|Monday, 18 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 12, 97-04-16
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 12, 16 April 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ PEACE TALKS TO RESUME?Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili says Tbilisi has accepted Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba's offer to resume quadrilateral peace talks in which the UN and Russia will also take part, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. The Abkhaz parliament, however, opposes resuming negotiations until the Russian trade embargo against Abkhazia is lifted. It also rejects the decision of the March CIS summit to broaden the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping forces in Abkhazia. Menagharishvili said implementation of that decision would be "an indicator of whether or not the CIS can perform its function." But he denied that Georgia will consider leaving the CIS if the decision is not implemented.
 TAJIK TALKS BEGIN AGAIN.Representatives of the Tajik government and opposition have returned to the negotiating table in Tehran, ITAR-TASS reported today. The current round of talks is scheduled to decide the legal status of political parties and movements in Tajikistan. Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani met with both sides yesterday, telling them to forget their differences and move toward a final peace. Opposition accusations that some of its members were being held in Moscow led to the breakup of the talks last week.
 FEWER ORT BROADCASTS TO KYRGYZSTAN.As of today, Russian Public Television (ORT) will slash its daily programming in Kyrgyzstan' s Chu Oblast from 18 to six hours, ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian network's debts to Kyrgyz relay stations now total 860 million rubles. Kyrgyzstan is trying to reach an agreement with ORT over settling the debt. It is also seeking payment from Russia' s RTR network and Radio Mayak, which have debts totaling some 2 billion and 895 million rubles, respectively. ORT's newscast was the most popular program of its kind in Chu Oblast, where the capital Bishkek is located.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIAN PREMIER WELCOMES FOREIGN TROOPS.Bashkim Fino said yesterday in Tirana that the arrival of multinational troops will help restore peace and order after months of violence. In particular, he thanked Italy, which is leading the force of 6,000 troops from eight countries. The first 1,200 troops from Italy, France, and Spain began arriving yesterday by air and sea. Fino also thanked the UN, the EU, the U.S., and the OSCE for backing the mission. The OSCE's chief envoy in the crisis, former Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, arrives in Tirana today for two days of talks. Meanwhile, Turkish Defense Minister Turhan Tayan said in Ankara yesterday that more than 500 Turkish marines will leave next week to join the force. The Turks' main task will be to secure Tirana airport. Greece is to send 760 soldiers to Albania today.
 ALBANIA'S LEKA TO BACK KOSOVAR INDEPENDENCE.The new Kosovar independent daily Koha Ditore yesterday quoted Leka, pretender to the Albanian throne, as saying he would back independence for Kosovo if the people there wanted it. He argued that the monarchy could be a "useful unifying force for our brothers and sisters living outside Albania." He stressed, however, that unity must be achieved by peaceful means. Leka added that he would like to visit Kosovo "if the Serbian authorities have no objections." The current Albanian government works closely with its Western allies on minority issues and does not encourage irredentism.
 TUDJMAN'S PARTY CLAIMS WIN IN CROATIAN ELECTIONS.According to unofficial returns, the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) won 41 of the 63 upper house seats contested in the 13 April elections. The party had 37 seats in the outgoing legislature, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb yesterday. The HDZ announced that it expects to govern the capital city, where the opposition has had a majority in the municipal council since October 1995. The HDZ looks set to win 24 of the 50 council seats and is seeking at least two more votes among the fragmented opposition. President Franjo Tudjman vetoed the old council's four attempts to elect a mayor, saying he cannot entrust Zagreb to "enemies of the state."
 UN OFFICIAL PLEASED WITH SLAVONIAN VOTE.Jacques Klein, chief UN administrator in Serb-held eastern Slavonia, said in Vukovar yesterday that 85% of the local Serbs cast their ballots on 13- 14 April. He added that the high turnout shows their commitment to the future and to democracy. Yesterday, voting in some places continued for an unscheduled third day. Results will not be announced until the authorities have counted the absentee ballots from some 70,000 Croat refugees living outside the region. Eastern Slavonia reverts to Croatian control in July.
 BOSNIA'S IZETBEGOVIC VOWS TO HOUND WAR CRIMINALS.Alija Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of the joint Bosnian presidency, said at a military parade in Sarajevo yesterday that he will do everything in his power to pursue war criminals. "We cannot and will not forgive them. We will chase them to the end of the world," he pledged. Momcilo Krajisnik, Serbian member of the presidency, said after meeting with Pope John Paul II on 13 April that Bosnia needs calm and that insistence on catching war criminals could lead to a new war, Nasa Borba reported on 14 April. The Hague-based war crimes tribunal says the trials are necessary to identify guilty individuals lest victims blame entire peoples for the crimes.
 BOSNIA GETS NEW CURRENCY.U.S. and Bosnian officials announced in Sarajevo yesterday that the three Bosnian sides have agreed to set up a central bank and a common currency, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Bosnian capital reported. The new unit will be called the convertible mark and will be pegged to the German mark on a one-to-one basis and backed by hard currency reserves. Bank notes printed in the Croatian-Muslim federation and in the Republika Srpska will have different designs, but all bank notes will be devoid of nationalist symbols and valid throughout Bosnia. The Dayton peace agreement and foreign investors regard the common bank and currency as crucial.
 MONTENEGRO'S PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKER SLAMS PRESIDENT.Svetozar Marovic yesterday blasted President Momir Bulatovic's call for a special session of the parliament to investigate the State Security Service (SDB). Marovic said that only the speaker can determine the parliament's agenda and that routine checks have uncovered no wrongdoing by the SDB. AFP reported yesterday that the SDB has been working against agents of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic sent into Montenegro from Belgrade. Nasa Borba reports today that Bulatovic made clear at a meeting of the governing Democratic Socialist Party that he wants to fire Marovic and Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO BID.Adrian Severin says that if Bucharest is left off the short-list of new NATO members, the alliance would be robbed of the chance to bolster its southern flank. In an interview with Reuters before his departure for Italy and the U.S., Severin said that a "logical enlargement would include the strengthening of NATO's most vulnerable flank, and that is not the nordic, but the southern one." He pointed out that in the south, there are numerous threats posed by terrorism, illegal immigration, and drugs and arms trade. He also offered to forge special ties with Poland to safeguard NATO's interests in the Baltic and Black Seas and to help Ukraine integrate with Europe. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry has launched a "White Book" on Romania's bid for NATO membership. RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reports that the book says Romania is capable of making its own contribution to the alliance.
 ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO SUPERVISE PRIVATIZATION DIRECTLY.The government yesterday announced it will directly supervise the State Property Fund (FPS), which oversees the privatization process, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Until now, the FPS has been supervised by the parliament. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea said the decision was taken after an FPS spokesman had denied that a list of 10 state companies singled out by the executive either for liquidation or privatization was final (see RFE/RL Newsline, 14 April 1997). The spokesman has since been dismissed.
 MOLDOVAN OPPOSITION PARTY ATTACKS AGREEMENT WITH TIRASPOL.The Party of Revival and Accord (PRAM) yesterday denounced the 10 April agreement between Chisinau, Moscow, and Tiraspol to amend the memorandum on normalizing Moldovan-Transdniestrian relations, Infotag reported. The PRAM said that President Petru Lucinschi's "policy of concessions" contravenes constitutional norms and that the compromise term "united state" in the agreement contravenes the constitutional provision stipulating that Moldova is a "unitary state." Deputy Eugen Rusu argued that "united state" may mean several things, including "federative state" or "confederation." PRAM deputy chairman Nicolae Andronic told Infotag that the memorandum "will create a dangerous precedent and the separatists in Crimea will just rub their hands with joy."
 RUSSIAN DELEGATION WRAPS UP VISIT TO MOLDOVA.Aman Tuleev, Russian minister for CIS affairs, says energy supplies to Moldova might be cut within 30 days if the issue of Moldova's debt to Gazprom is not resolved. Tuleev was speaking in the Moldovan capital yesterday at the end of a Russian delegation's two-day visit. The two sides agreed to examine the possibility of settling the $570 million debt ($300 million of which is owed by the breakaway Transdniester region) through bonds and shares in Moldovan companies. Tuleev and Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Valeriu Bulgari signed several long-term economic cooperation agreements. One accord provides for a five-year 150 billion ruble credit for the purchase of Russian-made agricultural machinery and another for Russian participation in Moldova's electrification program, ITAR-TASS reported.
 KING SIMEON CALLS FOR "BROAD COALITION" IN BULGARIA.Speaking in the northern town of Veliko Tirnovo yesterday, Bulgaria's former monarch called for a "broad coalition" to be set up after the 19 April parliamentary elections. An RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia says the call is to be regarded as endorsing the new Union for National Salvation, which includes several small pro-monarchy parties and whose backbone is the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms. Simeon said he was "extending his hand" to all political forces because "patriots can be found in every camp." He called on voters to cast their ballot in favor of the reforms. The former monarch is due today to meet with President Petar Stoyanov before returning to Madrid.
 EBRD PREDICTS SOARING INFLATION IN BULGARIA.According to an EBRD report, inflation in Bulgaria could soar to 1,000% this year, reflecting the "extreme" economic crisis in the country. An RFE/RL correspondent in London says the report predicts a 10% slowdown in growth, a serious drop in living standards, and a huge increase in bread prices. Most other indicators, including Bulgaria's external debt and its rising budget deficit, also show economic deterioration. The EBRD says that the crisis reflects lack of progress toward reforms as well as corruption and mismanagement. But it predicts that if action is taken and the measures agreed by the government and the IMF work, this year could witness the "beginnings of a turnaround."
[C] END NOTE
 New Geo-Political Alliances On Russia's Southern Rim
by Liz FullerOver the five years that have elapsed since the disintegration of the USSR, two alliances among the Soviet successor states have emerged on Russia's southern borders. Both of these new groupings comprise political, economic, and military components.
The Central Asian Union evolved from a January 1994 agreement between Kazakstan and Uzbekistan providing for the abolition of customs barriers to create a common economic space. Kyrgyzstan acceded to that agreement almost immediately. From its inception, the union was intended as a model for closer economic integration within the CIS. Over the past three years, it has developed supra-national coordinating structures--including an Executive Committee of Heads of State and Government and a Council of Foreign Ministers--that are far more effective than its CIS equivalents. The leaderships of the three member states reportedly coordinate their positions on all regional issues. Moreover, the union has created a Central Asian peacekeeping battalion, which has the official benediction of the UN, and a Central Asian Bank for Cooperation and Development.
Moscow apparently does not perceive the Central Asian Union as posing a major threat to Russian economic interests. There are several possible reasons for this attitude: Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbaev's support for integration within the CIS, the simultaneous membership of Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan in the customs union with Russia and Belarus, and Moscow's observer status within the Central Asian Union, granted last year. Alternatively, Russia may have other plans for safeguarding its economic interests in Central Eurasia. One Moscow policy analyst recently proposed that Russia join the Economic Cooperation Organization, whose members are Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and the five Central Asian Soviet successor states.
In contrast, Moscow was swift to express disapproval of a second nascent "Union of Three, " composed of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine. (Kazakstan and Uzbekistan have been mentioned as possible future members.) Russian concern over the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Ukraine alignment, which was formed late last year and remains informal, may have several origins. The alliance is uncompromisingly Western in orientation, and its members may even aspire to NATO membership. They are also interested in military cooperation among themselves: Ukraine supplies arms to Azerbaijan and has offered to send peacekeeping forces to both Nagorno-Karabakh and Abkhazia, thereby undercutting Russia's jealously guarded monopoly on CIS "peacekeeping."
The gravest threat to Russian interests, however, is the grandiose plan to export Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Georgia and the Black Sea to Europe--bypassing Russia altogether. What is more, the western Union of Three has the implicit backing of Western states (notably the U.S. and France), which are eager to circumscribe Russian dominance and to protect Western economic interests in the Transcaucasus.
Nor is Georgia's membership in the western Union of Three the only aspect of Georgian foreign policy to ring alarm bells in Moscow. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze is simultaneously cultivating ties with several of Russia's North Caucasus republics, including Chechnya. Some Russian observers suspect Shevardnadze of planning to realize the vision, shared by his late predecessor Zviad Gamsakhurdia and deceased Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, of a broader Caucasian union. They perceive such a configuration as a threat to the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.
The emergence and possible implications of the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Ukraine alignment have not gone unnoticed in Armenia, which has traditionally been Moscow's most stalwart ally in the Transcaucasus. But some Russian commentators have interpreted recent reports of Russian arms supplies to Armenia as heralding a fundamental reassessment of Russian policy in the Transcaucasus to Armenia's disadvantage. In the wake of those reports, one senior Armenian official has advocated closer bilateral relations with Ukraine. (Armenia responded to the reports of Russian arms deliveries by charging that in recent years, Azerbaijan has received comparable, if not larger, quantities of military hardware from Turkey. This suggests that the Armenian leadership has, for the moment, relinquished its hopes for rapprochement with Ankara.)
The ultimate criterion for the viability, if not the survival, of both the eastern (Central Asian) and western Unions of Three is not their economic potential but how much of a threat they pose to Moscow. At last month's CIS summit, Russian President Boris Yeltsin made it clear that "integration" within the CIS should take priority over alternative alignments. CIS member states, he commented, are "free to seek friends to the West, to the South, and to the East. But what kind of friendship is it that harms your neighbors?"
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty