|Friday, 15 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 115, 97-09-11
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 115, 11 September 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ TALKS CONCLUDEDTalks in Sukhumi between the Abkhaz leadership and high-level Georgian and Russian government representatives ended on 10 September, Russian agencies reported. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov told Interfax that the two sides are demonstrating greater flexibility and have made some progress toward finalizing conditions for the repatriation of ethnic Georgians who fled during the 1992-1993 war. Georgian Ambassador to Russia Vazha Lortkipanidze said the Abkhaz leadership has agreed that Sukhumi and Tbilisi should have a common defense and foreign policy. But he added that Sukhumi still rejects the concept of a federal state and a single constitution. The Georgian and Abkhaz representatives pledged to coordinate efforts to prevent terrorist activities by guerrilla formations in the border region.
 GEORGIA FAILS TO MEET OBLIGATIONS TO FRONTIER GUARDSThe Georgian government owes Russia 47 billion rubles ($8 million) toward the cost of guarding Georgia's frontier with Turkey, "Delovoi mir" reported on 11 September. Under the terms of an agreement signed in 1994, Moscow provides 60 percent of the funds for overseeing the border which is jointly guarded by Georgian and Russian troop. Georgia pays the remaining 40 per cent. Earlier this year, the Georgian parliament called for legislation on the future protection of Georgia's frontiers exclusively by Georgian frontier guards.
 FUTURE OF ARMENIAN OPPOSITION GROUP IN DOUBTVazgen Manukyan told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 10 September that the National Accord Bloc, formed exactly one year ago to support his bid for the Armenian presidency, no longer exists as a cohesive mechanism and its future is in doubt. Manukyan said the parties that compose the bloc still have "common interests and goals" but disagree over political strategy. Manukyan said the bloc will organize more rallies in September even though "it is impossible to change the government through mass demonstrations." He said the draft electoral law drawn up by parliamentary deputy speaker Ara Sahakyan leaves the opposition no chances to win an election. The current leaders have "made fortunes in office and do not want to lose them," he said.
 ARMENIA TIGHTENS REGISTRATION FOR NON-MAINSTREAM RELIGIONSPresident Levon Ter-Petrossyan on 10 September dropped his objection to the parliament's proposed amendment to the law on religious organizations, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That amendment raises from 50 to 200 the minimum number of members a religious organization must have in order to be registered with the authorities. It also obliges all religious organizations wishing to register to submit a complete list of their members before they can operate legally in Armenia. Gegham Garibjanyan, chairman of the parliament's committee on social affairs and one of the authors of the amendment, said Ter-Petrossyan and parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsyan "resolved the matter during a phone conversation." He added that the amendment is not directed against "traditional religious organizations", noting that the Armenian law is more liberal than the one adopted by the Russian State Duma and vetoed by President Boris Yeltsin.
 KARABAKH PRESIDENT PROPOSES "LIMITED SOVEREIGNTY"In an interview in the 10 September issue of "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Arkadii Ghukasyan, the newly-elected president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, suggested possible alternatives to de jure independence for the disputed enclave or its renewed subordination to the central Azerbaijani government in Baku. Ghukasyan advocated what he termed "limited sovereignty, " meaning the coexistence of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan as equal partners in a quasi-federal state with a single parliament. Alternatively, he suggested that Baku could be delegated responsibility for certain policy areas, including ecology, energy, communications, and possibly even the economy. Ghukasyan further insisted that the issue of repatriation of the Azerbaijani population of the enclave be linked to the return to Azerbaijan of ethnic Armenians who fled during the hostilities.
 KAZAKH PRIME MINISTER ADMITS TO KGB SERVICEAkezhan Kazhegeldin admitted in an interview in the 10 September issue of "Komsomolskaya Pravda" that he worked for the KGB during the Soviet era. He did not specify for how long he served in the KGB but said he was involved in the shipment of tanks and military technology to other countries, mainly in the Balkans and Muslim countries of southeastern Asia. He also admitted to being in shady money speculation schemes and said that although he was a member of the Communist Party, his membership was kept secret so that if he were caught involved in such schemes, "the honor of the party would not be stained." He concluded by saying he had done nothing for which he could be sentenced.
 TALIBAN WANT PLANES BACK FROM TAJIKISTANMullah Muhammad Omar, the leader of Afghanistan's Taliban, has demanded that Tajikistan return five jet fighters allegedly flown to Tajikistan to avoid capture by Taliban forces, AFP reported on 10 September. Omar claims the Taliban offensive against the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif prompted anti-Taliban coalition general Abdul Malik to order eight planes flown to Tajikistan so they would not be taken by the fundamentalist movement. Three of those planes, however, defected to the Taliban. Omar said the planes are being held in Tajikistan for use by forces opposed to the fundamentalists. He warned Tajikistan not to allow its territory to be used for actions against the Taliban.
 INTERNATIONAL COMPANIES SHOW INTEREST IN TURKMEN TENDERTenders for oil and gas deposits in the part of the Caspian Sea to which Turkmenistan lays claim have attracted the interest of "more than 57 major foreign companies," Interfax reported. The first tender was held in Vienna on 10 September. Representatives of companies from 47 countries participated in that round. The second tender begins in London on 11 September. Russia's LUKoil may take part in the London tender, but officials of that company have made clear LUKoil will not bid on the Serdar (Kyapaz in Azerbaijani) field, which Baku also claims as its property. Two more tenders will be held before the 28 November deadline for submitting applications.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 BOSNIAN WAR CRIMINALS TO VOTE UNHINDERED?The hard-line Bosnian Serb parliament voted in Pale on 10 September to take part in the Bosnian local elections on 13-14 September. The Pale leadership had earlier threatened to boycott the vote. The change in policy came after Deputy Prime Minister Velibor Ostojic announced that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is supervising the ballot, agreed that indicted war criminals will not be arrested if they appear in public to vote. The OSCE also promised to review the voting lists in the contested town of Brcko, where the reinstatement of 3,000 Serbian voters previously dropped from the lists because of irregularities could ensure the victory of the Serbian nationalists . The OSCE further guaranteed Pale that municipal administrations will be formed by the party that receives the most votes, not by all parties on the basis of proportional representation.
 MILOSEVIC INVOLVED IN BOSNIAN VOTE?Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative for Bosnia, and his deputy Jacques Klein were in Belgrade on 10 September to discuss the Bosnian elections in Belgrade with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Some observers said the talks were inconclusive, but other observers suggested the negotiations led to the Pale parliament's decision not to boycott the vote. Meanwhile in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic urged her supporters to take part in the elections.
 INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE ON BOSNIAN CROATS TO VOTEEU diplomats told Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic in Zagreb on 10 September that relations between Zagreb and Brussels will be adversely affected if the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) of Bosnia-Herzegovina makes good on its threat to boycott the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 1997). U.S., German, U.K., and other diplomats also brought tough messages about the boycott to Granic, who replied, however, that Croatia does not control the Bosnian HDZ. In Sarajevo, OSCE officials and Western diplomats held inconclusive talks with HDZ leaders. An OSCE representative said later that any party that boycotts the vote is harming its own interests. In Brussels, NATO warned all parties in Bosnia that calls for a boycott run counter to the Dayton agreement. In Paris, the government said it will suspend aid to communities whose leaders call for a boycott.
 PLAVSIC SAYS KARADZIC ORDERED COUPPresident Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 10 September that indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic ordered the Serbian Democratic Party to stage the recent attempted coup against her (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 10 September 1997). She added that Karadzic said it does not matter if the coup led to bloodshed. Plavsic stated that the peacekeepers "prevented a blood bath" by thwarting the coup attempt, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Banja Luka. In Sarajevo, Jacques Klein said peacekeepers in Banja Luka took many weapons from the Pale delegation headed by Momcilo Krajisnik on 9 September. Klein added that the hundreds of demonstrators bussed in by the hard-liners for the coup had been paid $55 each. In Pale, Krajisnik said on 10 September that his experience in Banja Luka was an "ordeal." He claimed that he had not gone there "to trigger conflicts."
 BELGRADE OVERRULES PODGORICA ON ELECTIONSThe Yugoslav Constitution Court on 10 September ruled that a Montenegrin law stipulating each party may nominate only one candidate for that republic's presidency is unconstitutional. The court's verdict overrides previous decisions by its Montenegrin counterpart and by the Montenegrin Election Commission. It allows current President Momir Bulatovic to run for reelection as the candidate of a faction of the governing Democratic Socialist Party, even though the majority of that party backs Milo Djukanovic for the presidency. Djukanovic and his allies have said a court decision allowing Bulatovic to run will lead to a constitutional crisis between Belgrade and Podgorica.
 NATO TO HELP ALBANIA REBUILD ARMYNATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano signed an agreement in Brussels on 10 September whereby the Atlantic alliance will help rebuild the Albanian army. The cornerstone of the program is to put the military firmly under civilian control. Nano added that he wants to integrate his country into European structures and to bring Albania up to European standards in all spheres of public life, including military affairs. Albania joined NATO's Partnership For Peace program in 1994 and seeks to join the alliance itself. Meanwhile in Tirana, Russian special envoy Vladimir Shizov ended a three-day visit aimed at restoring relations that were neglected during the recent chaos.
 ALBANIAN ROUNDUPFormer President Sali Berisha left Tirana on 11 September to attend the funeral in Calcutta of Mother Teresa, who was an ethnic Albanian from Macedonia. Observers said his presence at the funeral, together with that of President Rexhep Meidani, underscores the political rivalry between the two men. Meanwhile, the government announced it has renamed the country's main hospital in Tirana after the famous nun. Still in Tirana, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced that its emergency relief program for Albania will soon end. In the Italian city of Turin, police deported 191 Albanians whom the police said had broken Italian law.
 ROMANIA TO CLOSE 30 MINES IN NEXT TWO YEARSNicolae Staiculescu, a state secretary at the Ministry of Industry has said 30 of the country's unprofitable coal mines will be shut down during the next two years, RFE/RL's Romanian service reported on 10 September. No indication was given as to how many miners will lose their jobs because of the closures. Staiculescu said about 42,000 miners have been laid off in the past month. Most left voluntarily to take advantage of a government compensation offer of up to 20 months' wages. Staiculescu said some 4,000 miners have retired in the past month and another 15,000 have been transferred to other mines.
 ROMANIAN CENTRAL BANK TO MEET IMF CONDITIONSA spokesman for Romania's central bank said the bank will meet conditions laid down in the IMF's Article 8 within the next few days, Bloomberg Financial News reported on 10 September. Article 8 prohibits countries from restricting international payments and transactions without first receiving the fund's approval. It also prohibits certain currency practices without IMF approval. Romania has pledged to meet the IMF conditions in order to receive the next tranche, worth some $83 million, of a $414 million stand- by loan. The IMF board of directors is expected to meet in Washington on 12 September to discuss the disbursement.
 BELGIAN PREMIER SUPPORTS SOFIA'S EU, NATO BIDSJean-Luc Dehaene concluded a state visit to Sofia on 10 September by pledging support for Bulgaria's efforts to join the EU and NATO, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported. In a speech to the parliament, Dehaene said cooperation between the two countries is "intensive" and serves as "a lever for Bulgarian integration into NATO." Dehaene on 10 September was present at the signing of a contract whereby Belgium's Union Miniere paid $80 million for a 56 percent stake of Bulgarian copper producer MDK Pirdop. As a result of the sale, Belgium has surpassed Germany as the largest direct foreign investor in Bulgaria, with its total investments exceeding $251 million.
 GEORGI MARKOV SENTENCED BEFORE DEATH?The Sofia daily "Trud" reported on 9 September that six years before his death, dissident writer Georgi Markov had been sentenced in absentia by authorities in his native Bulgaria. The newspaper said he was given a six- and-a-half year sentence at a closed-door trial in Sofia in 1972 on charges of "working for foreign organizations to undermine his own country. " Markov worked as a broadcaster at RFE/RL, the BBC, and Deutsche Welle. He died on 11 September 1978, four days after he was stabbed in the thigh with a poison-tipped umbrella while waiting for a bus in London. His assailant has not been found.
 UNESCO CHIEF SAYS OBSTACLES BLOCK FREE PRESSFederico Mayor said on 10 September that the development of independent and pluralistic media in Eastern Europe is hampered by an "excessive concentration of ownership" and intimidation by organized criminal groups. Mayor made the comments at a seminar in Sofia attended by some 300 journalists from 40 countries. Mayor said the application of laws protecting press freedom in East Europe "is often very limited." The four- day seminar is sponsored by UNESCO.
[C] END NOTE
 A JUMP TOO FAR?by Paul Goble
U.S. military involvement in a peacekeeping exercise in Central Asia in mid- September is the latest indication of a shift in the balance of power in a region long dominated by Moscow. Each of the five countries in the region, both the three that are participating with the U.S. and the two that are not, enjoy unprecedented freedom of action as a result. But because a single exercise will, in itself, not be enough to institutionalize that change, the maneuvers will almost certainly carefully watched by Russia, which retains important assets both within and around the region.
Brigadier General Martin Berndt, the U.S. Atlantic Command's director for joint exercises and training, recently announced that U.S. military forces will participate in a joint military exercise known as Centrasbat 97 from 15 to 21 September. He said some 500 paratroopers from the army's 82nd Airborne Division, along with 40 Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Uzbeks, will fly non- stop from the U.S. to Kazakhstan and then parachute into the exercise area. Joining them in that jump will be 40 soldiers from Turkey, 40 from Russia, and Marine Corps General John J. Sheehan, who is the commander of the U.S. Atlantic Command. Following their arrival, troops from Latvia and Georgia will join the peacekeeping and humanitarian aid training sessions to take place in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Berndt stressed that the 13,000 kilometer airlift of paratroopers is a remarkable "first" by virtue of its distance: "a strategic airlift of airborne troops that has not been seen before." He said the exercises were intended to promote regional military cooperation, to reinforce the sovereignty of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan whose soldiers make up the Central Asian battalion under the Partnership for Peace program, and to help those countries upgrade their ability to participate in international peacekeeping activities.
He hastened to add that the U.S. is not trying to send any message to the nations not involved (including the two Central Asian non-participants, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan) or to anyone else. Regardless of Washington's intentions, however, U.S. military involvement in the high-profile exercise will send some very powerful messages not only to Turkmenistan and Tajikistan but also to the three countries of the region whose soldiers are taking part and to Russia .
To the Turkmens and Tajiks, this high-visibility operation will serve notice that the U.S. intends to be a serious player in the Central Asian region and that they thus have a strong incentive to modify their policies in ways that will allow them to cooperate both with their neighbors, who did not invite them to participate in the exercise, and with the U.S. To the three Central Asian states that are participating, the exercise provides the clearest indication yet that the U.S. is prepared to work with them on much the same basis that it is cooperating with the Baltic States and Ukraine. It will provide yet another impulse toward greater cooperation throughout region as a whole. And it will signal that the U.S. is not prepared to accept Russian pretensions to a continuing sphere of influence in that region, which will allow those countries to adopt increasingly independent foreign policies and sometimes even directly challenge Moscow's positions.
But if the exercise sends such messages to the Central Asian countries, it also sends them to Russia. At least some in Moscow may react to what they are likely to see as a direct and intentional U.S. challenge to what many Russians believe is properly their sphere of influence. If the Russian government follows their lead--and recent statements by President Boris Yeltsin about U.S. involvement in the Caucasus suggest that it might-- Moscow may decide to react in some way. And if it does, it has some significant assets that it can bring into play.
Russia has a variety of means of exacerbating the situation in Tajikistan, including the threat of pulling out Russian peacekeeping forces, which could weaken the Dushanbe regime and lead to instability in Uzbekistan. It could also put in place new obstacles to the export of oil and gas from the countries of Central Asia. In such cases, the U.S. and the West more generally may be forced to provide even more political assistance to its Central Asian partners lest its paratroop drop into Kazakhstan on 15 September prove a jump too far.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty