A Swiss-sponsored group dedicated to finding a peaceful solution for the war-torn Russian republic of Chechnya has held its inaugural meeting in Bern.This content was published on September 22, 2005 - 22:38
The Chechen Civil Society Forum includes about 100 human rights, scientific, economic, cultural and political groups.
The forum was initiated by the Swiss branch of the Society for Threatened Peoples and is supported by several Swiss members of parliament.
Swiss parliamentarian and the society's president in Switzerland, Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, said the forum would try to bring together disparate factions of the Chechen community to promote peace.
It would seek to end Chechnya's "isolation" in the world by forging closer links with the international community.
"You are the living proof that in an environment of conflict the flower of peace can flourish," she told the forum's inaugural meeting.
"You are here today to show the world that Chechens want to work together constructively on the future of their society.
"By doing this, you counter effectively the view some politicians have about Chechnya being a place where everybody is fighting each other."
Chechnya has been in almost constant conflict with Russia since it claimed independence in 1991. Russia granted the region substantial autonomy, but not full independence, in 1996 following two years of fighting.
Russian troops moved back into Chechnya after a wave of bombings in 1999. Hostilities, which resulted in the 2004 killing of 330 people after a siege at a Russian school in Beslan, have now entered their second decade.
Forum delegate Eliza Musaeva told swissinfo that the forum hopes to initiate a peace process between the warring sides.
"Every conflict should be stopped by peaceful means and this forum has been formed with the purpose of making it sooner rather than later," she said.
Musaeva paid tribute to Switzerland's role in getting the forum off the ground.
"It was Switzerland's idea to create this organisation and make a platform to help the situation," she said. "And Switzerland will continue to support us, which is a great help in the search for peace in Chechnya."
swissinfo, Matthew Allen
Twenty-five members of the Chechen Civil Society Forum have drafted an action plan for peace in Chechnya, which will be released shortly.
The roots of the forum were laid in June 2004 at a meeting in Chechnya, coordinated by the Swiss branch of the Society for Threatened Peoples, which resolved to find a peaceful solution.
The forum has been registered as a charitable organisation in Switzerland.