OIC Press Release
OIC Ministerial Delegation Discusses a Political Solution to the Chechen Crisis
Upon the initiative of President Khatami, in his capacity as the Chairman of the OIC Summit, a Ministerial Delegation from the Organization of the Islamic Conference visited Moscow on 6th December 1999 to discuss with Russian authorities the situation in Chechnya. The Delegation was Headed by Minister Kharazi and included Minister Ben Jasim from Qatar and Minister Znined from Morocco, representing the current, future and previous Chairman of the Organization, Minister Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso, Chairman of the Ministerial Conference, Ambassador Bakr, the Assistant Secretary General and Ambassador Zaimi, the Director of the Cabinet of the Secretary-General of the OIC.
The Delegation met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Ivanov. It also met with the Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Mayor of Moscow and the Council of Muftis of Russian Muslim Communities. It visited areas in North Caucuses and Ingushia the following day to meet with the authorities and the people in the area and to receive more information on the various aspects of the crisis and the humanitarian issues involved.
The visit was useful as it provided a candid opportunity to have a close look art the situation with the view to assist in finding a peaceful and to this tragic conflict. The mission, which underlined the position of principle of the OIC regarding respect for territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs of other states, has also been useful for the Russian authorities to better appreciate the concerns and apprehensions of the Islamic world.
According to the Russian authorities acts of violence have been committed by certain elements. The Delegation reiterated the position of the OIC and its member-states, condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and regardless of the victims or the culprits. It underlined that sublime Islamic teachings reject extremism. It expressed, at the same time, its serious concern over the tragic crisis in Chechnya which continues to claim casualties among civilians and made it clear that while it was aware of the concerns of the Russian Federation about acts of violence, it considered the military operations to be disproportionate to those acts. The aggravation of the situation has resulted in massive loss of life and has hindered the political process aimed at long-term stability and peace.
The OIC Delegation sought clarification from Russian authorities on the ultimatum in Grozny as it could entail grave consequences for the civilian population. The Russian authorities responded by asserting that the ultimatum had been made by local military officials and not the Government and was not aimed at civilians. These assertions were further expressed through an official public statement. The Delegation considered nevertheless that the attack against the city could lead to severe consequences for the civilian population.
In North Caucasus, the OIC Delegation heard the views of President Magomedov of Daghestan, President Aoushev of Ingushia and President Dzaskhov of North Oscetia and spoke to the people affected by the conflict. These encounters were extremely informative and helped the Delegation to arrive at an objective assessment of the situation.
There was a strong view that better communication between the Chechen authorities and the Russian Government could have prevented the conflict. It seems that pursuing a line of contact with the elected representatives of Chechnya through the help of leaders in the North Caucuses is still the most practical way to revive the political process. The OIC could also be helpful in this regard.
The Delegation witnessed the acute humanitarian situation and the urgent need for immediate assistance during its visits to refugee camps. It is imperative that all Islamic States and International organizations should expedite their humanitarian aid and assistance.
The Islamic world is closely following this situation with great concern and hopes that suffering will end and the political process will resume soon.
Russian authorities have also stressed the need for a long-term political solution. The complexities of issues involved in this crisis cannot be ignored. A judicious approach is therefore required to enhance possibility of a successful political process.
In this context, the following elements, which were raised in the course of the mission, need to be considered:
1. Termination of military operations;
2. Release of prisoners and hostages;
3. Arrangements to commence dialogue and negotiations with responsible representatives of Chechnya;
4. Reinvigoration of the 1996 Accord as the basis for the political process;
5. Inhibition of possibilities for recurrence of violence;
6. Safe return of refugees and the displaced to their places of residence;
7. Decision for general amnesty is essential and should be welcomed;
8. Collective effort should be undertaken by the Islamic world to help reconstruct Chechnya;
These steps will be further discussed and elaborated in the continuation of discussions. A Delegation of Senior Foreign Ministry officials will soon visit Moscow to follow up on the crisis with the Russian authorities.
The OIC stands ready to assist in this process with good will and with the desire to see peace and stability restored in Chechnya through a fair, lasting and honorable settlement.