Andreas Gross, the Swiss parliamentarian who organized the roundtable on Chechnya held on March 21 in Strasbourg under the auspices of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of the Europe (PACE), said on March 26 that it was possible that Akhmed Zakaev, the London-based Chechen separatist envoy, could participate in a future roundtable session as a “private person,” RIA Novosti reported. “I personally think there are no reasons to refuse his participation in the roundtable,” Gross told the news agency. Asked whether Zakaev might participate in the next roundtable session, Gross answered: “I think his participation in the second session would be premature, but he certainly could participate in subsequent ones.” Gross also said he backed the participation of “other moderate Chechen politicians” in the roundtable. The March 21 roundtable did not include representatives of the Chechen separatists (see Chechnya Weekly, March 23).
Gross said the date and venue for the next roundtable on Chechnya could be announced at a meeting of PACE’s Political Commission scheduled to take place in Paris on May 30. During the March 21 session of the Chechnya roundtable, Chechen President Alu Alkhanov suggested the next session be held in Grozny and guaranteed complete security for participants. Gross, for his part, said it was possible that a future session could be held in Grozny. Members of PACE’s Political Commission, he said, are split over the timing of the next session: “Some believe it expedient to hold this event before the parliamentary election in Chechnya; others – and the Russian delegation holds this view – insist that the [roundtable] should be held after the election.” Chechnya’s parliamentary election is scheduled for October of this year. Gross said he personally supports holding the next roundtable before the election. “If it is held after [the election], then it will be quite irrelevant and less representative,” Gross said.