|Monday, 18 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 168, 97-11-26
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 168, 26 November 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 TAJIKISTAN RECEIVES $56 MILLION PLEDGES AT DONOR CONFERENCEAt the international donor conference in Vienna, Tajikistan received pledges worth $56.6 million, some $9.4 million short of the $65 million Tajikistan had hoped for. UN special envoy to Tajikistan Gerd Merrem nonetheless found the results "overwhelming in view of critical comments about security" in the Central Asian state. The money will used for demobilizing the army, preparing for multi-party elections to the parliament, the resettlement of refugees and displaced persons, and generally repairing the country's damaged economy. The Vienna conference was attended by more than 100 representatives from 40 countries. BP
 MORE ARRESTS IN TAJIKISTANTajik law enforcement authorities on 25 November arrested another group of people in connection with the 18 November kidnapping of two French nationals. Following searches of villages outside the capital, 23 people were taken into custody. Tajik officials said some of those detained may have been involved in the wave of bombings that have plagued Dushanbe since early September. The location of the two hostages is still not known, but officials say the group responsible for the kidnapping may have taken up to 12 local villagers captive as well. The U.S. embassy on 24 November warned U.S. citizens to leave the country, questioning the ability of Tajik law enforcement bodies to protect them. BP
 U.S. OFFICIAL CRITICIZES TURKMENISTAN OVER HUMAN RIGHTSMichael Hathaway, a member of the U.S. delegation to the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe conference in Warsaw on 25 November, has sharply criticized Turkmenistan for failing to respect human rights, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Polish capital reported. Hathaway charged that Turkmenistan "still finds political dissidents mentally ill and incarcerates them in psychiatric institutions." He claimed the country's "misuse of mental institutions against political dissidents violates...the most fundamental norms of human decency." Hathaway called on Turkmenistan to "put an end" to such practices and urged the OSCE to "settle for nothing else." BP
 TURKMEN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 1998 BUDGETLegislators on 25 November approved the 1998 state budget, ITAR-TASS reported. Revenues are set at 6.4 trillion manat ($1.5 billion) and expenditures at 6.6 billion manat ($1.58 billion). The budget deficit is not expected to exceed 1.4 percent of GDP. BP
 NAZARBAYEV IN GERMANYKazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, meeting in Bonn with leading German officials on 25 November, encouraged Germany to invest in his country's oil and gas reserves. Nazarbayev also discussed the situation of ethnic Germans living in Kazakhstan. German officials said they are pleased with the improved conditions of Kazakhstan's ethnic German community and said more efforts will be made on its behalf. Both sides agreed it is desirable to keep those Germans in Kazakhstan and thereby "create a bridge between both nations." BP
 ARMENIAN, TURKISH BUSINESSMEN SIGN PROTOCOLMeeting in Istanbul on 25 November, a delegation from the Union of Businessmen and Industrialists of Armenia signed a protocol with a group of Turkish businessmen calling for the normalization of bilateral economic ties, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 26 November. Union President Aram Vardanian argued that opening a border crossing between Turkey and Armenia would contribute to resolving unemployment in eastern Turkey and to attracting investment to both countries. During their four-day visit to Turkey, the Armenian delegation held unofficial meetings with Trade and Industry Minister Yalim Erez and Minister of State Eyup Asik. Asik stressed the interest of all members of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization to resolve the Karabakh conflict, according to ArmenPress. Armenia and Turkey do not have diplomatic relations. LF
 GEORGIAN-RUSSIAN BORDER DISPUTE INTENSIFIESThe Georgian parliament's Committee for Defense and Security issued a statement on 25 November criticizing the Russian Federal Border Service's unilateral decision to move its Verkhnii Lars frontier post 1 kilometer into Georgian territory, CaucasusPress reported. The committee intends to raise again the question of abrogating the bilateral agreement whereby Georgia's frontiers with Russia are jointly patrolled by Russian and Georgian troops. LF
 QUADRILATERAL TALKS IN BAKUThe deputy foreign ministers of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Moldova met in Baku on 25 November to discuss economic and security cooperation as well as participation in such regional projects as the TRASECA transport corridor, Russian and Azerbaijani agencies reported. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov proposed that the four countries conclude an agreement on cooperation with NATO comparable to those Russia and Ukraine have signed with the alliance. He also argued that strengthening quadrilateral ties should take place at the same time as the four countries' integration into European structures. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev expressed his satisfaction at Moldova's recent accession to the informal Azerbaijan-Georgian-Ukraine grouping, stressing that "our union is not aimed against anyone." LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 WESTENDORP WARNS OF NEW WARCarlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, said in London on 25 November that war could return to the former Yugoslav republic if the peacekeepers' mandate is not extended beyond the June 1998 expiration date. Westendorp stated that "if [SFOR] leaves now, I am sure war, the killings, and ethnic cleansing will come back. It will take at least two to three more years before we no longer need the troops." PM
 OSCE CRITICIZES BOSNIAN SERB VOTENiels Helveg Petersen, the chairman of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which supervised the 22-23 November Bosnian Serb parliamentary elections, said in Copenhagen on 25 November that the vote "fell far short of normal democratic standards." He added that "the political level of this vote was not very high." In Sarajevo, an OSCE spokesman said no official results will be published until all the votes are counted, which will be 10 December at the earliest. In Mostar, an OSCE spokesman denied that the delay in announcing the outcome will allow the results to be manipulated, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Mostar. PM
 EU PLEDGES $7.5 MILLION FOR SARAJEVO BUILDINGSA spokesman for the EU said in Sarajevo on 25 November that Brussels has allocated $7.5 million to rebuild Sarajevo's historical city hall and other important buildings destroyed or damaged during the Serbian siege from 1992- 1995. Rebuilding the Technical High School and the Olympic stadium complex will also have priority, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. PM
 MOSTAR CROATS BAN FRIENDSHIP RACECroatian authorities in Mostar on 25 November banned the Muslim-organized Bridges of Friendship 1997 marathon race from the Croatian half of the divided city. The Croatian police said that they could not guarantee the safety of the runners. UN police officials, however, called the Croatian decision "purely political." They added that the Croats had ample time to take sufficient security precautions. Meanwhile in nearby Serb-held Trebinje, a hand grenade exploded under a vehicle belonging to EU monitors. PM
 U.S. DEFENDS SOROS'S WORK IN CROATIAA State Department spokesman said on 25 November that the Croatian government was wrong to take legal measures against George Soros's Open Society Institute (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1997). The spokesman added that Washington "remains concerned about the Croatian government's discussion of draft legal measures and selective application of existing legal measures, including criminal prosecutions and taxation policies, to intimidate prominent opposition journalists and non-governmental organizations. We find unacceptable the public defamation in Croatia of George Soros and the Soros Foundation, which we believe is making a valuable contribution...to free speech and democratization." PM
 WAR BLAMED FOR RISE IN CROATIAN DOMESTIC VIOLENCEDeputy Prime Minister Ljerka Mintas-Hodak said in Zagreb on 25 November that psychological and other problems stemming from the 1991-1995 war are to blame for the recent growth in domestic violence. She added that instances of wife-beating have risen by 11 percent so far in 1997, compared with last year. She noted that many women do not report violence to the police or are unable to defend their rights in court because they lack the money to do so. Mintas-Hodak added that a center for battered women in Zagreb has looked after 850 women since it opened in 1990 but had to turn away another 2,000 for lack of space. PM
 YUGOSLAVIA BARS OWN CITIZENS FROM ENTRYSeveral Serbian non-governmental organizations issued a statement on 25 November criticizing the Yugoslav authorities for holding some 50 Yugoslav citizens with valid documents at Belgrade airport for nearly one week and not allowing them to reenter the country. Most of the detained citizens are ethnic Albanians or Muslims who were returning from Germany, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade. Albanians and Muslims returning to Yugoslavia often report harassment by the police and other authorities. PM
 ALBANIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE WANTS KOSOVO RECOGNITIONThe Albanian parliament's Foreign Relations Committee has asked the government to recognize the Tirana office of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo as an embassy, "Shekulli" reported on 26 November. Committee Chairman Sabri Godo stressed that "Pristina and Tirana need to find a common position on the Kosovo question." The opposition and many Kosovars suspect that Prime Minister Fatos Nano made a deal with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic at the Kosovars' expense during the recent Balkan summit on Crete (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November 1997). On 24 November, Albanian opposition leader Sali Berisha charged Kosovar President Rexhep Meidani with treason after Meidani had called Milosevic's party "the lesser evil for Kosovo" in the 7 December Serbian elections. The opposition, for their part, regard Meidani's remarks as further evidence of a deal between Tirana and Belgrade. FS
 ALBANIAN COMMUNISTS WANT NEWSPAPER BACKSpokesmen for the illegal communist Party of Labor of Albania (PPSH) said in Elbasan on 25 November that they will go to court to regain ownership of the former party daily "Zeri i Popullit," which the Socialists now publish, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. The PPSH was banned after the founding of the Socialist Party in 1991. Some die-hard communists were jailed under Berisha. The PPSH expects to be legalized soon and plans to reclaim some of its property. FS
 TIRANA STUDENTS END STRIKESecondary students in Tirana ended a strike on 25 November after the authorities agreed to raise the students' monthly allowance by $11 and to improve standards in dormitories. It is unclear whether students outside the capital have accepted the offer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 November 1997). PM
 ROMANIAN SENATE SAYS ROMANIAN LANGUAGE MANDATORYThe Senate on 25 November agreed to change the education law in order to make mandatory the study of the Romanian language in all schools, regardless of the ethnic origins of the pupils, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Bucharest. The legislation specifies that pupils must study Romanian because it is the official state language. The new measures also require all pupils to complete eight years of basic education and to remain in school until age 16. PM
 ROMANIA, BULGARIA, TURKEY TO COMBAT PKKFollowing his one-day visit to Bucharest, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel said in Ankara on 25 November that Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria will soon sign an agreement to fight organized crime and Kurdish separatists. The three countries' heads of state reached a basic agreement on the issue in Varna in early October. PM
 BULGARIA TO JOIN NATO IN SECOND ROUND?NATO Assistant Secretary-General Norman Ray said in Sofia on 25 November after meeting with Prime Minister Ivan Kostov that Bulgaria will find itself "in a very strong position" for NATO membership if it continues with its political and economic reforms. NATO has promised to consider admitting more new members from Eastern Europe in 1999. Ray noted that the Bulgarian arms industry is strong in communications, electronics, small arms, ammunition, and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. He added, however, that Bulgaria needs to improve its marketing because its products are little known abroad. PM
[C] END NOTE
 LIGHT AT THE END OF THE ABKHAZ TUNNEL?by Liz Fuller
Abkhaz and Georgian delegations met in Geneva from 17-19 November for a second round of talks under the aegis of the UN Secretary-General's Friends of Georgia group, which comprises the U.S., Germany, France, and the U.K (Russia has observer status within that group). The meeting had been postponed for five weeks at the request of the Abkhaz side and was preceded by a sharp deterioration in Georgia's relations with both Abkhazia and Russia. Yet despite the inauspicious omens, the outcome of the talks--in conjunction with earlier Georgian domestic political developments--gives grounds for cautious optimism that gradual progress towards resolving the conflict is possible.
The UN had assumed a more active role in trying to mediate a political settlement of the deadlocked Abkhaz conflict in late July, following the failure of an intensive Russian effort to persuade the Abkhaz and Georgian leaderships to sign a Russian-drafted peace protocol. The first round of talks to be sponsored by the Friends of Georgia yielded an agreement between Tbilisi and Abkhazia to desist from the threat or use of violence against each other--a pledge that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and his Abkhaz counterpart, Vladislav Ardzinba, reaffirmed at their meeting in Tbilisi in mid-August. That meeting paved the way for lower-level government talks on restoring economic ties between the central government in Tbilisi and the breakaway Black Sea province.
Significant progress toward that goal was precluded, however, by Tbilisi's refusal to lift economic sanctions on Abkhazia until an estimated 200,000 ethnic Georgian displaced persons are allowed to return to the homes they had been forced to flee during the 1992-1993 war . (The Abkhaz, for their part, want repatriation delayed until sanctions have been lifted and the region's devastated economy has begun to recover.) On 13 November, the Abkhaz government drastically reduced electricity supplies to Georgia to protest an explosion at a substation in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. It blamed Georgian guerrilla formations for that incident.
One week earlier, on 7 November, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had signed a decree allowing the sale to Russia without Tbilisi's prior permission of Abkhaz agricultural produce. Such sales were prohibited in early 1996 at Georgia's insistence. Russia's unilateral decision elicited an outraged response from Shevardnadze, who accused Chernomyrdin of creating "special hot-house conditions" for Abkhaz "separatists."
Despite those setbacks, the Abkhaz and Georgian delegations in Geneva agreed to create a coordinating commission to oversee the activities of three working groups that will address security, repatriation, and economic and social issues. Moreover, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili told journalists on his return to Tbilisi that the atmosphere at the talks had been "far more constructive" than at the meeting in late July. Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov noted, in an infelicitous marriage of metaphors, that the two sides had opted to "untie political knots by small but frequent steps" instead of focusing on the issue of Abkhazia's future political status.
In particular, the working group dealing with security issues, which will meet at least once a week, could make a significant contribution to confidence building. The group will seek to neutralize the various guerrilla formations currently active in Gali Raion, especially the Georgian White Legion, which systematically targets members of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed along the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia.
The working groups have another advantage insofar as they create a forum for low-level but regular talks on practical issues. This contrasts with the high-level UN- and Russian-mediated talks aimed at persuading both sides to sign a more comprehensive document. Those talks have regularly raised, and then failed to fulfill, expectations.
Recent rifts in the ranks of the ethnic Georgian displaced persons may similarly expedite the negotiating process. At a recent congress of displaced persons in Tbilisi, delegates accused some members of the so- called Abkhaz parliament in exile (which is composed of the ethnic Georgian deputies to the Abkhaz parliament elected in 1990) of misappropriating financial aid intended for displaced persons.
Those charges apparently prompted the parliament in exile to align itself with the Georgian leadership. (Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the parliament, had consistently exerted pressure on the Georgian leadership by advocating a military campaign to restore Tbilisi's jurisdiction over Abkhazia).In return, the exiled parliament received the right to nominate a representative who would belong to the Georgian delegation to the Geneva talks. The "Abkhazeti" faction within the Georgian parliament is similarly threatened by internal dissent over Russia's role as a mediator in the Abkhaz conflict. Such disagreements have reduced the displaced persons' collective ability to exert pressure on the Georgian leadership, thereby making the policy of "small but frequent steps" a viable option. But it is still uncertain whether progress toward resolving practical issues can be parlayed into a formal political agreement on Abkhazia's status within Georgia.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty