|Tuesday, 10 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 58, 97-06-23
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 58, 23 June 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 MAJOR PROGRESS AT GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS?At the end of two-weeks of discussions between Georgia and Abkhazia, Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba said on 20 June in Moscow that the two sides agreed on a "possible formula" for settling the conflict, Interfax reported. Ardzinba added that a legal document might be signed "in the near future" to underpin that formula. According to Ardzinba, the Abkhaz side made a "maximum of concessions" and it was up to Georgia to respond. Georgian Ambassador to Moscow Vazha Lordkipanidze acknowledged that the prospects for peace were "far greater" as a result of the talks. An unidentified Russian Foreign Ministry official told Interfax that the agreements reached in Moscow would uphold Georgia's territorial integrity. But he added that another unspecified clause would act as a counterweight to that provision.
 ELCHIBEY POISED TO RETURN TO BAKUFormer Azerbaijani President Abulfaz Elchibey said he will return to Baku "in two or three months," Reuters reported on 22 June. Elchibey told the agency's correspondent in the autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan that he will take part in the 1998 presidential elections "if conditions are democratic." Elchibey was overthrown in May 1993 as the result of a military coup that brought to power incumbent President Heidar Aliev. Elchibey, who still considers himself the country's legitimate leader, claimed that his return to politics would not be aimed at destabilizing the situation in Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General Eldar Hasanov warned that Elchibey's activities violated "not only ethical but also the criminal and civil norms of the country" since he is falsely representing himself as president.
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT PARDONS PRISONERSOn the occasion on the fifth anniversary of his election as president, Saparmurat Niyazov pardoned more than 2,000 prisoners, Reuters and ITAR- TASS reported on 20 June. Niyazov said the death sentences of another 222 prisoners will be commuted to 10-20 years' imprisonment. Niyazov won the 1992 election with 99.5% of the vote. Two years later, he easily won a referendum extending his term in office until the year 2002.
 TAJIK OPPOSITION DISSATISFIED WITH PROGRESS ON PEACE AGREEMENTThe United Tajik Opposition (UTO) threatened on 20 June not to sign the Peace and National Accord agreement in Moscow on 27 June because, it says, the government has not fulfilled its part of the accord, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, who headed the UTO delegation at the peace negotiations, said that the exchange of prisoners has not yet taken place and that it is still unclear which positions in the Tajik government will be given to UTO representatives following the signing. Three days later, however, the UTO released another statement saying that in view of all the foreign representatives scheduled to be at the signing, the UTO's representatives would go to Moscow but would not sign until the two issues were resolved.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIAN PARTY LEADERS MEET IN ROMESix party leaders from the three largest election coalitions left for Rome on 22 June to reconcile their positions before the elections slated for 29 June. The sponsor is the Roman Catholic organization Sant Egidio, which specializes in non-violent conflict resolution, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 22 June. The key players are Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano, whose party leads a left-of-center coalition, and the Democrats' Tritan Shehu, whose party has also formed a coalition with smaller partners. A third coalition consists of small conservative parties. The aim of the meeting is to produce an agreement not to interfere in the electoral process and to respect the results of the ballot. Contested issues remain the closing time of the polling stations and how to assign seats on the basis of proportional representation.
 DEMOCRATIC PARTY SECRETARY HARASSED IN SOUTHERN ALBANIAIn the country's southern-most electoral district, which is near the town of Saranda, gunmen surrounded and harassed Democratic Party Foreign Relations Secretary Leonard Demi, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 22 June. The Democratic Party said that "armed gangs of [Socialist Party leader] Gramoz Ruci" attacked Demi, who has participated in a number of party rallies in southern Albania. President Sali Berisha has not spoken at any rallies in the rebel-controlled south out of concern for his safety. Meanwhile, a bomb injured four people in the night from 20-21 June in Tirana's Student City, "Dita Informacion" reported. The dormitory area has received a number of bomb threats in the last two weeks.
 ALBANIAN CANDIDATES' REGISTRATION PROCESS COMPLETEDThe last candidates' lists reached the Central Election Commission on 21 June, nine days after the deadline, "Koha Jone" reported. The lustration committee has also finished its work. "Koha Jone" journalist Frrok Cupi succeeded on 21 June in getting the commission's earlier ban on his candidacy in Vlora overturned, "Dita Informacion" reported. The ballot papers can now be printed, and the OSCE estimates they will be ready by 26 June. This leaves the commission two days to distribute the material throughout the country. Confusion nonetheless remains over the exact role the OSCE and the multinational force will play in distributing ballot boxes and other high security materials. According to OSCE policy, the Albanian government must distribute the materials itself and the OSCE will only monitor the delivery.
 DENVER SUMMIT INSISTS ON RESPECT FOR DAYTON AGREEMENTThe leaders of the G-7 countries plus Russia announced in Denver on 21 June that development aid for Serbs, Croats, and Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina will depend on those parties' compliance with the Dayton agreement. The world leaders also said they expect Croatia and federal Yugoslavia to cooperate with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal and to observe international norms regarding human rights. The warnings reflect a growing view in major capitals that Bosnia is likely to split into three ethnically based parts unless the international community brings fresh pressure to bear on the treaty's signatories. But Momcilo Krajisnik, the Bosnian Serb member of the joint presidency, said in Pale on 22 June that the Bosnian Serbs will not give into "blackmail" in order to get reconstruction aid. He said his people would prefer aid from Serbia instead.
 DJUKANOVIC SAYS MONTENEGRINS UNITEDPrime Minister Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 22 June that Montenegrins uniformly oppose Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's plans to change the federal Yugoslav Constitution to Montenegro's disadvantage. The previous day, he met with Serbian opposition leader Zoran Djindjic in Tivat. They stressed the need for federal Yugoslavia to be allowed to resume membership in international organizations and for political and economic reforms at home. Djindjic and Djukanovic also discussed possible cooperation between their two parties, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. Djukanovic's Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) has backed Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) in the past, but Djukanovic led a revolt in his party against that alliance. In Belgrade on 20 June, SPS Vice President Milorad Vucelic warned that fighting within the DPS could "weaken the [Yugoslav] federation" as a whole.
 MEDICAL STRIKE ENDS IN SERBIARepresentatives of the health workers' union have announced in Belgrade that their six-week strike will end on 23 June. Serbian Health Minister Leposava Milicevic and union leader Stevan Djordjevic signed an agreement on 21 June that provides for the payment of back wages by the end of the month, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Serbian capital. Also in Belgrade, Milos Vasic, the editor of the weekly "Vreme," was elected president of the Independent Society of Journalists of Serbia. Later that night, unidentified persons broke into the organization's offices and stole two fax machines and two telephones.
 ROW IN CROATIAN OPPOSITION PARTYThe national organization of the Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS) said in Zagreb on 21 June that the recent agreement between the HSLS representatives on the Zagreb city council and those of the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) is "void." As a result of that pact, HSLS council member Dorica Nikolic was elected as deputy mayor and the national leadership decided to suspend the Zagreb group from the party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 June 1997). Nikolic said that, as deputy mayor, she could promote citizens' interests, but the HSLS leadership charged that she was motivated by personal ambition, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. Some observers suggest that events in Zagreb could force a formal split in the HSLS, whose members have long been divided over the question of cooperation with the HDZ.
 ROUNDUP FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIAAccording to Croatian Development Minister Jure Radic, demands that Croatia extend equal rights to all its citizens, including to Serbian refugees who want to go home, are "unacceptable." Radic told the Zagreb daily "Vjesnik" of 21 June that such demands fail to differentiate "between those [Serbs] who took part in aggression and those [Croats] who defended themselves." Meanwhile, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek sent a telegram to President Bill Clinton on 22 June, asking him to reconsider his position on Slovenia's membership in NATO. And in Skopje, President Kiro Gligorov returned from a visit to the U.S.. He said Clinton agreed to help Macedonia combat poverty and that the two men agreed on issues related to Balkan security.
 UPDATE ON ROMANIA'S NATO BIDVictor Ciorbea met with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and IMF President Michael Camdessus in Washington on 20 June. Cohen told reporters that the U.S. did not "say 'no' to Romania's bid to join NATO, but only 'not yet.'" Meanwhile, at the Summit of the Eight in Denver on 21 June, French President Jacques Chirac reiterated to U.S. President Bill Clinton that France wants Romania to be in the first group admitted to NATO. Clinton's National Security adviser Samuel Berger said after the meeting that the U.S. has not changed its mind.
 FINAL SPLIT IN ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTYFormer Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu and former Deputy Prime Minister Mircea Cosea on 21 June resigned from the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR). They told a press conference in Bucharest they had failed to convince party chairman Ion Iliescu to agree to a compromise solution whereby neither the party's reformist group (headed by Melescanu) nor its conservative group (headed by Adrian Nastase) would be represented in the leadership team elected at the party's 20-21 June National Conference. Two other members of the reformist group, Iosif Boda and Viorel Salagean, were expelled from the PDSR by their respective Bucharest branches on 20 June, and a fifth member, deputy Marian Enache, resigned from the party one day earlier. Iliescu was re-elected PDSR chairman by an overwhelming majority, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.
 ROMANIAN MINERS END STRIKEThe miners in the Jiu valley on 20 June ended a ten-day strike after reaching an agreement with the state mining company. The agreement provides for a 23.3 % wage hike beginning 1 July and a further 7% raise as of 1 August, an RFE/RL correspondent in Petrosani reported. Also on 20 June, Marin Condeescu said his National Confederation of Mining Unions (which does not represent the Jiu valley miners) is demanding a 25% reduction in taxes on wages beginning 1 July. Condeescu said restructuring in the mining industry should proceed only after alternatives have been found for miners who stood to lose their jobs as a result of the reorganization.
 MOLDOVA CRITICIZED BY INTERNATIONAL FINANCE INSTITUTIONSJames Parks, the permanent representative of the World Bank in Chisinau, told the Moldovan government on 20 June that the privatization program currently debated by the parliament is not comprehensive enough, BASA-Press reported. The same day, the parliament ended a debate on privatization, after excluding several major enterprises from the process. The privatization program was not voted on because of the lack of a quorum. Also on 20 June, Infotag reported that the IMF has postponed granting a $25 million to Moldova because the conditions for the loan have not been met. Meanwhile, Petru Lucinschi, on a three-day visit to Israel, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister David Levy in Jerusalem on 22 June. Agreements on cooperation in education, civil aviation, science, culture and tourism were signed by members of the two delegations, AFP reported.
 BULGARIA ASKS TURKEY TO BACK NATO MEMBERSHIP BIDPresident Petar Stoyanov has asked Turkey to back his country's bid for NATO membership, the President's Office reported on 21 June. Stoyanov, who has postponed a scheduled visit to Turkey from 23-25 June until the formation of the new government in Ankara, made the request in a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel. Demirel assured him that Turkey supports both Bulgaria's and Romania's NATO efforts as a "natural step for strengthening NATO's southern flank." In other news, Prime Minister Ivan Kostov on 20 June presented in the parliament an austerity budget, in accordance with the law that also establishes the National Currency Board beginning 1 July.
 POLICE FREE BULGARIAN BUSINESS EXECUTIVEPenko Dimitrov, the deputy executive director of the Bulgargas state monopoly, was freed on 20 June by police (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June 1997). Premier Kostov told a press conference in Sofia that Dimitrov was abducted by the Elos private security firm on the orders of Vesselin Todorov, the head of a firm whose interests "were badly hurt by the principled positions of the Bulgargas management," according to Reuters. He was freed by police after being held for 22 hours, Minister of Interior Bogumil Bonev told the same press conference.
[C] END NOTE
 Is Armenia's Ruling Party About to Split?by Emil Danielyan
Armenian parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsyan tendered his resignation on 11 June, following the legislature's decision to abolish deferment of compulsory military service for higher education students. Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan's bill obliges all 18-year-old male citizens to serve in the military. According to Ararktsyan, the new legislation will harm the education system rather than substantially increase the number of servicemen and will also prompt many capable young people to emigrate. An alternative bill proposed by the speaker was overwhelmingly rejected.
President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and several leaders of his ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) urged the speaker not to resign. After lengthy discussions with the president, Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, and Defense Minister Sarkisyan, Ararktsyan withdrew his resignation and returned to work on 16 June. Under a compromise solution reportedly proposed by the president, the defense minister's bill, if adopted in full, will go into effect in 1998. In the meantime, the parliament will try to iron out differences between the two bills in the fall.
But the temporary parliamentary crisis has raised several questions. The clash between Ararktsyan and Sarkisyan, both of whom are close allies of Ter-Petrossyan and prominent HHSh members, may signal yet another rift within the ruling party following the September 1996 presidential election (which the opposition claims was rigged). Two rival factions emerged within the HHSh after the ballot, and each blamed the other for Ter-Petrossyan's performance, who was only narrowly re-elected. The so-called reformist faction of the HHSh--which has been in power since 1990--is led by Eduard Yegoryan, one of the authors of Armenia's present constitution. It claims the government has long been out of touch with the people and is not accountable to the HHSh. The group singles out law- enforcement agencies, which, it says, are outside the executive's control. Favoring early elections, they are drafting election legislation intended to provide for a free and fair vote. A number of local HHSh branches have already pledged their support for Yegoryan.
The second faction includes such hard-liners as Sarkisyan and former interior minister and current Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghyan. Both men played a key role in the post- election crackdown on the opposition, when dozens of its activists were arrested and troops were deployed in the capital. In a video privately distributed in Armenia, they were shown at a private party blaming the policies of then Prime Minister Hrant Bagratyan and the HHSh for the election results.
The struggle between the two rival factions is expected to reach its climax at the HHSh congress in July, when Yegoryan and Siradeghyan will contend the party leadership. While observers believe them to have nearly equal chances, the parliamentary crisis earlier this month may have changed the odds somewhat. Ararktsyan, who was in effect humiliated by the defense minister, is unlikely to endorse Siradeghyan, who is Sarkisyan's ally. By the same token, the HHSh's leading body, which supported the speaker during the row, will likely also withhold its support for the Yerevan mayor.
But Sigadeghyan does reportedly have the backing of President Ter-Petrossyan, who took the defense minister's side during the debate on deferment of military service. It therefore seems doubtful that the president will support the reformers, who have repeatedly demanded that Sarkisyan and Siradeghyan step down. On the other hand, if Siradeghyan were elected HHSh leader and the reformers broke away to form their own party, Ter-Petrossyan's support base would be limited to two powerful but unpopular men. The opposition, joined by the president's former allies, would also become stronger.
But there is another major actor to be taken into account. Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, the former Nagorno-Karabakh leader who is close ally of the president, is rumored to be at odds with Siradeghyan. He has allegedly cracked down on tax evasion by businessmen close to the mayor. Of late, the HHSh has increasingly criticized Kocharyan for what it regards as his attempts to deprive it of ruling party status. If Ter-Petrossyan were to respond to that criticism by sacking Kacharyan, his legitimacy would be further undermined since Kocharyan's appointment as prime minister was aimed at easing popular dissatisfaction with the HHSh. In another important development, a large number of parliament deputies, mainly from the HHSh, appealed to the Constitutional Court on 19 June to overrule Ter-Petrossyan decrees sacking two key ministers. The lawmakers charge that the move was unconstitutional as the president did not consult with the parliament beforehand. For the first time, Ter-Petrossyan is facing a challenge from within his party.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty