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#8 - JRL 7227
June 18, 2003
Maskhadov ready to live in Russia
By Yelena Shishkounova

Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov is ready to negotiate and has agreed to pursue a compromise on the Chechen conflict, according to his Moscow envoy Salambek Maigov. The reply from Professor Edi Isayev, a representative of the pro-Kremlin Chechen authorities in Moscow, was: ''Too late. There will be no talks now.''

''Maskhadov is prepared to have talks without any preliminary conditions,'' his Moscow representative Salambek Maigov told Interfax on Tuesday. Maigov noted that the Chechen leader was sending a clear message that he welcomes a compromise solution. ''I have held a number of conversations with Maskhadov, and can conclude from them that plans for Chechnya's separation are out of the question now. He is in favour of a compromise option,'' Maigov said.

The envoy would not elaborate on the essence of Maskhadovs peace plan, recalling only that the Chechen separatist leader has repeatedly stressed that he considers a peace plan developed in Liechtenstein a viable option. The so-called Liechtenstein Plan emerged last year, at a meeting held in the small European princedom under the auspices of the American Committee for Peace. Akhmed Zakayev, Maskhadovs aide, took part in the event. The plan offers Chechnya broad autonomy inside Russia.

''Maskhadov has repeatedly stressed the peace plan developed in Liechtenstein as a viable option. The plan grants Chechnya international autonomy inside Russia. In this case, the republic's autonomy would be guaranteed by the international community - the UN or the United States,'' Maigov told Interfax.

It is noteworthy, however, that this is not the first time that Maskhadov has declared his preparedness to talk. For instance, last year he addressed Vladimir Putin in an open letter urging him to stop military operations in Chechnya and to resume a dialogue.

In response, Putins aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky said that federal authorities were ready to talk with Maskhadovs representatives. ''Nothing prevents Akhmed Zakayev from getting in contact with the presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Viktor Kazantsev. There is no need to force an open door,'' Yastrzhembsky said then.

''He was offered talks. He refused. Now there will be no talks,'' a representative of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration in the capital, Professor Edi Isayev, told Gazeta.Ru after the Chechen leaders latest statement.

''Who is he going to seek an agreement with? Putin? Kadyrov? Let him explain,'' Isayev stated. The official believes that there is only one option left for Maskhadov. ''He must lay down his arms and publicly apologize to the Chechen people. After that his fate will be decided in court.''

Isayev added that talks with Maskhadov are also out of the question due to the fact the mechanism of a peaceful settlement in the republic has already been put in motion. The Chechen people welcomed Putins address, a referendum has been held, the new republican constitution adopted, the amnesty act passed, and at the end of this year Chechen voters are to elect a new president and parliament, Isayev said.

As regards the plans of granting broad autonomy status to Chechnya and signing a power sharing agreement between the federal centre and the republic, Isayev recalled that Vladimir Putin spoke of these things in his state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly. In Isayevs opinion, this is already ''great progress''.

Therefore, Maskhadovs readiness for talks and compromise is no longer of any use to the new Chechen authorities or to the Kremlin. But what they do need is Maskhadov himself, dead or alive, so that he stops distracting public opinion and the process of normalization in Chechnya.

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