Council of Europe

Appeal for peace in Chechnya despite escalating violence

Preface: Fact-finding mission to the Chechen Republic: statement by Assembly rapporteurs
[01/09/04] «Peace cannot be ordered, but must be made by all people even if they have dissenting opinions,» Andreas Gross (Switzerland, SOC), Assembly rapporteur on the political situation in the Chechen Republic concluded at the end of the fact-finding mission of a Council of Europe delegation to the region from 28 to 31 August. He expressed serious reservations with regard to the presidential elections which took place in the Chechen Republic on Sunday 29 August. In his opinion, these elections were far from meeting Council of Europe standards. Tadeusz Iwinski (Poland, SOC), Assembly rapporteur on the humanitarian situation of the Chechen displaced population, speaking at a press conference in Moscow today, strongly supported concrete plans to rebuild entire districts of the Chechen capital. These efforts, he said, combined with the federal scheme of compensation for lost housing - if realized - would have a very positive effect on the Chechen population.

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03.09.2004 - Interview with Andreas Gross:

Andreas Gross, Swiss MP, has, despite the escalating violence in the conflict zone in the Caucasus, launched an emphatic appeal for a political solution in Chechnya to the international community, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the parties to the conflict on the ground. The Swiss Social Democrat, rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the situation in Chechnya, still believes that there are some political prospects and intends to work on a number of new initiatives for the autumn part-session of the pan-European Assembly to bring about a negotiated settlement.

Question: Following the presidential elections in Chechnya, do you see any new prospects for a political settlement? Or do the recent terrorist attacks indicate that the violence is now really escalating?

Andreas Gross: The two are not mutually exclusive. Clearly, violence is escalating at the moment and both sides are responsible for this. The separatists feel cornered because of the one-sided display of Russian desire for power with the election on Sunday, and so they are relentlessly stepping up their cruel acts of violence. The fighting has to end before there can be any further steps towards a political solution. However, a ceasefire would be very difficult to achieve at the moment because the violence on both sides is leading to further violent retaliation. But I still believe that there are political prospects. This hope is based on the talks we had with the new President, Alu Alkhanov.

Question: Alkhanov rules out any negotiations with the rebels. Do Alkhanov and President Putin now think that there can be only a military solution?

Andreas Gross: Alkhanov did, however, stress to us that he was fully aware that peace can only be achieved together with the other side and not without it and that he was prepared to hold discussions with those who reject the use of arms and who have killed nobody. That is a basis on which to build. And President Putin should be reminded of his earlier statements that there can only be a political solution and this is only possible through communication.

Question: Do you fear a new wave of human rights violations in the Caucasus?

Andreas Gross: This wave of human rights violations already started at the beginning of the year. I am not just thinking of the separatists' suicide attacks, but also the abduction of oppositionists and the disappearances and torture of critics and those close to them. Responsibility for the human rights violations lies with the Russian security authorities, their Chechen colleagues and the rebels.

Question: How can the international community and the Council of Europe help stop this escalation in order to keep the door open to a political solution in the Caucasus?

Andreas Gross: You have to talk straight to the officials and especially Putin and not shy away from responsibility as German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder did after the elections in Chechnya. As a convinced European, I was appalled by how Schröder behaved. It is not right that the US Government is able to assess the human rights violations and the undemocratic election on Sunday more accurately than one of the major European governments. Europe needs to act as a mediation power and ensure that peace negotiations come about in the area. There must surely be European figures and bodies that enjoy the trust of both sides. I shall be putting forward a number of points for discussion in the Parliamentary Assembly's Political Affairs Committee.

Question: Should the Parliamentary Assembly take new initiatives at its autumn part-session?

Andreas Gross: We shall be working on that. Basically, we have to get a dialogue going in the Caucasus with all sides and we have to restore shattered confidence. I am convinced that in early October we will have made some progress and will be able to bring a glimmer of hope to the situation in Chechnya.

Andreas Gross

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