|Wednesday, 13 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 100, 97-08-21
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 100, 21 August 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ABKHAZIA, GEORGIA NEGOTIATE RELEASE OF CIS PEACEKEEPERSMeeting in Sukhumi on 20 August, Abkhaz President Vladislav Arzdinba, Georgian First Deputy Security Minister Avtandil Ioseliani, and CIS peacekeeping force commander Maj.-Gen. Dolya Babenkov agreed on conditions for the release of three Russian members of the CIS peacekeeping force who were taken hostage on 16 August. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 August reported that Abkhazia will hand over the bodies of two Georgian militants killed recently in Abkhazia, provided Tbilisi officially concedes that the men were "separatists." In return, the Georgians who are holding the peacekeepers hostage will release them. Also in Sukhumi on 20 August, Ardzinba met with a Georgian government delegation to discuss restoring economic ties between Tbilisi and Sukhumi. Meanwhile in Tbilisi, the Abkhaz parliament in exile refused to accept the resignation of its chairman Tamaz Nadareishvili, RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau reported on 20 August.
 ARMENIA DEFENDS KARABAKH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONSArmenian presidential press spokesman Levon Zurabian said on 19 August that the Azerbaijani parliament's 15 August decision to declare illegal the presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabakh contradicts OSCE documents on the Karabakh negotiating process, Interfax reported on 20 August. The OSCE had agreed that talks should be conducted by elected representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh. The opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front has condemned the planned vote as an attempt to disrupt the ongoing Karabakh peace process. The U.S. Embassy in Baku has issued a statement that the US does not recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Turan reported.
 TURKEY PREPARING TO OPEN BORDER CROSSING WITH ARMENIA?Semsettin Uzun, governor of Turkey's Igdir Province, which borders on Armenia, says that roads leading to the Alican frontier post have been asphalted in preparation for the opening of a border crossing between the two countries, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 20 August. Uzun told the newspaper that he recently met with unspecified Armenian officials in Yerevan, adding that "in one month Igdir will be completely ready" for the expansion in bilateral trade expected to follow the opening of a border crossing. Uzun said that indirect trade with Armenia (via Georgia and Iran) is now estimated at $100 million annually and that the figure will rise to $500 million once the border is open. Turkish officials have repeatedly said that opening a frontier crossing is contingent on the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied Azerbaijani territory.
 ARMENIAN RESPONDS TO REPORT ON BORDER CROSSING...Commenting on Uzun's statement, Armenian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told "RFE/RL Newsline" on 20 August that, "We encourage any move from the Turkish government with regard to border opening that is not conditioned by demands linked to the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict." Oskanian said the Nagorno-Karabagh peace process has its own logic and dynamics and that Armenia is guided in the negotiations by the aggregate interest of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh and never by one single issue "such as oil or the opening of Turkish borders."
 ...OBJECTS TO TURKISH-ISRAELI MILITARY COOPERATIONOskanian also said on 20 August that military cooperation between Israel and Turkey is directed against Syria, and is therefore unacceptable to Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Raslan Allush, Oskanian said that the relationship between Armenia and Syria has a "strong basis." Allush arrived in Yerevan on 18 August to prepare for the opening of the Syrian embassy in Armenia. Allush also met on 20 August with Armenian Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzoumanian, who said the two countries are satisfied with the current status of their bilateral ties. Vartan Oskanian said that Syria's President Hafiz Assad will visit Armenia in the near future if the situation in the region permits, according to ARMENPRESS.
 AZERBAIJAN SIGNS CONTRACT WITH U.S. ON GOLD, SILVER MININGAn Azerbaijani government representative signed an agreement in Baku on 20 August with the US consortium RV Investment Services LLS to explore and mine nine gold, silver, and copper deposits. The $500 million contract envisages the extraction of 400 metric tons of gold, 2,500 tons of silver, and 15 million tons of copper ore. The U.S. company will finance exploration, while Azerbaijan will receive 80 percent of the revenues. Three of the gold deposits are located close to the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan's Kelbajar Raion, which is currently controlled by Armenian forces. Armenia is negotiating an agreement with First Dynasty Mines Ltd. on creating a joint venture to exploit the Zod gold deposit on the Armenian side of the frontier, to which Azerbaijan lays claim (see "RFE/RL Newsline, " 15 April 1997).
 LUZHKOV IN KAZAKHSTANMoscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov paid a one-day visit to Almaty on 20 August and met with President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin to discuss cooperation between the Russian and Kazakh capitals, according to RFE/RL correspondents. Both Nazarbayev and Luzhkov said they are skeptical about further integration among CIS states. Nazarbayev reiterated his proposal for a Eurasian union that would create a single economic space without customs barriers. Luzhkov gave his support to that idea, which, he noted, Nazarbayev had first proposed in the Moscow city administration building in 1994. Luzhkov and Kazhegeldin signed several agreements, including on the development of equities and securities markets and on Kazakh deliveries to Moscow of 500,000 tons of wheat.
 TURKMENS, UZBEKS BEGIN WORK ON TELECOMMUNICATIONS LINEBoth Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have begun work on their sections of the TransAsian-European Fiber optics line, which will run from Shanghai to Frankfurt-on-Main, ITAR-TASS and the Russian daily "Delovoi Mir" on 20 August. The telecommunications line will be more than 27,000 kilometers long and run through 20 countries. It will provide access to the World Wide Web and make possible reception of foreign television channels.
 TURKMENISTAN TO PARTICIPATE IN NATO PROGRAMPresident Saparmurat Niyazov on 20 August agreed to allow Turkmen armed forces participate in a NATO Partnership for Peace program, ITAR-TASS reported. Turkmen troops will take part in exercises to prevent the consequences of ecological and natural disasters. Turkmen officers and military doctors will receive training and attend discussions with other countries taking part in the program.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO TROOPS PREVENT COUP IN BANJA LUKABritish and Czech SFOR soldiers found huge caches of weapons on 20 August after they occupied police stations previously held by police loyal to Radovan Karadzic and the hard-line Bosnian Serb government in Pale (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 August 1997). The discovery confirmed the suspicions of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and of NATO that Karadzic's police were about to stage a coup against her. NATO officials added that they had saved Plavsic from a previous coup attempt in June, the "Financial Times" reported on 21 August. Interior Minister Dragan Kijac's troops had planned to take her from the Belgrade airport back to Bosnian Serb territory "for psychiatric treatment," but they chose a border crossing where SFOR was waiting for them.
 SFOR MOVES TO BREAK PALE'S POLICE POWERPeacekeepers helped Plavsic's newly appointed police officials to take over Banja Luka's police stations on 20 August. One pro-Plavsic officer said on local radio that Karadzic's forces nonetheless remain a danger in that town. SFOR officials stated that the peacekeepers are determined to break Kijac's control over the police. A NATO spokesman added that the raids on Kijac's police stations yielded evidence of "criminal activity." Some observers said that SFOR's actions in Banja Luka constitute the international community's strongest show of support for Plavsic against Karadzic to date. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard said that the Bosnian Serb military are resisting attempts by Momcilo Krajisnik, the pro-Karadzic Serbian representative on the Bosnian joint presidency, to assert authority over the army.
 KARADZIC LOYALISTS CALL PLAVSIC TRAITORFollowing the SFOR raid, the Pale-based government issued a statement calling Plavsic a traitor and charging that she is working with foreign occupiers against the Serbs. The statement added that the raids in Banja Luka constitute a coup against the Bosnian Serb government. Meanwhile at a rally in Banja Luka, Plavsic called for free media throughout the Republika Srpska, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the northwestern Bosnian town. Representatives of opposition parties demanded that the two top executives in pro-Karadzic TV Pale resign within three days.
 SANDZAK LEADER WARNS OF VIOLENCESulejman Ugljanin, a leader of the Sandzak Muslims, said it is likely that his people will boycott the 21 September Serbian elections, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 21 August. Ugljanin said that any hopes that Serbia might become a more democratic country have proven futile. Europe, he argued, must exert pressure on Belgrade to end its dictatorial methods lest some Sandzak youth turn to political violence out of frustration. Sandzak links Kosovo and Bosnia and is divided between Serbia and Montenegro. Muslims make up just more than half of its population and have political links to the Party of Democratic Action of Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic.
 BELGRADE POLICE BLOCK STUDENT PROTESTPolice cordoned off the parliament building on 20 August to prevent a group of some 100 students from reaching Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. The students wanted to present him with a banana on his birthday because, student spokesmen said, he has turned Serbia into a banana republic. The protest was a parody of an annual student relay race staged on Josip Broz Tito's birthday during his lifetime. At the end of the race, a student would present Tito with the baton.
 KOSOVO LEADER SAYS ALBANIANS STILL HAVE NO PARTNERS IN SERBIAParliamentary Party leader Adem Demaci said that there are no political forces in Serbia who are prepared to treat the Albanians as equals and work for a solution to the Kosovo problem, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported on 21 August. Demaci added that he is interested in a solution that will benefit everybody and will not be to the detriment of the Serbs or Montenegrins. He said that the Albanians would certainly take part in the Serbian elections if a Serbian party offers a platform on Kosovo that the Albanians can accept. All Albanian parties plan to boycott the September ballot.
 ALBANIA ASKS ITALY TO DELAY REPATRIATING REFUGEESPresident Rexhep Mejdani urged the Italian government on 20 August not to carry out its plans to repatriate 10,000 Albanian refugees by the end of August. Mejdani asked the Italians to wait "until there is a more suitable time for all." Foreign Minister Paskal Milo told "Gazeta Shqiptare" that the Albanian government "asks good understanding and maturity from Rome. This is not the time to send back refugees." Some of the refugees had appealed to Tirana to urge Rome to give them visas so they can stay on. The Albanian government wants to restore law and order and create new jobs before having to deal with a large influx of returnees. The Italian authorities, however, may have difficulty finding and deporting some 7,000 refugees whose whereabouts are not known.
 ROMANIAN OPPOSITION CALLS FOR SPECIAL PARLIAMENTARY SESSIONThe Party of Social Democracy in Romania, the Party of Romanian National Unity, and the Greater Romania Party have called for a special session of both houses of the parliament at the end of August, Romanian media reported. Lawmakers are currently on vacation. The three parties want to debate the government's amended memorandum with the IMF, its decision to liquidate loss-making enterprises, and the ordinances amending the Education Law and allowing bilingual signs in localities where national minorities make up at least 20 percent of the population.
 ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT RELEASES EDIBLE OIL RESERVESThe government on 20 August has placed 10,000 tons of edible oil reserves on the market in an attempt to end a crisis caused by an 80 percent rise in the price of edible oil, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The government said the steep hike was unjustified and due to speculation. It warned retail traders that inspections will be carried out to ensure profits from the sale of edible oil are registered on tax forms because compensation for the needy is to come from budget revenues. Finance Minister Mircea Ciumara said the government intends to temporarily freeze the prices of edible oil and other basic foods.
 ROMANIAN CONTACTS WITH U.S. INVESTORSA delegation of U.S. businessmen headed by Bell Helicopters' chairman of the board met with Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea in Bucharest on 20 August to discuss the possible production of the "Dracula" version of the Cobra helicopter at the IAR-Ghimbav factory, in which Bell Helicopters has a 70 percent stake. The government pulled out of a plan to purchase those helicopters for the Romanian army after the plan was vetoed by the IMF. In other news, the U.S. Shapiro Investment Bank has announced it is interested in purchasing parts of the Ploiesti-based Vega refinery, one of the state- owned enterprises slated for liquidation. The number of those enterprises was recently reduced from 17 to 16 because one enterprise turned out to be profitable. Assuming personal responsibility for the error, Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Sebastian Vladescu resigned on 16 August.
 MOLDOVAN CHURCH LEADER WARNS AGAINST RELIGIOUS WARMetropolitan Vladimir, who heads the Moscow-subordinated Moldovan Orthodox Church, says there is a danger of a "war among Orthodox Christians" if the Chisinau Court of Appeal's decision to recognize the Bucharest-subordinated Bessarabian Metropolitan Church is not overturned (see "RFE/RL Newsline", 20 August 1997). Vladimir told RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau that if the decision remains in force " the loser will not be the Church alone but also the State." Also on 20 August, Gheorghe Armasu, director of the government office in charge of religious affairs, said the government will appeal the decision at the Supreme Court. Armasu said the Bessarabian Church declares itself to be the successor of a Church that had existed "under foreign occupation," BASA-press reported.
 TIRASPOL SETS UP COMMISSION ON "BORDER DELIMITATION."Igor Smirnov, the leader of the breakaway Transdniester region, issued a decree on 20 August setting up a 10-member government commission "on the delimitation of the borders of the Transdniester Republic." The commission is headed by Smirnov's deputy, Aleksandr Karaman, and includes representatives of the breakaway's region five districts that are on the left bank of River Dniester. The commission does not include a representative of the town of Bendery-Tighina, which, though under separatist control, is on the right bank of the river.
[C] END NOTE
 TAJIKISTAN SEEKS TO PUT ITS HOUSE IN ORDERby Bruce Pannier
Following five years of civil war, the Tajik government has decided it is time to put its house in order. But its efforts suffered a setback earlier this month when fighting erupted between forces nominally loyal to the government. The reasons for this latest fighting are unclear but, according to the most popular accounts, seem to be related to the central government's efforts to re-establish control over the entire country.
In late June, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri met in Moscow to sign the peace accord officially ending the civil war. The government agreed to share power with the UTO and laid the foundations for the Tajiks in "opposition" to return home. It made provisions to allow the UTO leadership to go back to Tajikistan accompanied by their own armed guards. And it also agreed to give the UTO 30 percent of the ministerial posts. In addition, a reconciliation council was formed to recommend changes to the constitution that would facilitate general elections by the end of 1998.
But during the five-year conflict, Rakhmonov's government made some questionable allies, deeming it politically expedient to accept the services of some individuals who would probably have been in jail in most countries. Days before the first representatives of the UTO were due to arrive in Dushanbe to attend the first session of the Tajik Reconciliation Council, the government was either prompted or took the initiative to dispense with the services of one of its dubious allies -- Yakub Salimov.
Five years ago, Salimov was a commander in one of the paramilitary formations that made up the Popular Front. Armed by the government in 1992 and having doubtless received some promise of reward, those groups had fought on the side of those who eventually came to power and who named Rakhmonov head of state. Salimov was later appointed interior minister; but when his involvement in corruption could no longer be kept a secret, he was sent to Turkey as the new ambassador in late summer 1995. Some 18 months later, in early 1997, he was appointed chairman of the customs committee.
According to the most widely accepted account of the fighting that recently erupted, in early August Salimov ordered the killing of someone who was either a relative or a friend of an Interior Ministry officer. Interior Ministry troops responded by seizing weapons found in Salimov's neighborhood, in north Dushanbe (President Rakhmonov in July had twice warned that there would be a crackdown on criminal gangs and private armies). It is unclear whether the fighting started when the troops were searching Salimov's house or that of a friend of Salimov. Originally, it was reported rival mafia groups were fighting each other, but it transpired that the followers of the customs committee chairman were pitted against Interior Ministry troops. Salimov's group was pushed out of Dushanbe almost as far as to the Uzbek border. Together with his remaining supporters, Salimov fled to the mountains to hide.
Before the battle with Salimov was over, government forces had engaged in a conflict with another former commander of a Popular Front unit. Again, the reasons for the fighting are unclear but are likely related to the government's desire to dispense with individuals reluctant to obey it. Col. Mahmud Khudaberdiyev, the commander of the Tajik Army's First Brigade, claims his unit was attacked on 9 August at a mountain pass 20 kilometers south of Dushanbe. The First Brigade is the rapid reaction force of the presidential guard, and its opponent in the battle outside the capital was another unit of the presidential guard led by its commander, Gen. Gafar Mirzoyev. All attempts at mediation failed. By 18 August, Khudaberdiyev's forces were retreating but still saying they would fight to the end. Within the next 24 hours, almost half of the 1,500 rebel troops had surrendered. Khudaberdiyev and some of followers fled to the mountains not far from the Uzbek border.
The Tajik government made many allies of convenience during its five-year struggle against the UTO. But the situation has changed since then and there is no longer a need for allies who want their own sphere of influence within Tajikistan and who ignore the instructions of the central government. Salimov and Khudaberdiyev are the first two to go, but more will doubtless follow.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty