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Transcript: U.S. concerned about security, political conditions for Chechnya vote

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The United States is concerned about the security and political conditions for the March 23 referendum in Chechnya, U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE told the Permanent Council in Vienna February 27.
"Political debate and dialogue both before and after the March 23 referendum are...absolutely essential to settling the conflict," he said.

"As for the security situation, we urge all sides to end the violence - not only during the referendum, but henceforth," Minikes said, and he also called for accountability for human rights abuses.

He noted that the OSCE and the Council of Europe are undertaking a joint needs assessment mission to Chechnya "to look into preparations for the March 23 constitutional referendum and to decide if our organizations should observe the referendum. We eagerly await the results of that needs assessment."

Following are Minikes' remarks:

(begin transcript)

United States Mission to the OSCE

STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO THE COE COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, MR. GIL-ROBLES

As delivered by Ambassador Stephan M. Minikes to the Permanent Council, Vienna
February 27, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would also like to welcome Mr. Gil-Robles to the Permanent Council. We feel that the close cooperation between the OSCE and the Council of Europe that exists today has never been stronger and we look forward to the continued growth of that cooperative spirit. To quote from the Council of Europe, "the relationship between the Council of Europe and the OSCE is based on common values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and the organizations' commitment to mutual reinforcement of action."

Currently, one of the most tangible mutual reinforcements of action is the joint needs assessment mission to Chechnya that is taking place this week to look into preparations for the March 23 constitutional referendum and to decide if our organizations should observe the referendum. We eagerly await the results of that needs assessment.

Political debate and dialogue both before and after the March 23 referendum are, as the Commissioner says, absolutely essential to settling the conflict. It is important to facilitate as broad a dialogue as possible. In this regard, we note that the Russian authorities have assured the Commissioner that displaced persons will indeed be able to vote at polling stations in the camps in Ingushetia, given the security concerns many of the displaced persons would have if they were moved to Chechnya to vote.

We continue to have concerns about the security and political conditions of the referendum. As for the security situation, we urge all sides to end the violence - not only during the referendum, but henceforth. The full implementation of Decree 80 by the security forces in Chechnya could go a long way to demonstrate Russian willingness to improve the overall security climate, which is essential for long-term stability in Chechnya. Accountability for human rights abuses also is essential for reconciliation and long-term stability.

Mr. Chairman, much remains to be done to end the conflict, and with it the tragic history of human rights violations, to provide accountability, to strengthen democratic institutions, to promote public safety, the rule of law, and to bring about social and economic rehabilitation. The United States believes the OSCE can and should play an active role in assisting the Russian Federation in this regard. We support the Chairman-in-Office's attempts to come to a joint solution with the Russian authorities on future cooperation, in particular in connection with the letter that the Chairman has written to Foreign Minister Ivanov on this issue.

The U.S. stands ready to support the efforts of the Chairman and the Russian government to develop a framework for future cooperation in Chechnya. Thank you.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)