|Monday, 18 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 87, 97-08-04
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 87, 4 August 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 U.S., AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MEETIn a three-hour meeting at the White House on 1 August, Bill Clinton and Heidar Aliev signed a bilateral investment treaty and a joint statement expressing support for the efforts of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group to mediate a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, according to a correspondent for RFE/RL. On 2 August, Aliev flew to Houston for private meetings with oil company representatives.
 NEW CASPIAN OIL AGREEMENTS SIGNEDDuring the White House meeting, representatives of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR signed separate agreements estimated at $10 billion with Exxon, Mobil, Chevron and Amoco to develop offshore Caspian oil fields, AFP reported. Aliev subsequently told journalists that these new agreements do not infringe on Russia's interests in the Caspian, Interfax reported. On 2 August, Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasi-Zade told the independent Azerbaijani TV station ANS that he regretted the annulment by the Russian oil firms Rosneft and Lukoil of a contract signed in early July to develop the Kyapaz Caspian oilfield to which Turkmenistan has laid claim, according to AFP.
 YELTSIN CALLS FOR DIALOGUE ON ABKHAZIAOn 2 August, Yeltsin told journalists at his vacation residence that he intends to invite the presidents of Georgia and Abkhazia, Eduard Shevardnadze and Vladislav Ardzinba, to Moscow to discuss proposals for resolving the Abkhaz conflict, Russian and Western agencies reported. Yeltsin warned that the Russian peacekeepers cannot stay in Abkhazia indefinitely, and proposed that the two sides sign an agreement similar to those between Moscow and federation subjects that would preserve Georgia's territorial integrity while giving Abkhazia substantial autonomy. Shevardnadze expressed his approval of Yeltsin's draft proposals on 2 August, according to Interfax. On 1 August, Russia's envoy for Abkhazia, Gennadii Ilichev, told Interfax Russia might lift economic sanctions currently in force against Abkhazia. An advisor to Shevardnadze said on 3 August that Georgia would consider this "an unfriendly move" by Russia.
 ARMENIA, GEORGIA RAISE ELECTRICITY PRICESOn 1 August, the Armenian government decided to increase electricity prices for individual consumers by 12% to the dram equivalent of $.042 per kilowatt/hour beginning on 1 September, an RFE/RL correspondent in Yerevan reported. Energy prices for enterprises will rise by 20%, but enterprises will be entitled to a 50% price discount at night. Energy Ministry officials said the increases are in line with an earlier agreement signed with the World Bank. The officials said that electricity prices will have to be raised to 6 cents per kilowatt/hour by January 1999 in order to make Armenia's energy sector profitable. In Georgia, energy prices for both commercial enterprises and domestic consumers will rise to 4.5 tetri ($.035) per kwt hour beginning on 1 August, "Kavkazioni" reported on 31 July. Georgian State Energy Company director Vazha Metreveli said the tariffs are not high compared with those in Europe and other CIS countries.
 SONS OF TAJIK ISLAMIC LEADER KIDNAPPEDThree sons of Tajikistan's Islamic spiritual leader, Amonullo Negmatzoda, were kidnapped by a group of 15-20 armed, masked men late at night on 31 July-1 August, according to ITAR-TASS and Interfax. Two of the three were at Negmatzoda's home outside of Dushanbe, the third was captured at a nearby house. Negmatzoda was not at home at the time. ITAR-TASS reported a demand for $100,000 has been made in exchange for Negmatzoda's sons. Authorities are investigating.
 REAL INCOME IN TAJIKISTAN FALLSTajik wages are now worth less than at the start of the year, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 August. The Tajik state statistics agency reported that real income dropped by 1.8 percent from April to May and has dropped by 37.9 percent since the beginning of 1997. The official average wage is reportedly 3,699 Tajik rubles per month ($1= 320 Tajik rubles, officially) but a kilogram of beef costs 1,200 rubles, a liter of vegetable oil more than 1,000 and a kilogram of sugar 650 rubles.
 GAZPROM READY TO GIVE UP ON TURKMENISTANThe head of Gazprom, Russia's gas giant, said his company will end its cooperation with Turkmenistan on gas shipments to Ukraine, Interfax reported on 1 August. Rem Vyakhirev said that after Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov issued a decree in late June which dissolved Turkmenrosgaz, Gazprom is "ready to give up on Turkmenistan entirely." Gazprom owned 45 percent of Turkmenrosgaz. Turkmenistan soon after terminated further shipments to Ukraine, citing a $780 million unpaid bill. Vyakhirev told Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma Gazprom could supply Ukraine, saying "From here on you don't need to use Turkmen deliveries." Vyakhirev confirmed he is meeting with Niyazov on 6 August at the latter's request.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIAN MINISTER PROMISES SAFE ROADS IN TWO MONTHSInterior Minister Neritan Ceka said in Tirana on 3 August that he intends to rid the roads of gangs and robbers within 60 days (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 1 August 1997). He said that police have arrested several gang members in recent days, and that "there will be no compromise on crime." But much of the country remains affected by gangs, including Berat, Cerrik, Vlora, Gjirokaster and Korca in the south, and Burrel and Shkoder in the north. Last week, 60 people were killed and 100 injured in armed violence across Albania. In Tirana, 15 were killed during that period, including five on 1 August.
 PETITIONERS WANT BERISHA BANNED FROM ALBANIAN PARLIAMENTSome 12,000 people have signed a petition to the Constitutional Court to demand that former President Sali Berisha be denied his seat in the new legislature, news agencies reported from Tirana on 3 August. The petition, which originated in Vlora, claims that Berisha is responsible for the deaths that followed the collapse of pyramid schemes in March and hence has no moral right to a seat in parliament. Meanwhile in Durres, some 360 French soldiers and 116 military vehicles left for Toulon. And on Tirana money markets, the lek has stabilized at about 150 to the dollar. The rate was about 190 to the dollar at the height of Albania's crisis, but demand for the local currency has increased following the June elections and the gradual resumption of normal business life.
 YUGOSLAV BORDER GUARDS KILL TWO KOSOVARSFederal Yugoslav border guards killed two ethnic Albanians from Serbia's Kosovo province on 3 August, the official Tanjug news agency reported. The guards said that one group of Albanians was trying to cross the border into Albania as another was attempting to enter Yugoslav territory. The guards ordered the men to halt, but fired on the Albanians only after the Albanians fired first, Tanjug added. A spokesman for the Democratic League of Kosovo, the leading ethnic Albanian political party, said in Pristina, however, that the guards fired without warning. Smuggling is endemic along Albania's borders with Yugoslavia and Macedonia, and incidents along the frontier have been common since anarchy broke out in Albania in March. On 31 July, Macedonian border guards killed two illegal migrant workers attempting to go home to Albania.
 FEDERAL YUGOSLAV POLITICAL UPDATEThe steering committee of Zoran Djindjic's Democratic Party (DS) decided in Belgrade on 3 August that the DS will not participate in the Serbian elections slated for 21 September. Spokesmen said that conditions for fair and free elections are not present. Also in Belgrade, the Republican Elections Commission ruled that parties must present their lists of candidates to the Commission by 6 September. And in Podgorica, supporters of Momir Bulatovic, the deposed president of the Democratic Socialist Party, announced on 1 August that they do not recognize Bulatovic's ouster and will hold a party congress in northern Montenegro on 6 August, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital.
 POLICE SAY TEENAGERS DESECRATED JEWISH CEMETERY IN SERBIAPolice in Zemun said on 2 August that five teenagers were responsible for the 24 July vandalism of a Jewish cemetery. Police ruled out any political motives in the incident in which unknown people turned over nine huge grave stones. Jewish community leaders said on 28 July, however, that the stones were so heavy that the vandalism could not have been the work of a few individuals but rather of an organized gang. The mayor of Zemun is Serbian nationalist politician Vojislav Seselj, whom opposition groups charge with beating up a human rights lawyer and with driving a Croatian family out of Zemun (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 1997). Seselj is a candidate for the Serbian presidency and often acts as a tacit ally of Milosevic.
 CROAT CROWDS DRIVE MUSLIMS FROM VILLAGESRecently returned Muslim refugees fled their three home villages near Jajce on 3 August after two days of violence. Angry Croat gangs had attacked the Muslims and torched some of their homes, burning one man alive inside his house. Some Western media reports said that the Croats were drunk and that local police helped them drive out the Muslims. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, wrote to Croat and Muslim leaders that the Muslims must be able to go home within 48 hours, and criticized the behavior of the police and other local authorities. The central Bosnian town of Jajce had previously been one of the few places in that country where refugees had been able to go home to areas governed by authorities of a different nationality.
 BONN FREEZES DIPLOMATIC TIES TO BOSNIAGermany on 3 August became the first country to enforce the new international ban on contacts with Bosnian ambassadors. Westendorp announced the ban the previous day after the Muslims, Croats and Serbs failed to agree among themselves on a division of ambassadorships in the joint foreign ministry. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said in Bonn that "it is time that the Bosnian politicians see that our patience is at an end." Most Bosnian ambassadors are Muslims, but the Croats and Serbs demand a greater number of posts for themselves. Sven Alkalaj, the ambassador to Washington, is a Jew who may lose his job after the three main nationalities have finished fighting among themselves. The Foreign Ministry and the other joint institutions are, in any event, largely paper institutions. The Serbs in particular conduct their own foreign policy independent of the other two ethnic groups.
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT URGES FASTER REFORMSIn an interview with the BBC on 1 August, President Emil Constantinescu urged the government to speed up economic reforms and said he intended "to intervene" if the government failed to do so. In case of failure, he said he will "propose a government reshuffle or the whole government will have to go." Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea said on the same day that it was "premature" to speak of a reshuffle and that he enjoyed the president's "full confidence." The government continued to debate on 1 and 3 August the restructuring of the country's budget. In an interview with Radio Bucharest, Ciorbea said the revised budget and other harsh reform measures will be finalized in the next days.
 ROMANIA TO COMPENSATE FORMER ENTERPRISE OWNERS?The National Agency for Privatization has drafted a law providing for the compensation of owners of enterprises that were nationalized by the communists between 1948 and 1950, Romanian television reported on 3 August. The law provides for the compensation of owners of factories, banks, mines, hospitals, hotels, movie theaters or insurance companies. Those who lost a judicial appeal against the nationalization or those already compensated will not benefit from the provisions of the law. The compensation will be in form of stocks now owned by the state. The draft law, which must be approved by the government and parliament, says former Romanian citizens now residing abroad can benefit from the compensation.
 NEW ROMANIAN LIBERAL PARTY MUST APPLY FOR MEMBERSHIP IN RULING ALLIANCEThe bureau of the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), which is the largest component of the ruling coalition, on 1 August ruled that the Liberal Party must reapply for membership in the CDR because it is "a new political formation." The Liberal Party was set up earlier this year through the merging of the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention, which was a CDR member, and the Liberal Party '93, which was not a component of the CDR, having left it in 1995. Liberal Party leader Nicolae Cerveni said his formation will not reapply for membership.
 HEAVY FLOODS IN ROMANIAThe Prahova, Dambovita, Arges and Ialomita counties were severely affected by heavy rainfalls on 3 August. Several parts of Bucharest also were reported to have been flooded. Radio Bucharest said some 300 homes are affected in the four counties. Rail traffic had to be suspended between Bucharest and Brasov. There were also reports of landslides.
 TRANSDNIESTER AUTHORITIES STOP MOLDOVAN DEFENSE MINISTER'S MOTORCADEAn official Moldovan motorcade on its way to Bendery-Tighina was denied right of entry into the town by the Transdniester breakaway authorities, Radio Bucharest reported on 4 August. The most prominent member in the motorcade was the Moldovan Defense Minister, Valeriu Pasat. The Moldovan officials were invited by the commander of the Russian troops in Transdniester, Gen. Valerii Yevnevich, to participate in an "open day" of the contingent. The Tiraspol authorities said they had been unaware of Pasat's presence in the motorcade. The Russian ambassador to Chisinau, as well as other diplomats who traveled with Pasat, returned with him to Chisinau in a sign of solidarity.
 BULGARIAN PREMIER ON FUTURE ECONOMIC HARDSHIPIvan Kostov, in an interview with Radio Sofia on 3 August, said his countrymen should be bracing for further economic hardship as the government carries out harsh economic reforms. Kostov said the difficulties will continue until about next spring, when he predicted the beginning of a steady revival and a takeoff in economic development. He said unemployment is likely to grow as the government closes down unprofitable state enterprises. Kostov said the government will seek foreign investments and will finance a series of infrastructure projects in order to create new jobs. Among the projects under consideration are a gas pipeline to Turkey and an oil pipeline to carry Russian crude oil from the Black Sea port of Bourgas to Alexandroupolis in Greece.
[C] END NOTE
 SHEVARDNADZE'S ABKHAZ BRINKMANSHIPBy Liz Fuller
The expiration of the 31 July mandate of the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia prompted new diplomatic moves to resolve the conflict. When these moves failed, a series of uncompromising statements by both Georgian and Russian politicians seemed to risk precipitating new fighting. The peacekeeping force, which is composed entirely of Russian troops although it operates under a CIS mandate, has been deployed along the internal border between the separatist republic of Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia since July 1994. The Georgian leadership has stated repeatedly that it would demand the force's withdrawal after its mandate expired unless a resolution adopted at the CIS heads of state summit in March 1997 is implemented. That resolution calls for the peacekeepers' deployment over a broader geographical area and gives them more extensive powers to protect an estimated 200,000 ethnic Georgians who fled from Abkhazia during the war of1992-3, and who are impatient to return to their abandoned homes. The Abkhaz leadership immediately rejected this proposal, arguing that the force's original mandate cannot be amended without the approval of the Abkhaz government. The Abkhaz leadership has since made it clear that it wants the peacekeeping force to continue its duties.
The original rationale for deploying peacekeepers along a 13 km zone on both sides of the River Inguri, which marks the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, was to expedite the return of ethnic Georgian displaced persons. Many of these have been quartered for the past three years in hotels in Tbilisi, and are without employment. Despite the peacekeepers' presence, few Georgian fugitives have returned to Abkhazia. The Abkhaz leadership has consistently blocked any plans for their large- scale repatriation, and some families that returned spontaneously were attacked and killed by Abkhaz guerrillas. The peacekeeping force itself has lost up to 50 men killed by mines and shot by members of the so-called "White Legion" -- a Georgian guerrilla force that advocates a military campaign to restore Georgia's hegemony over Abkhazia.
The peacekeepers have, however, become an instrument that various parties in both Tbilisi and Moscow are seeking to use to extract political concessions. The Georgian parliament adopted a resolution on 30 May hinting that it would consider demanding that Georgia leave the CIS if the resolution of the March CIS heads of state summit on broadening the peacekeepers' mandate was not implemented. Visiting the U.S. in late July, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze tried unsuccessfully to persuade U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and U.S. President Bill Clinton to agree to send UN peacekeeping troops to replace the CIS force -- a move that would have undercut Russia's influence in the Transcaucasus.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, which in June had proposed a conflict resolution plan that was accepted by the Abkhaz side but rejected by Tbilisi, threatened that if Georgia refused to make a formal request that the peacekeepers remain after 31 July, they would be withdrawn, creating a serious risk of spontaneous clashes between Abkhaz and Georgian irregular forces. (Although Georgian and Abkhaz foreign ministry representatives had signed an agreement in Geneva on 25 July rejecting the use of force after the expiration of the peacekeepers' mandate, both the "White Legion" and a contingent of some 3,000 ethnic Georgian former members of the Abkhaz police force and Abkhaz militia forces had warned that they would advance into the 13 km zone to take the peacekeepers' place.) Russian observers estimate that the Abkhaz army, which numbers approximately 4,500 regular troops plus some 25,000 reservists, is disciplined enough, and has enough tanks and heavy artillery, to withstand a Georgian incursion and then keep the Georgian forces pinned down in a lengthy war of attrition. It also has been suggested that some influential Chechen field commanders opposed to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov might agree to fight on the Chechen side. Protracted hostilities could delay the construction of the planned Baku- Supsa pipeline that is scheduled to begin transporting Azerbaijan's Caspian oil to the Georgian Black Sea coast no later than next fall.
On 29 July, Shevardnadze appeared to modify his uncompromising rhetoric, stating that although Georgia would not formally ask the peacekeepers to stay, it would not insist on their withdrawal. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman argued that the decision on revoking the peacekeepers' mandate could only be taken by the CIS heads of state, who had originally endorsed the peacekeepers' dispatch to Abkhazia. This in effect would mean that the force will remain in its present positions at least until the CIS heads of state summit scheduled to take place in Chisinau in October. It also would provide Shevardnadze with a breathing space in which to lobby for international forces under the aegis of the UN to be deployed alongside the Russian troops.
Then on 2 August, Russian President Boris Yeltsin called on both Shevardnadze and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba to meet with him in Moscow for "one last serious talk" before signing an agreement on delimitation of powers between Abkhazia and the central Georgian government in Tbilisi. The agreement would be comparable to the power-sharing agreements Moscow has signed with other federation subjects. (The previous day, Russian special envoy for Abkhazia Gennadii Ilichev said that Moscow was considering lifting the economic sanctions imposed on Abkhazia in early 1996.) Shevardnadze immediately expressed his approval of Yeltsin's proposals. Ardzinba has not yet made any comment. For the moment, then, the three most important parties to the conflict have stepped back from the brink. But there is no guarantee that radical forces in Georgia or Abkhazia will not independently resort to violence to sabotage a Russian-mediated agreement, as they did at the beginning of the conflict in September 1992.
CORRECTION: In the End Note "Walking the Moldovan Tightrope," by Michael Shafir, published on 1 August 1997, Valeriu Pasat was described as Moldovan Foreign Minister. He is, of course, that country's Defense Minister. Also note that the basic treaty between Moldova and Russia was signed in September 1990 and that the PUMA helicopters are produced under French rather than U.S. license.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty