|Friday, 22 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 50, 97-06-11
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 50, 11 June 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 RUSSIAN LEADERS PRESSURE ARDZINBA...Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin, and Presidential Chief of Staff Valentin Yumashev met with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba in Moscow on 9 June, Interfax reported. The Russian leaders made it clear they want Georgia and Abkhazia to sign an agreement ending hostilities and "defining the main directions and aims" of talks on Abkhazia's future political status within Georgia to take place under the aegis of Russia and the UN . They also stressed Russia's continued readiness to mediate such a settlement. Russian CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev, who was not present at the talks, told Interfax on 10 June he favors Ardzinba's proposal for a peace treaty between Abkhazia and Georgia modeled on the one signed by Chechnya and Russia (see also "End Note" below).
 ...WHILE GEORGIA SEEKS ALTERNATIVE MEDIATORSRevaz Adamia, the chairman of the Georgian parliament's defense commission, said that Georgia will consider signing such a treaty only after the repatriation of Georgian refugees who fled Abkhazia and the holding of new elections there. Adamia accused Russia of resuming arms supplies to Abkhazia, Interfax reported. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili called for an international conference on Abkhazia with the participation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Russia, the U.S., France, and Germany, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 June. Yurii Soslambekov, the chairman of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus, told Interfax on 10 June that he advocates extending the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. He added that if they are withdrawn, the confederation is prepared to send as many volunteers as necessary to replace them.
 ARMENIAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATES DRAFT LAWS ON MILITARY SERVICEThe Armenian parliament on 10 June began debating two alternative draft laws on military service, according to Interfax and Noyan Tapan. The first bill makes military service mandatory for all men aged 18-27 and abolishes deferment for students, while the second preserves the provision for student deferment. Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian argued in favor of the first bill, saying that the army "needs intellect" and is suffering a manpower shortage because between 3,000 - 4,000 draft-age men are studying. He warned that Armenia is involved in a "permanently slumbering war" and that hostilities over Nagorno-Karabakh will resume as soon as Azerbaijan "becomes equal [to] or stronger" than Armenia. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev recently called for the abolition of concessions enabling students to avoid military service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May 1997).
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH HAIRIKYANLevon Ter-Petrossyan on 10 June met with Union for Self-Determination chairman Paruir Hairikyan, whom he has termed his "ideal" of a political leader, Armenian agencies reported. The talks focused on Hairikyan's recent statement calling for pre-term elections and for an international diplomatic campaign "to achieve international condemnation of the 1915 genocide." Hairikyan quoted the president as saying that preparations for new elections will take time but that a new electoral law has already been drafted. Haik Babukhanyan--the deputy chairman of the Union of Constitutional Right, which is aligned with the Union for Self- Determination in the seven-party opposition National Alliance--said Hairikyan's meeting with the president was "counterproductive." The National Alliance launched a one-week protest on 6 June to demand new elections at all levels and a new constitution.
 BLOODY INCIDENT ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDERAn armed group of between 80 and 100 people attempted to force their way across the Pyanj River from Afghanistan into Tajikistan on 10 June, ITAR- TASS reported. Russian border guard forces used artillery and air strikes to repel them. Some 30 of the group members were killed. Afghan border guards reportedly aided the Russian border guards. It is reported that the border violators were not part of the United Tajik Opposition.
 TAJIK PRESIDENT SAYS CRIME IS BIGGEST PROBLEMImomali Rakhmonov has sent a letter to all heads of administrations from the state to village levels complaining that rising crime is the most serious threat to the security and economic stability of the country, ITAR- TASS reported on 10 June. Rakhmonov called Tajikistan's anti-crime measures "ineffective," and noted that one in 10 crimes is committed with a gun. Rakhmonov also criticized the need for some members of government to have what he called "illegally formed military units for personal protection."
 KAZAK, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS SIGN ACCORDSNursultan Nazarbayev met with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, in Almaty on 10 June, according to RFE/RL correspondents. Their talks focused on the transportation of oil across the Caspian Sea and Kazakstan's participation in a 1996 agreement signed by Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Uzbekistan. Aliev and Nazarbayev signed a memorandum on cooperation in transporting oil to international markets. They discussed the proposed underwater pipeline in the Caspian Sea, but it remains unclear how that project will be funded. Nazarbayev said he did not mind whether the oil was shipped through the Russian port of Novorossisk or the Turkish terminal of Ceyhan after it crossed the Caspian. He said he wanted more participation from Russian oil companies in general. Intergovernmental agreements on trade, education, and various legal issues were also signed.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIAN ELECTION UPDATEPresident Sali Berisha toured northern Albania on 10 June, while Socialist leader Fatos Nano attended rallies in the south, "Dita Informacion" reported. Both men drew crowds numbering in the thousands, "Rilindja Demokratike" and "Zeri i Popullit" noted. Meanwhile, Brian Pridham, the election coordinator from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has resigned in Tirana and been replaced by former coordinator Tony Welch. The OSCE said Pridham left for personal reasons, but diplomatic sources told an RFE/RL correspondent in the Albanian capital that the ongoing instability in that country contributed to his decision. Meanwhile, the OSCE is continuing to prepare for the elections to go ahead on time. In Rome, the countries sponsoring Operation Alba agreed that their troops will leave Albania once a new government is in place following the 29 June elections.
 SMALL ALBANIAN PARTIES TRY TO FORCE DEAL ON ELECTION LAWFollowing the failure the previous day of round-table talks involving 10 political parties, the Republican Party held another closed-door meeting with most of the parties on 10 June. The Democratic Party, however, did not attend the talks. The parties involved called for new round of negotiations attended by President Berisha, "Dita Informacion" reported. The small political formations argue that their chances to get into the parliament have decreased following last week's Constitutional Court ruling that struck down the election law's provision on proportional representation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 1997). It remains unclear whether the president will decree new legislation himself or reconvene the parliament to pass a new electoral law. Many observers believe that the smaller parties must get into the parliament if the current polarization between Democrats and Socialists is to end.
 DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION OF ALBANIAN CANDIDATES EXTENDEDAuthorities in Tirana have extended the deadline for candidates to register for the parliamentary elections until 12 June, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Albanian capital. The move came following the lustration committee's failure to issue its report on candidates in line with the original 9 June deadline. The delay considerably reduces the period for printing and delivering ballot papers. Meanwhile, the Socialists, the Social Democrats, and the Democratic Alliance held secret talks in Tirana on 10 June to discuss the nomination of joint candidates in some districts, "Indipendent" reported. That move would increase the two small parties' chances of gaining entry to the parliament by winning directly elected seats.
 BALKAN MEETING ENDS IN SALONICATop Foreign Ministry officials from Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece, Macedonia, Turkey, and Albania ended a two-day meeting in the Greek port of Salonica on 10 June. Observers from Bosnia, Croatia, and Russia also attended. The diplomats issued a declaration on promoting regional stability, minority rights, and improved living standards. The document also referred to "the important role of NATO for peace and stability in Europe" and called for the free flow of information and for establishing independent media. Albanian Deputy Foreign Minister Albert Rakipi, however, warned that problems facing the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and western Macedonia could fuel regional instability. Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, for his part, praised the "change of climate" in relations between Athens and Skopje.
 GREECE, RUSSIA CALL FOR MAJOR BALKAN SUMMITPangalos and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Afanasevskii said in Salonica on 10 June that leaders of regional countries, the EU, Russia, China, and the U.S. should meet next year to discuss Balkan stability. They also called for numerous preparatory meetings involving ministers for foreign and economic affairs. Observers believe the main purpose of the Greek-Russian initiative is to signal that the two countries want to exert an influence over Balkan affairs. Some have noted that Russia is now trying to institutionalize its role in a region where it has always tried to maintain great-power status. Bulgarian and Romanian diplomats, however, told reporters that they are wary of a special Balkan role for Moscow.
 CROATIAN PRESIDENTIAL VOTE IN DOUBT?Croatian opposition coalition candidate Vlado Gotovac said in Zagreb on 10 June that he will have to decide whether to stay in the presidential race, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. Gotovac says he is disappointed by the authorities' refusal of his request to postpone the 15 June vote. Gotovac asked for the delay because he is still recovering from injuries following an attack by a uniformed army captain last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 June 1997). Social Democrat Zdravko Tomac, the other opposition candidate, said he will also reconsider whether to stay in the race. In Pula, the authorities said that the captain faces charges of assault that could lead to up to eight years in prison.
 U.S. BACKS $13 MILLION LOAN FOR CROATIAThe State Department announced in Washington on 10 June that the U.S. will support a loan by the International Finance Corporation to modernize a Swiss-owned cement factory in Koromacno, near Pula. Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said that Washington's decision is a "positive signal" to Zagreb and comes because President Franjo Tudjman recently reopened the Brcko bridge to Bosnia, ordered the arrest of several Croats who had attacked local Serbs, and made a speech in eastern Slavonia that Washington considers conciliatory toward the Serbs. The spokesman credited recent pressure by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for Croatia's new cooperative attitude. Burns warned, however, that the U.S. will block future loans to Croatia if Tudjman goes back on his promises.
 GROWING NUMBER OF REFUGEES DYING OF HUNGER IN YUGOSLAVIA?Representatives of an organization representing the 700,000 mainly ethnic Serb refugees in federal Yugoslavia say the refugees' social and economic situation is bad and growing worse, "Nasa Borba" reported on 10 June. Problems include death by starvation among the elderly and infirm. The activists note that both the government and the opposition alike ignore the refugees and that "the most hated person" among those who fled Croatia and Bosnia is Bratislava Morina, Serbia's chief official in charge of refugees. Observers say that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic fanned the flames of nationalism among ethnic Serbs throughout the former Yugoslavia starting almost 10 years ago but turned his back on the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia when it suited his purposes to do so. He provoked the wars in Croatia and Bosnia on the grounds that the Serbs there "wanted to remain in Yugoslavia, " but he denies most of the refugees Yugoslav citizenship.
 MAJOR PROGRESS FOR ROMANIA'S NATO MEMBERSHIP BIDWilifred Martens, head of the European People's Party faction in the European Assembly, said after a meeting of Christian Democratic leaders in Strasbourg on 10 June that all participants supported Romania's admission in the first wave of NATO expansion. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl also attended the meeting, as did Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea. Germany has been considered one of the countries opposed to Romania's inclusion in the first wave. Also on 10 June, Senate Chairman Petre Roman met with Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, senators, and members of the House of Representatives during his ongoing U.S. tour aimed at promoting Romania's NATO membership.
 ROMANIAN JEWISH FEDERATION PROTESTS WJOR STATEMENTNicolae Cajal, the chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania (FCER), has criticized a statement by Naphtali Lavy, the deputy chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJOR). Lavy said recently that the organization is opposed to admitting Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania to NATO because those countries are deliberately protracting the restitution of Jewish property. In an interview with Reuters on 10 June, Lavy said the WJOR would not seek to block the entry to NATO of the three countries but would promote that of Hungary, "which has complied with all the restitution promises." Cajal said the FCER was "surprised" by Lavy's statement, because the WJOR deputy chairman had visited Romania in April and reached "excellent agreements" with the authorities, which have since taken steps for their implementation. He said the FCER has not been consulted and that it deplores the statement's "blackmailing-like" tone, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.
 COMMANDER OF ROMANIAN FINANCIAL GUARD DISMISSEDGica Danila has been dismissed as commander of the Financial Guard, Romanian Television reported on 10 June. Minister of Finance Mircea Ciumara said his dismissal is part of a drive to reorganize the ministry but added that the Financial Guard's performance was not satisfactory. He said the vacancy will be filled by competition.
 MOLDOVAN PRIVATIZATION MINISTER RESIGNSCeslav Ciobanu on 10 June submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc, Infotag and ITAR-TASS reported. Some two weeks previously, the parliament voted no-confidence in Ciobanu for his role in the privatization of a sanatorium sold to a private university in which his wife has a 16% share (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May 1996). President Petru Lucinschi has appointed Iurie Badir, a member of the Moldovan Accounting Chamber, as Ciobanu's successor.
 BULGARIAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER DISMISSEDPrime Minister Ivan Kostov on 10 June dismissed Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Penchev without offering an explanation for the move. Penchev had been in charge of financial issues at the ministry. He was replaced by an employee of the Finance Ministry, Yordan Yordanov. An RFE/RL Sofia correspondent reported this is the second time in two days that a leader in the defense establishment has been dismissed. On 9 June, the cabinet asked President Petar Stoyanov to dismiss army Chief of Staff Gen. Tsvetan Totomirov and replace him with air force commander Gen. Miho Mihov. Stoyanov approved the proposal.
 ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION CHAIRMAN SUPPORTS BULGARIA'S NATO CANDIDACYAlfred Cahen, the secretary-general of the Atlantic Treaty Organization (ATA), told reporters after meeting with President Stoyanov that he supports Bulgaria's early admission to NATO. Founded in 1954, ATA is comprised of non-governmental organizations in the NATO states and aims at informing the public about the alliance. Its 43rd assembly will take place in Sofia in October, Reuters reported.
[C] END NOTE
 Seeking Solutions to the Abkhaz Conflictby Liz Fuller
Vladislav Ardzinba, president of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, is currently in Moscow for talks with Russian leaders aimed at breaking the deadlock in negotiations on Abkhazia's political status within Georgia. Ardzinba has rejected the Georgian leadership's offer of autonomy for Abkhazia within a unified Georgian state and insists that Abkhazia be granted equal status (from 1931 to 1992, it was an autonomous republic within Georgia). Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, for his part, is opposed to Ardzinba's proposal that Georgia and Abkhazia sign a peace treaty modeled on Russian-Chechen agreement signed in May.
The need to arrive at a compromise solution has assumed greater urgency since 30 May, when the Georgian parliament adopted a resolution laying down the conditions for renewing the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. That mandate expires on 31 July. The Georgian parliament resolution makes its renewal contingent on implementing the decision of the March summit of the CIS heads of state to deploy the peacekeeping force throughout Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion in order to expedite the repatriation of some 200, 000 ethnic Georgians who fled the 1992-1993 fighting. The Abkhaz leadership has objected that the mandate of the peacekeeping forces cannot be amended without its permission. And Ardzinba warned on 8 June that withdrawal of the peacekeeping force could lead to the resumption of hostilities.
That pessimism and sense of urgency were shared by many of the 40 participants in a one-day conference on Georgian-Abkhaz relations organized in Tbilisi on 6 June by the British NGO VERTIC, which for several years has engaged in conflict mediation and confidence-building in Georgia. Participants included Georgian politicians from across the political spectrum, spokesmen for Georgian refugees, representatives of the UN and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, and foreign diplomats. The Russian ambassador to Georgia was invited but declined to attend.
"We are balancing on the brink of war" is how Zurab Erkvania, chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Abkhaz government in exile, described the present situation. UN and OSCE representatives argued that the recent escalation of guerrilla warfare in Gali constituted an unannounced resumption of hostilities.
Georgian Deputy Parliamentary Chairman Vakhtang Kolbaia said the Georgian leadership is ready to start negotiations with the Abkhaz leadership at all levels and in any form. Kolbaia reiterated Georgia's offer to give Abkhazia the broadest possible autonomy within a unified Georgian state. He hinted that Georgia might accept the gradual repatriation of ethnic Georgian refugees from Abkhazia now living in appalling conditions in Tbilisi and other Georgian towns. Kolbaia also offered an amnesty to all those who were involved in the hostilities and reiterated Shevardnadze's recent call for an international conference, involving Russia and Western powers and taking place under the auspices of the UN, to discuss a resolution of the conflict. Kolbaia said Georgia does not exclude the possibility that Russia will host and initiate such a conference. Other participants expressed approval for greater Western involvement in the search for a solution to the conflict.
Representatives of Abkhazia's erstwhile Georgian community took a more hard-line position, blaming Russia for Georgia's disintegration. Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, said Georgian leaders have been told in Moscow that if they want to resolve the Abkhaz problem, they must help to reconstruct the Soviet Union. Georgian radical parliamentary deputy Boris Kakubava similarly blamed Moscow for the current situation and called for the immediate withdrawal of the CIS peacekeeping force. He said there was no place for Russia in the Caucasus.
By contrast, Georgian academics showed greater flexibility and willingness to consider compromise solutions. Prominent intellectual Zaal Kikodze called for the economic blockade on Abkhazia to be lifted, while Freedom party spokesman Archil Morchiladze urged negotiations to take place between what he called "two equal parties." Academic Ghia Nodia said Georgia should stop looking abroad for solutions to its problems and should engage in an active dialogue with the Abkhaz leadership.
(Dennis Sammut, who heads VERTIC's Georgia program and chaired the 6 June seminar, provided RFE/RL with a detailed summary of the proceedings. VERTIC plans to hold a meeting of Abkhaz politicians in Sukhumi in early July.)
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty