|Saturday, 21 September 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 11, 98-01-19
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 11, 19 January 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 KARABAKH OFFICIAL ADMITS POLICY DIFFERENCES WITH YEREVANDifferences between Yerevan and Stepanakert on how to resolve the Karabakh conflict have deepened following the 7-8 January session of the Armenian Security Council, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 16 January, quoting an unnamed Nagorno- Karabakh official. The official criticized Yerevan for allegedly "joining with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Azerbaijan" in trying to push through the OSCE's latest peace plan, which he said is "unrealistic" and endangers Karabakh's security. He added that Stepanakert will take "more drastic steps to strengthen its independence," but he gave no details. Also on 16 January, the Security Council of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic convened in Stepanakert to discuss how to overcome its differences with Yerevan over the best approach to resolving the conflict, Noyan Tapan reported. LF
 ARMENIAN STRESSES ONLY OSCE CAN RESOLVE KARABAKH CONFLICTArmenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian on 15 January told Armenpress that Armenia would welcome efforts by various countries, including Iran, to promote confidence building measures among the parties to the Nagorno- Karabakh conflict. But Gasparian pointed out that the sole forum empowered to mediate a formal solution to that conflict is the OSCE. Iran is not a member of that organization. IRNA had cited Armenian Foreign Minister Alexander Arzouamian as having told the Iranian ambassador in Yerevan on 5 January that Armenia and Azerbaijan would welcome Iranian mediation in the conflict. LF
 ARMENIA'S KURDISH POPULATION DWINDLINGAlmost half of Armenia's 60,000 Yezidi Kurdish community has emigrated in recent years, primarily because of adverse socio-economic conditions, Noyan Tapan reported on 15 January, quoting Aziz Tamoyan, the chairman of the Yezidi National Union of Armenia. The Yezidi National Union of Armenia was formally registered by the Armenian Justice Ministry in November 1997. Kurds in Armenia have newspaper and radio broadcasts in their native language. The Yezidis are Zoroastrians, whereas most Kurds are Muslims. LF
 GEORGIA ACCUSES RUSSIA OF OBSTRUCTING ABKHAZ SETTLEMENTPresidential adviser Levan Aleksidze told Interfax on 16 January that the Russian Foreign Ministry is obstructing implementation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's August 1997 proposals for resolving the Abkhaz conflict. Aleksidze said that "intentionally or unintentionally," the Russian Foreign Ministry's actions are encouraging Abkhaz separatist forces and thus undermining Georgia's stability. On 17 January, Georgian Ambassador to Moscow Vazha Lortkipanidze told ITAR-TASS that Georgia is "extremely dissatisfied" with the lack of progress toward resolving the conflict and expediting the repatriation of ethnic Georgian displaced persons. He repeated President Eduard Shevardnadze's proposal that the international community launch a "Bosnia-type" operation to enforce peace in Abkhazia. LF
 ABKHAZIA REJECTS "BOSNIA OPTION"Meanwhile, Abkhaz presidential adviser Anri Djergenia told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 January that international intervention to enforce peace in Abkhazia is inappropriate, given that the situation in Abkhazia does not pose a threat to the international community. He argued that the UN statutes permit such an operation only in the case of aggression by one conflict party. Djergenia further denied Georgian charges that Abkhazia is obstructing the repatriation of Georgian fugitives. He claimed that some 100,000 Georgians have so far returned to Abkhazia, of whom half have settled in their former homes in Gali Raion. LF
 KAZAKH PRESIDENT SEES CUSTOMS UNION AS NUCLEUS OF EURASIAN UNIONNursultan Nazarbaev told military cadets on 16 January that, in a telephone conversation the previous day, he and Russian President Yeltsin agreed that the only item on the agenda of the 22 January CIS Customs Union meeting will be the upgrading of that body to a full-fledged economic union comparable to the EU, Interfax reported. Nazarbaev said he is counting on the other three members of the CIS Customs Union to back his proposal, for a Eurasian union of CIS states. He first made that proposal in March 1994. LF
 TAJIK GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION EXCHANGE SWIPESFollowing the 15 January decision by the United Tajik Opposition to suspend its participation in the National Reconciliation Commission, the UTO and Tajik government have accused each other of violating the 1997 peace agreement. The UTO has claimed, among other things, that the government had not yet amnestied all eligible UTO members and has failed to approve cabinet posts for UTO representatives, especially UTO deputy leader Ali Akbar Turajonzoda, who remains in Tehran. The government counters that the UTO continues to recruit new members and that former fighters of the UTO have hidden weapons rather than handing them over. Nonetheless, both sides have said all problems will be resolved shortly and that the work of the commission will resume. BP
 UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER IN TASHKENTUkrainian Prime Minister Valerii Pustovoitenko was in the Uzbek capital on 16 January to attend the second meeting of the Ukrainian-Uzbek cooperation commission, Tashkent Radio reported. The commission signed five agreements on cooperation in science and technology and improving communications between the two governments. Pustovoitenko also met with Uzbek Prime Minister Utkur Sultanov and reached a "preliminary agreement" on Uzbek shipments of up to 6 billion cubic meters of gas to Ukraine this year. They also discussed joint projects in passenger and cargo airplane construction and Ukrainian assistance in building new rail tracks in Uzbekistan. BP
 TURKMENISTAN RECEIVES SEAT ON UN SECRETARIATUN Secretary- General Kofi Annan sent Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov a letter on 17 January confirming Turkmenistan's seat in the UN Secretariat, ITAR-TASS reported. BP
 TURKMENISTAN READY TO BUY FRENCH OIL EQUIPMENTThe state- owned Turkmengeologiya corporation has made public its intention to purchase more than $9 million worth of equipment from the French company Sercel, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 January. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov ordered the Bank of Foreign Economics Activities to complete the necessary paper work to buy the equipment, which is expected to "increase the effectiveness of oil and gas prospecting and production" in Turkmenistan. BP
 FIRST KAZAKH OIL ARRIVES IN CHINAA train carrying the first shipment of oil from Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field to China arrived in western China's Uyghur Autonomous Republic on 17 January, ITAR-TASS reported. The 3,500 tons will be refined in western China. If Chinese experts approve the quality of the refined oil, Kazakhstan will ship up to 1 million metric tons of oil to China this year by rail. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBS, MUSLIMS, CROATS ELECT PLAVSIC'S PRIME MINISTERMuslim and Croatian deputies joined moderate Serbs in the Bosnian Serb parliament to elect Independent Social Democrat Milorad Dodik as prime minister in Bijeljina on 17 January. Dodik was the nominee of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and won with 42 votes in the 83-seat legislature after hard-line supporters of Radovan Karadzic walked out. The new prime minister promised the next day to respect the Dayton agreement and cooperate with the international community, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Bijeljina. Dodik also pledged to fight corruption and lawlessness and to promote economic development. The new defense minister will be General Manojlo Milovanovic and the interior portfolio will be taken over by Milovan Stankovic. Dodik (38), who comes from northwestern Bosnia, made money during the war by selling Bosnian timber in Yugoslavia and importing fuel and coffee from there. PM
 PALE SERBS CHARGE "COUP D'ETAT"Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) leaders Momcilo Krajisnik and Aleksa Buha said in Pale on 18 January that they do not accept Dodik's election as legitimate. Buha added that the vote was "sort of a coup d'etat" by President Plavsic. Socialist leader Nikola Poplasen, an ally of the SDS, said that Dodik's election marks the culmination of the split of the Republika Srpska into two. Buha said the SDS will not recognize any of the new government's decisions as binding and will announce the party's course of action on 19 January. PM
 PLAVSIC SAYS DODIK'S ELECTION "SAVED" REPUBLIKA SRPSKAPresident Plavsic said in Banja Luka on 18 January that Dodik's victory means that the Bosnian Serbs will keep control over their own affairs. She noted that Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, had threatened to name a prime minister if the parliament did not do so. Plavsic added that the Karadzic loyalists "showed what they're about" with their obstructionist tactics. She stated that the Republika Srpska needs leaders who can work with the international community. PM
 NATO GUARDS BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT BUILDINGSA spokesman for Carlos Westendorp in Sarajevo on 18 January hailed Dodik's election and called for a peaceful transfer of power. NATO spokesmen said the next day that SFOR troops took up positions outside the Interior Ministry in Pale on 18 January and stepped up their presence in Bijeljina. PM
 SERBS ATTACK MUSLIMS, POLICE IN SREBRENICAThe Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on 17 January condemned an attack by 600 Serbs on UN police and Muslim politicians in Srebrenica the previous day. Muslim refugees elected the politicians to local government offices in last September's elections. Implementation of the election results is essential if there is to be any chance of reversing the results of "ethnic cleansing" in Srebrenica or elsewhere in Bosnia. PM
 MOURNING FOLLOWS SERBIAN MINING DISASTERA memorial service took place on 18 January at a coal mine in Citluk near the Bulgarian border for 29 miners killed in an underground accident two days earlier when methane gas exploded. Serbian President Milan Milutinovic and other top officials took part in the service. Police arrested four members of the mine's management after the explosion. Serbian mines suffer from a combination of poor safety conditions and insufficient funds to make necessary improvements. Some 232 miners have died in underground accidents since 1971, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Belgrade on 17 January. PM
 RUSSIA CRITICIZES BELGRADE'S PLANS FOR NATORussian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told Interfax on 16 January that Moscow strongly opposes a recent statement by Yugoslav Army Chief-of-Staff General Momcilo Perisic that Belgrade should aim toward NATO membership as a way toward ending its international isolation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January 1998). Nesterushkin said that European countries must concentrate their efforts on building a Europe without demarcation lines. Interfax quoted an unnamed Russian expert in international affairs as saying that Yugoslavia could take many steps on its own to end its isolation "before knocking on NATO's door." PM
 BULATOVIC RULES OUT ROLE IN MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENTSpokesmen for supporters of former President Momir Bulatovic said in Podgorica on 18 January that they refuse to participate in President Milo Djukanovic's ongoing talks about forming a new government, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Montenegrin capital. The correspondent added that the front-runner for the premiership appears to be Interior Minister Filip Vujanovic. PM
 GREECE OFFERS TO MEDIATE IN KOSOVOAlternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou said in Athens on 16 January that he is willing to mediate in talks between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano, and Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova. Rugova's deputy, Fehmi Agani, told the Belgrade daily "Blic" of 19 January, however, that the Kosovars will not accept the Greek offer. Agami said a Rugova-Milosevic summit cannot be held before key problems have been solved. PM
 ARMED CONFLICT AMONG SHKODER POLICESeveral policemen occupied the police station in Shkoder on 17 January to protest the recent appointment of local police chief Mithat Havari, who comes from Elbasan. The protesting policemen fired shots into the air and called for Havari's resignation, "Koha Jone" reported. Earlier that day, Havari had said that some of his subordinates were to blame for a 16 January explosion at the police station, "Shekulli" reported. Havari had also claimed earlier that some of his colleagues are involved in smuggling and corruption and use "terrorism" to prevent the local police force from being reformed. The Interior Ministry has since sent special forces to the northern city. Meanwhile, a bomb exploded in Shkoder's hospital on 17 January. Nobody was injured. FS
 ANTI-CORRUPTION AGENCY CHARGES EX-CHIEF WITH DESTROYING FILESThe State Control Agency, which is tasked with combatting corruption, asked the Albanian Prosecutor-General's Office on 17 January to open an investigation into Blerim Cela, a former head of the agency. The officials say that hundreds of secret files compiled under the previous Democratic government are missing. Mustafa Kercuku, who is the agency's current director and belongs to the conservative National Front Party, also charges Cela with having destroyed most of the agency's correspondence with high- ranking Democratic government officials, including President Sali Berisha, "Koha Jone" reported. FS
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON COALITION CRISISIn a televised address on 17 January, Emil Constantinescu said there is "no genuine political crisis" in Romania, but only a "government crisis" triggered by those with "narrow party interests." He stressed that all public opinion polls show that trust in those elected in November 1966 is growing and warned that the ongoing conflict is greatly harming the country's international image and economic credibility. Constantinescu said the parliament will convene in an emergency session on 21 January to debate urgent economic legislation. The government will tie passage of those bills to a vote of no confidence. If a no confidence motion is not submitted within three days, the laws will be considered to have been approved (see also "End Note" below). MS
 MOLDOVAN, TRANSDNIESTER EXPERTS FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENTThe first meeting this year of Moldovan and Transdniester negotiators has failed to bridge the gap between the two sides, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 16 January. Moldovan presidential adviser Anatol Taranu said the Tiraspol representatives were supposed to have submitted a draft on how to set up a joint "economic, social and judicial entity". Instead, he said, they made proposals on guarantees for the separatist region's security. Vladimir Grigoriev, the Tiraspol delegation leader, said his team will submit the expected draft at a 22 January meeting. He insisted, however, that the memorandum signed in May in Moscow grants Tiraspol the right to "conduct its external activities separately." Chisinau is hindering the memorandum's implementation, he added. MS
 BULGARIAN PREMIER THREATENS TO CUT RUSSIAN GAS TRANSITIvan Kostov has called on Moscow to sign a new agreement for gas deliveries, saying that failure to do so would endanger the transit of Russian gas deliveries to Turkey, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported on 16 January. The same day, Gazprom spokesman Gennadii Yezhov said Sofia "will have problems" if it curtails Russian transit rights, ITAR-TASS reported. But according to an RFE/RL Sofia correspondent, Yezhov denied reports that Gazprom has threatened to cut supplies to Bulgaria by half unless a new contract is signed soon. MS
 NEW TV, RADIO CHIEFS IN BULGARIAThe National Council for Radio and Television on 17 January appointed Ivan Propyordanov as director of state television and radio journalist Alexander Velev as director of state radio. According to an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia, this ends the practice of ruling parties appointing their supporters to those posts. Velev was fired from the radio for political reasons by the previous Socialist administration. The previous day, parliamentary chairman Yordan Sokolov stripped journalists from the popular weekly "168 Chasa" of their accreditation, claiming their "distorted reporting" undermined the legislature's authority, Reuters reported. The news agency also reported on 18 January that an explosion smashed windows of the widely read "Trud" daily. Deputy chief editor Nikolai Stefanov told state radio that "someone is trying to threaten us." MS
 WORLD BANK HOLDS TALKS WITH SOFIAKenneth Lay, director of the World Bank's southeast European department, told journalists in Sofia on 18 January that the bank is discussing a three- year funding strategy that may amount to $400-$600 million, Reuters reported. Lay is on a one-week visit to Bulgarian to review the government's reform program. MS
[C] END NOTE
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT PUTS BALL INTO DEMOCRATS' COURTby Michael Shafir
President Emil Constantinescu's televised address on 17 January surprised many political observers and, presumably, the leadership of the Democratic Party as well. Having threatened to leave the coalition by 31 March unless Premier Victor Ciorbea was replaced and a new reform program adopted, the Democrats no doubt expected the president to seek to mediate between themselves and the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD), which has rejected the Democrats' ultimatum.
The presidential response to the Democrats' bid at brinkmanship was to announce that the parliament will meet in an emergency session on 21 January at which the government will submit a package of reform bills. That legislation is to be tied to a kind a confidence vote. If no objections are raised to the bills, they will be considered to have been approved by the legislature. A motion of no-confidence can be moved by at least one-third of deputies and senators. In such a case, the vote is to take place within three days.
Constantinescu's option is astute because it puts the ball back into the Democrats' court. Led by Senate chairman and former Premier Petre Roman, the party has complained that reforms are stalling because the PNTCD and other members of the Democratic Convention of Romania are more interested in promoting relatively minor interests (such as the full restitution of property to its former owners) or adopting pro- monarchy positions instead of devoting their energies to securing legislation that would bring about structural reform and large-scale privatization. While that argument may be considered partly valid, it is strange that Democrats agreed to the government's program less than one month earlier, when Ciorbea's reshuffled cabinet was approved by the parliament. What was the reason for this sudden change?
The answer is to be found in the reshuffle itself. The reform process had indeed been stalling owing to the coalition partners' inability to compromise on different programs. "In-party" fighting (since the government is a "coalition of coalitions") played a role, and what seemed to be a promising reform-minded team in November 1996 had come to look like a rather infantile, inefficient group. The reshuffle did not take place until early December 1997 because of bickering and each coalition formation's jealous guarding of fiefdoms. The Democrats, meanwhile, seemed to have come out of it least damaged.
But just several weeks later, on 23 December, former Foreign Minister Adrian Severin, the Democrats' most prominent member of the government, had to resign after his allegations of "foreign agents" among political leaders and prominent journalists, which he had made some two months earlier, proved untenable. Severin was replaced by former dissident Andrei Plesu, who, though nominated by the Democrats, is not a member of that party. As a result, the Democrats had now suffered losses comparable to those of their coalition partners, which in the December reshuffle had been forced to agree to relinquish some of their prominent members. The same day Plesu was sworn in, Ciorbea was forced to ask Transportation Minister Traian Basescu to resign, following Basescu's refusal to retract harsh, though hardly unjustified, criticism of the way the government functioned.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is possible to assert that the "Basescu episode" seems to have been a deliberate provocation. Ciorbea could hardly have acted differently, particularly after his announcement in early December that he would no longer tolerate public criticism from members of the government. At the beginning of January, the Standing Bureau of the Democrats called on Ciorbea to reinstate Basescu. When Ciorbea refused to do so, the bureau accused Ciorbea himself of stalling reform and announced that the party's participation in the coalition is conditional on his replacement by 31 March and agreement among the coalition members on a new reform program. The latter of those demands was presented as the main bone of contention. But in reality, it was not. A new government could mean Severin's and Basescu's return to the cabinet, possibly to other portfolios.
Constantinescu's response now calls the Democrats' bluff. If the Democrats are really interested in relaunching the reform process, they must support the program to be submitted to the legislature. Roman responded temperately to Constantinescu's statement, saying his formation will support the package, which, by implication, would mean the complaints about Ciorbea are no longer justified. But he is a minority within his party. On 18 January, the Democrats released a statement repeating their criticism of Ciorbea and rejecting Constantinescu's "insinuations" that narrow party interests are seriously affecting Romania's credibility abroad, its chances for Euro- Atlantic integration, and the chances of attracting foreign investors by exacerbating the country's already tarnished image of prolonged political instability.
Constantinescu implied that it is irresponsible to compromise not only the country's reform program but perhaps its democratic process as well. Indeed, the extremists (who have a growing number of supporters, according to recent opinion polls) would be the only ones to profit from the failure of a coalition to which, all its members agree, there is no viable democratic alternative. The consequences of such a scenario cannot be overlooked.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty