|Friday, 15 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 109, 97-09-03
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 109, 3 September 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 REACTIONS TO KARABAKH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONArmenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan has congratulated Arkadii Ghukasyan on his election as president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported on 2 September. Ter-Petrossyan expressed confidence that Ghukasyan will continue to defend the rights of the Karabakh population. The NKR Central Electoral Commission announced that Ghukasyan polled 89.3 percent of the vote, Artur Tovmasyan 5.35 percent, and Boris Aroushanyan 5.33 percent. Azerbaijani State Foreign Policy adviser Vafa Gulu-Zade condemned the election as "absolutely unlawful," according to Interfax. The German government likewise issued a statement on 2 September expressing "regret" at the election and concern that it could adversely affect the mediation in the conflict of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group, of which Bonn is a member, Noyan Tapan reported.
 ARMENIA PREDICTS NEW MINSK GROUP INITIATIVELevon Zurabian, Ter-Petrossyan's press secretary, told journalists on 2 September that the three Minsk Group co-chairmen -- France, Russia, and the U.S. -- are likely to make new proposals on resolving the Karabakh conflict that will be acceptable to all three sides, Noyan Tapan reported. The co- chairmen are scheduled to visit Baku, Stepanakert and Yerevan in mid- September, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 3 September. But Azerbaijani State Foreign Policy adviser Gulu-Zade told Turan on 2 September that he believes that "sooner or later" the Armenian side will agree to the peace plan proposed by the Minsk Group in late May. Ghukasyan has rejected that plan out of hand, while Zurabian has said that Armenia cannot accept certain unspecified provisions, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported.
 GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER CHANGES TACK OVER BLACK SEA FLEET"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 2 September quoted Georgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze as declaring 1997 the year in which the Georgian navy will be created. He said that to accomplish this goal, Georgia would step up negotiations with Russia and Ukraine to demand a share in the Black Sea Fleet. During his visit to Kyiv in late August, Nadibaidze reportedly said that Georgia is no longer insisting on a share of the fleet's assets. Russian presidential press spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii had said in June that such demands are without any foundation.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 U.S. TROOPS IN BOSNIA RECEIVE NON-LETHAL GRENADESA Defense Department spokesman said in Washington on 2 September that U.S. SFOR troops in northern Bosnia have been issued 40mm "sponge" grenades, which are designed to knock people down but not kill them. The move came in response to recent well-organized and violent attacks on peacekeepers by Serbian civilians. The spokesman also confirmed that U.S. troops returned a transmitter near Bijeljina to Radovan Karadzic's supporters after Karadzic's spokesmen promised not to broadcast inflammatory material (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1997). A State Department official said, however, that one cannot necessarily trust promises made by the Bosnian Serb hard-liners. Meanwhile in Pale, SFOR troops inspected Serbian special police barracks for illegal weapons.
 OSCE TO GO AHEAD WITH BOSNIAN LOCAL ELECTIONSOfficials of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe said in Copenhagen on 2 September that the Bosnian local vote will go ahead as planned on 13 and 14 September, despite attempts by Bosnian Serb hard- liners to delay the elections. In Sarajevo, Haris Silajdzic, the Muslim co- prime minister of the joint government, criticized the failure of the Serbs to attend the latest session of the joint cabinet. He said that the Serbs have repeatedly obstructed the work of joint institutions, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. Silajdzic added that the international community has been too tolerant of the Serbs' behavior.
 MILOSEVIC LIEUTENANT LAMBASTS PLAVSICZoran Lilic, a former Yugoslav president and one of current Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's closest aides, said in Belgrade on 2 September that Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic was "at the very least not serious and even irresponsible." Lilic, who is Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia's candidate in the upcoming Serbian presidential elections, also blasted NATO for backing Plavsic. In making such remarks about Plavsic, Lilic has come closer than anyone else around Milosevic to openly taking sides in the Bosnian Serb power struggle. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has urged Milosevic to "get off the fence" and support Plavsic. But mafia-like structures in Serbia close to Milosevic are closely linked to similar Bosnian Serb structures run by Plavsic's opponents.
 FEUD INTENSIFIES IN MONTENEGRIN RULING PARTYSome 17 out of 45 parliamentary deputies in Podgorica belonging to the governing Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) have formed their own parliamentary club independent of the other DPS legislators, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital on 2 September. The 17 are loyal to pro-Milosevic President Momir Bulatovic, while most of the DPS backs reform-minded Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. The DPS has yet to split officially, but the emergence of a separate parliamentary club of Bulatovic loyalists suggests that a formal division of the DPS might not be far off. In the parliament, Bulatovic said the government is in crisis and that new legislative elections should be held as soon as possible. Djukanovic replied that there is no crisis in Montenegro and that the republic's current political problems were caused in Belgrade, not in Podgorica.
 CROATIAN POLICE ARREST THREE MORE SUSPECTED WAR CRIMINALSPolice officials said in Zagreb on 2 September that they have arrested Munib Suljic, Igor Mikula, and Nebojsa Hodak for war crimes. Police had earlier arrested Miro Bajramovic, who told "Feral Tribune" that he and the other three had killed dozens of innocent Serbian civilians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1997). Bajramovic told the Split-based weekly that he decided to reveal his story because he did not enrich himself during the war and hence has nothing to lose. The Zagreb daily "Vjesnik," which is close to the government, suggested on 3 September that Bajramovic may be lying. Meanwhile in eastern Slavonia, trains ran between Osijek and the Hungarian city of Pecs via Beli Manastir for the first time since 1991.
 SLOVENIAN UPDATEThe Slovenian government announced in Ljubljana on 2 September that Slovenian and Italian citizens will be able to cross their common border with only identity cards as of 8 September. It is the latest sign of a warming in relations between the two neighbors, who have often been at odds over territorial questions and issues regarding ethnic minority rights. In Maribor, Slovenian police said that they have recovered $1 million in jewels stolen in Austria in late August.
 ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LAW ON STATE RADIO, TVThe Socialist-led governing coalition on 2 September passed a law defining the status of state radio and television (RTSH), "Dita Informacion" reported. The law stipulates that "RTSH will broadcast short news items about the president, the government, the governing coalition, and the opposition and will give alternative opinions when covering any given issue." The Democratic Party strongly criticized the law as too vague and demanded that the opposition be allotted a specific percentage of total news air time. Democratic spokesman Genc Pollo said the air time given to each of the political parties should be divided according to the percentage of the vote they received in last elections. Such a policy was adopted during the election campaign but left no time for journalists to broadcast their own analysis. Former parliamentary speaker Pjeter Arbnori, meanwhile, began the 14th day of his hunger strike in support of the Democrats' demand.
 CONTROVERSY CONTINUES OVER ALBANIAN JUDICIAL REFORMChief judges from courts at all levels told Justice Minister Thimio Kondi on 2 September that the government's recent proposals to change the composition of the High Judicial Council are unacceptable to the judiciary (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August 1997), "Dita Informacion" reported. Supreme Court Chief Judge Avni Shehu said the proposals are not in keeping with those made by the Council of Europe. A U.S. legal expert told RFE/RL that Kondi's proposals would allow the legislative and executive branches to appoint most of the High Judicial Council's members, which could endanger the independence of the judiciary. The council appoints most of Albania's judges.
 ROMANIA TO RECEIVE $83 MILLION IMF TRANCHE?The IMF representative in Bucharest said he expects the fund's board of directors to approve disbursement of an $83 million tranche of a $414 million stand-by loan later this month, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported on 2 September. Bloomberg Business News quoted him as saying that Bucharest had followed through on its reform promises. An IMF team was in Bucharest in August to review the government's reform program. Romania has promised to cut its budget deficit, reduce inflation, and liberalize prices for food staples and energy. It also agreed to close many of its money-losing state firms, which are draining the state budget.
 STANDOFF BETWEEN CHISINAU, TIRASPOLIgor Smirnov, the president of the self-proclaimed Transdniestr Republic, marked the seventh anniversary of Tiraspol's declaration of independence from Moldova by vowing to stand firm on independent statehood, Infotag reported on 2 September. Smirnov said Tiraspol intends to seek membership in the CIS and strengthen its ties with CIS countries. Also on 2 September, Moldovan President Petru Luchinschi said he hopes Chisinau's dispute with Tiraspol can be resolved by the end of this year with the mediation of Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE. But Luchinschi said negotiations are advancing slowly because of Tiraspol's insistence on preserving its own statehood. Talks are under way on bringing Ukrainian peacekeepers to the breakaway region. Some 5,000 Russian troops are currently stationed there.
 BULGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER RESPONDS TO ATHENS STATEMENTNadezhda Mihailova told RFE/RL on 2 September that a statement attributed to Greek President Kostas Stephanopoulos by a Skopje newspaper will not influence relations between Sofia and the Republic of Macedonia. "Nova Makedonia" on 2 September quoted Stephanopoulos as telling its Athens correspondent that "those who inhabit the so-called state of Skopje are not Macedonians..., they are Bulgarians." In an interview with RFE/RL's Sofia bureau, Mihailova said the Bulgarian government continues to have common objectives with both Athens and Skopje. She said those goals are consistent with EU and NATO policies designed to bring peace and economic stability to the Balkans.
 TRANSPORT LINKS BETWEEN EUROPE, CENTRAL ASIAOfficials from nine countries have moved forward with plans to implement the TRASECA scheme for a transport corridor, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported on 2 September. Following two days of talks at Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Burgas, the officials signed a document outlining their common interests and details of the project. Among the signatories were the transportation ministers of the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Georgia, as well as delegates from Albania, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Georgia and Bulgaria have appealed for international investors to help fund the project, which already receives financial support from the U.S. and the EU. The plans call for expanded ferry services between Italy and Albania, a new ferry line between Burgas and Georgia's Black Sea port of Poti, and new highway links across the countries.
[C] END NOTE
 Russia, Armenia Committed to Strong Military Tiesby Harry Tamrazian
On 29 August, Russia and Armenia signed a landmark treaty "on friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance," which Russian President Boris Yeltsin said "marks a qualitatively new stage of Russian-Armenian relations" on the level of "strategic partnership." The treaty is unique among agreements signed by the Russian Federation and other former Soviet republics because it is the first time Moscow has committed itself in an accord to defend an ally militarily in the event that the ally is attacked by a foreign country.
Under such a treaty signed by the former Soviet Union and one of its allies, an attack on one of the signatories would have been considered an attack on the other. The 29 August treaty uses the Soviet term "mutual assistance," which can be understood to mean "mutual defense." The Soviet Union concluded such treaties with its East European allies as well as with some countries in the Middle East, including Syria.
The new treaty supersedes an agreement signed in December 1991, only days after the demise of the Soviet Union. Armenian President Levon Ter- Petrossyan said on 30 August that he "thanks God" that the 1991 treaty was never ratified, since he considers it "inadequate" under current conditions. The August 1997 treaty still has to be ratified by both countries' parliaments, but no obstacles to its ratification are anticipated. Armenia and Russia had already signed a series of bilateral agreements last year boosting military cooperation.
The August 1997 treaty states that each party will immediately contact the other in the event of the threat of military invasion. If either country is attacked by a third party, the other will make available its military facilities and equipment for joint use. The treaty also states that military-technical policy will be coordinated, defense industries developed in tandem, military hardware standardized, and military projects jointly financed.
Another important provision of the treaty covers Russian- Armenian cooperation in foreign policy. The Armenian and Russian presidents both pledged not to participate in any action or initiative, or join any defense treaty or alliance, that violates the sovereignty or territorial integrity of the other country. The treaty specifies that Russia and Armenia will continue to cooperate closely in foreign policy aimed at strengthening peace and stability in the Transcaucasus as well as throughout the world.
With regard to the economy, Russia and Armenia agreed to create favorable conditions for the convertibility of their national currencies, take action to maintain the stability of those currencies, and coordinate in setting hard-currency exchange rates. Both countries agreed to expand cooperation in trade, transportation, communications, energy, science, and other areas.
On 28 August, one day before the treaty was signed, Ter-Petrossyan met with Russian State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev and Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev, both of whom are strong advocates of widening the Russian-Belarusian union. The Russian Duma had unanimously approved a resolution in May urging Armenia to join the Russian-Belarusian Union. Since then, the National Initiative for Union with Russia, an Armenian group supported by Russian politicians, has collected signatures seeking a referendum on the issue. Armenian Communists also are also collecting signatures; and according to pro-Russian Armenian groups, 800,000 signatures have been collected so far.
The campaign, however, has been discredited somewhat by aggressive competition between the National Initiative and the Communist Party and by disclosures that the National Initiative pays its activists the equivalent of 10 U.S. cents for each signature they collect (although it is unclear who is providing the funding). Moreover, the Armenian Constitution prohibits holding a referendum on any issue that infringes on the country's sovereignty.
Speaking to journalists on 30 August, Ter-Petrossyan said he had not seen the signatures in support of Armenia's accession to the Russia-Belarus Union. He also said that the issue of Armenia's joining the Russian- Belarusian union was not included in the agenda of his visit to Moscow. If implemented, the new treaty will lead to a closer degree of integration between the two countries than is possible in the case of the Russian- Belarusian union, he argued. Similarly, Stroev told reporters that he believes a Russian-Armenian union already exists..
The new Russian-Armenian treaty contains few of the routine phrases characteristic of this kind of document. It uses precise wording that is binding on the two countries militarily and politically. And it is this wording that makes clear Moscow's intention to maintain its influence -- undiminished -- in the Transcaucasus.
The author is the deputy head of RFE/RL's Armenian service.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty