Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 204

In what was apparently the one substantive diplomatic success during Putin’s visit to Oslo (from the West’s perspective, at least), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairman Knut Vollebaek announced yesterday that Russia had agreed to allow a mission from the organization to visit the Russian Caucasus in order to observe the impact of Russia’s military operations there. “I got an agreement, with a declaration from the Russian side, that the OSCE can send a mission to Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia, and we will do so at the end of next week,” Vollebaek, who is also Norway’s foreign minister, told Norwegian television. Vollebaek said that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who had accompanied Putin to Oslo, had agreed to the mission during negotiations of November 1. The mission is to report to the November 18-19 OSCE summit in Istanbul.

But observers suggested yesterday that, despite the wording of Vollebaek’s announcement, they remained skeptical that Moscow will allow OSCE observers to enter Chechnya itself. “The Russians do not accept a mission into Chechnya. They may accept it to the neighborhood of Chechnya, but not to Chechnya,” Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy supremo (and former NATO secretary general), told a news conference in Oslo. Other officials, moreover, were quick to point out that the mission would have a “strictly humanitarian” character in line with the Russian government’s adamant opposition to any foreign political involvement in the Chechen conflict. Practical details relevant to the mission, finally, still have to be worked out (Reuters, AFP, November 2).