Sailing to Istanbul

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As the Turkish ferry hijacked by Chechen sympathizers continues to steam towards Istanbul, Turkish officials appear close to resolving the crisis. The hijackers have offered to release all hostages in Istanbul in return for a Friday news conference to publicize the plight of Chechnya. Turkish officials, who say that they will not let a ship that the hijackers say is packed with explosives sail through the crowded Bosporus straits to Istanbul, have offered the port city of Eregli as an alternative site. While this hostage crisis seems headed to a peaceful end, TIME's James Wilde says that its effects will be far-reaching. "Observers here say that however it is handled, this incident will do little to improve Turkish-Russian ties. It appears possible that this may be a prelude to a general conflagration in the Caucasus in reaction to Moscow's brutality. Russia looks with annoyance at Turkey's current play for the ethnically Turkic former Soviet Republics in Central Asian. Moscow makes no bones about its anger about Turkey's wooing of these countries, which it interprets as vying with Russia for influence in the region."