|Sunday, 8 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 8, 98-01-14
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 8, 14 January 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN LEADERSHIP DIVIDED OVER KARABAKH?Serious differences emerged within the Armenian leadership during the 7-8 January Security Council meeting, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 14 January, citing the independent daily "Aravot." The newspaper quotes an unidentified source as saying President Levon Ter- Petrossyan's conciliatory position was backed by Yerevan Mayor Vano Siradeghian and parliamentary leaders. Prime Minister Robert Kocharian, Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, and Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian supported the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which has rejected the most recent peace proposal of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group. Presidential spokesman Levon Zurabian denied that Ter-Petrossyan threatened to split into two the Interior and National Security Ministry, headed by Karabakh-born Serzh Sarkisian. That threat reportedly prompted Kocharian, also a native of Karabakh, to tender his resignation, which Ter-Petrossyan refused to accept. LF
 GEORGIA ACCUSES ABKHAZIA OF GENOCIDE...The Georgian Foreign Ministry on13 January issued a statement claiming that the allegedly "barbaric" detention of ethnic Georgians in Gali Raion on 7 January is part of a "policy of ethnic purges and genocide" against the breakaway republic's ethnic Georgian population, Interfax reported. The Abkhaz police detained 30 Georgian bus passengers on 7 January to check their identity papers (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 January 1998). The Georgian statement further appealed for stronger international support, primarily from the UN, for Tbilisi's efforts to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict. LF
 ...WHILE ABKHAZIA DENIES CHARGESAlso on 13 January, Igor Akhba, Abkhazia's permanent representative in Moscow, rejected the Georgian Foreign Ministry's charges of genocide, saying the new Abkhaz passport checks introduced last month are aimed solely at combatting crime. The same day, the Abkhaz Foreign Ministry condemned any attempt to resolve the dead-locked conflict by force. Since 1 January, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has twice suggested that the international community could mount a peace-keeping operation in Abkhazia similar to that in Bosnia. Meeting in Tbilisi in August1997, Shevardnadze and his Abkhaz counterpart, Vladislav Ardzinba, rejected the use of force in resolving their differences. LF
 CHERNOMYRDIN IN TURKMENISTANRussian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 13 January. The two signed an agreement avoiding double-taxation did not conclude an accord on shipping natural gas via Russia, which was Chernomyrdin's publicized reason for visiting Turkmenistan. Chernomyrdin was accompanied by a Gazprom delegation headed by the company chairman, Rem Vyakhirev. Turkmenistan has complained about the high costs of using Russian pipelines and that Russia buys Turkmen gas for half its real value. BP
 KUNAEV COMMEMORATEDA mass meeting took place in Almaty on 12 January to mark the 86th anniversary of the birth of Dinmuhammed Kunaev, former CPSU Politburo full member and First Secretary of the Kazakh Communist Central Committee from 1964 to 1986, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported the next day. Kunaev's ouster in December 1986 and his replacement by ethnic Russian Gennadii Kolbin sparked mass protest demonstrations in Almaty in which dozens of people were killed. Kunaev died in 1993. Also on 12 January, prayers were held at his grave in Almaty's Kentau cemetery. LF
 MAJOR INCREASE IN GOLD PRODUCTION IN KYRGYZSTANThe state gold company Kyrgyzaltyn announced on 13 January that gold production reached 17 tons last year, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported. That total is a major increase over the 1996 figure of 1.5 tons. The boost in production is attributed to the Kumtor mining operation, a joint venture with Canada's Cameco Corp., which began full operations last year. Although the gold produced in 1997 has an estimated value of $176 million, the Kyrgyz state budget received only about $8 million from the gold industry last year. BP
 DATE OF NEXT CIS SUMMIT IN QUESTION?CIS Deputy Executive Secretary Stanislav Lebeznik told Interfax on 13 January that the schedules of all CIS heads of state must be coordinated in order to set the date for the next CIS summit. At the last summit in Moldova in October, it was agreed that summits should be held annually on 23 January and on 16 March. The January summit was canceled last week at the initiative of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to allow for "fundamental preparation of all the necessary documents," according to Labeznik. At that time, however, it was also announced that the March summit will go ahead as scheduled. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MONTENEGRO'S BULATOVIC CLIMBS DOWNOutgoing Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic and his rival, President- elect Milo Djukanovic, began talks on 14 January to resolve their differences (see "RFE/RL Newsline, 13 January 1998). Bulatovic announced the talks after talks on 12 January with visiting Yugoslav Prime Minister Radoje Kontic, a representative of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who is also Bulatovic's political supporter. Observers suggested that the Belgrade leadership, under pressure from the U.S. and the international community, has told Bulatovic to stop his efforts aimed at blocking Djukanovic's smooth succession to the presidency on 15 January. The Belgrade daily "Nasa Borba" reported that Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, who is a key ally of Milosevic, will attend Djukanovic's inauguration. PM
 KOSOVO SERBS CONTINUE PROTESTSThe Bozur [Peony] Society, which represents Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo, held a rally in Kosovo Polje on 13 January. Speakers said that Serbian authorities in Belgrade assured Bozur's delegation the previous day that Serbia will not allow Albanian "nationalists and extremists" to practice "terrorism" against the Kosovo Serbs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1998). The speakers did not say whether the delegation spoke with Milosevic, as Bozur's leader Bogdan Kecman had earlier demanded. Kecman and other speakers promised to continue to hold rallies in various parts of Kosovo until Belgrade gives more support to the Kosovo Serbs and until the Albanians stop "threatening the Serbs with war," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Pristina. PM
 KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY CONTROLS OWN TERRITORYThe clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army UCK) is firmly in control of an area of about 60 square kilometers around the town of Srbica, the Sarajevo daily "Oslobodjenje" reported from Kosovo on 14 January. The UCK's goal is to establish an independent state consisting of Kosovo and parts of western Macedonia, where the population is mainly Albanian, the daily added. PM
 UN EXTENDS MANDATE IN PREVLAKAThe UN Security Council voted unanimously in New York on 13 January to extend until 15 July the mandate of the military observer mission monitoring the demilitarization of the Prevlaka peninsula. Prevlaka is Croatian territory but is claimed by Belgrade because it controls access to the Bay of Kotor, where Yugoslavia's only deep-water naval base is located. The Croatian media have suggested on several occasions in recent years that President Franjo Tudjman might be willing to exchange Prevlaka for Serbian- held Bosnian territory near Dubrovnik. But they claim he had to abandon his plans under pressure from the international community and from domestic public opinion. PM
 U.S., MILOSEVIC BACK PLAVSIC'S PRIME MINISTERRepublika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 13 January that both Milosevic and visiting U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard endorse her nominee, Mladen Ivanic, for the post of prime minister. Meanwhile in Pale, hard-line leader Momcilo Krajisnik confirmed that Milosevic backs Ivanic, but he said that the ultra-nationalist parties, which won a plurality of the vote in the 1997 legislative elections, will insist on naming their own prime minister. Current Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic called Ivanic a "tool of foreign interests." PM
 BOSNIA NAMES 32 AMBASSADORSThe members of the three-man joint presidency agreed in Sarajevo on 13 January on a list of 32 ambassadors. An RFE/RL correspondent reported that the presidency could not agree, however, on who would be the ambassador to the U.S. The Serbs have insisted on this key post for themselves, while the Muslims have suggested that it go to a Jew or to someone else who is neither Serbian, Croatian, nor Muslim. The international community has been applying pressure to all three sides for months in an effort to persuade them to agree on a joint list of ambassadors and on joint institutions. In related news, Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said he may make a decision on establishing a joint Bosnian currency if the three sides cannot resolve the matter themselves. PM
 NATO TROOPS SEIZE ILLEGAL SERB ARMSOver the past few days, Danish SFOR troops confiscated two tons of arms from the homes of Bosnian Serbs in the Ozren area between Doboj and Tuzla. A NATO spokesman said in Tuzla on 13 January that there were no casualties in the operation, code-named "Big Bad Wolf." PM
 TOUGH YEAR AHEAD FOR SLOVENIAForeign Minister Boris Frlec said in Ljubljana on 13 January that "the year 1998 will be one of the toughest for Slovenia's domestic and foreign policies because of the extensive and difficult tasks ahead of us." Frlec added that his top priority is to negotiate Slovenia's entry into the EU, which he hopes will be completed by 2003. He also noted that "we are involved in intensive dialogue with NATO and we have to prove this year that we can join the alliance because a decision on further NATO enlargement will be made at the beginning of 1999." PM
 BOMBS DESTROY SOCIALIST HQ IN GJIROKASTERThree large bombs destroyed the Socialist Party headquarters and damaged the local prosecutor's office in the Socialist stronghold of Gjirokaster on 13 January. The neighboring offices of the city's prefecture and the municipality were also damaged. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which resulted in no casualties. Socialist parliamentary faction leader Pandeli Majko said the attack had a "clearly political background," but he dismissed allegations by local Socialist leader Besnik Shehu that the opposition Democratic Party may have been involved, "Koha Jone" reported. It was the 15th bomb blast in Gjirokaster since 13 December. Other attacks have targeted the former family home of communist dictator Enver Hoxha, an overpass, and a children's home. FS
 FORMER ALBANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER INVESTIGATED FOR ARMS TRAFFICKINGThe Prosecutor-General's Office is investigating former Defense Minister Safet Zhulali and some former high-ranking military officers for arms smuggling, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported on 14 January. Former Prime Minister Aleksander Meksi, however, told the daily that the previous Democratic Party government was not involved in any illegal deals. He claimed that all revenues from legal arms trade have been properly accounted for. Unnamed officials in the office claim that the state budget does not include any revenues from arms sales. FS
 DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION OF ROMANIA ON COALITION CRISISThe Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) Council has expressed the hope that the Democratic Party's National Council, which meets on 14 January to discuss the coalition crisis, will opt for continuing the coalition. CDR chairman Ion Diaconescu argued that although opinion surveys indicate that the CDR might increase its strength in the parliament if early elections are held, "national interest" is more important. Diaconescu also warned that if the coalition is dismembered, the Democrats will lose their posts in both local and central government structures. He said such an upheaval would unavoidably "harm the country's economic and political stability," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 TRANSPORTATION MINISTER ON CRISISTraian Basescu says he has "nothing to retract" from his criticism of the government and that consequently "my decision to resign from the government is irrevocable, regardless of the Democratic Party's decision." Democratic Party chairman Petre Roman says the party's National Council is meeting "in order to give the country the means of putting the government on the right reform track." Adrian Nastase, deputy chairman of the main opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania, said that given the Democrats' experience of ruling with "the right," a future alliance between their two formations cannot be ruled out. He added that the best solution to the crisis is early elections, RFE RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 RUSSIAN ARMY IN TRANSDNIESTER PROTESTS ROMANIAN "PROVOCATION"The command of the Operational Group of Russian Forces deployed in the Transdniester on 13 January officially protested what it called a "gross provocation" by a Romanian general. On 25 December 1997, the Chisinau newspaper "Mesagerul" published an article by General Mircea Calmaru saying his troops are "capable of giving short shrift to two armies such as those based in the Transdniester." Calmaru heads the 10th Romanian Corps, stationed in Iasi, on the border with Moldova. The Russian command says that it has informed the Russian Ministry of Defense about the general's "rude and insulting" statements, Infotag reported. MS
 VOTING PROCEDURES FOR TRANSDNIESTRIANS IN MOLDOVAN ELECTIONSPresidential counselor Anatol Taranu told RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau on 13 January that the Transdniester authorities say that in order to vote in the March parliamentary elections, Moldovan citizens in the separatist region will be allowed to "cross the border." The separatists will not allow balloting to take place on the right bank of the Dniester. Meanwhile, the United Social Democratic Party of Moldova and the Speranta [Hope] movement on 13 January set up an electoral alliance that will run as the "Speranta Bloc." MS
 EU THREATENS SANCTIONS AGAINST BULGARIA OVER CD PIRACYEuropean Commission expert Vincent Pincert told an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia on 13 January that rampant compact disc piracy in Bulgaria is damaging the country's bid for eventual EU membership. Pincert added Bulgaria faces international sanctions in the near future as well. He said state and private producers illegally copy some 45 million CDs a year, more than double the piracy rate one year ago. Most pirate CDs are redistributed through Russia or exported directly to the EU, he noted. MS
[C] END NOTE
 U.S.-BALTIC CHARTER: MILESTONE ON WAY TO WESTby Sonia Winter
The presidents of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania arrived in Washington on 13 January to begin three days of highly visible meetings and ceremonies marking the start of a new chapter in their relations with the U.S.
The high point will be on 16 January at the White House with the signing of a U.S.-Baltic Charter of Partnership, which pledges U.S. support for the integration of the three Baltic nations into Western institutions, including NATO.
From the U.S. perspective, the document marks the true beginning of normal state-to-state relations and the end of the long journey of the Baltic States from the 1940 Soviet occupation, through the declaration of independence, and recovery from Soviet dominion in the first half of the 1990s, to genuine sovereignty and continuing democratization in the closing years of the decade.
But for many in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the charter, which took a year to complete, is only another step forward on their way West--one that falls short of initial high hopes.
State Department spokesman James Rubin on 13 January articulated what the charter does, as well as what it does not do. He thereby pinpointed the quiet controversy, kept out of the public eye during the negotiations.
The charter, Rubin said, sets a framework for development of U.S.-Baltic relations and is a clear statement of U.S. support for "Baltic integration into European and transatlantic institutions." He noted that "the U.S. welcomes and supports Baltic aspirations to join NATO." But he also said "the charter is not a security guarantee" and "does not commit the U.S. to [supporting] Baltic membership."
He emphasized that "the charter in fact reaffirms U.S. policy that aspirants can become members only as they prove themselves able and willing to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership."
Although Estonia is generally recognized by experts as being as able and willing as other successful NATO candidates, Baltic leaders have had to accept their exclusion from plans for the first round of NATO expansion, which was confined to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, Moreover, the Baltics may also miss out on a second round of NATO enlargement, expected after 1999. Washington sources say U.S. officials have advised the Baltic governments they will not be able to join NATO anytime soon.
When asked about Baltic membership, the stock reply of U.S. and NATO officials is that enlargement must take into account the interests of the whole alliance and not weaken it in any way. In other words, U.S. and NATO officials say concern about Russia's opposition is a looming factor in consideration of Baltic membership in the alliance.
Rubin said the U.S. has briefed Russia on the Baltic charter--which seems designed in part to soothe Russian sensitivities regarding the Baltic States--but has not received an official reaction. He noted that the document contains specific language "welcoming the NATO-Russia Founding Act, and the strength in NATO-Russia relationships as core elements of their shared vision of a new and peaceful Europe."
Another early disappointment for Baltic leaders, especially Lithuanians, was U.S. insistence on one charter for all three states instead of separate bilateral documents for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
But in Washington this week, there will be public praise and applause for the charter. Presidents Lennart Meri of Estonia, Guntis Ulmanis of Latvia, and Algirdas Brazauskas of Lithuania have already said that the charter is a unique and significant document that will strengthen regional stability and forge closer ties with Europe and the U.S.
The charter sets up three bilateral working groups loosely modeled on U.S. commissions with Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, which are co-chaired by U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the respective president. The ranking U.S. official on the U.S.- Baltic Partnership Commission is expected to be Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, with Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Stuart Eizenstat in charge of economic development issues. They will meet regularly to advance cooperation in science, technology, commerce, and other areas.
Outgoing Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas will sign for his country. But Lithuanian sources say President-elect Valdas Adamkus may reaffirm the Partnership Charter when he makes his first trip to the U.S. as president. Adamkus is to be inaugurated into office in late February.
The author is a Washington-based RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty