Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) chairman Knut Vollebaek’s de facto peacemaking mission to Russia fizzled yesterday as Moscow rebuffed both his efforts to arrange for OSCE representatives to visit Chechnya and Vollebaek’s broader aim of winning a mediating role for the OSCE in the conflict. Vollebaek had apparently pushed hard for yesterday’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow. But Vollebaek’s remarks to reporters suggesting that he had not been “wholly satisfied” by his meeting with Ivanov only reinforced the impression–albeit diplomatically–that Moscow is in no hurry to meet commitments relative to Chechnya which it made during the recent OSCE summit in Istanbul. Ivanov refused to set a date for any OSCE mission to Chechnya, telling reporters that he would raise the issue at a Russian government meeting but warning blandly that it would likely take some time to arrange for a visit to such a dangerous region. An earlier OSCE mission, itself arranged only after intense lobbying by Western leaders, visited Ingushetia but was not allowed into Chechnya.
Ivanov also appeared yesterday to dash any hopes that the OSCE might soon be granted a role in mediating the Chechen conflict. Speaking during a joint press conference with Vollebaek, Ivanov told reporters that Moscow does not need the involvement of any third countries to end the fighting in the Caucasus (Reuters, Itar-Tass, November 29). Although Western officials had said at the close of the Istanbul summit that Moscow had agreed to a mediating role for the OSCE in Chechnya, it seemed likely at the time that Moscow would resist the fulfillment of any such pledge. Yesterday’s meeting seemed to confirm the impression that Moscow’s “concessions” at the summit regarding Chechnya were made in something less than good faith, and that Moscow may in fact have already resolved to step up its military actions there with the goal of winning a complete victory–one which would obviate any need or pressure for Western political intervention. This escalation of the conflict has generated new criticism from the West but still no real threat of punitive actions against Moscow.
WASHINGTON SOFTENS STANCE ON CHECHNYA, ANNAN KEEPS UP HEAT.