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Kavkaz Center - 10 July 2005 Although the Russian-Chechen conflict is over two centuries old, tensions between the two states are still running strong. Today, the Chechen people are subject to routine human rights abuses in the form of torture and execution. Beset by poverty, disease and psychological trauma - products of the Russia invasion - they struggle to rebuild their lives and their country. The UNPO Conference on the Russian-Chechen conflict comes at a critical time. The EU is currently negotiating the granting of 20 million euros in “development aid” to Chechnya to establish education, health, and employment initiatives. While France, the UK, and Germany support the proposal for aid, critics argue that Russia - and not Europe - should be held responsible for reconstructing Chechnya. Even the name of the proposed fund is mired in controversy. Chechens and critics of the proposed fund suggest that labelling the money “development aid” rather than “humanitarian aid” denies the urgency of the Chechnya’s post-war state. Some suggest that the label propagates the Russian claim that Chechnya was never at war. The UNPO conference, entitled “The Real Story Behind European Aid to Chechnya”, provided a forum for representatives of the Chechen government and European parliament to discuss peaceful resolutions to the ongoing crisis in the Caucasus. It also enabled participants to voice their opinions on the aid planned for Chechnya. The press conference opened with remarks from the Former European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Ms. Emma Bonino and the leader of the Transnational Radical Party Mr. Marco Pannella. Former Commissioner Bonino criticized the new European initiative for reconstruction in Chechnya, pointing out how the Russian government could use this move of the European Commission in order to justify its policy towards Chechnya. The Chechen delegation, led by Mr. Umar Khanbiev (General Representative abroad) and Apti Bisultanov (Minister for Social Affairs), met during its visit to the European Parliament with MEPs Vytaunas Landsbergis (Former President of Lithuania), Bronislaw Geremek (Polish Liberal Democrat), Toomas Ilves (Estonian Socialist), Bart Staes (Belgian from the Green Group), Satu Hassi (Finnish from the Green Group). After the press conference Mr. Umar Khanbiev, General Representative abroad of the Chechen President, released the following statement: "The Chechen Government welcomes any initiative to support the Chechen People, but the proposal of the EU Commission will clean out the real reasons for the Chechen tragedy. This initiative will be seen by the Russian side as a sanction for the policy of genocide in Chechnya and [...]war crimes and human rights violations. The Chechen Government is ready to take part in the development and realisation of programs if the EU will recognize the right to self-determination of the Chechen people. A reconstruction project during a war will not achieve its goal. Chechen People need Peace, not only reconstruction aid."

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