|Wednesday, 13 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 88, 97-08-05
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 88, 5 August 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ PRESIDENTS AGREE TO TALKSOn 4 August, in his weekly radio address, Eduard Shevardnadze again expressed his readiness to meet with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba and Boris Yeltsin, Russian and Western agencies reported. Shevardnadze termed Yeltsin's proposals on resolving the Abkhaz conflict "absolutely acceptable" to the Georgian government. These proposals give Abkhazia broad autonomy within "a unified and indivisible Georgian state." Ardzinba likewise accepted Yeltsin's invitation to trilateral talks, but said the only acceptable basis for discussion is the protocol drafted by the Russian Foreign Ministry to which he agreed in talks in Moscow in June. Georgia then demanded changes to the text which Abkhazia rejected as unacceptable. Also on 4 August, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, Tamaz Nadareishvili, said in Tbilisi that Abkhaz guerrillas had murdered 14 ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia's Kodori gorge on 3 August, Interfax reported.
 ARMENIAN MAJORITY PARTY LEADER OUTLINES STRATEGYOn 2 August chairman Vano Siradeghyan told the board of the Armenian Pan- National Movement -- the senior party in the ruling Hanrapetutyun (Republic) bloc -- that his top priority is to "restore people's trust" in the party before the parliamentary elections due in July, 1999, an RFE/RL correspondent in Yerevan reported on 4 August. Siradeghyan, who was elected chairman of the board of the Movement in early July, but is not a parliament deputy, said the Movement must form a "new bloc" with its allies to win the elections, but did not specify whether the Movement will leave the Republic bloc and set up a new alliance. He hinted that the Shamiram party -- the second largest within parliament -- and the Union of Industrialists and Businessmen will be incorporated into the Armenian Pan- National Movement "in the coming months."
 ARMENIAN, TURKISH BUSINESSMEN DISCUSS ECONOMIC COOPERATIONMeeting in Yerevan on 1-2 August, a group of Turkish business figures signed a protocol with the Union of Industrialists and Businessmen of Armenia to set up a Turkish trading center in Armenia and expand cooperation in banking, investment and textile production, Armenian agencies reported. The signatories also will conduct surveys on the viability of building a gas pipeline through Armenia to Turkey, and the use of Armenian territory as a transit zone between Turkey and the CIS. The possibility of creating a free economic zone in the Armenian regions of Armavir and Shirak also was discussed. Participants estimated that opening a frontier post between the two countries would facilitate the growth of annual bilateral trade to half a billion U.S. dollars. Turkish leaders say a frontier crossing cannot be opened until a solution is found to the Karabakh conflict.
 AZERBAIJAN TO REFORM BANKING SECTOR, CREATE INTERBANK CURRENCY MARKETThe Azerbaijani government plans to introduce more stringent banking regulations, including raising the minimum capital requirement from $600, 000 to $1.2 million by the end of this year, the "Wall Street Journal" reported on 5 August. A second program drafted in conjunction with the IMF and the World Bank will expedite the privatization of those state-owned banks deemed viable. At the same time, the issuing of licenses to foreign banks has been temporarily suspended. The Azerbaijani government also plans to create an interbank currency market in anticipation that oil revenues will create favorable conditions for full convertibility of the manat. The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency has announced the extension of its guarantees of investments into 11 more countries, including Azerbaijan and Georgia, in 1997, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 4 August.
 EXPLOSION NEAR TAJIK ALUMINUM PLANTA home-made bomb went off outside the Tursunzade aluminum plant in western Tajikistan on 4 August, injuring two people, RFE/RL correspondents in Tajikistan reported. The bomb was planted at a bus stop near the factory gates. There is speculation in Tajikistan that an organized crime group is responsible for the bombing. The aluminum plant is the most lucrative enterprise in Tajikistan and has been the center of contention between various criminal groups since 1992.
 CHINESE CORPORATION WINS ANOTHER KAZAKH OIL TENDERChina National Petroleum Co. won the tender for the Uzensk oil field in western Kazakhstan, Interfax reported on 4 August. The Chinese corporation now has the exclusive right to negotiate for the contract. The Uzensk field currently produces 2.7 million tons of oil annually but the Chinese side says it can increase that figure to 7 million annually. In order to secure the contract, the Chinese company must form a joint venture with Kazakhstan's Uzenmunaigaz and help construct a pipeline from the field to China and the Kazakh section of a pipeline south to Iran via Turkmenistan. The Kazakh government and China National Petroleum now have one month to agree to terms, otherwise negotiations can begin with the other participants in the tender, Amoco and the U.S.-Malaysian companies Unocal- Petronas. In early June, China National Petroleum Corp. also bought 60 percent of the Aktyubinskmai field and facilities in northwest Kazakhstan.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ITALY TO LEAVE 500 TROOPS IN ALBANIAItalian army Colonel Giovanni Bernardi told news agencies in Tirana on 4 August that Italian and Albanian military officials recently agreed in Rome that Italy will help the Albanian army to strengthen security against bandits and gangs, and to reorganize and retrain. He added that "500 Italian soldiers already serving in Albania will be included in this assistance corps. Enlarging this contingent hasn't been excluded." Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos heads a high-powered Greek delegation slated to arrive in Tirana on 5 August. They will discuss a $20 million loan to help strengthen Albanian security forces. Greek officials will also offer opportunities for jobless Albanians to work legally in Greece. The Greeks want a list of names of Albanians who escaped from prison in the recent anarchy. The Greek authorities fear that Albania is becoming a source of arms and drug smuggling via Greece to Western Europe.
 POLITICAL PURGE OF ALBANIAN ARMY?Defense Minister Sabit Brokaj in Tirana on 4 August warned top army officers who recently "violated the constitution" by "accepting political orders" to resign voluntarily or face sackings and trials. It is not clear whether he has specific incidents in mind, or whether the new government is simply following the time-honored Balkan practice in which a new government purges the army, police, courts, and ministries of its predecessor's appointees. Indeed, opposition Democratic Party spokesmen said that Brokaj is launching a "political purge." The new Socialist government has already announced top-level changes in the Interior Ministry and told judges to suspend trials, allegedly because too many court facilities were destroyed in the recent unrest.
 MORE ATTACKS ON KOSOVO POLICEUnidentified assailants wounded two policemen and one civilian at Gornja Klina near Srbica on 4 August. In a separate incident in Glogovac, one ethnic Albanian civilian, who heads a state-run company, was severely wounded by gunfire. The previous day, gunmen attacked a policeman near Podujevo. These are the latest in a series of violent incidents this year in Serbia's troubled province, which has an ethnic Albanian majority of some 90% but no home rule. The Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) changed its tactics in late 1996 from random attacks against Serbs to more frequent and clearly targeted assaults on the Serbian authorities and on ethnic Albanians whom the UCK considers to be collaborators.
 SEVEN WESTERN COUNTRIES BOYCOTT BOSNIAN DIPLOMATSSweden, France, the U.K., Austria, Sweden, and the U.S. on 4 August followed Germany's decision the previous day to freeze diplomatic contacts with Bosnia-Herzegovina. Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, had urged the boycott to show displeasure with the three Bosnian ethnic groups' failure to agree on ambassadorial appointments (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1997). Meanwhile, on 4 August the deadline came and went for the three sides to agree on common citizenship and a joint passport. The main bone of contention was the long- standing dispute between the Muslims and the Serbs over whether citizenship in the common state has primacy over citizenship in the Republika Srpska or the mainly Croat and Muslim Federation. The Serbs argue citizenship in the two "entities" should have more weight than that in the common state, whereas the Muslims stress joint statehood.
 U.S. SLAMS WESTENDORPAn unnamed State Department official said in Washington on 4 August that the U.S. is not happy with how Westendorp is doing his job. The official charged that the former Spanish foreign minister spends too much time outside of Bosnia, and that he takes the wrong approach to solving local problems. The spokesman added that Washington is particularly displeased that Westendorp tried to suggest specific diplomatic appointments in resolving the imbroglio over ambassadorial appointments, and that Westendorp had insisted that a Serb be named to head the Washington embassy. The official noted that the State Department's disappointment with Westendorp's performance in implementing the civilian aspects of the Dayton agreement was instrumental in President Bill Clinton's recent decision to send U.S. negotiator Richard Holbrooke back to the Balkans.
 ALL MUSLIMS DRIVEN OUT OF JAJCE AREAInternational police spokesmen said in Jajce on 4 August that the ethnic tensions between Croats and Muslims in the area had subsided, but only because the recently returned Muslims had all been driven out by Croat mobs, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the central Bosnian town. Vladimir Soljic, the ethnic Croat president of the mainly Croat and Muslim Federation, said in a letter that refugee return programs to date had discriminated against the Croats, and that it is necessary instead to stress the right of all refugees to go home. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, Westendorp charged that the recent protests in Vogosca by Muslim refugees from Srebrenica were organized. The Srebrenica women blocked attempts by Serbs from Vogosca to return to their homes in that Sarajevo suburb.
 NEWS FROM THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIALeading indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic recently held talks in Belgrade with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, BETA reported on 5 August. The main topic on the agenda was Holbrooke's upcoming visit to the Balkans. In Brcko, Republika Srpska Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic hinted that the Serbs might boycott the September local elections if the question of voter registration is not soon cleared up to the Serbian leadership's liking. And in Zagreb, President Franjo Tudjman was inaugurated for a new term on 5 August. He promised to be "an impartial president of all Croats and Croatian citizens, regardless of their political and other affiliations." Tudjman also pledged his backing for the Dayton agreement and the Croat-Muslim Federation in Bosnia. Also in the Croatian capital, state-run TV said that Defense Minister Gojko Susak has undergone surgery in Washington. He was operated on for lung cancer there in 1995.
 ROMANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER TOURS TRANSYLVANIAGavril Dejeu, on a tour of several counties in Transylvania, said on 4 August in Cluj that the opening of the Hungarian consulate in the center of the town has been "a mistake." He said a different, less central building should have been found for this purpose to avoid a "conflictual situation," Radio Bucharest reported. He failed to mention that the Cluj mayoralty had refused to assign any building to the consulate, which is now housed in temporary premises belonging to the Hungarian community in the city. Dejeu also said that local authorities in Transylvania should proceed "prudently" with the implementation of the government ordinance allowing bilingual signs. He said the ordinance, though in effect, will eventually have to be approved by the parliament. He said until then one should display "wisdom" to avoid "conflicts that could resemble those in the former Yugoslavia."
 EBRD LOAN FOR ROMANIAThe European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on 4 August granted Romania a $75 million loan for the improvement of the water supply and sewage system in 10 towns, Mediafax reported. The European Union also is participating in the project with a $35 million non-refundable credit. The agreement was signed in Bucharest by Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara and Johan Bastin, director of EBRD's infrastructure and environment department.
 UPDATE ON ROMANIAN FLOODSLandslides and flooding caused by heavy rains over the weekend damaged more than 2,000 homes in the Prahova and Dambovita counties, Romanian officials said on 4 August. The worst hit town is Breaza, some 160 kilometers north of Bucharest. The government on 4 August approved emergency aid for the Vaslui, Bacau, Olt, Dolj, Teleorman, Bistrita-Nasaud, Bihor, Salaj, Hunedoara and Caras-Severin counties, which had been affected by earlier floods. On August 5, the government will discuss emergency aid for the more recently affected regions.
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER ON MOTORCADE INCIDENT...The recent "motorcade incident" (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 4 August 1997) shows that the Tiraspol authorities are "losing control of the situation" and are forced to take "extreme measures" in an attempt to bring about the restoration of the former status quo, presidential advisor Nicolae Taranu told a press conference in Chisinau on 4 August. Taranu said the leaders of the breakaway region were left with "little room for maneuvering" after the signing in Moscow on 8 May of the memorandum on the settling of the conflict, Infotag reported.
 ... AND ON JCC DRAFT FOR TRANSDNIESTER'S STATUSTaranu also said in an article published on 4 August, that the Tiraspol authorities are attempting to force a revision of the draft for the final status of the breakaway region. The draft was worked out by the representatives of the three mediators on the Joint Control Commission. The Tiraspol authorities make the easing of the detention conditions of the so- called "Ilascu group" (see "RFE/RL Newsletter," 31 July 1997) conditional on concessions to the text of the draft by Chisinau, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported.
 MOLDOVA AND THE IMFDavid Owen, the head of an IMF team that recently returned from a visit to Moldova, says it is important for the people in the breakaway region to understand that the fund lends only to central governments, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported. In related news, Infotag reported on 4 August that Roger Grawe, the World Bank's director of the department dealing with Moldovan affairs, told a news conference in Chisinau that Moldova has met "the bulk" of the conditions for a second structural adjustment loan. He said some adjustments for meeting the conditions of the loan are still needed, but he did not expect that this would lead to a reduction in the $100 million planned loan.
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENT PROMULGATES LAW ON POLICE FILESPetar Stoyanov on 4 August formally approved the law recently passed by the parliament on opening the country's communist-era secret police files (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 1997), BTA reported. The law will take effect as soon as it is published in the official gazette.
[C] END NOTE
 DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: HOW YELTSIN DECIDESBy John Helmer
One of the best things about Boris Yeltsin, an opposition deputy said before the president's first heart attack, was the way he would listen attentively to what you said, and agree with you. One of the worst things about him, the deputy added, was that Yeltsin agreed with everyone.
First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais knows the president's qualities. So he drafted a decree in August 1996 -- while Yeltsin was in medical isolation -- that strictly regulated how presidential decrees could take force. Chubais arranged the paperwork so if someone with a piece of paper managed to see Yeltsin and Yeltsin signed it, nothing could happen until the paper was published. And publication remained under Chubais's control.
Last month, while Yeltsin was on holiday on the Volga, he signed a decree reforming Russia's diamond industry. The document had been in preparation for months. Diamond producers in the Sakha republic, diamond manufacturers and exporters in Moscow, and different parts of the government bureaucracy lobbied for their interests.
Yeltsin wasn't personally involved, as he once was. But prime minister, ministries, and Chubais were all agreed. The decree stripped the Sakha Republic of tax and other privileges it had been granted by Yeltsin five years ago. The monopoly of diamond sales inside Russia and abroad, which Almazy Rossii-Sakha (ARS), a diamond mining company, had sought, was rejected. Price competition was introduced by allowing, for the first time, diamond cutters in Russia to import diamonds from abroad without duty. New Finance Ministry controls were ordered over every aspect of the diamond industry, including the stationing of inspectors inside ARS. The company was prohibited from supplying diamonds at a discount to Sakha Republic President Mikhail Nikolaev's administration or its friends.
This was the biggest defeat Nikolaev has ever suffered at Yeltsin's hands. So, on July 25, he flew down to see the president face to face. Nikolaev had been seeking this meeting for months, but was always blocked. This time, with Chubais on holiday out of Russia, he got his wish.
And more than that. Officials of ARS were saying last week that Yeltsin did the proverbial. He agreed to everything Nikolaev asked for. The ARS officials claim the Sakha government will be able to buy the stones it wants from ARS at a price Nikolaev told Yeltsin was at cost. Re-selling or exporting cut-price goods will be easy and profitable. Yeltsin reportedly agreed, and signed a paper to that effect.
This is awkward, because in section 10 of the paper Yeltsin signed five days earlier, he decreed that Sakha could buy diamonds but only on terms and prices fixed by the Russian government. That meant the Ministry of Finance. Now that he's back from vacation, that means Finance Minister Chubais.
Sensing the potential for embarrassment, some ARS officials now say they can't confirm the meeting between Nikolaev and Yeltsin took place. The presidential press service rummaged in its records, and said a meeting had occurred about a week ago. A Finance Ministry official in charge of the diamond sector said he, as he put it, had "heard something about the meeting, and (was) sure they agreed on something." He wasn't sure what.
The legal department of the Kremlin, which also was ordered by last year's ukaz to check every decree before signing, says it can't do this, because the only place all the decrees must now go is to Chubais's office.
Just what the latest document may say is hinted at by Nikolaev's representative in Moscow, Kliment Ivanov. He claims Yeltsin has approved government action to settle the terms on which the republic will get its stones, taking into consideration the interests of the republic Chubais followed Nikolaev to see Yeltsin four days later. His office hasn't responded to questions about what was decided, if anything.
The author, a journalist based in Moscow, regularly contributes articles to RFE/RL.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty