#20 - JRL 7015
Russia won't budge on Chechnya monitors - diplomats
January 13, 2003
By Marcus Kabel
VIENNA, Austria (Reuters) - Russia has cut off further talks with the West on keeping human rights monitors from the pan-European OSCE security watchdog in its rebel Chechnya province, Russian diplomats said Monday.
Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are due to leave Chechnya after Moscow refused to renew the mission's mandate at the end of last year.
"At this stage, we do not think that we will go on with any talks about a new mandate for a new mission in Chechnya," one Russian diplomat said.
"I do not see any chance to go back for any kind of talks."
Western diplomats at the Vienna-based OSCE said the United States and European Union were still pressing Moscow to allow monitors to stay in Chechnya, where they have criticized the conduct of Russian troops in a war against separatist rebels.
But Russian diplomats said they saw no reason to continue talks after failing to get agreement from Western states late last year to curtail the mission's human rights monitoring and limit its activities to relief work.
The OSCE makes decisions by consensus and so no mission can work in a country without the host's permission.
The dispute is part of a quarrel within the 55-nation OSCE between Western states and former communist members over human rights work by the missions, which became an OSCE hallmark after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
EFFORTS SEEN AS MEDDLING
The organization that originated in the 1970s as a forum for reducing the threat of war in divided Europe quickly moved after the Cold War to set up field offices promoting democratic institutions and monitoring human rights in about 20 states.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's government has led a growing chorus of formerly communist states who complain the field missions are Western efforts to meddle in their internal affairs.
The new chairman in office of the OSCE, Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said Monday the field missions remained important as "the eyes and ears of the organization."
"What we have to dispel is the notion that they could be perceived as liabilities," de Hoop Scheffer said in a speech to the OSCE marking Holland's assumption of the annual rotating chairmanship.
He said he would push for a renewed Chechnya mandate when he visits Russian Foreign Minster Igor Ivanov soon, possibly in February.
"It is a very complicated and very difficult mission, but you cannot expect a new chairman to give up on this as soon as he is in his seat," de Hoop Scheffer told reporters.
Western diplomats said the United States and European Union remained hopeful Moscow could be persuaded that keeping the OSCE monitors in Chechnya would be good for Russia's international image.
"This is very high up the list of priorities" in Western capitals, one diplomat said.