfactory," the assembly said. "A sense of impunity still exists."

The assembly did commend President Vladimir Putin for initiating talks with Chechen leaders, but again reiterated that talks should not hinge on any conditions.

The assembly was also critical of Chechen rebels and called on them to stop their attacks on both military and civilian targets and to implement a cease-fire.

The council agreed not to invite rebel representatives to future sessions without Moscow's consent, Lenta.ru reported. Akhmed Zakayev, Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov's representative, was present at the session Wednesday.

The council has had a team of monitors in Chechnya since June 2000 but wants to be able to convert that into a permanent office.

The Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador in Moscow to protest a meeting Friday in the British Foreign Office in London with Zakayev. A protest was issued to the British ambassador on Monday.

A spokesman at the British Foreign Office said Zakayev met with junior officials there at his request.

"We used the meeting to deliver a strong message against terrorism and against the links between some extremist groups in Chechnya and Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida," the spokesman said on customary anonymity.

Chechnya will need at least three years to rebuild and will not be ready to elect a leader until at least 2007, Vladimir Yelagin, deputy head of the federal government's commission for rebuilding Chechnya, said Wednesday.