Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 36

The Chechen separatist government has taken the governments of Jordan and Syria to task for meeting with Chechen President Alum Alkhanov during his trip to the two Middle Eastern countries earlier this month (see Chechnya Weekly, September 22).

In a statement posted on the separatist Chechenpress website on September 25, Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) Foreign Minister Usman Ferzauli expressed his ministry’s “categorical protest at the reception of the so-called ‘Chechen President’ Alu Alkhanov by the Amman government.” Calling Alkhanov a “war criminal,” the statement noted that when it received him, Jordan’s leadership had referred to “the interests of the people of Chechnya and Jordan and the possibility of friendly relations between the two peoples” and had “repeatedly stated that since we are all Muslim, we are spiritually related.” Ferzauli said that mentioning “our holy religion in this context is, at the very least, blasphemous.” He added that given “the sympathies of the peoples of the Islamic world with the long-suffering Chechen people’s aspiration to God-given freedom, the Dzhokhar (Grozny) government informs the leadership of the Hashemite Kingdom that it sincerely regrets this misunderstanding, inasmuch as it does not give an impetus to peace, freedom and stability in the ChRI, but gives an impetus to the justification of the military aggression against our country, military repression and the killing of 28 percent of our countrymen.”

During his visit with Jordanian King Abudllah II on September 21, Alkhanov delivered a letter from President Vladimir Putin, Itar-Tass reported. The Russian leader in the letter stated that the situation in Chechnya was “steadily normalizing,” called the upcoming parliamentary elections in the republic “an important stage of internal political stabilization,” and claimed that “an overwhelming majority” of Muslims in Chechnya “are indignant about the terrorists’ claiming the role of defenders of Islam, attempts to justify their bloody villainy by citing Islamic values.” As Kommersant noted on September 22, some 20,000 people of Chechen descent live in Jordan. According to the newspaper, the Jordanian Chechen community’s “most famous representative,” Sheikh Abdul-Baki Dzhammo, a long-time deputy in Jordan’s parliament, attended Djokhar Dudaev’s inauguration as Chechen president in 1991, but did not support him when the war with Russia began three years later, becoming instead “a best friend” of the Kremlin.

Chechen rebel Foreign Minister Usman Ferzauli similarly criticized Syria for welcoming Alkhanov. In a statement posted by Chechenpress on September 22, Ferzauli charged that Alkhanov “is guilty of collaborating with the military aggressors, arbitrary arrests and executions without trial of citizens of the ChRI on grounds of ethnicity and religion.” Ferzauli’s statement said that the ChRI Foreign Ministry had “no abstract and negative opinion about the people of Syria and its leadership, which is being thrust upon by their opponents,” but added that “the openly hostile position of the Damascus government, which was expressed in the high-level reception of state criminals guilty of the genocide of the Chechen people, give all grounds to the leadership of the Dzhokhar (Grozny) government to suppose that Damascus supports terrorists.”

RIA Novosti reported on September 19 that Alkhanov had delivered a letter from President Vladimir Putin to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in which Putin said Russia had achieved a “breakthrough” in Chechnya and that the upcoming parliamentary elections in the republic would be held “on a multi-party basis meeting international standards” and be an “important landmark on the path to further stabilizing the situation in the republic.” Kommersant on September 22 quoted Ziyad Sabsabi, a Syrian of Chechen origin who heads Chechnya’s representation in Moscow and was part of Alkhanov’s delegation in Syria and Jordan, as saying that Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Naji Otri had called for close economic cooperation with Chechnya, while Chechnya is “is counting on gaining approval from the Syrian authorities for Chechen oilmen to work in this country, as they did in Soviet times.”

As Kommersant noted about Alkhanov’s visit to Jordan and Syria: “By bringing the Chechen leader out onto the foreign political arena, the Kremlin is hoping that he will help them to enlist the support of Muslim countries for Russian policy in the North Caucasus and reduce to a minimum the assistance that the Chechen separatists are receiving from their Muslim brothers.” Also accompanying Alkhanov on the trip were State Duma deputy Akhmar Zavgaev and Federation Council member Umar Dzhabrailov.