At a September 4 ceremony in Moscow North Ossetian president Akhsarbek Galazov and his Ingushetian counterpart, Ruslan Aushev, signed an agreement on the regulation of relations and cooperation between their two republics. (RTR, September 4) The Kremlin’s interest in the document was confirmed by the presence of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. He called the agreement "an historic step and a great victory." However, the presidents of the two North Caucasus republics were much more restrained. Although Galazov called the agreement a historic document, he stressed that it meant nothing in itself, and that much work was required before the agreement could be implemented in its entirety. Aushev declined to make any concrete assessment.
The caution of Vladikavkaz and Nazran is easily explained. The agreement, a copy of which is with Monitor’s correspondent, is nothing more than a general declaration. Only two of its twelve articles are directly related to settling the conflict between the two republics over North Ossetia’s Prigorodny District. One obligates each side "to prevent the activity on its territory of illegal armed formations, organizations, and individuals directed against the other side and to prevent the kindling of interethnic strife." The other contains a pledge to uphold "previously reached agreements on the issue of liquidating the Ossetian-Ingush conflict." The catch lies in the fact that neither the Ossetians nor the Ingush have any doubt that it was the other side which "kindled the interethnic strife," and that each interprets "previously reached agreements" to its own advantage.
When, at the end of June, Aushev called for the imposition of direct presidential rule in Prigorodny, he argued that earlier attempts to regulate the conflict had proven completely ineffective. Insofar as the present agreement provides no new means of regulating the conflict, Aushev is unlikely therefore to have abandoned his earlier predictions that "everything will remain the same, and people will continue to get killed." (See Prism, August 29) Nor can the present agreement be considered a victory for Vladikavkaz: Nazran has not renounced its territorial claims to Prigorodny and therefore the cause of the conflict between the two North Caucasus republics has not been removed.
It appears that Moscow — in taking on the role of mediator and in seeking to save its own image as a peacemaker in the conflict — has set itself the goal of forcing the two sides to sign a document, even one which has no meaning. Vladikavkaz and Nazran, in turn, have decided not to hurt Moscow’s pride.
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