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Eradicating terrorism among Russia’s priorities in Caucasus

Nov 13 2004

VENICE, November 13 (Itar-Tass) — Russia’s State Duma first deputy
speaker Lyubov Sliska said the eradication of terrorism and extremism
was Moscow’s priority in the Caucasus.

Speaking at a session of NATO’s parliamentary assembly on regional
security in the Transcaucasia on Friday, Sliska said, “Russian society
is watching events in the Caucasus with apprehension. … The resolution
of the Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgia-Abkhazian and Georgian-South Ossetian
conflicts is also among Russia’s priorities.”

“The elections in Abkhazia are important for Russia primarily in
terms of their impact on further negotiations,” she added.

Sliska urged NATO officials not to focus on the legitimacy of the
elections in Abkhazia. “It is necessary to prepare for continued
negotiations with the new leadership to be elected in this unrecognised
republic. Russia will move in this direction together with the United
Nations,” she said.

On the situation in South Ossetia, the first deputy speaker expressed
concern about the growing number of attacks on peacekeepers in this

Regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, she stressed, “The main
role in this process belongs to the OSCE”.

“It is necessary to make a full use of the existing negotiating
mechanism and the mediation of the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk
Group on Nagorno-Karabakh,” she said.

In her words, “Other co-chairmen of the Group – the United States
and France — share this approach”.

Russia hopes that after the latest meeting between Armenian President
Robert Kocharyan and Azerbaijani President Ilkham Aliyev in Astana,
Kazakhstan, the sides will continue negotiations and use the positive
arrangements made during four rounds of ministerial consultations,
Sliska said.

“We hope that the NATO Parliamentary Assembly will support the
peacemaking efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen,” she said.

Sliska also urged NATO policymakers to exercise “extremely cautious
policies in the Trans-Caucasian area” and to establish “transparent
cooperation with Russia there”.

She warned the alliance, saying: “Any actions of such a powerful
political bloc are risky in that they can stir up old conflicts there”.

“The situation in the Caucasus, a region with a high risk of conflicts,
requires maximum caution and carefulness,” she said.

Sliska indicated at the same time that Russia could not but watch
with concern the direction that its NATO partners would channel their
efforts into.

“We advocate stability and peace in the Caucasus and oppose revisions
of the strategic balance of forces there, nothing to say of the
attempts to compel us to withdraw from that region,” Sliska said,
adding that Russia is open to cooperation with all states and
international organizations seeking peace settlement in Northern
Caucasus, too.

She called on NATO and Russia to establish the contacts marked by
credibility and account for the interests of all countries.

“It’s essential that our cooperation with NATO in the Caucasus be
transparent and predictable,” Sliska said.