|Thursday, 5 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 40, 97-05-29
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 40, 29 May 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 RUSSIA YET TO RECOGNIZE AFGHANISTANRussia has not recognized the Taliban government and says it is unlikely to do so in the near future. ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May that Pakistan is ready to arrange an official meeting between the Russian and Taliban ministers of foreign affairs. However, sources in Pakistan and Iran say Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Mohammad Ghauz was taken prisoner on 28 May by Gen. Abdul Malik in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif. The Taliban have suffered a major loss in battles there on 28 May and have retreated from the city. So far, besides Pakistan, only Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have recognized the Taliban government.
 REFUGEES READY TO CROSS AFGHAN-TAJIK BORDERBorder guards along the Tajik-Afghan border said on 28 May that the arrival of refugees is now imminent, according to RFE/RL's Tajik service. The scheduled repatriation of some Tajik refugees from Afghanistan did not take place on 28 May as had been expected. The Tajik government made no announcement about the reason for the delay.
 WORLD BANK GRANTS LOANS TO TURKMENISTANTurkmenistan is to receive World Bank loans totaling $64.5 million to develop transportation systems in Ashgabat, Mary, and Chardjoi, according to a 29 May ITAR-TASS report. Some of the money will be used for improving water supplies in the Dashkhowuz region, which is suffering from the effects of the shrinking Aral Sea.
 KAZAKSTAN SEEKS INCREASED INVESTMENT BY 2000, SELLS MORE ENTERPRISESKazak Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin said his country wants to attract $23 billion in direct investment by 2000, according to Interfax. Last year, direct investment totaled $1.2 billion. Kazakstan is continuing its sale of leading enterprises, which critics have attacked as selling out the country to foreigners. Interfax reported on 28 May that the U.S. company Excess Industries has won a tender for two power and heating plants in Pavlodar. The American company will pay $5 million in back wages and invest $60 million in the plants in the near future.
 ABKHAZ-GEORGIAN PEACE TALKS TO RESUMEGeorgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 28 May that he and his Abkhaz counterpart, Vladislav Ardzinba, agreed during a telephone conversation several days earlier to resume talks, ITAR-TASS reported. Shevardnadze said they had discussed various measures aimed at normalizing relations, not all of which could be implemented immediately. Shevardnadze again said that Georgia will call for the withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia if its mandate is not broadened in accordance with the decision of the CIS heads of state at their March summit. Meeting in Tbilisi on 28 May with his Ukrainian counterpart, Aleksandr Moroz, Georgian parliamentary chairman Zurab Zhvania suggested that an international peacekeeping force that included a Ukrainian contingent could replace the CIS peacekeepers.
 IRAN OBTAINS 10% SHARE IN AZERBAIJAN'S FIFTH OIL CONSORTIUMNatik Aliev, president of Azerbaijan's state oil company, SOCAR, signed an agreement in Baku on 27 May with representatives of Iran's OIEC oil company. According to Interfax on 28 May, the agreement finalizes OIEC's acquisition of a 10% stake in the consortium to exploit Azerbaijan's Lenkoran-Deniz and Talysh-Deniz oil deposits. The two fields are located on the Caspian shelf and have estimated combined reserves of 80-100 million metric tons. The major partners in the consortium are France's Elf- Aquitaine (40%), SOCAR (25%), and Total (10%). The German company Deminex and Belgium's Petrofina are reportedly negotiating for 10% and 5%, respectively, of the remaining undistributed share. On 28 May, SOCAR signed a preliminary agreement with Russia's LUKoil on exploring the Yalama deposit, off Dagestan.
 AZERBAIJAN'S PRESIDENT SLAMS DRAFT DODGERSHeidar Aliev called on 28 May for the abolition of concessions to students enabling them to avoid military service, according to Interfax. Addressing a meeting to mark the anniversary of the proclamation of the independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918, Aliev said that "defense of the Fatherland and restoration of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is the chief task for young people in our country." Interfax quoted an unnamed member of the Azerbaijani government as saying a planned military parade to mark the anniversary was canceled the previous day because it could have been misinterpreted by foreign observers.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVERTURNS GOVERNMENT DECISION TO SACK POLICE CHIEFJudge Rustem Gjata ruled in Tirana on 28 May that a decision by Prime Minister Bashkim Fino to sack police chief and deputy Interior Minister Agim Shehu was illegal, Indipendent reported the following day. Shehu is a member of the Democratic Party and has often been accused by the opposition of using the security forces for political purposes. Gjata argued that "the appointment and sacking of high [security] officers is in the competence of the president only." Gjata is a communist-era judge whose previous rulings have often been in line with the policies of President Sali Berisha. Justice Minister Spartak Ngjela, who supported Fino's decision, has refused to comment on Gjata's ruling.
 SOCIALISTS AGAIN THREATEN ALBANIAN ELECTION BOYCOTTFatos Nano repeated warnings in Tirana on 28 May that his party may boycott the June elections unless the state of emergency is lifted. Parliamentary speaker Pjeter Arbnori of the Democrats, however, rejected the idea. He told Dita Informacion that the state of emergency is no longer as tough as originally and does not hinder election campaigns or meetings. He also called on the opposition to use their influence with the southern insurgent committees to persuade them to dissolve before the ballot.
 ALBANIAN SOCIALIST LEADER TO RUN IN VLORAThe Socialist Party leadership proposed on 28 May in Tirana that Nano run for parliament from Vlora, Dita Informacion reported the following day. The local party branch in Vlora has welcomed the idea. Also in Vlora on 28 May, the local organization of the Democratic Party has said they do not want Berisha to hold an election rally in the town, which was the center of the anti-Berisha revolt earlier this year. In other news, monarchist Legality Party leader Guri Durollari announced in Tirana that his party is ending its electoral alliance with the Democrats, the Albanian Daily News reported. Some opposition politicians have charged claimant to the throne Leka Zogu with being too close to Berisha.
 ALBRIGHT ADDRESSES YUGOSLAV WAR CRIMES TRIBUNALU.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright pledged in The Hague on 28 May to intensify efforts to catch and bring to justice indicted war criminals from the former Yugoslavia. Referring to her upcoming visit to that region, she said: "I'm going to be delivering a new, tougher message to both [Croatian President Franjo] Tudjman and [his Serbian counterpart Slobodan] Milosevic that their lack of cooperation is a roadblock...to their full membership in the international community.... I am confident that a price will be paid for the atrocities that ravaged Bosnia for four years. Until it paid by those who perpetrated the crimes, it will be paid by those who protect them." Meanwhile in Sarajevo, U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard handed over to the Bosnian presidency a letter from President Bill Clinton pledging tough action to help implement the Dayton agreement in the coming weeks.
 CROATIAN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN BEGINSThe three candidates approved by the electoral commission on 27 May launched their campaigns in Zagreb the following day. President Franjo Tudjman of the Croatian Democratic Community used the backdrop of a ceremony honoring air force pilots to stress his and his party's record in achieving independence and sovereignty. The Social Democrats' Zdravko Tomac and the Liberal-led coalition's Vlado Gotovac each promised at separate press conferences to call new parliamentary elections should Tudjman win the 15 June presidential vote. Polls suggest that the best the opposition can expect to do is to force the incumbent into a second round of voting.
 SERBIAN-CROATIAN UPDATERepresentatives of the leading Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) and Independent Democratic Serbian Party met in Vukovar on 28 May to conclude local power-sharing arrangements, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the east Slavonian town. The mayor of Vukovar will be a Croat and the council president a Serb. In Beli Manastir, the mayor will be a Serb and the council chief a Croat. UN administrator Jacques Klein stepped in to block the HDZ from shutting out the Serbs and making a deal with a small hard- line Croatian party in Vukovar. And in Zagreb on 27 May, Foreign Minister Mate Granic and his Yugoslav counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, signed an agreement on diplomatic and consular relations. Granic said he is unhappy with the situation of Croats in Serbia, while Milutinovic insisted that all Croatian Serbs who want to go home should be allowed to do so. The two countries will seek to draft by mid-June agreements on border regulations and on road and rail transportation.
 NEWS FROM AROUND FORMER YUGOSLAVIAThe UN Security Council on 28 May voted to extend the mandate for the 1,100 peacekeepers in Macedonia until the end of the year. In Ljubljana, Slovenian officials say they have been told by NATO representatives in Brussels that Slovenia will be included in the first round of NATO expansion, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek, for his part, wrote in the Christian Science Monitor that Slovenia will bring NATO only benefits and not burdens. In The Hague, Carl Bildt said on 27 May in his farewell speech as chief international representative in Bosnia that Europe's poor performance in the former Yugoslavia since 1991 proved that "only the United States can act and only the United States can deliver" in the Balkans. In Sarajevo, over 500 foreign and local companies launched a trade fair to promote the rebuilding of Bosnia's infrastructure. In Podgorica, the governing Democratic Socialist Party reached agreement with the opposition Popular Concord coalition on parliamentary control of the Montenegrin intelligence services.
 CLINTON PRAISES IMPROVED ROMANIAN-HUNGARIAN RELATIONS...In a speech in The Hague marking the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, U.S. President Bill Clinton on 28 May praised improved relations between Romania and Hungary. He noted that "in Bucharest, democracy has overcome distress, as Romanians and ethnic Hungarians for the very first time are joined in a democratic coalition government." President Emil Constantinescu attended the ceremony.
 ...WHILE ROMANIAN, HUNGARIAN PRESIDENTS SEND MESSAGE TO CLINTONConstantinescu and Arpad Goencz, in a joint letter to President Clinton, say their countries are "both interested in joining a united Europe built on democratic values." They thanked Clinton for his support and said that the "favorable evolutions in Romania in the last months" and the implementation of provisions of the treaty Hungary and Romania concluded last year have created "a historic chance for an active partnership" between the two countries. That partnership, they noted, serves the interests of both the Magyar minority in Romania and the Romanian minority in Hungary, Rompres reported on 28 May.
 ROMANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON NATO MEMBERSHIPVictor Babiuc says his country is optimistic that it will soon join NATO because of its strategic position and because Russia has not expressed opposition to the possibility of Romania's joining the alliance in the first wave of expansion. In an interview with AFP on 28 May, Babiuc said Romania was "happy" that Moscow "did not raise any special objections against Romania, as it did for the Baltic countries." He also said that the "countries of the northern zone of NATO" are beginning to understand that Romania was the "link which was missing in the southern flank, from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, all the way to Turkey." Babiuc added that Romania was a stabilizing factor between the Balkans and the Middle East, which should be viewed as high-risk zones because of "Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, [and] drug trafficking."
 RUSSIAN TROOPS COMMANDER IN TRANSDNIESTER SAYS REORGANIZATION OVERLt.-Gen. Valerii Yevnevich, the commander of the Russian troops in Moldova's breakaway region, said on 28 May that the reorganization of the "operational group" has ended. He noted that the number of troops in the former 14th Army has been cut from 5,000 to 1,900, ITAR-TASS and BASA-press reported. Yevnevich harshly criticized the Transdniester leadership for preventing obsolete Russian ammunition from being scrapped. Yevnevich and Moldovan Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat recently agreed that some of the ammunition should be destroyed at the Ribnita plant in Moldova, which the Transdniestrian leadership opposes. Yevnevich stressed the armament and the hardware are "Russian federal property" and only the Russian government can make a decision about it. In 1995, the region's Supreme Soviet declared itself the owner of the Russian army's property.
 BULGARIA PLEDGES TO PRIVATIZE ARMS INDUSTRYIndustry Minister Alexander Bozhkov says the new Bulgarian government will privatize the entire military-industrial complex of the country. In an interview with state radio on 28 May, Bozhkov said the government was aiming to transfer 40% of state enterprises into private hands by the end of 1997. He also noted that his ministry is already preparing privatization plans for the state telecommunications company, the national airline, and the railroads.
[C] END NOTE
 Will Armenia Be First to Join Russian-Belarusian Union?by Liz Fuller and Harry Tamrazian
Ever since Russia and Belarus signed the Treaty on Forming a Community in April 1996, some Russian politicians have been looking for another would-be member. The obvious potential candidate was Armenia, which has traditionally looked to Russia as its ally and protector against Turkey. That idea, however, was not taken up by the Armenian leadership, which hoped to strengthen relations with both Iran and Turkey as a counterweight to its "special relationship" with Moscow. In 1996, the only Armenian political party to advocate Armenia's joining the Russian-Belarusian alignment were the Communists.
Since early April 1997, when Moscow and Minsk agreed to upgrade their alliance to the status of union, a number of high- profile Russian politicians, including Gen. Alexander Lebed and former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, have visited Yerevan to promote the idea of Armenia's integration with Russia. On 12 May, some 600 Armenian intellectuals and representatives of small left-wing parties met in Yerevan. All speakers at the meeting criticized the CIS as unworkable and incapable of achieving economic and political cooperation. They argued that joining the Russian-Belarusian union is the only alternative for Armenia, which they described as surrounded by the "newly created hostile alliance between Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Turkey." Telman Gdlian, an ethnic Armenian and member of the Russia's Regions faction of the Russian State Duma, told the meeting that he had been delegated by unspecified Russian political forces interested in seeing Armenia accede to the Russian- Belarusian union. The meeting culminated in the creation of the Armenian National Initiative for Union with Russia, whose adherents are already collecting signatures in favor of a referendum on the issue.
Four days later, on 16 May, the Russian State Duma passed a unanimous vote of support for the Armenian National Initiative. Then on 21 May, just two days before Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka were scheduled to sign the charter on Russian-Belarusian union, members of five factions across the entire political spectrum within the Duma (including Russia's Regions, Our Home is Russia, and Narodovlastie) announced at a press conference that they plan to form a movement in support of Armenia's joining the Russian-Belarusian union. Gdlian predicted, somewhat unrealistically, that 90% of Armenians would vote in favor of joining the Russia-Belarus Union if a referendum were held at that time. Several articles in the Russian press have likewise exaggerated the degree of popular support enjoyed by the political parties aligned in the Armenian National Initiative movement.
By contrast, all major Armenian political parties have condemned the movement. Opposition leader Vazgen Manukian described the setting up of the movement as "national treason," and several independent newspapers published editorials urging President Levon Ter- Petrossyan to take "strong action" against it. The Armenian leadership has not officially commented on the Duma's expressed support for the movement, but the Armenian official news agency Armenpress issued an unsigned commentary harshly criticizing it as interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country. The Armenian Foreign Ministry has pointed out that Armenia and Russia are already drafting a new treaty on friendship and cooperation that will supersede the one signed in December 1991 and enhance the level of their strategic cooperation. On 23 May, Armenian presidential spokesman Levon Zurabian told Interfax that the union demonstrated the shared desire of Russia and Belarus for closer ties and that "the strengthening of bilateral ties between CIS countries can only be welcomed."
Also on 23 May, Yeltsin declared that the union is open for others to join but did not specifically mention Armenia. Ryzhkov had told journalists on 21 May that the Russian president reacted "rather positively" to the news of the Duma vote, held five days earlier, endorsing the Armenian National Initiative. Belarusian President Lukashenka, Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev, and Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev have all openly invited Armenia to join the union.
It is unclear how this growing Russian pressure on Armenia to join the new union will impact on the domestic political situation. If Ter-Petrossyan chose to oppose a move that many Armenians perceive as threatening their country's independence, the opposition would support him and his popularity rating would soar. But a major concession by Yerevan to Moscow could mitigate the outrage engendered by the disclosures two months ago that Russia had supplied Armenia with state-of-the-art armaments worth $1 billion. Or Armenia's belated accession to the union may be the price now being demanded, or even previously agreed on, for the weaponry in question.
Harry Tamrazian is deputy director of RFE/L's Armenian Service
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty