Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 45

Viktor Posuvalyuk, Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s special envoy to Iraq, is scheduled to return to Moscow today from his two-day visit to Amman, where he held talks with Jordan’s foreign minister. Arriving in Jordan on March 4, Posuvalyuk emphasized that Russia is continuing its efforts to win a lifting of the UN sanctions imposed on Iraq. (Itar-Tass, March 5)

For Russian diplomats, Posuvalyuk’s return to Moscow closes one small chapter in the latest episode of what has turned into an unending international crisis over Iraq. The special envoy and deputy foreign minister was ordered to Baghdad by Yeltsin on January 26 following a new outbreak of tensions between Iraq and the UN over Baghdad’s efforts to limit UN weapons inspections. The January crisis followed the autumn standoff — one settled, albeit not for long, by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Posuvalyuk’s January departure from Moscow came amid threats from Washington that it planned to launch air strikes against Iraq. Moscow strongly opposed any such action, and Posuvalyuk’s mission — like that of Primakov before him–was to convince Iraqi leaders to permit a resumption of the weapons inspections.

Posuvalyuk hurried from Baghdad to Spain on January 29, where he briefed Primakov just prior to the Russian minister’s talks with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Madrid one day later. The Russian side had revealed little about the progress of Posuvalyuk’s talks in Baghdad, but Primakov’s reported pessimism in Madrid, together with the apparent dismissal of Posuvalyuk’s mission by Albright, suggested that he had accomplished little. The United States and Russia found little common ground in Spain. As Albright embarked on a long tour aimed at winning support for U.S. air strikes on Iraq, Posuvalyuk returned to Baghdad.

The Russian minister was soon joined by diplomats from France, the Arab League and Turkey, all determined to broker a settlement that would avert U.S. strikes on Iraq. That breakthrough came on February 23, when UN Secretary General Kofi Annan concluded an agreement with Baghdad that stipulated unfettered access for UN weapons inspectors in Iraq. Moscow regarded that agreement, and a follow-up UN resolution on March 2, as a victory for its policy of negotiation over military action.

Posuvalyuk stayed on in Baghdad after the February 23 agreement in order–according to Russian sources–to maintain close contact between Baghdad and Moscow and to facilitate implementation of the UN-Iraq agreement. In all, Posuvalyuk said, he had met with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein three times, and with other Iraqi leaders "dozens" of times. Posuvalyuk, along with several other Russian diplomats, will reportedly be awarded medals by the Russian president for their contributions to resolving the Iraq crisis. (Russian agencies, March 1-5; ORT, March 1)

Russian-Pakistani Talks.