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Russia: Yeltsin And Chechen President Agree On Treaty Commission

Moscow, 18 August 1997 (RFE/RL) - After talks with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov in Moscow today, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said Moscow's problems with its breakaway republic of Chechnya can be resolved peacefully. Yeltsin announced that a joint commision will be created to draft a treaty outlining relations between Russia and Chechnya.

Yeltsin said neither side should be stubborn but instead should work together to further "the freedom of the Chechen Republic."

Yeltsin said if problems arose, he would intercede as he had done with the leader of Tatarstan, a region which has a special power-sharing agreement with Moscow. Mintimer Shaimiyev, leader of the Tatarstan Republic, was granted wide-ranging autonomy by Moscow in 1994.

Maskhadov said afterwards that he was pleased with the talks and expressed confidence that the two sides could resolve their outstanding differences.

Shortly after the meeting ended, Russia's NTV television announced the freeing of three of its journalists who had been held captive for three months in Chechnya. The group is reported to be on its way to Moscow. NTV said further details will be made public in news broadcasts later today.

Before leaving the Chechen capital, Grozny, today, Interfax news agency quoted Maskhadov as saying he intended to negotiate "on an equal footing." He said he intended to seek full independence for Chechnya. Maskhadov also said he wanted to establish full diplomatic ties between Russia and the North Caucasus Republic.

In particular, he said he wanted to see a full inter-state agreement foreshadowing mutual recognition, the opening of embassies and non-interference in each other's affairs.

Maskhadov also rejected Russian claims that Moscow was providing aid to rebuild Chechnya's economy, shattered after 21 months of war. Interfax quotes him as saying the amount of money Chechnya has received so far this year adds up to less than Russia spent on a single day of war.