|Saturday, 14 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 28, 97-05-12
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 28, 12 May 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 CHERNOMYRDIN TO MEDIATE IN ABKHAZ STANDOFF?Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 10 May that Russian President Yeltsin has created a special task force to resolve the Abkhaz conflict, Interfax reported. That force will be headed by Russian Premier Chernomyrdin, who may travel to Georgia to mediate a meeting between Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba. Abkhaz parliamentary speaker Sokrat Djindjolia told Interfax on 10 May that if Russia does not lift its economic blockade of Abkhazia, the Abkhaz leadership will insist on the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force and the end of Russian mediation. Meanwhile, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 7 May that the Abkhaz leadership wants Western representatives to take over mediating a settlement of the conflict.
 GERMAN CHANCELLOR STOPS OVER IN KAZAKSTANHelmut Kohl met with Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev during a brief stopover in Almaty on 10 May on his way back to Germany from a southeast Asian tour, ITAR-TASS reported. The two leaders discussed, among other issues, the question of ethnic Germans in Kazakstan. Kohl said Bonn is "not interested" in having ethnic Germans from Kazakstan return to Germany. He added that he would like to see German capital used to develop small and medium-sized businesses in Kazakstan, saying this would help the country's German population. Few other details of their talks were released. Kohl said more information will be forthcoming when Nazarbayev pays a visit to Germany in November.
 KAZAKSTAN HAS HIGHEST TUBERCULOSIS RATE IN CISOfficial data released by the Kazak Health Ministry shows the country has the highest incidence of tuberculosis among the CIS countries, Interfax reported yesterday. Over the past three years, registered cases of the disease have risen by 38% to some 50,000 and the fatality rate has increased from 59.7 persons per 100 to 82.5 per 100. Much of the population is too poor to seek treatment, health officials say. The tuberculosis incidence among ethnic Kazaks is three times higher than among any other ethnic group in the country.
 IRANIAN PRESIDENT IN TAJIKISTAN...Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani met with his Tajik counterpart, Imomali Rakhmonov, in Dushanbe on 9 May, the Russian press reported. The two leaders signed eight documents, including memoranda on cooperation between their ministries of economics, foreign affairs, industry, and transportation. Iran will help Tajikistan construct a new hydro-electric power station in Khatlon and finish a stretch of highway that will connect the southwestern city of Kulyab with Kalai-Khumb and from there provide access to the Karakoram highway.
 ...TOGETHER WITH AFGHAN PRESIDENTOne day later, Burhanuddin Rabbani arrived in Dushanbe to meet with his Iranian and Tajik counterparts, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Rafsanjani and Rakhmonov said they continue to recognize Rabbani and his government as the legitimate leadership in Afghanistan, despite the fact that the Taliban movement now control two-thirds of that country. The three presidents reaffirmed their view that peace in Afghanistan must be achieved through political means. All three will attend the meeting of the Economic Cooperation Organization that begins in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, tomorrow. Rafsanjani arrived yesterday in Turkmenistan, where he met with President Saparmurat Niyazov to discuss bilateral trade. Meanwhile, Reuters reports he is due to return briefly to Iran today to inspect damage caused by an earthquake in northern Iran that measured 7.1 on the Richter scale.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 FATE OF ALBANIAN ELECTION PACT UNCERTAINLeaders of Albania's Salvation Committees met in Vlora yesterday and praised the election agreement brokered by OSCE envoy Franz Vranitzky on 9 May. But they said that only a larger meeting scheduled for the end of this week can decide whether to disband the committees. Under the 9 May agreement, the committees must dissolve themselves by 14 May and the parliament must pass a new election law today enabling President Sali Berisha to sign a decree by 15 May that confirms elections will be held on 29 June. The opposition wants the law to increase the number of seats elected by proportional representation so that smaller parties will have chance to enter the parliament. Meanwhile in Tirana yesterday, some 10 assailants beat up Social Democratic leader Skender Gjinushi.
 ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER IN WASHINGTONBashkim Fino arrived in the U.S. capital yesterday to discuss the situation in Albania with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. En route to Washington, Fino met in Rome with his Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi. The ministers of foreign affairs, defense, and justice also make up the Albanian delegation. Meanwhile in Tirana, Italian Defense Minister Beniamino Andreatta on Friday repeated his opposition to expanding the mandate of Operation Alba, which, he said, would lead to clashes with armed gangs.
 BALKAN PYRAMID SCHEME UPDATEThe Albanian parliament on 9 May passed legislation regulating pyramid investment schemes, ATA reported. The collapse of five such scams in January led to anarchy across much of the country. Four other pyramid investment companies are still operating but have stopped paying interest. Meanwhile in neighboring Macedonia, some 5,000 people demonstrated in Bitola on 9 May to demand government reimbursement for money lost in the collapse of the local TAT pyramid scheme. The authorities have promised partial reimbursement and started legal proceedings against key figures in the scam.
 CAN KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY UNDERMINE SERBIAN CONTROL?The clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has the potential to disrupt Belgrade's grip on its mainly ethnic Albanian province, the New York Times wrote on 11 May, quoting U.S. intelligence officials. In his first-ever interview to Western journalists, the group's leader, who called himself "Alban," told the newspaper that the UCK is not a terrorist organization and is carrying out "attacks only against the representatives of the Serbian regime." Alban added that Serbian control of Kosovo will collapse in three years. In recent months, the UCK has increased the frequency and professionalism of its killings and is targeting primarily ethnic Albanians whom it considers to be collaborators.
 CROATIAN PRESIDENT NAMES ETHNIC SERBS TO PARLIAMENTFranjo Tudjman on 10 May appointed ethnic Serbian political leaders Vojislav Stanimirovic and Jovan Bamburaca to the upper house, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. He also named writer Ivan Aralica, former central banker Pero Jurkovic, and presidential advisor Slobodan Lang among the five appointments he makes to the 68-seat body. Also in Zagreb, a team of foreign and Croatian doctors said yesterday that Tudjman is in "excellent health" and that his medical treatment is nearly over. The Croatian president visited a U.S. military hospital last November, which touched off speculation at home and abroad that he has terminal cancer. Meanwhile, the Croatian authorities announced today that direct presidential elections will take place on 15 June.
 CROATIAN OPPOSITION LEADER DENIES TREASON CHARGESPro-government dailies reported on 9 May that Stipe Mesic, an opposition politician and former confidant of Tudjman, has given extensive evidence to the Hague- based war crimes tribunal in which he betrayed both Tudjman and Croatia. The newspapers accused Mesic of telling the court that Tudjman and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic met frequently in the early 1990s to partition Bosnia-Herzegovina. Mesic told RFE/RL that he has never testified before the court but that he did speak to its representatives. He called the media campaign a "political lynching" that constitutes a threat against his life.
 BOSNIAN SERB, CROAT LEADERS MEETLeading Bosnian Serb and Croat politicians met in Banja Luka on Saturday, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from there. Bozo Rajic represented the Croatian Democratic Community, while Aleksa Buha spoke for the Serbian Democratic Party. Neither the meeting nor its contents have been officially confirmed. Muslim leaders and international representatives have repeatedly warned the Serbs and Croats not to make any private deals. Meanwhile in The Hague, EU Commissioner Hans van den Broek told Dutch TV on 10 May that Bosnian refugees should not be sent home until indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic is caught.
 ROMANIAN PREMIER IN LUXEMBOURG, DEFENSE MINISTER IN NORWAYPremier Victor Ciorbea met with his Belgian counterpart, Jean Claude Juncker, and bank officials during his visit to Luxembourg on 10 May. Minister for European Integration Alexandru Herlea, who accompanied Ciorbea, said in an interview with RFE/RL that Juncker fully endorsed Romania's bid for early NATO membership. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Victor Babiuc, who ended a two-day visit to Norway on 11 May, was unable to enroll Oslo's support for Romania's membership bid. He told Radio Bucharest that Norway has not yet "made up its mind" on which countries should be invited to join the enlarged NATO at the July Madrid summit.
 ROMANIAN ECONOMIC NEWSWorld Bank President James Wolfensohn on 11 May began a two-day visit to Romania, where he will meet with President Emil Constantinescu, Premier Victor Ciorbea, and members of the government, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. On arriving, he said his visit is intended to "demonstrate the [bank's] support" for the Ciorbea cabinet. He said the loans the bank will grant "have not yet been decided on" but will now be "discussed in detail." In other news, the National Statistics Commission said on 9 May that inflation dropped from nearly 31% in March to 6.9% in April. But the annual rate of inflation has already reached 88.7% and is expected to be higher than the 90% forecast by the government.
 MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT TO RESTORE CEMETERY FOR ROMANIA'S WWII SOLDIERSA commemorative plaque has been put up at a site in Moldova where some 12, 000 Romanian and Russian soldiers who fell during World War II are buried, BASA-press and Radio Bucharest reported on 9 May. The former cemetery was leveled by Soviet bulldozers in 1944 and a cattle farm was set up on the site. The ceremony was attended by the Romanian and Russian military attaches in Chisinau, Gen. Gheorghe Secu and Gen. Sergei Buturev. BASA- Press said Moldovan Premier Ion Ciubuc and Romanian ambassador Gheorghe Dinu will visit the site this week, when Ciubuc will be traveling by car to Romania for an official visit.
 WORLD BANK APPROVES HUMANITARIAN LOAN FOR BULGARIAThe World Bank on 9 May approved a $40 million loan to Bulgaria for the immediate purchase of goods in short supply, such as medicine, wheat, and fuels. An RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported that the bank said the loan will support the first phase of the new government's program and is crucial for stopping and reversing the country's economic crisis. In other news, outgoing interim Premier Stefan Sofiyanski announced on 9 May that the country's telecommunications company and its cement industries are to be privatized. He said he hoped the telecommunications company will bring revenues of more than $ 1 billion.
 BULGARIA TO SEEK CHEAPER RUSSIAN GASThe director-general of the state monopoly Bulgargas says the company will try to get Russian gas at cheaper prices. Vasil Filipov told a press conference in Sofia yesterday that the prices charged by Russia's Gazprom company rose "an unrealistic 24%" last year and that Bulgargas will try to obtain gas at cheaper prices from foreign firms that have loaned money to Gazprom and are accepting repayment in the form of gas deliveries. He said "Gazprom creditors offer us favorable prices and we will swing to such suppliers."
[C] END NOTE
 A BREAKTHROUGH ON MOLDOVA?by Paul Goble
A Russian-brokered agreement explicitly intended to preserve the territorial integrity of Moldova highlights Moscow's ability to exploit the internal divisions of former Soviet republics to bend them to its will. On 8 May, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and Igor Smirnov, the leader of the breakaway Transdniestr region, signed a memorandum in Moscow committing themselves to develop their "relations within the framework of a single state." Also signing the accord as guarantors were Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, and Niels Helveg Petersen, the acting head of the OSCE.
Already hailed in Russia and the West as a "landmark" decision and a "breakthrough" document, this latest accord does not commit the two sides to anything more than further talks on the nature of their relations within a single country. It does not commit Russia to withdrawing any forces from the Transdniestr until the two sides come up with a workable agreement on their own. As a result, it does not put any new pressure on the Transdniestr leadership to move quickly toward a final agreement with Chisinau.
In sum, this is just the latest twist in the complex history of the Transdniestr region and its relations with Moldova and Moscow. In 1992, the Transdniestr region of Moldova, an area with a slim Slavic majority, unilaterally declared independence. That move provoked a brief civil war in which 700 people lost their lives and the deployment of Russian forces to keep the two sides apart. Ever since, Chisinau has sought to have Moscow withdraw its forces so that it can reestablish control over a region that some have characterized as the only place where the anti-Gorbachev August 1991 coup succeeded. Russia and Moldova subsequently reached an agreement that Russian troops would be withdrawn over a three-year period, but Moscow has not yet pulled them, arguing that the clock for their withdrawal has not started because the Duma has not ratified this accord.
There are several reasons for this delay. The local Slavic population continues to view the Russian forces as its savior against the Romanian-speaking majority of Moldova. Nationalists in Russia see them as the defenders of ethnic Russians abroad and, in fact, have made Aleksandr Lebed, the former commander of the Russian 14th Army in Transdniestr, their political hero. And Moscow regards them as a lever directly on Moldova and indirectly on Ukraine. Moreover, the Russian government remains uncertain of just where to relocate the 6,500 Russian troops currently stationed there and how to dispose of the enormous arms dumps in the region.
The latest accord does not change any of this. Indeed, Yeltsin admitted as much when he said that the latest agreement "does not mean all the problems have been resolved." Even more pointedly, he said that Russia "is ready to withdraw its peacekeeping contingent from Transdniestr as both sides resolve the conflict," thereby giving the Transdniestr authorities every reason to drag their feet. As in the past, Tiraspol is likely to pursue a strategy of simply making additional demands on Chisinau after every Moldovan concession.
Consequently, this accord is not going to be the "breakthrough" in the way that many commentators are suggesting. But it may be a breakthrough in another way. By involving the OSCE as a co-guarantor, Moscow in effect nullifies its earlier agreement with Chisinau to withdraw its forces from the Transdniestr region and does so with the blessing of an important international organization. That provides a more solid foundation for Russian forces there and perhaps in other places such as Abkhazia in Georgia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.
If that happens, what looks like a small step toward resolving the Transdniestr issue may prove a giant leap backward in securing the genuine independence of the former Soviet republics.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty