Leaders of the republics, krais and oblasts of Russia’s North Caucasus met on April 4 in the Chechen capital, Djohar. This is the second such meeting in two weeks (the last one took place in Rostov in mid-March). Mairabek Vachagaev, press secretary of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, told the Monitor that this time representatives of Georgia and Azerbaijan also took part in the meeting. Both states sent very high-ranking officials: Baku sent a deputy premier, and Tbilisi the Georgian president’s personal representative in Chechnya. Vachagaev said President Robert Kocharyan sent apologies that Armenian representatives would not be able to attend because the country’s new government had not yet been formed.
The participants discussed cooperation between regional government agencies in the North Caucasus. The heads of the North Caucasus regions intend to create a "Caucasus faction" in the Federation Council and to mediate between the federal Russian government and Djohar. The fight against organized crime is also high on their agenda. This is natural, given that the overwhelming majority of the hostages taken in the North Caucasus are being held in Chechen territory. The meeting called on the Russian federal government to comply with previously signed agreements with Chechnya, thereby supporting Djohar’s accusations that the Kremlin is violating these agreements.
The participants decided to meet again at regular bimonthly intervals. The next meeting should be in June, in either Tbilisi or Nalchik. "Before the new meeting, we plan to work out a concrete mechanism to foster integration in the region, along the lines of OSCE or Interpol," Vachagaev told the Monitor.
Although the documents adopted by the meeting were purely declarative, the meeting has symbolic importance. Clearly, the leaders of the North Caucasus republics and the independent states of the South Caucasus have little faith in the Kremlin’s ability to regulate the situation in the region and are trying to resolve their problems on their own.
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