Russia

U.S. Statement on Chechnya to OSCE Permanent Council Dec. 9

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In a statement to the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) December 9, the United States welcomed Russia's invitation to OSCE Chairman-in-Office Knut Vollebaek to visit the North Caucasus December 14-15.

But U.S. Representative to the OSCE David T. Johnson also expressed the United States' "deep and continuing concern about reports that the Russian Government has dropped leaflets over Groznyy warning all residents to leave the city by December 11 or 'be destroyed.'"

Johnson went on to reiterate U.S. concerns that the means Russia has chosen to fight terrorism do not sufficiently differentiate between legitimate military targets and civilians, as well as U.S. hopes that Russia will seek a political solution.

The United States also reminded Russia "to take special care to respect the independence and security concerns of neighboring states such as Georgia and Azerbaijan."

Following is the text of Ambassador Johnson's statement:

(begin text)

U.S. MISSION TO THE OSCE
Vienna, Austria
December 9, 1999

STATEMENT ON CHECHNYA DELIVERED BY AMBASSADOR DAVID T. JOHNSON TO THE
PERMANENT COUNCIL, VIENNA

Mr. Chairman, we welcome your report on the Chairman-in-Office Vollebaek's plans to visit the North Caucasus December 14-15 and we welcome Russia's invitation for him to make that visit.

We hope and expect this visit will become the start of the political process that can address the whole spectrum of issues outlined in the Istanbul Summit Declaration, to which all of us agreed. We continue to urge all sides to seek a political solution. We look forward to the report next Wednesday afternoon of Minister Vollebaek's findings and a discussion of how we follow-up on his work.

At the same time as we welcome your announcement and the Russian Federation's invitation, we must express our deep and continuing concern about reports that the Russian Government has dropped leaflets over Groznyy warning all residents to leave the city by December 11 or "be destroyed."

We are deeply troubled by the implication that the defeat of terrorist requires the destruction of an entire city, including the homes and workplaces of innocent civilians and the physical infrastructure that sustains their lives.

This method of work threatens to victimize all citizens of Groznyy, but particularly the infirm, elderly, families with young children and those who are simply too afraid to flee in the midst of an ongoing bombardment and artillery barrage -- or those who simply feel they have nowhere to go.

We believe it incumbent on the Government of Russia to differentiate between legitimate military targets and civilians.

To act otherwise is inconsistent with Russia's Code of Conduct and Geneva Convention commitments, which require one to ensure that the use of force is commensurate and that armed forces "take due care to avoid injury to civilians or their property."

Mr. Chairman, as we and others have said before -- the President [said] as late as last night -- we do not question Russia's right or responsibility to fight terrorism or insurgencies on its soil. However, we are increasingly concerned by the means Russia has chosen to do so.

We call on Russia once again to initiate a dialogue with the goal of finding a political solution.

Finally, we would again remind Russia to take special care to respect the independence and security concerns of neighboring states such as Georgia and Azerbaijan.

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(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State)