|Friday, 13 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 161, 97-11-17
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 161, 17 November 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 GEORGIAN, SOUTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENTS AGREE ON REPATRIATIONEduard Shevardnadze and Lyudvig Chibirov met for two hours in the South Ossetian town of Djava on 14 November to assess progress in dealing with the consequences of South Ossetia's drive to secede from Georgia in 1990- 1992. The two presidents signed an interim document giving priority to the repatriation in 1998 of people forced to flee their homes during the conflict, CAUCASUS PRESS reported. Shevardnadze subsequently told journalists that he and Chibirov have discussed South Ossetia's future political status vis-a-vis the central Georgian government, but he declined to give details. The two presidents also discussed the unresolved conflict with North Ossetian President Akhsarbek Galazov, Russian presidential adviser on nationalities Emil Pain, and the head of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's mission in Georgia. LF
 EX-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ARRESTEDLawyer Kartlos Gharibashvili, who ran unsuccessfully against Eduard Shevardnadze in the1995 Georgian presidential elections, was arrested on 13 November on charges of having assaulted a Tbilisi district judge and falsely accused another of taking a $20,000 bribe, CAUCASUS PRESS reported. Gharibashvili was defense lawyer at the trial of former Georgian railways director Remi Vashakidze, who was sentenced recently to 10 years in prison for bribery. LF
 GEORGIAN PARAMILITARY MEMBERS SENTENCEDThe Georgian Supreme Court on 15 November sentenced 13 leading members of the banned Mkhedrioni paramilitary movement to prison sentences of between six and 12 years for "mass banditry." They had carried out reprisals against villages in Mingrelia in November 1993. Mkhedrioni leader Djaba Ioseliani is scheduled to stand trial shortly on charges of involvement in the August 1995 failed attempt to assassinate Shevardnadze. LF
 ARMENIAN LEFTIST ALLIANCE HOLDS FOUNDING CONGRESSThe Union of Socialist Forces (SUM) held its founding congress in Yerevan on 15 November, RFE/RL's bureau in the Armenian capital reported. The SUM comprises more than a dozen small leftist parties and other organizations and is headed by former chief presidential adviser Ashot Manucharian. Addressing the founding congress, Manucharian said the alliance should develop a new "socialist model" adapted to Armenia's national and cultural identities. The congress adopted a statement on Nagorno-Karabakh affirming that under no circumstances should the disputed region be returned to Azerbaijani control. LF
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITION AGAIN PROTESTS KARABAKH POLICYSome 8,000 opposition supporters gathered in Yerevan on 14 November to condemn the Armenian leadership's perceived readiness to sign a Karabakh peace settlement that would formally uphold Azerbaijan's sovereignty over the disputed region, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Soviet-era dissident and Self-Determination Union leader Paruyr Hayrikian told participants that Ter-Petrossyan has no public mandate to sign crucial treaties on behalf of the Armenian people because he was not elected in free and fair elections. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT RATIFIES ANOTHER OIL CONTRACTLawmakers on 14 November ratified a $2 billion production-sharing contract between EXXON and the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, Russian agencies reported. The contract, signed in Washington in August, is for exploration and exploitation of the Nakhchivan oil and gas field, which lies 90 kilometers south of Baku. LF
 RUSSIAN TV AIRS FOOTAGE OF KYRGYZ CHILDREN'S HOME...Three Russian television channels on 13 November broadcast footage shot by a Norwegian crew this summer at the Belovodsk orphanage home in Kyrgyzstan. AFP on 15 November quoted Russia's NTV as claiming the children are undernourished and some tied up. It also alleged that while most of the children entered the home in good health, only a third survived their time there. The broadcasts drew the attention of Naina Yeltsin, the wife of the Russian president, who on 14 November appealed to the Russian Red Cross to help the children. BP
 ...DRAWS HARSH RESPONSE FROM KYRGYZ GOVERNMENTKyrgyz leaders sharply criticized the three Russian television channels' decision to air footage on the Kyrgyz children's home, Interfax and ITAR- TASS reported. Deputy Prime Minister Mira Jangaracheva said the broadcasts were a "fabricated sensation" that does not "correspond to reality." President Askar Akayev said it "undermines democratic reforms and Kyrgyzstan's authority on the international scene." Meanwhile, Denmark's Save the Children charity organization, which owns the copyright to the footage, released a statement objecting to the Russian broadcasts. It said the footage was taken in order to attract donors and sponsors and that both its and the children's rights had been violated. BP
 FIRST PHASE OF TAJIK REFUGEE REPATRIATION ENDSThe last group of Tajik refugees have returned from Afghanistan in the first phase of the repatriation program, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 November . Between 180 and 250 refugees left Afghanistan on 15 November, most of whom passed through the Termez crossing in Uzbekistan. Others crossed at the Nizhni Pyanj and Ishkashim crossings on the Tajik-Afghan border. More than 10,000 have returned since July, according to ITAR-TASS reports. The majority of those remaining in Afghanistan are fighters of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). BP
 UN EXTENDS OBSERVER MANDATE IN TAJIKISTANThe UN Security Council on 14 November voted unanimously to extend the mandate of its observer mission in Tajikistan, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The extension runs through 15 May. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan favored expanding the role of the 44-member mission to help Tajikistan in its early stages of peacetime reform. In other news, the leaders of Tajikistan's power ministries met with National Reconciliation Commission Chairman Said Abdullo Nuri on 15 November. They discussed integration of opposition and government armed forces and reaffirmed that 16 November was the last day for armed groups to declare their loyalties to either the government or the UTO. Groups not responding to that call will be disarmed by force. BP
 RUSSIAN GAS HEATS SOUTH KAZAKHSTANKazakhstan's southern regions have begun receiving gas from Russia, ITAR- TASS reported on 15 November. The regions, which include the former capital Almaty, were without gas for a week following Turkmenistan's decision to cut gas shipments to Ukraine via the Bukhara-Ural pipeline. Kazakhstan's southern regions had received gas transported by that pipeline as compensation for the pipeline running through that territory. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SFOR PEACEKEEPERS FIRE WARNING SHOTSItalian SFOR troops on Mt. Trebevic near Sarajevo fired warning shots to turn back several hundred Serbian civilians, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital on 15 November. The Serbs were trying to cut barbed wire surrounding a television transmitter, which is one of several broadcasting sites across Bosnia that NATO forces seized from Bosnian Serb hard-liners on 1 October in order to deny the hard-liners access to the airwaves. There have been several incidents recently in which apparently well organized Serbian crowds have approached transmitters guarded by SFOR troops. PM
 WESTENDORP WANTS DELAY IN SERBIAN PRIVATIZATIONCarlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, argued in Sarajevo on 15 November that the Bosnian Serbs should stop their plans to privatize 300 enterprises by distributing shares in them to current local residents. Westendorp charged that the plan discriminates against Muslims and Croats who were driven from their homes in what is now the Republika Srpska and have been unable to return. He added that the privatization program is likely to lead to "large-scale fraud and the wholesale give-away of public property" because state- appointed assessors rather than independent experts will determine the value of each enterprise. PM
 OVER 1 MILLION BOSNIAN SERBS SET TO VOTESpokesmen for the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is supervising the Bosnian Serb parliamentary elections on 22-23 November, said in Sarajevo on 15 November that some 1.1 million people have registered to vote. PM
 EXPLOSIONS IN EASTERN SLAVONIATwo hand grenades damaged a school in Vukovar on 16 November. The previous night, an explosion shook the house of a Serbian resident of that same town. Croatian media also reported a series of armed robberies in Vukovar and elsewhere in eastern Slavonia in recent days. Most of robberies involved Serbs attacking Croats. Meanwhile, the Croatian Helsinki Committee said in a statement on 14 November that leaflets have appeared in Vukovar threatening local Serbs. Eastern Slavonia is the last Serb-held enclave in Croatia. and is slated to return to full Croatian control in January 1998. PM
 SESELJ TO PUSH FOR GREATER SERBIAVojislav Seselj, the Radical Party's candidate in the 7 December Serbian presidential elections, said in Leskovac on 14 November that he will never recognize Croatia in its current boundaries. Seselj added that Serbia's western boundary should follow the line of Karlobag-Ogulin-Karlovac- Virovitica. This frontier would leave Croatia with little more than Zagreb and some territories to the northwest of the capital. On 16 November, Radical Party spokesmen in Belgrade called on Milan Milutinovic, Seselj's Socialist opponent, to debate Seselj on television. And the Serbian Election Commission announced that a total of 18 candidates will be on the presidential ballot on 7 December. PM
 KOSOVO'S RUGOVA CLAIMS INCREASED REPRESSIONIbrahim Rugova, the president of the Kosovar shadow-state, said in Pristina on 14 November that Serbian police have stepped up their harassment of ethnic Albanians in the past month. Rugova charged that the police mistreated 1,057 Albanians, and that the police singled out politically active Albanians for particularly bad treatment, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. PM
 DAYS OF MOURNING IN ALBANIAThe government declared 13 and 14 November days of mourning to mark the burial of the 53 Albanians who died when their overcrowded refugee ship sank after a collision with an Italian navy vessel in early spring (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April 1997). The bodies had been returned to Albania from Italy. Prime Minister Fatos Nano, his Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi, and 30,000 Albanians attended the funeral in Vlora. Protesters prevented a Democratic Party delegation from entering the southern city, which was a rebel stronghold during the anarchy earlier this year. The Democrats claimed that the Socialist-led government organized the roadblock, "Dita Informacion" reported. FS
 ALBANIAN NEWSPAPERS BEGIN STRIKENine out of ten daily newspapers did not appear on 16 November, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Tirana. Only the Socialists' "Zeri i Popullit" went to press. The publishers of the nine dailies want a reduction in taxes and claim they will go bankrupt if they continue to be taxed at the same rate as other businesses. They also want lower telephone rates. Finance Minister Arben Malaj said at a meeting with publishers the previous day that the government will consider some of the newspapers' demands. FS
 U.S. PROTESTS ANTONESCU'S REHABILITATIONIn a letter to President Emil Constantinescu, Senator Alfonso D'Amato and Congressman Christopher Smith have protested the decision of the Romanian prosecutor-general to start procedures for the posthumous judicial rehabilitation of six members of Marshal Ion Antonescu's wartime government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 1997), RFE/RL reported on 14 November. They said all six officials are "cabinet members in a government that was responsible for the persecution of the entire Romanian Jewish community and the deportation and murder of at least 250,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews." Their rehabilitation "would call into question the sincerity of Romania's commitment to the West's most fundamental shared values and is likely to trigger a reassessment of support for Romania's candidacy for membership in our economic and security institutions." MS
 MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS DRAFTS ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORMSThe parliament on 14 November rejected two draft laws submitted by the government on the territorial reorganization of Moldova's districts and on local government. The passage of the two laws is an IMF and World Bank condition for continued loans to Moldova. According to house regulations, the drafts cannot be debated again during the present parliamentary session, since they were rejected in the first reading, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. In other news, President Petru Lucinschi and separatist leader Igor Smirnov have agreed to meet again in Chisinau on 20 November. BASA- press reported on 14 November. During Russian Deputy Premier Valerii Serov's visit to Moldova in late September, Lucinschi and Smirnov agreed to meet once a month, but that understanding has not been respected. MS
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN JAPANPetar Stoyanov on 16 November began a five-day official visit to Japan aimed at attracting investments, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Stoyanov, who is accompanied by Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova and a delegation of Bulgarian businessmen, met with Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who said Japan will provide a $115 million low-interest loan for the expansion of the Black Sea port of Burgas. Tokyo will also authorize $50 million in loans from the government-run Export-Import Bank of Japan. In other news, the daily "Standart" on 14 November reported that the Defense Ministry has dismissed 25 officers in connection with the unveiling of corruption and theft in the army by an audit commission (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 1997). MS
[C] END NOTE
 AZERBAIJAN'S ECONOMIC REVIVAL AHEAD OF OIL REVENUESby Michael Wyzan
Accompanied by high-ranking officials from around the world, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev on 12 November opened a valve on a platform in the Caspian Sea, allowing the first "early oil" to flow into an underwater pipeline through which it will be transported to an onshore terminal and then to Grozny and Novorosiisk.
Baku has already signed oil deals worth $30 billion, while the country's offshore fields are expected to produce oil worth $100 billion over the next 30 years. Neither of those figures takes into account the revenues from the transit of Central Asian oil and gas through its territory.
Both the recent publicity surrounding oil agreements and the renovations under way in Baku suggest Azerbaijan is already a wealthy land. In fact, only Tajikistan has a lower gross domestic product (GDP) per capita within the CIS. In the Soviet era, industry specialized in machine-building for the oil sector. Some 87 percent of such equipment was "exported" to other republics, a market that has since disappeared.
Further, the country lost 15 percent of its territory when ethnic Armenian forces occupied six districts adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding areas in southwestern Azerbaijan. There are now at least 800, 000 Azerbaijani refugees from Armenia and internally displaced people, who are unable to work and for whom some provision must be made.
Nonetheless, Azerbaijan, like Armenia and Georgia, had chalked up a solid macroeconomic performance by late 1996, albeit from a low base. GDP grew by 1.3 percent in 1996--the first positive figure since independence--and rose by 5 percent during the first nine months of this year. Industrial production, which fell through March 1997, is now growing slowly.
Inflation has fallen dramatically since it peaked at 1,610 percent in 1994, reaching 6.7 percent in 1996 (both figures December-to-December). It was only 4.3 percent in the first nine months of 1997, compared with same period last year.
According to official statistics, 98 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, set at 350,000 manats ($89) per month. But a study by Deputy Economy Minister Oktay Hagverdiev quoted a figure of about 40 percent. He pointed out in an interview in Baku in early November that there are many informal labor exchanges, where people officially classified as poor can find short-term work paying up to $20 a day. He added that official unemployment statistics err in the opposite direction, showing an unemployment rate of around 1 percent. Hagverdiev puts the true figure at around 17 percent.
The government budget has also shown signs of improvement. The deficit fell from 10.7 percent of GDP in 1994 to 3.1 percent in 1996. For the first nine months of 1997, it amounted to only 1.8 percent. That fiscal improvement results from having sharply cut back expenditure. In fact, revenues as a share of GDP has fallen steadily over the post-communist period.
Foreign-sector indicators are also strengthening. In 1996, the trade deficit totaled $330 million, but during the first eight months of 1997, the country registered a $60 million surplus. Exports during that period were more than 82 percent of the total amount in1996 as a whole. The foreign reserves are currently about $500 million, a healthy figure considering that imports were below $1 billion last year.
The improving balance of payments is reflected in the strengthening of the manat from 4,440 per dollar at the end of 1995 to about 3,950. This appreciation reflects the impact of market forces rather than of government decree. In September, the national bank allowed the exchange rate to be determined freely on the interbank market.
While current figures on the external sector are impressive, they are tiny for a country with 7.5 million people. But foreign direct investment (FDI) statistics more accurately reflect the shape of things to come, once the oil boom gets under way. Azerbaijan has received $1.2 billion in FDI so far this year and expects $2 billion in 1998. It is also encouraging that the share of FDI outside the oil sector has risen to about 25 percent.
As in most impoverished countries that successfully stabilize their economies, Azerbaijan's success owes much to international financial institutions. The IMF approved loans worth $46 million in April 1995, $132 million in November 1995, and $219 million in December 1996. Nonetheless, both the IMF and other international lenders will probably play a major role in Azerbaijan for only a short period. Experts predict that within four or five years, private-sector capital inflows will be so large that official lending will no longer be necessary.
Azerbaijan will soon be able to choose its own development path. A key element will have to be economic diversification, since it is unlikely that oil extraction alone will provide much employment for the country's large educated population.
The author is an economist living in Austria.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty