Ahmed Zakayev: Negotiations mean mutual compromise
This interview of Ahmed Zakayev, the Foreign Minister of Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, is presented by DAYMOHK News Agency
22 July 2006
Question: The Manifesto "For peace in Chechnya", published recently in the Chechen media, has caused some controversy. First of all, may I ask you: were the contents of this Manifesto agreed with the ChRI President?
Ahmed Zakayev: Yes, this document was cleared by the legal department of the ChRI Presidential Administration, and was approved personally by Umar Dakayev, the Head of Administration. I would like to add that, as the Foreign Minister, I am responsible only to the President, and agree all the political questions with him.
But when the statement of the Presidential Administration was published, many had an impression that it criticised some points of the Manifesto. In particular, this statement says that "some wording is unreasoned" in the Manifesto.
On the contrary, the Administration's statement itself has some unreasoned wording in it, and is a bit too emotional. Perhaps, this is because the authors of this statement do not have enough experience of political work. Only the ChRI President may give assessment to the work of the Foreign Ministry. However, these details are not very significant. In general, the Administration's statement was a reply to FSB Director Patrushev, who had offered an "amnesty" to the soldiers of ChRI Armed Forces, which is simply a propagandist farce.
The Manifesto discusses the ChRI's preparedness for peace negotiations with Russia.
It never was the position of ChRI leaders that we can defend our statehood only by military means or that we utterly reject any political negotiations. In other words, we are not at all against a peaceful conclusion of war. All our martyr presidents – Djokhar Dudayev, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, Aslan Maskhadov and Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev – always said that the problem of Russian-Chechen relations could not be settled by war, that it was necessary to reach a political solution by negotiations. Our attitude to the problem of war is still the same, because it does not contradict our Constitution, nor, of course, our religion.
A different matter is that we are not going to "ask" Russia for negotiations anymore, because Russia takes such offers for our weakness. What is said in the Manifesto about the necessity of peaceful solution to the conflict is addressed to the Western leaders, the participants of G8 summit in St. Petersburg. But of course, we do not mind if the leaders of Russia – the country we are fighting a liberation war against – also pay attention to our proposals.
Do you believe there are conditions now for a peaceful conclusion of the war between Russia and Chechnya?
Yes. It is obvious to anybody who observes the real situation in Caucasus rather than propaganda spread by Russian television or newspapers. We have proven to the whole world, including Moscow, that we cannot be suppressed by military force and by repression. Of course, we had bitter losses in the leadership of the Resistance recently. President Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev, and then Vice President Shamil Basayev, were killed. But our combatants are fighting not for personalities (although the leaders may enjoy a high authority), but for the right cause. The strength of our Resistance is that the volunteers are attracted to our Armed Forces not by names, but by ideas. If this was not true, our armed struggle would stop long ago, in 1996, with the death of Djokhar Dudayev, the first ChRI president.
Please specify, why do you think that real conditions for peace negotiations with Russia have emerged now?
To judge about the conditions for peace, we should look at each side's war objectives.
For the Chechens, the sovereignty is not the end, but the means to provide security and prosperity for the nation. This is what our leaders are saying ever since the state independence of Chechnya was restored.
In the beginning of the Second war, Putin once said that the Kremlin did not care about Chechnya's status. The most important, he said, is that Chechnya must not be a base for Russia's enemies. This means that the problem of security was the top priority for Russia.
Now we should ask ourselves: has either of the sides achieved its goals during this war? The obvious answer is no.
Unfortunately, our Armed Forces cannot fully ensure the security of the ChRI population. It suffers deliberate genocide, massacres, tortures and kidnappings conducted by the Russian militaries. The country is in ruins.
But Russia, too, with every year is getting further and further away from ensuring its security. The war has spread all over North Caucasus long ago. This year, two new fronts of the ChRI Armed Forces were created in Russia itself – the Urals Front and the Volga Front.
Therefore, we can see that the goals for which the both sides are fighting are not becoming nearer as a result of the military conflict. On the contrary, they are getting ever further. Therefore, the political solution would be logical, and the only right one. We do understand this. Undoubtedly, the responsible Russian politics, who care about their country's future, also understand this. What we need now is to overcome the ambitions and to start peace negotiations, on the basis of the real situation and the interests of our nations. We know what war is, and therefore we are always prepared for peace.
The most controversial question in the Chechen media is this. Does the formula "negotiations without preliminary conditions" mean that the ChRI leaders are prepared to abandon Chechnya's state sovereignty?
There are no reasons to question the Chechen leadership's devotedness to the idea of independence. Nobody can have such doubts about President Dokka Umarov, or about his predecessors who have sacrificed their lives for our country's freedom.
We know, and can easily predict, the unhealthy reaction of some our politicians to any peace initiative. But this is not the case for them being upset because the war is under threat. The manifesto we are talking about is not a "peace plan", nor even a governmental declaration. This document was written and published in connection with a particular political event, namely the G8 summit. As I have already said, it is addressed to the Western leaders.
If the peace negotiations with Russia start, is the Chechen side prepared to compromise?
Negotiations between two sides of a war always mean some mutual compromise. Otherwise, these are not negotiations, but an exchange of ultimatums. If the both sides start negotiations with preliminary conditions, which are tough and directly opposite to each other, such negotiations would make no sense and be simply a waste of time.
We are quite prepared to discuss with the Russian side the political contents of our sovereignty, in order to respect Russia's legitimate interests, to the extent which our Constitution and our religious convictions allow.