Ilyas Akhmadov: The way to end the conflict
A written statement of Ilyas Akhmadov, the Foreign Minister of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
Chechnya: The Way to Peace and Democracy Conditional Independence under an International Administration
The war in Chechnya has had a devastating impact on Chechen society. Total deaths, including those from the 1994-1996 war, are believed to be more than 180,000 people, and could be as high as 250,000. Some 350,000 Chechens have become refugees. Countless more have been subjected to rape, torture and other abuses. All told, at least half of Chechnya’s pre-war population of approximately one million is now either dead or displaced.
The enormous social, economic and political cost of the conflict continues to undermine democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Russia. In recent months Russian authorities have barred human rights monitors, expelled observers from Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) from Chechnya and undermined independent news organizations whose editorial policies have been critical of the war.
To date, the military stalemate between Russian forces and the Chechen resistance has proven only what was obvious from the onset of this tragic war: that there can be no military solution to the Russian-Chechen conflict. The conflict between Russia and Chechnya is inherently political in nature, and can only be resolved though a comprehensive political solution.
Peace with Justice
Against this backdrop, it is important to recognize that the Chechen resistance is a national movement, not an international terrorist syndicate. Its agenda, ideology and strategy are grounded in more that three hundred years of opposition to Russian imperialism. Using the rhetoric of international terrorism to justify Russia’s military occupation and foreswear negotiations with the Chechen leadership achieves neither a victory nor a solution. To the contrary, it polarizes the warring parties and unnecessarily prolongs this tragic war.
Prolonging the conflict carries serious consequences for both sides. In Chechnya, four years of indiscriminate warfare, ethic cleansing operations and international indifference to Russian atrocities has created an atmosphere of hopelessness and desperation. Moscow’s policy of collective terror against the Chechen people is turning some elements of Chechen society toward irrational and undifferentiated vengeance. While the government of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has and will continue to condemn any terrorist acts, regardless of who may perpetrate them, a just peace is ultimately the only way to prevent this deeply alarming trend.
A just peace cannot be built on the grounds of an illegal referendum conducted at gunpoint, however. Nor do the various Russian proposals offering varying degrees of Chechen autonomy offer a constructive, long-term solution. By virtue of their national culture, history and identity, the Chechen people can no longer remain subject to the Russian Federation—especially in the wake of the brutal deportation of 1944 and the shameful horrors of current war.
The challenge, therefore, is to find a way to guarantee the legitimate national aspirations of the Chechen people while providing for Russia’s genuine security interests. Having considered that challenge, the Chechen Foreign Ministry believes that a conditional recognition of Chechen independence, following a transitional period under an international administration, presents the best possible approach for both parties.
The concept underlying conditional recognition is simple: to transform Chechnya into a truly peaceful and democratic state under the auspices of established international guarantees. Drawing on experience gained in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor, the international community would assist in demilitarisation, democratisation, economic reconstruction and environmental rehabilitation. These ends are in the mutual interest of both Russia, which seek political stability in Caucasus, and Chechnya, which seeks sovereignty as a guarantee of its peoples’ security.
The Chechen Foreign Ministry believes that an international administration could be implemented under the trusteeship system established in Chapters XII and XIII of the United Nations Charter, or pursuant to a resolution of the United Nations Security Council. Either approach ensures that Russia would play a substantial role in establishing and overseeing the interim governing authority, as well as the conditions under which Chechen independence ultimately would be recognized.
This formula has clear advantages for all parties. The Russian people will be relieved of the profound loss of international prestige that has come from waging this dirty war. Chechnya will be offered the opportunity to earn a place among the community of nations. As in the Baltic States, both sides will overcome the painful legacy of Tsarist and Stalinist colonialism.
The international community will also realize clear benefits. Resolving the Russian-Chechen conflict will further stabilize the Caucasus and hasten the normalization of relations between the Russian Federation and the Central Asian Republics. In so doing, it will help promote the emergence of a peaceful, stable and democratic Russia, thereby expanding the zone of peace and security throughout Europe and Eurasia.
Bridging the Divide
Despite Russia’s past objections to international involvement in Chechnya, public opinion polls indicate that nearly two thirds of the Russian public now supports negotiations with the Chechen resistance. What is more, several Russian political leaders have called for an international peacekeeping force for Chechnya, and others are likely to join them. Simply put, there is a growing awareness among Russian experts and the political elite that a political solution is not merely necessary, but ultimately unavoidable.
What undermines these and other positive developments is not the alleged unwillingness of the Chechen resistance to negotiate, but rather the unwillingness of the international community to challenge the Russian leadership. Since 1999 the government of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has repeatedly called for unconditional negotiations with the Russian Federation, for the direct involvement of international institutions and for the creation of a war crimes tribunal to investigate all allegations of atrocities. To realize those objectives, strong Western leadership will be required.
The Chechen people do not wish to see a military confrontation between the West and Russia. Nor do they wish for their Russian neighbours to be politically and economically isolated. What they do seek is an immediate change in the policy of unconditional Western engagement with Russia that has only deepened and prolonged this tragic war. Simply put, the United States and the states of Europe should accord the Russia-Chechen conflict a top priority in their relations with the Russian Federation.
The Chechen Foreign Ministry, therefore, urges the government of the United States, as well as the European Union and its member states, to take the following constructive action:
1.) Give full and genuine consideration to the notion of conditional independence and the need for an international transitional administration for Chechnya
2.) Establish the prompt and peaceful resolution Russia-Chechen conflict as a top priority in bilateral and multilateral relations with the Russian Federation; and
3.) Initiate, through the United Nations, a tripartite framework for implementing a cease-fire and resuming political negotiations.
To those ends, the Chechen Foreign Ministry calls upon the United States and the states of Europe, as well as the international community and all those who believe in the inherent and inalienable rights of mankind, to give office and support to this important initiative.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
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· Full version of Akhmadov's Peace Plan