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Top UN Relief Official Heads To Ukraine


Top UN Relief Official Heads To Ukraine, Belarus After Wrapping Up Trip To Russia

The senior United Nations relief official is heading to Ukraine and Belarus today after wrapping up a five-day official visit to the Russian Federation, where he held high-level talks in Moscow and travelled to Chechnya and Ingushetia to observe the humanitarian situation in those republics.

In his talks with Russian officials, Mr. Egeland raised a wide range of issues related to cooperation between the UN and Russia in the North Caucasus and elsewhere. They also discussed the feasibility of increasing Russia's participation in international humanitarian operations by involving its logistic, transportation and human resources, and agreed that concrete forms of cooperation would be worked out through a mission of UN experts.

While in Chechnya and Ingushetia, Mr. Egeland, the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator, received assurances from both federal and local authorities that the operational environment and security conditions for the humanitarian community there would be improved, and that the principle of voluntary return of the displaced persons to Chechnya from Ingushetia would be observed. He was also assured that there would be no deadline for the closure of tent camps in Ingushetia.

Mr. Egeland also stressed the need to secure the earliest release of Arjan Erkel, a relief worker abducted in the North Caucasus 18 months ago.

In further talks with the Russian Government, Mr. Egeland discussed the response to the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster and suggested that a new policy forum be established for discussing cooperation between Russian and UN counterparts related to Chernobyl. Russian officials expressed support for the UN's intention to shift from relief to development in working with Chernobyl-affected population.

Mr. Egeland's trip to Ukraine and Belarus, countries that also suffer the effects of the nuclear disaster, will continue to focus on the issue.

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