Russia Today
Former OSCE chief defends pressure on Moscow over Chechnya

LISBON, Jan 5, 2000 -- (AFP) Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek, the former OSCE chairman, defended here Tuesday the use of "political pressure" on Russia to accept a cease-fire in Chechnya.

He told a press conference that this pressure should be exerted "as soon as possible" by organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), along with the European Union or the United Nations.

Vollebaek, who headed the OSCE until December 31, was speaking at the end of a brief visit during which he met his Portuguese opposite Jaime Gama, whose country currently holds the EU presidency.

The Norwegian minister hit out at the lack of safety for civilians in the so-called "security corridor" in Chechnya aimed at letting them escape from the embattled capital Grozny.

"People are attacked there while they go along the corridor, making flight impossible for many of those who stayed in Grozny, especially the sick and the old," he said.

Vollebaek, in Portugal for only a few hours, said that if the Russians did not understand the need for the good offices of international organizations, the "politically complicated" situation in the former Soviet republics of the Caucasus and central Asia may degenerate into "other much more serious problems."

Speaking in Oslo a week ago at the end of his term as OSCE chairman, Vollebaek said: "I will just have to hand over this conflict to my successor, Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel, just as I myself inherited the Kosovo conflict a year ago."

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