|Tuesday, 19 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 25, 97-05-06
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 25, 6 May 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 MEETING OF MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN POSTPONEDThe meeting between the U.S., Russian, and French co- chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group scheduled to begin today in Washington has been postponed, RFE/RL reported, citing a U.S. State Department spokesman. The French and Russian co-chairmen met last week in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In Baku on 4 May, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev told Mikhail Krotov, the secretary of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly Council, that he would welcome greater efforts by the CIS to mediate a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Nezavisimaya gazeta today quotes Iranian Ambassador in Baku Ali Reza Bigdeli as saying that Iran is "resolutely raising" with Armenia the question of liberating occupied Azerbaijani territory.
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT IN TURKEYHeidar Aliev and his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, met in Ankara yesterday and signed a declaration on strategic cooperation, Western media reported. Seven intergovernmental agreements on trade and economic cooperation were also signed. Reuters quoted Demirel as saying before his meeting with Aliev that they would discuss "new ideas for cooperation with regional countries to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem." The two leaders were expected also to discuss the prospects for an oil pipeline through eastern Anatolia to transport Azerbaijan's Caspian oil to Turkey's Ceyhan terminal. Turkey is to announce a tender for a feasibility study for the pipeline, but the vice president of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company was quoted by Segodnya on 30 April as saying no decision on an export pipeline will be taken this year.
 IMF PRAISES UZBEK PROGRESS BUT HOLDS OFF WITH LOANIMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer says the balance of a 1995 loan worth $185 million will remain suspended, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported. He was speaking after discussions at the weekend with Uzbek officials, including President Islam Karimov. Uzbekistan drew about $92 million of the loan before the introduction last year of severe restrictions on foreign exchange, which prompted the IMF to withhold the remainder. Fischer said there has been "substantial progress" in structural reforms, including price liberalization and privatization. He also expressed satisfaction that the budget deficit has been kept below 3% of GDP so far this year.
 GAS DEBTS TO TURKMENISTANRussia owes $71 million for gas supplies in the first three months of 1997, ITAR- TASS reported yesterday. Ukraine's debt for the same period is $302.5 million and Georgia's $22.2 million. Those two countries now owe $780.6 million and $442.7 million, respectively. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov told the government yesterday that the debts are creating "difficulties for the country's social and economic development." He also asked the ministers to work with the Russian government to secure the return of $107.2 million currently frozen in Russia's Vneshkombank.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ITALY DEPORTS "UNDESIRABLE" ALBANIANSMilitary spokesmen said in Bari yesterday that 180 Albanians were deported soon after their arrival on an overcrowded Montenegrin tanker on 4 May. The spokesmen added that an additional 300 "undesirable" Albanians from the same ship will be sent home today. Meanwhile in Tirana, Lt.-Gen. Luciano Forlani, the commander of the international force, said foreign troops have calmed the situation in Albania but are powerless to stop the exodus of refugees.
 ALBANIAN POLITICIANS STILL DEADLOCKEDLeaders of the Democratic and Socialist Parties have again failed to agree on terms for holding early elections in June, the official ATA news agency reported yesterday. The Socialists want the Democrats to endorse a new election law as a precondition, while the Democrats want the Socialists first to disband the rebel committees in the south. The Socialists say they do not control the committees. Over the weekend, leading independent and opposition Tirana dailies praised U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's invitation to Prime Minister Bashkim Fino to visit Washington. The papers agreed that the invitation is a message to President Sali Berisha not to make trouble for Fino.
 VOTER REGISTRATION STARTS IN BOSNIASome 420 OSCE offices opened in Bosnia-Herzegovina yesterday to allow citizens to register for the 13-14 September local elections. Carl Bildt, the international community's High Representative, said in the disputed town of Brcko that registration offices will open there in a few days, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. The state- run media in federal Yugoslavia report that refugees can sign up for the Bosnian elections in various location in Serbia and Montenegro. Refugees living outside Bosnia have until 7 June to register either in person or by mail. The vote is seen as a last opportunity to reverse "ethnic cleansing" because refugees can cast ballots that will be counted in their former home towns.
 SERBIAN HOMES TORCHED IN CROAT-HELD AREAThe UN police and Bildt's office announced in Sarajevo yesterday that 25 empty Serbian houses were burned in Drvar over the weekend, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. Bildt's spokesman added that unidentified persons had also prepared an additional 25 Serbian dwellings for torching. The UN police say they will conduct their own investigation because they are dissatisfied with work of the local Croatian police in such matters. Local Croatian authorities had earlier agreed that the Serbs could return in keeping with the Dayton agreement. Drvar was a mainly Serbian town before the Croatian-Muslim offensive in 1995. Local Croatian nationalists want to consolidate their hold on the area, which is near the Herzegovinian Croat heartland and Croatia proper.
 GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS BOSNIAN RECONSTRUCTION AID DEPENDS ON GOOD BEHAVIORKlaus Kinkel said in Bonn yesterday that "by making reconstruction help strictly conditional, the international community disposes of an effective means of fixing bounds for the fomenters of ethnic tensions. Misguided fanatics must not be allowed to endanger what has been achieved." Kinkel spoke in response to the torchings in Drvar, which he called "alarming." Germany remains the most important foreign economic influence throughout the former Yugoslavia.
 CROATIAN POLITICAL UPDATEThe pro-government daily Vjesnik reports today that presidential elections will take place on 15 June and that the authorities will confirm the date within a week. Candidates will then have 12 days to register. Most observers expect President Franjo Tudjman to be re-elected. Yesterday, he set 12 May as the date for the opening session of the upper house elected last month. Meanwhile, the Zagreb county court pardoned seven ethnic Serbs charged with spying for the federal Yugoslav army at the start of the war in 1991, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. Two of the men will still have to face conspiracy charges.
 POWER MEETING IN BELGRADEFederal Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic, Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic, Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, and several other top officials met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade yesterday, Nasa Borba reports. No details of the meeting were given. Observers expect Milosevic to announce soon whether he will seek the federal presidency or try to run for a third term, despite the constitutional provision that the holder of that office may serve for only two terms. Also in Belgrade, Politika reported yesterday a growth in the murder rate. Some 40 murders took place this year, compared with 55 for all of 1996. Most such crimes involved an unregistered firearm and half remain unsolved.
 ITALIAN PREMIER BACKS ROMANIA'S BID TO JOIN NATO, EURomano Prodi says his country "irrevocably supports" Romania's bid to join NATO and the EU, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Prodi, who was in the Romanian capital yesterday to meet with his counterpart Victor Ciorbea, expressed his country's gratitude for Romania's participation in the international force in Albania. He also held talks with the chairmen of the two houses of parliament and was received by President Emil Constantinescu. Prodi is the first Italian prime minister to visit Romania in 20 years. Italy is Romania's second largest investor.
 ROMANIAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER TO BECOME NEW INTELLIGENCE CHIEF?Dudu Ionescu says in an interview with the independent news agency Mediafax that he has been asked to become the new chief of the Intelligence Service (SRI). He did not say who made the offer but noted he would "have to accept" if it came from "those authorized" to make it. Under Romanian law, the president appoints the SRI chief. Sources within the major governmental party, the National Peasant Party--Christian Democratic, say Ionescu has the support of party chairman Ion Diaconescu. But Mediafax says that President Emil Constantinescu favors Costin Georgescu, a deputy for the National Liberal Party and former financial manager of Constantinescu's presidential campaign.
 ROMANIAN COAL MINERS LEADER SAYS HIS TRIAL IS POLITICALMiron Cozma, the leader of the coal miners who rampaged through Bucharest on several occasions in 1990 and 1991, says the accusations against him are "politically motivated," Romanian media reported on 5-6 May. Cozma is charged with "undermining state authority" by playing a leading role in the demonstrations, which triggered the dismissal of Petre Roman's government in September 1991. He is also charged with the illegal possession of firearms and other offenses. Cozma said the miners were manipulated in 1991 by people who knew they would react violently to wage arrears and who wanted to bring about changes in the government but did not want to force Roman out of office. His trial began yesterday in Bucharest and is expected to last several months.
 BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER DENIES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTBogumil Bonev says there is no evidence that the bomb found near Sofia airport last week was planted there to assassinate the presidents of Bulgaria and Romania (see RFE/RL Newsline, 5 May 1997). An RFE/RL Sofia bureau correspondent quoted the caretaker interior minister as saying an investigation is under way to establish who planted the explosive device and why.
[C] END NOTE
 Putting Pipelines Into Playby Paul Goble
Yerevan's rejection of an Azerbaijani proposal to build an oil pipeline across Armenia in exchange for recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh highlights the pitfalls of using pipelines to make peace. But even if this latest exchange between the two governments does not lead to peace, both the Azerbaijani proposal and Armenia's response and subsequent action indicate that the two countries may be reconsidering their approaches to each other. If that proves the case, there may be some significant movement not only on the long-running Karabakh dispute but also on relations among the three countries of the southern Caucasus as well as between those states and the rest of the world.
The current flurry of activity began on 1 May, when Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev said his country would be prepared to consider the construction of a pipeline across Armenia if Yerevan would withdrawn its forces in, and its claims to, Karabakh. Routing Azerbaijani and Central Asian oil across Armenia would not only bypass many of the difficulties posed by the alternative routes across Georgia and Russia but would bring Armenia significant transit fees.
But the next day, Armenian presidential spokesman Levon Zurabyan rejected any suggestion that Yerevan might be willing to consider such a trade-off. While Armenia would welcome a pipeline across its territory and believes that it would be "profitable for all," it does "not see any relation between the pipeline's route and the settlement of the Karabakh conflict," Zurabyan concluded.
Similar proposals and rejections have been floated at various times in the past, and Zurabyan's rejection gave no reason to believe that the current exchange would lead to anything else. But the same day, the Armenian Foreign Ministry publicly denounced the Armenian parliament's decision to ratify a treaty allowing Moscow to have military bases in Armenia for 25 years. Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparyan said that his ministry had urged the parliament to postpone ratification of the pact because of growing concerns about its implications for the country's national security. The Foreign Ministry reportedly noted that the treaty--which has since been ratified--would force Yerevan to give up to Russia some of the tanks and armored vehicles that Armenia is allowed under the CFE treaty. That could leave Armenia weaker than Azerbaijan and even more dependent on Russia, Gasparyan said.
Both Azerbaijan and Georgia have expressed fears in Vienna at the recent CFE talks that Moscow will be able to pressure some of its neighbors into yielding their quotas to Russia and thus allow it to put pressure on others. The two Transcaucasian states clearly had Armenia in mind when they made those remarks. At least some members of the Armenian cabinet appear to be focusing on the dangers inherent in this game. Azerbaijani President Aliyev's proposal may have provided them with an opening, since it suggests that Armenia has more choices about its future than simply relying on Russia.
Among those in Yerevan now thinking about such new alternatives may be some close associates of recently named Armenian Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan. As former president of the breakaway region of Karabakh, he is generally thought to have a freer hand than anyone else in Yerevan in negotiating a settlement. If this interpretation proves correct--and many will seek to sabotage any agreement between Baku and Yerevan--there could be movement on the Karabakh issue for the first time in many months. Any such movement would almost certainly lead to better relations among the southern Caucaucasian countries while contributing to a new skepticism about Russian designs in the region as a whole.
Consequently, Baku and Yerevan may have altered the political landscape of this part of the world by putting pipeline issues into play once again -- even if the routes of those pipelines do not change.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty