|Thursday, 14 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 97, 97-08-18
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 97, 18 August 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 MUTINOUS TROOPS REPOSITION IN SOUTHERN TAJIKISTAN...Under the command of Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, the Tajik Army's First Brigade left its barracks south of Kurgan-Teppe late on 15 August and repositioned near the towns of Kabodien and Shaartuz. Khudaberdiyev, who is ignoring a 13 August presidential order that he be stripped of his duties as commander, held negotiations with government representatives in the afternoon of 15 August, but that meeting was cut short when it was learned that government troops had been reinforced and were approaching the Kurgan- Teppe area. "Volunteers" from the Dangara and Kulyab areas are aiding government forces near Kurgan-Teppe. They appear, however, to have been largely responsible for looting in the area and are being disarmed by government forces.
 ...COME UNDER ATTACK BY GOVERNMENT FORCESITAR-TASS reported on 18 August that government forces are attacking positions of the mutinous First Brigade. Fighting is reported at a bridge near the village of Garavuti, but no reporters have been allowed into the area. According to some reports, Khudaberdiyev's remaining forces have been joined by those of former Customs Committee Chairman Yakub Salimov, which were forced out of Dushanbe on 9 August by Interior Ministry troops. Salimov was dismissed by President Imomali Rakhmonov on 15 August. The fighting is moving toward the Uzbek border, and the Uzbek government has announced it has taken extra security measures in the border region.
 KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYZSTAN FAIL TO AGREE OVER NATURAL RESOURCESRepresentatives of the Kazakh government met with a Kyrgyz delegation led by Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov in Bishkek on 15 August, according to RFE/RL corespondents. The meeting focused on the mutual use of natural resources and payment for such use. Kyrgyzstan claims Kazakhstan owes $23 million for supplies of Kyrgyz electricity, while Almaty says it does not owe anything. The two sides agreed to complete construction of the Kambar- Ata hydroelectric plant on the Naryn River but failed to agree on Kazakh payment for water from Kyrgyz reservoirs. There was also no Kazakh response to a Kyrgyz complaint that Kyrgyz cargo trucks are charged as much as $900 to transit Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 August that Kyrgyzstan reduced water supplies to southern Kazakhstan the previous day.
 AZERBAIJAN, RUSSIA CONDEMN KARABAKH ELECTIONSAzerbaijan's Central Electoral Commission issued a statement on 16 August condemning the presidential elections to be held on 1 September in the self- proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as "illegal and legally void," ITAR- TASS and Interfax reported. The statement argued that legal elections in Nagorno-Karabakh can be held only after the return to their homes of the estimated 50,000 Azerbaijanis who fled during hostilities. It also called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to prevent the elections from taking place. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin on 15 August said his ministry opposes the planned vote because Nagorno-Karabakh has not been recognized as an independent state. Both Azerbaijan and Russia condemned the November 1996 elections in Nagorno- Karabakh on similar grounds.
 GEORGIA RESPONDS TO ARDZINBA-SHEVARDNADZE DECLARATIONTamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile, condemned the 15 August declaration by the Georgian and Abkhaz leaders as a "betrayal of Georgia's interests," Interfax reported. The declaration is a commitment to refrain from the use or threat of violence; as such, it duplicates a declaration signed by Georgian and Abkhaz representatives in late July (see RFE/RL "Newsline," 28 July 1997). Shevardnadze claimed that progress toward reconciliation "is obvious," but Ardzinba warned that the Abkhaz side will make no further concessions. Ardzinba told journalists in Sukhumi on 16 August that the Georgian leadership had made him an "interesting proposal connected with the transportation of oil." A Georgian government delegation headed by Minister of State Niko Lekishvili is scheduled to discuss economic issues with the Abkhaz leadership in Sukhumi on 20 August (see also "End Note" below).
 NEW PAN-CAUCASIAN LIBERATION MOVEMENTUnnamed representatives from Russia's North Caucasian republics and from Georgia and Azerbaijan attended the founding congress in Grozny on 17 August of the Caucasus Confederation, Russian media reported. One of the movement's leaders is Chechen former acting president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev. The movement's aims are to unite all political forces of the Caucasus and Transcaucasus in the liberation struggle against Russian colonialism and to create a confederation of independent Caucasus states, according to ITAR- TASS.
 ARMENIAN TELECOM TENDER CLOSES EARLYThe international tender for the 51 percent government-owned stake in the telecommunications company Armentel closed on 15 August, two weeks earlier than originally planned, Interfax reported, quoting an Armenian trade and industry ministry official. A government spokesman told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 15 August that the privatization of Armentel will be completed "within one month." The names of the companies that submitted bids have not been disclosed. A journalist for the Turkish daily "Cumhuriyet" recently claimed that the Armenian authorities had rejected a bid for Armentel made by the Turkish Telecom company. The remaining 49 percent stake in Armentel is owned by the U.S. Trans World Telecom corporation.
 CORRECTION:"RFE/RL Newsline" incorrectly reported on 12 August 1997 that Turkey is a member of only one of the five international consortiums extracting Azerbaijan's Caspian oil. In fact, the Turkish state oil company has a 6.75 percent stake in the consortium developing the Azeri, Chirag, and Gyuneshli fields and a 9 percent stake in the consortium set up in June 1996 to exploit the Shah Deniz field.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 ALBANIANS RECEIVE DEADLINE TO HAND IN WEAPONSThe Defense and Interior Ministries on 17 August ordered citizens to hand in heavy weapons by the end of the month and small arms by the end of September. Failure to do so could bring a prison sentence of up to five years. In addition, members of the defeated Democratic Party have until 19 August to give up their weapons or face a fine. If they are caught owning guns after 25 August, they will be prosecuted. Estimates put the number of illegal weapons stolen during the anarchy earlier this year at 1 million. Some barracks and police stations distributed about 4,000 guns, mainly Kalashnikovs, to Democratic Party supporters in Tirana and in the north. The new government's top priority is to end lawlessness.
 CRACKDOWN, VIOLENCE CONTINUE IN ALBANIAInterior Ministry spokesmen said on 16 August that some 20 members of Zani Caushi's gang have been arrested in Vlora so far, including two of Caushi's brothers. The Interior Ministry believes that the gang leader is still in Vlora, but local police say he has fled to Italy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 1997). Also in the south, special police units have arrived in Saranda and Delvina. In the suburb of Tirana-Kombinat, one policeman was injured when police thwarted a robbery in progress. Also on 16 August, Tirana dailies loyal to former President Sali Berisha and his Democratic Party ran a blank front page to protest that they have been unable to distribute newspapers in the south since March. The Democrats charge that the Socialists worked together with criminals to prevent the Democrats from campaigning in the south.
 ALBANIAN MINISTER SAYS MONTENEGRO ENCOURAGES LOOTINGInterior Minister Neritan Ceka said on 16 August that Montenegro allows convoys of trucks loaded with scrap metal to cross in from Albania while at the same time it shoots individual Albanians who try to enter Yugoslavia in search of work. Ceka added that organized gangs have been blowing up sections of railroad track in the north, collecting the pieces, and carting them off to Montenegro for sale. For months, gangs have been looting factories and other installations for metal to sell to Montenegro.
 NATO PREPARING TO CATCH KARADZIC?British, French, and U.S. commandos are in Bosnia, where they will soon arrest Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and send him to The Hague, "The Sunday Times" reported on 17 August. The newspaper added that a NATO exercise near Karadzic's stronghold at Pale on 13 August was a "dress rehearsal" for the arrest of the indicted war criminal. Western media, quoting unnamed military sources, have been reporting for some days that a move to catch Karadzic is imminent (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 1997). NATO launched its new policy of actively pursuing war criminals in Prijedor on 10 July.
 SFOR PREVENTS CLASH BETWEEN RIVAL BOSNIAN SERB POLICEBritish NATO troops occupied a police station in Banja Luka on 17 August and prevented a possible clash between Bosnian Serb police loyal to President Biljana Plavsic and those supporting her Pale-based opponents. Pro-Plavsic police under Maj. Dragan Lukac, her security chief, had occupied a building from where, they said, other policemen were bugging her phones and those of her supporters. NATO denied permission for pro-Pale police to intervene. An SFOR spokesman said the peacekeepers will not tolerate violence. SFOR accused Plavsic's loyalists of violating NATO's new guidelines for police in Bosnia and questioned the police who seized the station. The bulk of the Bosnian Serb police are paid by Karadzic.
 PLAVSIC TO IGNORE COURT DECISION AGAINST HERPresident Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 18 August that she will ignore the Republika Srpska Constitutional Court's 15 August ruling that condemned her dissolution of the parliament and her call for new elections. Before the decision was announced, Plavsic had said repeatedly that the court was under political pressure to rule against her. Judge Jovo Rosic, one member of the court known to support Plavsic, was badly beaten on 14 August. He spent the weekend in a Banja Luka hospital guarded by pro-Plavsic soldiers. In Washington, a State Department spokesman on 15 August reiterated U.S. support for Plavsic and criticized the court's decision as politically motivated. In Bijeljina on 16 August, Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, praised the court's decision.
 BOSNIAN REFUGEE UPDATEUN spokesmen in Sarajevo said on 17 August that some 100 Muslims have peacefully returned to their old homes in Croat-held Krusica, near Jajce. In the Olovo area, Bosnian Serb police arrested five Muslims who were part of a larger group who had returned to visit their former homes. Explosions near Muslim-controlled Bugojno on 16 August destroyed two Croat-owned homes and damaged a third. In Stolac, local Croats stoned busses carrying Muslims back to their pre-war homes. Under the Dayton agreement, all persons have the right to freedom of movement throughout Bosnia and the right to go back to their homes.
 PROGRESS IN CHISINAU-TIRASPOL NEGOTIATIONS?Vasile Sova, the acting head of the Moldovan delegation to ongoing negotiations with the breakaway Transdniester region, told Infotag on 15 August that "some progress" was made in negotiations with Tiraspol the previous day. Sova said agreement was reached on most of the 12 points of the draft agreement submitted by the three mediators (Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). But he added that Tiraspol still objects to describing the Transdniester as an integral part of Moldova and to the proposal on how to divide powers between Chisinau and Tiraspol during a transition period until a final settlement of the conflict.
 TIRASPOL CRITICIZES RUSSIAN COMMANDERResponding to accusations by Gen. Valerii Yevnevich, the commander of the Russian troops in the Transdniester (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 1997), the leadership of the breakaway region accused Yevnevich of deliberately raising tensions in the region on the eve of talks about the future of the Russian army's assets. Tiraspol's official news agency Olivia-Press reported on 15 August that ammunition allegedly belonging to the separatist region has already been destroyed on the orders of Yevnevich, who "is hiding something" and is "making the Moldovan leadership very pleased." The agency reiterated that the Transdniester's "population and public organizations are increasingly concerned" about the alleged increasingly close relationship between Yevnevich and Moldovan Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat and about cooperation between the Moldovan and Russian armies "without the participation of Transdniester's leaders and people."
 MOLDOVAN NATIONAL SECURITY MINISTER ON COUNTRY'S FUTUREIn an interview with the daily "Flux" published on 15 August, Tudor Botnaru said the Transdniestrian conflict is a "long-term problem" that is likely to take years to solve and that a solution is unlikely to be found unless Russia changes its attitude. "The key is neither in Chisinau nor in Tiraspol, but in Moscow," he said. Botnaru said the greatest danger for Moldova's future is the further deterioration of its economy, Infotag reported. With regard to relations with Romania, he said unification between the two countries would be good for both but could not be based on the 1918 or 1941 unification models. "It should be a step-by-step process, starting with the present generation" and possibly concluding with "our children or grand-children."
 BULGARIA TO PRIVATIZE NATIONAL TV CHANNELThe government on 15 August said it will privatize one of Bulgaria's two national television channels, BTA reported. It added that the privatization of the Efir Two channel would mean reduced spending on national television. If sold, the channel would become the first nationwide private television channel. Private channels launched after the fall of the communist regime can be received only locally.
 ZHIVKOV CRITICIZES GOVERNMENTAddressing a public gathering on 17 August, Bulgarian former communist leader Todor Zhivkov criticized the reformist government for not doing enough to curb inflation and unemployment since taking office in May. Zhivkov, who is under house arrest, is being investigated for allegedly channeling millions of dollars to communist parties and movements abroad and for incitement to ethnic hatred. He was given a two-day reprieve to attend the gathering in Yundola, a mountain resort some 125 kilometers southeast of Sofia, BTA reported. The Supreme Court overturned a seven-year sentence handed down in 1992 for misappropriating state funds and embezzlement.
[C] END NOTE
 ABKHAZIA AND GEORGIA RULE OUT VIOLENCE AND FURTHER CONCESSIONSby Liz Fuller
On 14 August 1992, Georgian troops under the command of then Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani marched into the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi, and opened fire on the parliament building. That action triggered a 13-month war between the central Georgian government and the secessionist Abkhaz leadership, which culminated in Tbilisi's loss of jurisdiction over Abkhazia and the exodus of some 250,000 ethnic Georgians who lived there. Five years later, on 15 August 1997, Eduard Shevardnadze and Vladislav Ardzinba, the Georgian and Abkhaz presidents, signed an agreement in Tbilisi abjuring the use or threat of violence and pledging to seek a solution to the conflict exclusively by peaceful means. The two leaders failed, however, to make progress toward resolving such controversial issues as Abkhazia's future political status vis-a-vis the central government in Tbilisi and the repatriation of the ethnic Georgians forced to flee during the fighting.
Nor did Shevardnadze and Ardzinba set a date for the signing in Moscow of a more comprehensive peace agreement drafted by Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Although the complete text of Yeltsin's proposals has not been made public, Shevardnadze has said it provides for "broad autonomy" for Abkhazia within a unified Georgian state and is therefore acceptable to the Georgian leadership, which has consistently rejected the Abkhaz demand for equal status with the rest of Georgia within a confederation.
Ardzinba, however, has said that the sole acceptable basis for further talks with Tbilisi is a protocol drafted by the Russian Foreign Ministry. That document has been the subject of sporadic negotiations over several years. The most recent round of talks in Moscow in June was suspended after Georgia demanded substantive amendments to a version that the Abkhaz delegation had endorsed. Under the terms of that document, Georgia and Abkhazia affirm their "consent to live within the confines of a shared state within the boundaries of the Georgian SSR as of 21 December 1991. Each of the two sides preserves its constitution, and relations between them will be regulated by a special treaty, which both sides agree to invest with the force of a constitutional law."
In addition, the Russian Foreign Ministry draft contains several points that address specific Abkhaz concerns. It stipulates, for example, that the repatriation of Georgian displaced persons to Abkhazia is to be implemented in accordance with a UN-mediated agreement of April 1994, which empowers the Abkhaz authorities to screen applications from would-be repatriates in order to preclude the return of war crime suspects. Abkhazia pledges to guarantee the safety of the repatriates, and provision is made for the creation of militias to perform that function.
Georgia, for its part, undertakes to prevent the intrusion onto Abkhaz territory of "terrorist and saboteur groups, armed formations, and individuals". (Two such Georgian groups are known to exist. The so-called White Legion, composed of ethnic Georgian former members of the Abkhaz Interior Ministry, is suspected of perpetrating terrorist attacks against the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed along the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. Informal paramilitary formations subordinate to the so-called Abkhaz parliament in exile -- the ethnic Georgian deputies to the Abkhaz parliament -- constitute the second group. Both advocate a new Georgian offensive to restore Tbilisi's hegemony over Abkhazia by force.)
Paradoxically, although the Shevardnadze-Ardzinba declaration was intended as a step toward rapprochement, it may serve to exacerbate tensions. Spokesmen for the Georgian fugitives from Abkhazia have denounced the document as a "betrayal of Georgia's interests." The proponents of a "military solution" to the conflict may decide to launch a new offensive immediately in order to forestall any further concessions by Shevardnadze. Alternatively, the Georgian fugitives may align with disaffected elements in Moscow, including former Georgian intelligence chief Igor Giorgadze, who are rumored to be planning to eliminate Shevardnadze. (Any Georgian faction that undertakes to precipitate new hostilities in Abkhazia will likely be able to count on backing from those Moscow circles that have a vested interest in destabilizing Georgia to prevent the export of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via the western pipeline to Supsa on Georgia's Black Sea coast.)
Yeltsin, too, will be less than satisfied with the outcome of the Shevardnadze-Arzdinba meeting, given that he is engaged in an undeclared competition with the Western countries aligned in the "Friends of Georgia" group to coerce the Georgian and Abkhaz leaders to sign a peace agreement and take the credit for doing so. (The "Friends of Georgia," together with representatives of the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, undertook a fruitless attempt to mediate between Tbilisi and Sukhumi in late July.)
In addition to upstaging the West, there are three reasons why Yeltsin wants a peace agreement signed quickly. First, it would substantiate Russian claims to a monopoly on mediating CIS conflicts. Second, it would enable the CIS peacekeeping force currently deployed along the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia to be withdrawn and would dispense with the need for its replacement by a UN or NATO equivalent. And third, it would serve to counter the growing perception that Russia's political influence in the Transcaucasus is rapidly declining.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty