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Monday, 17 January, 2000, 13:55 GMT
Chechnya making regional waves
The Russian offensive in Chechnya has continued for weeks
The conflict in Chechnya has sent a wave of concern throughout neighbouring states. Regional analyst Stephen Mulvey examines their reactions to the war.

One of the many faultlines that runs through the Caucasus is a geopolitical one.

Russia and Iran are allies in many spheres, and both have a close relationship with Armenia. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan and Georgia look to Nato for guarantees of their security and have a close relationship with Russia's historic rival, Turkey.

These political ties have influenced the countries' responses to the conflict in Chechnya. Despite the fact that the Chechens are Muslims, Iran has refrained from criticising Russia's military campaign in the North Caucasus.

In the last Chechen war, Azerbaijan provided considerable support for Chechnya - a fact recognised by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov when he gave his own pistol to the Azeri leader, President Heydar Aliev, as a 75th birthday present.

The Chechen rebels were also able to find much support within Turkey, primarily from the large number of Chechen emigres in the country.

Click here for a map of the region

Concern has been expressed in both Georgia and Azerbaijan that the fighting could spread from Chechnya. Both countries have complained that the Russian air force has already struck targets on their territory.

Many analysts there have warned that once Russia has re-stamped its authority over the North Caucasus it will turn its attention to the South Caucasus, attempting to reassert its influence there too.

The biggest danger for Georgia is that Russian soldiers or aircraft will pursue Chechens into Georgia. Part of the population on the Georgian side of the mountain border is ethnically Chechen, and their numbers have been swelled by refugees.

Under pressure: Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov
Turkish President, Suleyman Demirel, is reported to have had in mind the danger of conflict spilling over into Georgia when, together with the Georgian President, Eduard Shevardnadze, he called this weekend for a "Caucasus Stability Pact", that would involve Russia, Turkey and Iran, as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

"We're asking the Russians to see the Caucasus as an area of co-operation in reconstruction, not rivalry," a Turkish official said, pointing out that Turkey would become a destination for refugees if the conflict widened.

Iran has shown its concern by being - according to Russia - the largest donor of aid to Chechen refugees.

The Iranian-led delegation to Moscow from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) - including delegates from Qatar, Turkey, Morocco and Burkina Faso - will convey the request of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami for an "appropriate, long-term and durable solution" to the conflict.

There have been demonstrations, revealing a degree of public sympathy for Chechnya in many countries, including Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan - and Lebanon where a gunman also opened fire on the Russian embassy.

Afghanistan is the only country to have recognised Chechnya, although Estonia came close in 1996 when the parliament passed a resolution approving the republic's aspirations towards independence.



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