Written Answers. - Conflict in Chechnya.

Ray Burke

Ceist:

108 Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government's and the EU's position on the efforts being made to bring peace and political stability to Chechnya. [16699/96]

Since the beginning of the conflict in Chechnya, the Government has been working to promote a peaceful negotiated solution to the situation there. Through both bilateral contact with the Russian authorities and in Government statements we have called for urgent attention to be paid to the plight of the civilian population and stressed the need for an end to military action and the opening of political negotiations. We have also made clear our strongly held belief that the OSCE Assistance Mission to Grozny can play a valuable role in the efforts to establish peace. Together with EU partners we have reiterated this position in EU demarches to the Russian side and in EU declarations. The latest peace accords signed between General Lebed and the Chechen separatists on 31 August hold out an important opportunity for peace. In addition to the military issues involved, such as the questions of a ceasefire, troop withdrawals, joint commands and patrols, these accords, for the first time, have also dealt with the political issues surrounding the conflict in Chechnya by postponing, until 2001, consideration of the status of Chechnya and providing in the meantime for the holding of local elections and the establishment of a local coalition Government. It is understood from the Russian authorities that President Yeltsin and the Government have endorsed these accords and that some of the provisions in relation to troop withdrawals, joint commands and joint patrols have already begun to be implemented.

On the ground in Chechnya the situation has improved considerably. Most of the federal forces have been pulled back from Grozny, with a small number remaining to man joint patrols together with the separatists to maintain order. The humanitarian situation, while still very serious, has also begun to be addressed. Ireland together with EU partners has welcomed the recent positive developments in Chechnya and in particular the resumption of dialogue between the parties. However, important issues remain unresolved and difficulties have arisen in a number of areas. It is clear, therefore, that continued efforts will have to be made by both sides if the opportunity for lasting peace presented by these accords is to be realised. In our view the OSCE can make a constructive contribution in this regard. Ireland together with EU partners will continue to follow closely developments in Chechnya and to give every possible support to the efforts to arrive at a lasting peaceful settlement.