|Wednesday, 16 June 2021|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 13, 98-01-21
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 13, 21 January 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 MORE ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTS IN ARMENIA?Major-General Artsrun Markarian, the commander of the Internal Troops, was wounded in the legs when an unidentified gunman opened fire on him near his home on 21 January, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Markarian is said to be a protege of Vano Siradeghian, the chairman of the ruling Armenian Pan- National Movement (HHSh) and mayor of Yerevan. An HHSh official, Ruben Hayrapetyan, was wounded by a hand grenade on 20 January. LF
 ARMENIAN RULING PARTY SLAMS GOVERNMENT'S "INDIFFERENCELeading members of the Armenian Pan-National Movement told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 21 January that the "indifference" of Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan's government to the recent assassination bids threatens to plunge the country into chaos. The Pan-National Movement unequivocally supports Ter-Petrossyan's insistence on resolving the Karabakh conflict through compromise. Kocharyan, Serzh Sarkisian, and Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian back the leadership of the unrecognized Republic of Nagorno- Karabakh in its steadfast rejection of the latest "phased" peace plan proposed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. LF
 PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN WARNS KARABAKH ARMENIANSLevon Zurabian, press secretary to Armenian President Ter-Petrossyan, told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 20 January that the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is free to take a position on any issue but that "attempts to meddle in Armenia's internal politics are unacceptable." Zurabian added, however, that Yerevan will not release any official statement to that effect. The previous day, Nagorno-Karabakh President Arkadii Ghukasyan had condemned speculation about the possible resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan, his predecessor as president of Karabakh. Zurabian last week denied Armenian press reports that Kocharyan tendered his resignation during the 7-8 January Armenian Security Council session. That meeting failed to overcome differences between Yerevan and Stepanakert, as well as within the Armenian leadership, over the best way to resolve the Karabakh conflict. LF
 ARMENIA UNVEILS NEW EUROPEAN POLICYForeign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian on 12 January chaired the first session of an inter-governmental commission on European integration and cooperation with European regional organizations. In an interview published in "Respublika Armeniya" five days later, Arzoumanian's first deputy, Vartan Oskanian, explained that Armenia's new European policy is based on direct talks with the EU and the Council of Europe, in the hope of eventually receiving associate member status, and on more active participation in European regional initiatives. Oskanian conceded that Armenia's integration into European structures will be "extremely difficult" and may take decades. But he added that creating a "new image" and disseminating a "new geo-political ideology" will expedite Armenia's being perceived as a European country and counter the erroneous impression that Europe is not a top priority of Armenian foreign policy. LF
 SPOKESMAN FOR GEORGIAN DISPLACED PERSONS APPEALS TO UNTamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the so-called Abkhaz parliament in exile (which is composed of ethnic Georgian deputies elected to the Abkhaz parliament in September 1991), has appealed to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Caucasus Press reported on 20 January. Nadareishvili calls on the UN to take measures to expedite the repatriation of ethnic Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 hostilities, and to restore Georgia's territorial integrity. Nadareishvili, who has in the past called for military intervention to restore Georgia's hegemony over Abkhazia, claimed that 1,200 ethnic Georgian repatriants to Abkhazia's southern-most Gali Raion have been killed by Abkhaz militants since the deployment in mid-1994 of CIS peacekeepers along the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia (see also "End Note" below). LF
 FORMER AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT SPEAKER DENIES COUP CHARGESIn a written statement released in Istanbul on 20 January, Rasul Guliev again rejected claims by the Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General's Office that he had planned a coup to oust President Heidar Aliev, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 21 January. In an interview with that newspaper two days earlier, Guliev had accused Aliev of creating a totalitarian regime and reaffirmed his intention to contend the October presidential elections. In Yerevan, political commentator David Petrossyan predicted that Aliev will not run for reelection but that his son Ilham, vice president of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, will do so, Noyan Tapan reported. LF
 TAJIK OPPOSITION COMMANDER MURDEREDA field commander loyal to the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) and three of his bodyguards were killed on the evening of 19 January, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. Mahmud Rajabov was returning home from his unit's barracks in the Kofarnikhon area when unknown assailants attacked him and his guards. UTO representative Habib Sanginov said Rajabov was one of the first commanders to officially declaring his unit's support for the opposition and have his unit relocated in accordance with last June's peace agreement. Both the Tajik government and UTO have warned against further provocation by any faction, including a "third party" not interested in seeing peace in Tajikistan. That "third party" is being blamed for the Rajabov's murder. BP
 KYRGYZ JOURNALIST FREEDKyrgyzstan's Supreme Court has ruled to find journalist Yrysbek Omurzakov guilty according to the civil code, rather than the criminal one, RFE/RL correspondents in Bishkek reported on 20 January. Omurzakov was found guilty of libel for publishing an article in the opposition newspaper "Res Publica" in January 1997 alleging corruption on the part of a Bishkek factory manager. He was sentenced last September to two-and-a-half years in prison under provisions of the criminal code. The Supreme Court, however, decided to find him guilty under the civil code instead. Omurzakov was pardoned under a law on amnesty signed on 1 January 1998. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 WESTENDORP IMPOSES NEW BOSNIAN CURRENCY DESIGNA spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 20 January that Westendorp has decided on the design for the new Bosnian joint currency, the convertible mark. The spokesman added that Westendorp will make public the design, which includes no nationalist symbols, on 21 January. Westendorp's decision follows the failure of the joint presidency to agree on a design. PM
 FIRST FOREIGN CREDIT FOR BOSNIAN SERBSKresimir Zubak, who is a member of the joint presidency, and a representative of the World Bank signed two credit agreements in Sarajevo on 20 January. The first credit is for $10 million and will be used to repair Sarajevo's gas supply system. The second, $65 million credit is earmarked for several projects involving housing, water supplies, sewage systems, electrical systems, and agriculture. Some $17 million of the second credit will go to the Serbs, the first such international credit they have received. Meanwhile in Brussels, Westendorp said that the Republika Srpska needs international assistance to ensure the most basic necessities, including that the people have enough to eat. PM
 BOSNIAN JOURNALIST CONVICTED OF SLANDERSenad Pecanin, the editor- in-chief of the independent monthly "Dani," was convicted by a Sarajevo court on 20 January on five charges of slander. He received a two-month suspended jail sentence. Fahrudin Radoncic, editor-in- chief of the pro-government daily "Dnevni Avaz," plans to seek some $85,000 compensation from Pecanin, who last June wrote that Radoncic burned his newspaper's financial records and practiced bigamy. Pecanin said on 20 January that the trial had "the atmosphere of a pogrom" and proved that the government is trying "to strangle independent media through private lawsuits." Radoncic, for his part, insisted that his suit was a purely private matter. PM
 BOSNIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS CAUTIOUS ON DODIKSocial Democratic leader Sejfudin Tokic, who is also the prime minister in the non-nationalist parties' shadow cabinet, said in Sarajevo on 20 January that the election of Milorad Dodik as Bosnian Serb prime minister marks a victory over Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party (SDS, see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report," 21 January 1998). Tokic added, however, that the battle against nationalism has not yet been won, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. Tokic urged Dodik to eliminate what Tokic called the "remnants of the SDS's totalitarian rule." He added that he hoped Dodik's administration will mark the beginning of the end of the rule of nationalist parties throughout Bosnia. PM
 KINKEL APPEALS TO GRANIC ON REFUGEESGerman Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel told his Croatian counterpart, Mate Granic, in Stuttgart on 20 January that the course of Zagreb's future relations with the EU will depend on how well the Croats cooperate with the Muslims in Bosnia and on Croatia's willingness to allow Croatian Serb refugees to return to their former homes in the Krajina region. PM
 KUCAN CALLS FOR REFORM OF SLOVENIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICEPresident Milan Kucan said in Ljubljana on 20 January that he hopes that a recent incident in which Slovenian spies were expelled from Croatia will serve as a catalyst leading to the depoliticization and professionalization of the intelligence service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January 1998). Kucan added that the incident provided "a sufficient reason for Slovenia to finally get a security service supervision law and one more reason for my oft repeated demand for a national security council." PM
 POLICE DETAIN BELGRADE MUFTIPolice held Hamdija Jusufspahic and seven imams for two hours on 20 January. Police said they were looking for a Bosnian refugee who was reportedly living in the mufti's residency. Jusufspahic said he feared that the police action is the beginning of a campaign against his organization, the Islamic Community. Jusufspahic's Muslim detractors earlier nicknamed him "Milosevic's mufti" because of his close ties to the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. PM
 CONFLICT OVER SHKODER POLICE INTENSIFIESTensions remain high in Shkoder, where more than 50 armed civilians and former policemen have held regional prefect Gezim Podgorica hostage for two days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 January 1998). Unidentified gunmen attacked police headquarters and injured two policemen on 20 January, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Other armed persons set up barricades in the city center. The protesters demand the resignation of the new local police chief, Mithat Havari, and the withdrawal of special police forces. Havari, a southerner, was appointed recently by the Socialist-led government "to crack down on police corruption" in the opposition stronghold. The protesters are supported by some local politicians from the city's center- right coalition government. FS
 ALBANIAN PARTIES ASK COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO ALLOW DEATH PENALTYLegislators from the governing Socialist Party and the opposition Democratic Party have asked a high-ranking Council of Europe delegation in Tirana to reconsider an agreement banning Albania from carrying out the death penalty. The diplomats will present the request to the Council's Parliamentary Assembly for review in March. FS
 ALBANIAN ARMY TO COLLECT WEAPONS?Prosecutor-General Arben Rakipi on 19 January proposed that the army should start a campaign to collect illegal arms. He also proposed a new amnesty for people who surrender their weapons voluntarily. Rakipi added that more people might be more willing to give their arms anonymously to the army than to the local police, who register the names of those handing in the weapons, "Gazeta Shqiptare" reported. Rakipi also said that unidentified people sent him what appears to be a plan for an attack on Vlora last March. The plan was signed by the then national police chief, Agim Shehu, "Republika" reported. FS
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON CORRUPTIONEmil Constantinescu on 20 January told journalists that a meeting of the National Council for the Struggle against Corruption and Organized Crime (CNACC) next week will discuss "mafia-like structures" that have "destroyed the Romanian merchant fleet" and attempted to take over the petroleum industry. The CNACC, set up last year, is an ad-hoc body subordinated to the National Council of Defense, which is chaired by Constantinescu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Political observers say this may be a veiled threat directed at the Democratic Party, which was repeatedly accused by the media of corruption and involvement in illegal dealings during the 1990-1991 tenure of Petre Roman's government. One of those alleged to have been involved in illegal dealings is Traian Basescu, then and now minister of transportation. MS
 MAIN OPPOSITION PARTY NOT TO INITIATE NO-CONFIDENCE MOTIONAdrian Nastase, the deputy chairman of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), has said his formation "does not necessarily want" Premier Victor Ciorbea replaced and consequently will not initiate a no-confidence motion when the parliament debates the privatization law on 21 January. Nastase said that tying the vote on the privatization law to a confidence vote in the government is nonetheless "unconstitutional," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ROMANIAN ARMY TO BE DOWN-SIZEDThe Ministry of National Defense on 20 January said the army will be cut by 12,700 people this year and that those laid off will be compensated. For the time being, the government has approved compensation for the 2,400 civilians working for the ministry who will be affected by the measure. In other news, Bulgarian Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev met with his Romanian counterpart, Victor Babiuc, in Bucharest on 20 January and agreed to set up a joint peace-keeping unit, possibly with the participation of other Balkan countries. MS
 GAGAUZ-YERI ASSEMBLY WITHDRAWS COURT APPEALThe Parliamentary Assembly of the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous region on 20 January withdrew its appeal to the Constitutional Court over the election law (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 January 1998), Infotag reported . Assembly chairman Ivan Bejan said the deputies still believe that the law, which provides for proportional representation in a single, countrywide constituency, deprives the region from electing its representatives to the parliament in Chisinau. But he added that the decision was taken to "avoid aggravating the political situation" and bearing in mind that it may be too late to amend the electoral law at this stage. MS
 TIRASPOL REPORTEDLY BLOCKS ACTIVITIES OF CONTROL COMMISSIONThe Joint Control Commission overseeing the truce in the Transdniester cannot resume its activities because Tiraspol is refusing to accept changes in the membership of the Chisinau representation, BASA-press reported on 20 January. Tiraspol opposes the inclusion of Vitalie Bruma, adviser to the Moldovan Interior Ministry, saying he has criticized the Transdniester authorities in the media. Gheorghe Roman, a Moldovan member of the commission, said the authorities in Tiraspol are deliberately blocking that body's activities. MS
 BULGARIAN PREMIER SAYS HE WAS MISQUOTED ON GAZPROMBefore departing for an official visit to Germany, Ivan Kostov told journalists that he has been misquoted on intentions to curtail the transit of Russian gas through Bulgarian pipelines to Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 and 20 January 1998). He said the interests of Bulgaria and Russia are so similar that a new deal on Russian gas deliveries and transiting rights is "inevitable," an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova also said Bulgaria has no plans to limit the transit of Russian gas. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin told RFE/RL on 20 January that Kostov's reaction could be interpreted as a positive sign in the development of bilateral relations. MS
[C] END NOTE
 ABKHAZIA AND THE "BOSNIA OPTION"by Liz Fuller and Patrick Moore
In his New Year's address to the Georgian people and a 12 January radio interview, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze suggested that the international community could launch a "peace-enforcing" operation under UN auspices in the renegade Georgian Black Sea region of Abkhazia that would be similar to the 1995 intervention in Bosnia. Shevardnadze stressed, however, that a peace-enforcing operation in Abkhazia should be undertaken only as a last resort--that is, if ongoing negotiations fail to yield an agreement on the repatriation of tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians forced to flee during the 1992-1993 fighting.
Shevardnadze's use of the term "Bosnia option" in the Abkhaz context is both misleading and inappropriate. There are two fundamental differences between the situation in Bosnia in mid-1995 and that in Abkhazia today. First, hostilities in Abkhazia ended in late 1993 and a formal cease-fire agreement was signed in May 1994. But both Abkhaz units and the Georgian "White Legion" formation, over which the Georgian leadership claims to have no control, are still engaged in low-level guerrilla activity, which could be used as a pretext for international intervention.
Second, in addition to a 136-strong UN observer force, a CIS peacekeeping force is already deployed along the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia . Tbilisi, however, has been arguing for the past year that this force is ineffective. The CIS heads of state summit in March 1997 voted to broaden the peacekeepers' mandate by investing them with police powers to protect Georgian repatriants against reprisals from Abkhaz militants. But implementation of that decision was blocked by the Abkhaz authorities, which argued that the peacekeepers' mandate could not be altered without their permission.
In addition, Shevardnadze has expressly ruled out the setting up in Abkhazia of "ethnic enclaves" such as the December 1995 Dayton agreement provided for. However, the repatriation of ethnic Georgians to Abkhazia's southern-most Gali Raion, where they constituted 90 percent of the pre-war population, would in effect create such an enclave.
Moreover, the military role of the international community in Bosnia was never really a peace-enforcing one. This was primarily because the political will was lacking in most Western capitals to back up diplomacy with a credible military threat.
Three things, in fact, characterized what some now call "the Bosnian option." First, intervention in any form came only with the greatest reluctance. The Bosnian war began in the spring of 1992, but the UNPROFOR soldiers who were soon sent there were little better than monitors. France and Britain, in particular, argued against a tougher international military role out of fear that the "warring factions" might retaliate against foreign troops already on the ground. By the summer of 1995, the Serbs were taking peacekeepers hostage by the dozen in response to timid NATO air strikes.
Second, it took major catalysts to prompt any serious response. The no- nonsense Rapid Reaction Force was sent to the Sarajevo area in July 1995 only after the fall of Srebrenica and the subsequent massacre of thousands of Muslim civilians. Massive air strikes came only in late August in response to the Serbian shelling of a crowded Sarajevo market place.
Third, the military moves of the international community helped tip the balance against the Serbs but were not in themselves decisive. There were, in fact, two other main reasons why the Serbs agreed to talk peace in the fall of 1995. By the end of August, Croatian forces had reconquered most Serb-held areas in that republic. They then teamed up with Bosnian government forces in that republic and sent the Bosnian Serb forces running. And by late 1995, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, the man most responsible for the destruction of the old Yugoslavia, had decided he had to make peace in order to end the international sanctions that had helped cripple his country's economy.
It would seem that Shevardnadze is using the term "Bosnia option" as a euphemism for a surgical strike by international forces at Abkhaz forces concentrated along the administrative border between Gali Raion and the Abkhaz-dominated district of Ochamchire. The Georgian president presumably hopes that such intervention would destroy the Abkhaz military capacity and force President Vladislav Ardzinba to sign a formal peace agreement.
But it is highly unlikely that Moscow would endorse such action, even if Western powers decided that it is warranted. Russia provided logistical and military support for the Abkhaz during the war, and since 1994 it has tacitly encouraged Ardzinba in his obdurate rejection of any settlement document that would subordinate Abkhazia to Tbilisi. (Ardzinba worked during the early1980s under Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who at the time was director of Moscow's Oriental Institute and whom Shevardnadze has publicly accused of duplicity in his capacity as mediator between the two sides.) The present deadlock constitutes leverage that Moscow can bring to bear on Tbilisi.
Western interest in stability in Georgia is confined to ensuring the uninterrupted operation of the pipeline that is to transport Caspian oil from Baku to the Georgian Black Sea port of Supsa, which lies some 30 kilometers south of the Abkhaz-Georgian border. The chances of an international military operation against Abkhazia will depend largely on whether Abkhazia is perceived as a threat to Western oil interests.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty