Georgian presidentEduard Shevardnadze on June 1 received Chechen president AslanMaskhadov’s counselor and envoy for special issues Ruslan Kutaev,who was paying his second visit to Tbilisi in the space of twoweeks. (See Monitor, June 3) Last week Shevardnadze receivedAhmed Zakaev, who doubles as Chechen Security Council secretaryand culture minister and was a prominent military commander duringthe recent Russian-Chechen war. The two sets of talks in Tbilisireportedly included preparations for a Shevardnadze-Maskhadovmeeting and a plan to build a highway between the two capitalsthat would give Chechnya access to the world outside Russia.
The Georgians apparently sought assurances of Chechen militaryneutrality and political support for Tbilisi’s position on Abkhazia,where Shevardnadze is now considering terminating the Russian"peacekeeping" operation. Yesterday in the Chechen capitalZakaev publicly chastised "the Abkhaz leadership [for] strikingan alliance with Russia to the detriment of general Caucasus interests."In a statement echoing Maskhadov’s known position, Zakaev unambiguouslyendorsed Georgia’s territorial integrity and decried the Chechens’involvement on the Abkhaz side against Georgia in the 1992-93war "instigated by imperial forces." However, Chechenfirst deputy prime minister Shamil Basaev, who commanded a Chechenforce in that war, sounded an unrepentant note last week, obliquelywarning of a repeat performance if Georgian-Abkhaz hostilitiesbreak out again. That would appear to be Basaev’s own specialposition, not known to be shared by other Chechen officials. (Interfax,May 29-June 2; NTV, June 2; Itar-Tass, June 3)
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