|Thursday, 24 September 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 188, 98-01-05
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 188, 5 January 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 SHEVARDNADZE SAYS GEORGIA MAY SEEK PRESSURE ON ABKHAZIASpeaking on 1 January, President Eduard Shevardnadze said that he is in favor of settling the Abkhaz dispute through dialogue but that "the leadership of our country plans to raise the question of other variants" if no progress is made soon, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 January. The Georgian leader said the number of people in Tbilisi urging the use of pressure-- including the introduction of international forces--was growing. PG
 BAKU APPEALS TO AZERBAIJANIS ABROADOn 31 December, Azerbaijan marked the Day for Solidarity with Azerbaijanis Throughout the World, ITAR-TASS reported. First organized in 1989 to protest Moscow's refusal to allow Azerbaijanis in the Soviet Union to meet with Azerbaijanis abroad, this holiday remains laden with political meaning: Far more Azerbaijanis live abroad than in Azerbaijan itself. PG
 PIPELINES, POLITICS IN CASPIAN BASINA pipeline linking a port and a rail terminal in Dyubendy went into commission in the presence of Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January. The facilities are a trans-shipment point for oil from the Tengiz field in Kazakhstan brought to Dyubendy by ship and then transported by train to Batumi. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan and the U.S. agreed on 31 December to increase their cooperation in the development of Uzbekistan's oil and gas industry, Interfax reported. But the previous day, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry told Interfax-Kazakhstan that Akmola has "serious concerns" about a Russian tender offer and demands that the tender be "annulled," Interfax- Kazakhstan reported. PG
 UZBEKISTAN, TAJIKISTAN REACH ACCORD ON DEBTUzbek President Islam Karimov and his visiting Tajik counterpart, Imomali Rakhmonov, have signed agreements to settle debts between their two countries, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January. Karimov said Tashkent will oppose any efforts by the Tajik opposition to transform that country into an Islamic state. The two presidents are to join the their counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan for a Central Asian summit in Ashgabat on 5 January. That meeting will have no specific agenda, according to Interfax. PG
 BURGLARS WOUND IRANIAN DIPLOMAT IN KYRGYZSTANThieves seeking to steal a satellite television dish from the Iranian consulate in Bishkek attacked the consul and his son, IRNA reported on 4 January. The two have been hospitalized in serious condition. Tehran has sent a letter to the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry calling for the prompt arrest of those responsible. PG
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY SAYS ARMED STRUGGLE HAS BEGUNThe clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) issued a statement in Pristina on 4 January saying it is the armed force of the Kosovo Albanians and has begun the fight for the unification of Kosovo with Albania. The text explained that armed and uniformed UCK representatives had made their first public appearance on 28 November, the Albanian national holiday, in order to underscore those points (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1997). PM
 SERBIAN PATRIARCH CONDEMNS KOSOVO CRACKDOWNPatriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church on 3 January condemned the violent breakup by Serbian police of peaceful student protests in Pristina, Djakovica, and Pec on 30 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1997). At least 82 Kosovars were injured. In a statement released to Belgrade media, Pavle said the police not only "broke the rules [regulating peaceful protest] but besmirched the honor of the country where we live." He called for an Albanian-Serbian dialogue and for compromise. Pavle said the Albanians, for their part, should recognize that Serbia is their country and not equate Serbia with the current regime. In Pristina, Vice President Fehmi Agani of the Democratic League of Kosovo welcomed Pavle's announcement but added that key differences remain between the patriarch and the Kosovars. PM
 KOSOVARS TO CONTINUE PROTESTSKosovar student spokesmen said in Pristina on 4 January that they will continue their protests, BETA news agency reported. Also in Pristina, opposition coalition leader Adem Demaci said on 1 January that the danger of a "worsening of the situation between the Kosovars and the Serbian authorities" is much greater now than it was six months ago. For this state of affairs, he partly blamed the current Kosovar leadership of shadow-state Ibrahim Rugova, who, Demaci charged, bases his policies on wishful thinking. The previous day, Rugova expressed his concern over the police action, which officials of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also condemned. PM
 TIRANA SLAMS SERBIAN REPRESSIONThe Albanian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 1 January criticizing the police crackdown in Pristina. "The violence, the ill-treatment, and the arrest of students and their teachers are counter to the desire to Europeanize the Balkans, which Belgrade supported at the Balkan summit on Crete" on 3-4 November, the statement read. The Albanian ministry called for a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. PM
 HARD-LINERS WARNED IN MONTENEGROSvetozar Marovic, the speaker of the Montenegrin parliament and an ally of reformist President Milo Djukanovic, said in Podgorica on 1 January that outgoing President Momir Bulatovic is preparing his followers for an armed confrontation with the reformers and with the Albanian and Muslim minorities. On 4 January, State Prosecutor Vladimir Susovic and spokesmen for the Interior Ministry warned Bulatovic's supporters that they may be prosecuted if their rallies lead to violence. PM
 DJUKANOVIC SAYS BELGRADE TO BLAME FOR OWN PROBLEMSPresident-elect Djukanovic told "Nasa Borba" of 1 January that Yugoslavia's isolation and poverty are largely its own fault and not the result of an international conspiracy against the Serbs. Djukanovic called Belgrade "suicidal" for having believed in the early 1990s that international sanctions would actually help Yugoslavia by forcing it to develop its own economic resources and live within its means. He said that the worst problem was that the Belgrade leadership came to believe its own propaganda and see itself as a victim of ill-willed foreigners. Meanwhile, "Nasa Borba" named Djukanovic its "man of the year" for 1997 because of his role in promoting political change in Yugoslavia. PM
 YUGOSLAV ARMS CACHES FOUND IN SLAVONIAUN police, acting on an anonymous tip-off, found 100 crates of arms belonging to the former Yugoslav army hidden in a canal near Vukovar on 1 January. The containers included rocket-launchers, heavy machine-guns, and various kinds of ammunition. In other news, Croatian Deputy Interior Minister Josko Moric said in Zagreb on 30 December that three Croatian reserve policemen in eastern Slavonia have been fired following a brawl with Serbian civilians near Osijek the previous week. He also pledged to press charges against the three. PM
 BOSNIAN SERB HARD-LINERS REJECT PLAVSIC'S PREMIERAleksa Buha of the Serbian Democratic Party and Nikola Poplasen of the Serbian Radical Party said in Bijeljina on 3 January that they will not enter a government of national unity as proposed by Mladen Ivanic, the prime- minister designate of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic. Buha and Poplasen added that they advised Ivanic to ask Plavsic to nominate someone else as premier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 December 1997). PM
 WESTENDORP SETS DEADLINE ON LICENSE PLATESCarlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 30 December that he will use his new executive powers to decree a unified license plate design for all Bosnia if the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims do not agree on one by the end of January. An international conference in Bonn on 9-10 January gave Westendorp the authority to make decisions that the leaderships of the three ethnic groups have been unwilling or unable to take. Many observers feel there can be no freedom of movement in Bosnia as long as each ethnic group has its own license plates, which makes it easy for hard-liners to spot and intimidate people of other ethnic groups. PM
 ALBANIAN PREMIER PLEDGES NEW CONSTITUTION IN 1998Fatos Nano said in his New Year's address that he is determined to give the country a new constitution in 1998. The previous government failed to adopt a new constitution by referendum in December 1994. Nano pointed out that instabililty in the country has been "provoked by the void left by having no constitution." He said that the basic law would be put to a referendum once it had been approved by the parliament. FS
 ALBANIAN INTERIOR MINISTER WANTS DEATH PENALTYNeritan Ceka said on 30 December that he favors the reintroduction of death penalty. Albania has not formally abolished capital punishment but has been banned from carrying out the death sentence since its admission to the Council of Europe in August 1995. The council has stipulated that the parliament must abolish the death penalty within a "reasonable" time frame. Ceka also noted that only 10 percent of the 1 million arms looted in 1997 have been returned to the authorities. FS
 GREECE TO HELP REORGANIZE ALBANIA'S NAVYGreek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos has pledged to help reorganize the Albanian Navy and upgrade the ports of Saranda and Durres. During a two- day visit to Tirana on 29- 30 December, he proposed creating a common security institution for the Balkans. Athens has said it will assist Tirana with funds to build apartments for army officers and help revive Albania's military industry. Greece has already helped rebuild the military hospital in Tirana and is planing to improve the capital's military airport. FS
 ROYAL SUCCESSION PROVOKES CONTROVERSY IN ROMANIAPresident Emil Constantinescu said in a 3 January televised address that changing the form of government from a republic to a monarchy would be an "illegal and immoral act." His statement came in response to former King Michael's announcement on 30 December that he intends to designate his eldest daughter, Princess Margaret, as his successor and that he and his family will spend as much time as possible in Romania. The previous day, Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea had said that if the former monarch wants to return to the country, he must respect the existing constitution, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Party of Social Democracy in Romania has threatened to initiate proceedings to suspend Constantinescu for allegedly encouraging the restoration of the monarchy. MS
 EXTREMIST ROMANIAN LEADER ATTACKS CONSTANTINESCUCorneliu Vadim Tudor, the leader of the extremist Greater Romania Party, has said that President Constantinescu is "guilty of high treason," Radio Bucharest reported on 4 January. He argued that Constantinescu is guilty of bringing about the loss of Romanian territories" by signing the basic treaty with Ukraine. He also held the president responsible for the coming to power of the "separatists' organization" representing ethnic Hungarians in Romania and accused him of "undermining the national economy." On 23 December, Prosecutor-General Sorin Moisescu asked the parliament to lift Tudor's immunity for insulting the president. The request followed Tudor's 19 December statement claiming that Constantinescu is a "secret agent" whose policies seek to reward "those who brought him to power." MS
 OFFICIAL CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST ROMANIAN FORMER DEFENSE MINISTERThe Prosecutor-General's Office on 30 December officially charged General Victor Stanculescu with having ordered troops to fire on demonstrators in Timisoara in December 1989 , RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. No date has been set for the trial. Stanculescu was defense minister in 1990-1991. In related news, Prosecutor-General Sorin Moisescu said on 19 December that his office has not yet opened a "criminal investigation" into the role that former President Ion Iliescu played in the December 1989 events. MS
 MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES 1998 BUDGETThe Moldovan parliament on 29 December approved next year's budget, which, in line with IMF and World Bank recommendations, provides for a deficit of 3.5 percent of GDP. The parliament also approved freezing the debts of state companies accumulated until 1 January 1997, provided that those companies pay their debts to the state budget accumulated since that date. MS
[C] END NOTE
 ONE COUNTRY, TWO FOREIGN POLICIESby Paul Goble Conflicting statements by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his foreign minister, Yevgenii Primakov, on the state of relations between Moscow and the West raise some questions about Russian foreign policy intentions in 1998.
In his New Year's messages to foreign leaders, Yeltsin said Russia's inclusion in the G-7 group of major economic powers--which now becomes in effect the G-8--and progress on disarmament issues by the U.S. and Russia were evidence of "effective Russian-American cooperation."
But in his year-end assessment at a 30 December press conference, Primakov adopted a very different tone by suggesting that Moscow's effort to form a strategic partnership with the West has failed. He commented that the idea of such cooperation has "lost its luster with time" and that "such ties have started turning into those between patron and client." Russia could never find such a relationship acceptable, he stressed.
Primakov went on to say that Russia not only remained opposed to any eastward expansion of NATO but was actively considering the extension of Russian security guarantees to those countries in Central and Eastern Europe not offered membership in the Western alliance.
Despite coexisting in the same government, the two men have often been at odds in the past on a wide variety of foreign policy issues. But seldom has the distance between the two been so great on an issue of such fundamental importance. This raises three interrelated questions.
First, does the latest difference between Yeltsin and Primakov presage a break between the two? Second, is it simply a tactic designed to compensate for Russia's current weakness? And third, what does it portend for Russian foreign policy, especially if Yeltsin is incapacitated for lengthy periods this year?
In virtually any other country, such a deep division between the president and his top foreign policy aide would presage the rapid departure of the latter from office. No president with executive responsibility for foreign affairs could be expected to tolerate what must appear to other leaders as open insubordination.
One explanation for Primakov's continued survival is that he represents a part of the Russian political spectrum that Yeltsin cannot or will not challenge even if he personally disagrees with it. Yeltsin appointed Primakov to placate the nationalists within the State Duma and more broadly among the Russian population; he may not be able to fire him even if he wants to.
A second interpretation is that Primakov may be in political trouble and that he is speaking out now precisely to drum up support for himself among his traditional allies. If that is the case, Russia may have a new foreign minister sooner rather than later.
Another interpretation, increasingly heard both in Moscow and the West, is that this public disagreement is simply a clever tactic, with Yeltsin agreeing to play the part of the sympathetic good cop while Primakov acts out the bad cop. Each would stand to gain as a result. Yeltsin could approach the West as a friend with a warning--in the form of the voice of Primakov--that another, less sympathetic Russia is possible if the West does not give him what he wants.
If this interpretation is correct, the two men have more in common than a superficial reading of their speeches might suggest. Moreover, no one should expect a fundamental change in the direction of Russian foreign policy anytime soon.
But even if the two men are playing such roles--which is far from certain-- they do have very different ideas, at least as far as can be judged on the basis of their public remarks. That in turn raises the issue of just where Primakov might take Russian foreign policy if Yeltsin were incapacitated for an extended period, as was often the case last year.
If Yeltsin were to disappear from the political arena, a new Russian government might decide either to replace Primakov or to back him fully. But if Yeltsin is not in full control of the situation, Primakov may be able to act ever more independently. That could have the effect of making Primakov's New Year message a self-fulfilling prophecy, thereby undercutting Yeltsin's more hopeful one.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty