|Friday, 15 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 105, 97-08-28
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 105, 28 August 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 TAJIK POLICE KILL SEVERAL OPPOSITION MEMBERSSeveral members of the Tajik opposition were killed by police in Kofarnikhon on 27 August. ITAR-TASS reported that four men were killed in an exchange of fire after they attacked a police roadblock. But United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri told RFE/RL's Tajik service that local militia shot five UTO members in the back without provocation. At Nuri's request, representatives of the UN and countries that are guarantors of the peace process are currently investigating the matter. Both Nuri and Ali Akbar Turajonzoda have ordered UTO fighters not to respond with violence or any actions that could threaten the peace process.
 KAZAKHSTAN CONCERNED ABOUT RUSSIA'S CASPIAN TENDERSpeaking at a news conference on 27 August, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymjomart Tokayev said his country was concerned about reports that Russia will hold a tender for developing the Caspian shelf, ITAR-TASS reported. Tokayev said part of the shelf to be offered at the tender belongs to Kazakhstan. He added that Almaty will send an official note to Russia to reconsider holding the tender and to conduct negotiations with Kazakhstan first. Tokayev said his government favors consent by all Caspian states before any tenders for oil shares in the Caspian Sea are held.
 DEATH TOLL IN ARMENIAN BUS EXPLOSION RISES TO SIXSix people have so far died as a result of injuries sustained when a bus traveling between Yerevan and the southeastern town of Kapan hit a land mine and caught fire on 22 August, Interfax reported. Mines were laid near the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier from 1992-94 during fighting for control of Nagorno-Karabakh.
 ARMENIA REITERATES KARABAKH NEGOTIATING POSITIONForeign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparyan told journalists in Yerevan on 27 August that a breakthrough in resolving the Karabakh conflict can be achieved only by direct talks between Baku and the Nagorno-Karabakh leadership, ARMENPRESS and Interfax reported. Gasparyan said Armenia considers that measures to promote regional security are crucial to a settlement of the conflict and should be addressed separately in a settlement document. He also criticized the Azerbaijani leadership for "intentionally distorting" the recent proposals made by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group. On a recent visit to Stepanakert and Yerevan, Frank Lambach, Germany's representative to the Minsk Group, also advocated direct talks between Baku and Stepanakert.
 ARMENIAN INTELLECTUALS CALL FOR WAR HERO'S RELEASELeading Armenian intellectuals, scientists, and journalists have appealed to President Levon Ter-Petrossyan to pardon Hrant Markaryan, a prominent Dashnak party member and veteran of the Karabakh war, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 27 August. Hrant Markaryan is serving a five-year prison term after being convicted in December 1996 of illegal possession of arms. Two years earlier, Markaryan had been arrested, along with other Dashnak party members, on charges of setting up a terrorist group named Dro. The charges of terrorism against Markaryan were subsequently dropped for lack of evidence. Editors of pro-government and opposition newspapers recently addressed a similar plea to President Ter-Petrossyan to pardon Markaryan.
 ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT IN EXILE MEETSGeorgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and members of the Georgian "Apkhazeti" parliamentary faction, which represents ethnic Georgians who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-93 war, attended a session of the Abkhaz parliament in exile held in the Georgian capital on 27 August, RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau reported, citing BS-Press. Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the parliament in exile, again argued that Georgia can restore its hegemony over Abkhazia only by force. He criticized the agreement recently signed by Shevardnadze and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, which he said had encouraged Abkhazia to assume an even more radical position. The parliament in exile demanded the right to participate at any further Abkhaz- Georgian negotiations. Shevardnadze told the session that Georgia and Abkhazia will soon sign an interim protocol paving the way for Abkhazia's inclusion in a federal Georgian state, Interfax reported.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SFOR CONFRONTS POLICE LOYAL TO KARADZICThere were at least six incidents on 27 and 28 August involving SFOR troops and police loyal to the hard-line Bosnian Serbs under Radovan Karadzic, CNN reported. In Brcko, SFOR troops took up positions around a police station when police loyal to President Biljana Plavsic sought to enter the building, which Karadzic's police control. SFOR troops fired shots into the air to disperse hostile crowds, BETA reported. The town council then asked for a meeting with Robert Farrand, the international community's chief representative there. In Bijeljina, SFOR troops allegedly entered the police station.
 STRUGGLE FOR BOSNIAN SERB TV CONTINUESIn Doboj, Karadzic's police on 27 August retook control of a television relay tower that Plavsic's backers had seized the previous day. Karadzic's men also arrested Milovan Stankovic, a pro-Plavsic member of the Bosnian Serb parliament. SFOR spokesmen denied Serbian media reports suggesting that peacekeepers helped Plavsic's police and that shots were fired during the confrontation. TV Banja Luka and TV Pale are engaged in a fierce competition to dominate the air waves (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 27 August 1997). Since the Bosnian Serbs are largely spread out across rural areas, television is the most effective means of influencing public opinion in the Republika Srpska.
 MILOSEVIC WANTS TO GO TO BOSNIASpokesmen for SFOR said in Sarajevo on 27 August that peacekeepers are studying a request from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to fly to Bosnian Serb territory. Some observers said he wants to go to Banja Luka, where Plavsic has her headquarters, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently warned Milosevic that he should "get off the fence" and unambiguously support Plavsic if he wants an end to Yugoslavia's international isolation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 1997). In Washington, the State Department announced it will make available $9 million in reconstruction aid for Bosnian Serb towns that back Plavsic.
 PALE THREATENS PLAVSIC SUPPORTERSGojko Klickovic, the prime minister of the pro-Karadzic government, said in Pale on 27 August that his authorities will "not tolerate" Plavsic and will "use all means" to limit the movements of her supporters on territory under Pale's control. In Banja Luka, Col. Mihajlo Mitrovic of the General Staff said that most top-ranking officers in the Bosnian Serb military support Plavsic and that those who do not will be replaced "very soon." In Sarajevo, spokesmen for the OSCE rejected a recent call by the Pale parliament to postpone the local elections slated for 14 September.
 BELGRADE COURT BACKS BULATOVIC CANDIDACYThe Yugoslav Federal Constitutional Court on 27 August "temporarily suspended" a decision by the Montenegrin election commission blocking the reelection bid of Momir Bulatovic, Montenegro's pro-Milosevic president. The Belgrade court gave the authorities in Podgorica 10 days to appeal the decision (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 August 1997). Blagota Mitric, the president of the Montenegrin Constitutional Court, said in Podgorica that the Belgrade court's decision is a violation of Montenegrin and Yugoslav law. Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who is Bulatovic's main rival in the ongoing power struggle, argued that the Belgrade court's decision threatens not only the legal system but also the very principles of Montenegrin and Yugoslav statehood.
 CROATIAN SERBS GO HOMEUN administrators for eastern Slavonia said in Zagreb that 200 Serbian families left eastern Slavonia on 27 August to return to their original homes elsewhere in Croatia. The UN expects that as many as 10,000 Croatian Serbs could follow suit by the end of September. Also in Zagreb, the Foreign Ministry announced that Foreign Minister Mate Granic and his Yugoslav counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, will sign six agreements in Belgrade in September dealing with frontier, economic, and legal issues. In Jerusalem, the Simon Wiesenthal Center appealed to the Israeli government not to go ahead with plans to establish diplomatic relations with Croatia. The Center charged that the Croatian government has yet to repudiate that country's fascist legacy from World War II.
 FORMER ALBANIAN LEADER SETS CONDITION FOR RETURNEduard Selami said he will return to the Democratic Party if its current leadership leaves, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 28 August. Selami was sacked as party leader in 1995 after opposing President Sali Berisha over the question of a constitutional referendum. Meanwhile, Leni Fischer, the chair of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, has sent a letter to the Democrats to express solidarity with the hunger strike by former parliamentary speaker Pjeter Arbnori (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 August 1997). "Rilindja Demokratike" quotes Fischer as saying that "Arbnori's decision is an indicator that the rights of the opposition are not fully respected in Albania." Arbnori is demanding that the opposition receive one- third of television news air time.
 ALBANIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT VALIDATES REFERENDUMThe Constitutional Court on 27 August declared valid the results of the 29 June referendum, in which more than 60 percent of the voters opted for a republic, "Koha Jone" reported. The monarchists had challenged the results and charged the Central Election Commission with fraud. Leka Zogu, the claimant to the throne, is now wanted by police after being involved in a violent demonstration after the referendum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 1997).
 ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT DISMISSES HIGH-RANKING OFFICIALThe government on 27 August dismissed Valerian Stan as head of the government's Control Department for repeatedly displaying a lack of discipline. Earlier the same day, Stan had called a press conference at which he again accused leaders of the Democratic Party of having illegally purchased apartments from the state in 1991-92 at prices below market value (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1997). Stan said he intended to resubmit the case when the new prosecutor-general is appointed, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The government accused Stan of undermining Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea's authority by bring up the case again without seeking the premier's approval. In an interview with Radio Bucharest on 28 August, Stan said his dismissal was "arbitrary and unjustified."
 ROMANIA'S ROMA WANT TO EMIGRATE TO IRELANDSociologist Nicolae Gheorghe, a leading activist for the rights of Romania's Roma community, has said some 500 Roma have left Romania for Ireland in the last six months. Gheorghe, who is a member of that community, says the Roma hope to be able to take advantage of Ireland's "good welfare system and stable economy," Mediafax reported on 26 August. Gheorghe also said intolerance in Romania toward the Roma has increased in recent months because the media has transformed the government's anti-corruption campaign into a "campaign against the 'Gypsy Mafia.'"
 40,000 ROMANIAN MINERS ACCEPT SEVERANCEMarin Condeescu, the leader of the largest miners' trade union in Romania, says some 40,000 miners have accepted the terms of a government plan whereby they will receive compensation for volunteering to be made unemployed, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported on 26 August. The government had expected only 32,000 miners to accept the offer. But Condeescu said the union expects some 150,000 of its 210,000 members to opt for the plan and to return to the countryside in "Romania's largest work-force migration of the last 30 years." Under the plan, the government is offers 850,000 lei ($120) a month over five years, which exceeds average monthly wages at some mines. The miners can also opt to take a $7,200 lump sum.
 BULGARIAN DEPUTY PREMIER ON RESISTANCE TO REFORMSDeputy Premier and Industry Minister Alexander Bozhkov, in a 27 August interview with Reuters marking 100 days in office of the new government, said the cabinet is encountering resistance in its attempts to overhaul the economy, boost investments, and crack down on corruption. Bozhkov said there was "resistance from the state administration to speed up privatization" because of reluctance to "part with [state] ownership." In order to counter that resistance, the government is now drawing up sell-off schemes that would involve minimal participation of the administration. Bozhkov also said the legal system must be revised in order to deal with organized crime. He added that although amendments to the penal code were passed by the parliament in July, it will take time for some of them to become effective.
 BULGARIA RECEIVES IMF LOAN INSTALLMENTBulgaria recently received an $85 million installment of a $657 million standby loan approved by the IMF in April, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported on 27 August. A spokeswoman for the IMF said the installment has been released to help Sofia implement the economic reforms and stabilization program agreed on earlier this year with the IMF.
[C] END NOTE
 RUSSIA, ARMENIA TO SIGN MAJOR GAS DEALby Liz Fuller
Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan arrived in Moscow on 28 August for a three-day state visit. Ter-Petrossyan and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, are to sign a new friendship and cooperation treaty. According to Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, this "major treaty" will "give new impetus" to the already harmonious bilateral relations between Moscow and Yerevan. Another key agreement is expected to be signed by Armenian Energy Minister Gagik Martirossyan and the chairman of Russia's Gazprom, Rem Vyakhirev. That accord provides for the creation of a joint venture to export Russian gas via Georgia and Armenia to Turkey. Armenia will also receive Russian gas for domestic consumption at prices lower than those it paid for gas from Turkmenistan.
The initial agreement between Russia and Armenia on cooperating in the export of Russian natural gas was signed in Moscow in January 1997 by Armenian Prime Minister Armen Sargssian and Chernomyrdin. Some six months later, in late June, Vyakhirev was in Yerevan to discuss the project with Sargssian's successor as Armenian premier, Robert Kocharyan. Vyakhirev hinted at the time that Gazprom might use part of a $2.5 billion credit it had received to finance construction of the new pipeline through Armenia. Under the terms of the agreement to be signed by Gazprom and its Armenian equivalent, Armgazprom, the volume of Russian gas supplies to and via Armenia will increase from 3 billion cubic meters in 1999 to 9 billion cubic meters in 2003. Russia will receive 55 percent of the profits from the joint venture and Armenia 45 percent. Work on construction of an export pipeline and on renovating the existing pipeline network within Armenia will create some 2,000 new jobs initially. That figure may rise to between 7,000 and 10,000.
In addition to underscoring Moscow's enduring interest in mutually advantageous economic cooperation with Armenia, the creation of the joint venture highlights Turkey's increasing dependence on gas imports to meet its growing energy needs. During the ninth meeting of the presidents of Black Sea Economic Cooperation member states in Istanbul in late April, Vyakhirev and Turkish Energy Minister Recai Kutan signed a 25-year contract worth $13.5 billion, whereby Turkey will increase its annual purchases of Russian natural gas from 6 billion cubic meters to 30 billion in 2010. According to Kutan, that amount will cover approximately half of Turkey's total gas needs in 2010; by that time, as a result of the construction of several new gas-fired power-stations, Turkey will rely on natural gas for 38 percent of its total energy requirement (compared with 13 percent now). Russia will thus remain the largest single supplier of gas to Turkey, followed by Iran. (Turkey is the second largest purchaser of Russian natural gas, after Germany.)
Kutan and Vyakhirev also agreed to create two new joint ventures. One of those joint ventures will repair and upgrade the existing pipeline that supplies Russian gas to Turkey via Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria. (Turkey will pay $1.5 billion toward the construction of new stretches of pipeline and compressor stations.) The second will build a new pipeline either overland through the Caucasus or from Izobilnaya (100 kilometers east of Krasnodar) via Dzhubga and then under the Black Sea to Samsun on Turkey's Black Sea coast.
Gazprom board member Vladimir Rezunenko told Reuters in March that Gazprom has approached European banks to discuss credits for financing the underwater Black Sea pipeline, the cost of which is estimated at $3.3 billion. The technical difficulties involved in carrying out that project are daunting, however. The 385-kilometer pipeline would be laid at a depth of 2,100 meters in places, making it the deepest in the world. This would mean the diameter of the pipe would have to be quite narrow to withstand both external and internal pressure, which, in turn, would limit throughput capacity.
At a press conference in Moscow in early August, Vyakhirev nonetheless affirmed that Gazprom still intends to proceed with the trans-Black Sea pipeline, but he gave no indication of how long construction might take once funding is secured. The fact that Moscow and Yerevan agreed in January to build the overland pipeline suggests that Gazprom never considered the Black Sea underwater and the Caucasus overland options as mutually exclusive. Nor, apparently, did Turkey. At the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Istanbul summit in late April, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel assured his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, that Ankara's commitment to the underwater Black Sea pipeline did not mean that the overland alternative through Georgia had been "removed from the agenda." As a transit country, Georgia stands to earn tariffs from the pipeline.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty