|Saturday, 23 February 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 94, 98-05-20
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 94, 20 May 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 STORMS HIT CENTRAL ASIA...Heavy rains and strong winds have left many parts of Central Asia without power and cut off from roads and other transport links. At least three people died in floods in eastern Kazakhstan, after heavy rains on 18 May washed away sections of roads and submerged some 50 houses, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Gale force winds in the eastern Caspian Sea are thought to have been responsible for the sinking of a patrol boat belonging to Kazakhstan's Customs Service. The boat's crew was lifted to safety by a helicopter. The same day, storms in southern Kyrgyzstan caused damage to more than 1,000 houses in the Suzdak district, and some 40,000 residents of the Jalalabad Region were forced to leave their homes by the worst mud slides in 20 years. BP
 ...AND PARTICULARLY TAJIKISTANIn Tajikistan, torrential rains cut off power to regions in the south on 18 May, while Dushanbe was without power for several hours after lines to the Nurek hydro-electric dam were severed, ITAR-TASS reported. All roads to the capital were flooded. A 19 May broadcast from Radio Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported than more than 16,000 people have been left homeless. Last month, the central regions of Tajikistan were heavily flooded. The Red Cross/ Red Crescent has already sent aid to the affected areas, and neighboring Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are continuing to send help as well. BP
 WORLD BANK PLEDGES AID TO KYRGYZSTAN WORTH $610 MILLIONThe World Bank has pledged to extend aid worth $610 million to Kyrgyzstan over the next two years to help continue economic reform, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 May. Speaking at a donor conference in Paris, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Johannes Linn noted that the Kyrgyz economy has grown by 7 percent annually over the last two years and that great progress has been made in the privatization of agriculture and industry. He added, however, that poverty remains a problem in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz Prime Minister Kubanychbek Jumaliev, who attended the conference, said "not everyone can find their place in the new socio-economic conditions." He said that 60 percent of the population earns less than the minimum wage, calculated on the basis of the consumer food basket, and 18 percent live in "absolute poverty." BP
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS COMMISSION ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMRobert Kocharian on 19 May issued a decree creating a commission tasked with drafting amendments to the constitution, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The commission is to be headed by his adviser on legal reform, Paryur Hayrikian. The draft amendments are expected to include measures on curtailing the extensive powers of the president and augmenting those of the parliament and cabinet of ministers. They will be put to a nationwide referendum. LF
 ARMENIA, ISRAEL ASSESS BILATERAL RELATIONSAt a 19 May meeting, Armenian President Kocharian and Israeli Ambassador Ehud Moshe Eidman discussed establishing closer ties and expanding economic cooperation, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Kocharian said Armenia is particularly interested in agriculture and high technology, noting that Israel's experience "may be useful" to Armenia. He added that the Israeli experience is all the more relevant to Armenia as both countries are not rich in natural resources but possess "strong intellectual potential." LF
 NEW GEORGIAN DEFENSE MINISTER OUTLINES PRIORITIESAt his first press conference since his appointment as defense minister last month, David Tevzadze said conditions in the Georgian armed forces are "unbearable" and one of the reasons for a recent upsurge in desertion among conscripts, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 May. Tevzadze cited no figures, but the Georgian newspaper "Kavkazioni" last summer estimated that some 3,000 servicemen, or 10 percent of the nominal strength of the army, were on the run. In a move to bring the Georgian army closer to NATO standards, Tevzadze proposed introducing civilian structures and appointing a civilian as one of his deputies. He also said that Georgia will use every opportunity to train its officers abroad. Georgia has concluded training agreements with Turkey and the U.S. LF
 BEREZOVSKII ADVOCATES POSTPONING CIS INTERSTATE FORUMAddressing a meeting convened in Minsk on 19 May to prepare for the CIS interstate forum tentatively scheduled for July, CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovskii proposed postponing that forum until the fall, Interfax reported. The forum is to debate reforming the CIS. Berezovskii said that he concluded from his meetings earlier this month with the presidents of Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, and Georgia that it is "unrealistic" to hold the forum in July, given that "no hasty moves will bring a radical improvement," according to ITAR-TASS. Almost all participants at the April CIS summit in Moscow expressed dissatisfaction with the way the CIS operates. Berezovskii positively assessed the role of the CIS in containing conflicts between its members. And he warned against blindly copying the experience of other international bodies such as the EU. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MILOSEVIC PICKS BULATOVIC...Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on 19 May nominated as prime minister former Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic to succeed Radoje Kontic, whom the parliament had ousted the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 May 1998). Milosevic praised Bulatovic's "patriotic orientation" and called him "the most prestigious personality in Montenegro [who] enjoys great support from the Montenegrin people." The parliament on 20 May confirmed Bulatovic's appointment. Observers noted that Milosevic's choice of Bulatovic, who is the foremost political enemy of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, indicates that Milosevic is determined to step up his confrontation with the reformist leadership in Podgorica in the runup to the 31 May parliamentary elections in the mountainous republic. PM
 ...WHILE MONTENEGRO REJECTS HIMMilica Pejanovic- Djurisic, who is the president of Djukanovic's Democratic Socialist Party, told Milosevic in Belgrade on 19 May that by replacing Kontic with Bulatovic "he was bringing into question the survival of Yugoslavia." She said in an open letter to Bulatovic that "nobody in Montenegro recognizes the validity" of his nomination and that he "is participating in the dismantling of the Montenegrin state." In Podgorica, the parliament voted in an emergency session not to recognize Kontic's ouster and called the vote against him illegal. The Podgorica legislature passed a resolution saying that Kontic's removal was made possible by the vote of six Montenegrin deputies, whose mandates the Montenegrin parliament had invalidated on 15 May. Also in Podgorica, Richard Miles, who is the U.S. chief of mission in Belgrade, handed over to Djukanovic a letter from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and discussed with him the current political situation. PM
 NATO PREPARES OPTIONS ON KOSOVAMembers of a planning committee have drawn up three options for stationing NATO troops along Albania's frontier with Kosova and will present those options to NATO's governing body on 28 May, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Brussels on 19 May. The proposals call for sending between 7,000 and 20,000 soldiers to secure the border and prevent the spread of the conflict. The Albanian government has repeatedly asked NATO to send troops. In Kukes, Albanian border control authorities issued an invitation to their Yugoslav counterparts to discuss security in the region on 25 May, the Belgrade daily "Danas" wrote. PM
 SERBIAN POLICE REMOVE KOSOVARS FROM TRAINSome 200 Serbian police searched a passenger train at Pograxha station along the Prishtina-Peja line on 19 May and took 30 ethnic Albanian males from the train. The police later released 22 of the men but detained the remaining eight. The Kosovar KIC news agency said the move is most likely aimed at deterring Kosovars from traveling between Prishtina and Peja. KIC added that this is the first time that police have removed persons from a train since the conflict in Kosova began at the end of February. Police closed the road linking the two towns on 8 May. PM
 KOSOVAR VILLAGES SHELLEDIn the Drenica region, Serbian paramilitary police killed a 95-year-old woman when they shelled the village of Citak on 19 May. Residents of the village said that police told them on 15 May that "we're going to kill all of you." The Serbian authorities maintain that the villagers harbor members of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). Police also shelled a village in the Iglareva region. In Prishtina, Serbian spokesmen said that UCK gunmen fired on two Serbian trucks and a bus on the Prishtina-Peja road on 19 May. The spokesmen added that gunmen kidnapped a Serbian policeman after forcing him to stop his car. PM
 KOSOVARS UNCERTAIN ABOUT FUTURE TALKS...Veton Surroi, who is Kosova's leading journalist and a member of shadow- state President Ibrahim Rugova's 15-member negotiating team, told Reuters in Prishtina on 19 May that the G-15 group has not yet decided whether to participate in talks with its Serbian counterpart slated for 22 May. Surroi said that the negotiators "have a good list of reasons why we shouldn't attend and yet we still see a reason to attend." He did not give details. PM
 ...WHILE HOLBROOKE WARNS THEMU.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke told CNN on 19 May that "it would be a mistake for the Kosova leadership not to go to these talks because the violence is something which neither side can fully control." He praised Rugova as a "sincere apostle of non- violence" but added that "to his left are some very dangerous people who wish to use violent means instead of peaceful means.... I think the time to try to get a peaceful settlement is now before the situation spirals out of control." PM
 UN POLICE SLAM CROATS OVER LICENSE PLATESA UN police spokesman said in Sarajevo on 19 May that the exchange of old license plates for new ones is proceeding well except in some Croatian- controlled areas of western Herzegovina. The new license plates do not indicate in which part of Bosnia the car is registered and were introduced by the international community in February to facilitate freedom of movement. The old license plates become invalid on 1 June. The Herzegovinian Croats currently use license plates that are nearly identical to those used in Croatia. Also in the Bosnian capital, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is organizing the September general elections, said that 25 parties have registered to participate in the vote. PM
 TUDJMAN ACCEPTS HERZEGOVINIAN LEADERSHIPThe steering committee of the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) issued a statement in Zagreb on 19 May in which it "expressed confidence" in the new hard-line Herzegovinian HDZ leadership of Ante Jelavic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 May 1998). President Franjo Tudjman had openly supported Bozo Ljubic, a moderate, for the post. Also in the Croatian capital, teachers staged a one-day warning strike on 20 May for more pay. Elsewhere in Zagreb, spokesmen for Croatian Railways announced on 19 May that two daily international trains linking the former Yugoslavia with Munich and Zurich will begin running between Zagreb and Belgrade on 24 May. Finally, shares of the Zagreb Bank lost over 10 percent of their value on 18 May, "Vecernji list" reported on 20 May. PM
 CIVIC ALLIANCE MOVEMENT ATTACKS CONSTANTINESCUValerian Stan, executive chairman of the Movement of Civic Alliance, has accused President Emil Constantinescu of condoning corruption. Stan said on 18 May that Constantinescu and his main political counselor, Zoe Petre, have sought to "cover up" the involvement of the main culprits in the cigarette smuggling affair. The accusations are mainly targeted against "one or two colonels," he noted. Stan also said that the president had ordered his dismissal as chief of the Government Control Department Victor Ciorbea's cabinet after Stan had revealed corruption among leading members of the Democratic Party. CDR chairman Ion Diaconescu said the movement "can afford to attack" because "it does not share the responsibility of government, where compromise is necessary." The Movement of Civic Alliance recently quit the ruling Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR). MS
 BUCHAREST MAYORAL ELECTION TO BE HELD IN OCTOBERThe government has announced that the elections to the Bucharest mayoralty will be held on 11 October, Mediafax reported on 19 May. The government said time is needed to amend the local election law. MS
 MOLDOVAN STALEMATE CONTINUESThe Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM) is threatening not to vote confidence in the cabinet headed by Ion Ciubuc unless a compromise is reached on its composition, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. CDM co- chairman Mircea Snegur told journalists on 19 May that there is a danger of a "return to the starting point," where "President [Petru] Lucinschi will have to appoint someone else as premier." Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) chairman Valeriu Matei has issued a similar warning. Ciubuc, for his part, has said that the CDM's and PFD's refusal to agree to Nicolae Cernomaz continuing in office as minister of state (deputy premier) stems from "animosity" dating back to 1996, when Cernomaz headed Lucinschi's campaign against Snegur in the presidential elections. Ciubuc has also said he needs Mihai Plamadeala to continue as interior minister in order to carry on the fight against corruption. MS
 SUSPECT DETAINED IN ATTACK ON BULGARIAN REPORTERSofia chief prosecutor Nestor Nestorov on 19 May said a suspect has been detained in connection with the attack on "Trud" journalist Anna Zarkova, RFE/RL's Sofia bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 May 1998). Doctors treating Zarkova in the hospital said they have not lost hope of restoring partial sight to her left eye, which was burned when acid was thrown in her face at a Sofia bus station. In other news, "Duma," the opposition Socialist Party daily, was not distributed on 19 May. The state printing house refused to print the daily because of long- standing debts. The newspaper's editorial staff said the refusal serves "political purposes." MS
 BULGARIA FORESEES LARGE INVESTMENTS IN PRIVATIZATIONDeputy Premier Alexander Bozhkov, speaking to a 19 May conference in London on privatization in Bulgaria, said his country expects investments to reach $800 million in the second wave of privatization, Reuters reported. Bozhkov said that by the end of this year, the government expects 80 percent of enterprises to be in private hands. He said the cabinet wants to abolish its privatization agency by the end of 1999. Bozhkov said Bulgaria's potential for foreign investors is "huge," particularly in finance, tourism, transportation, and telecommunication. In other news, visiting Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov told an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia that his country is interested in using Bulgaria as a transit route for its exports to Europe, particularly for cotton. MS
[C] END NOTE
 STILL NO POLITICAL SETTLEMENT IN NAGORNO- KARABAKHby Emil Danielyan
It has been four years since the fighting ceased in Nagorno-Karabakh. That respite has saved thousands of Armenian and Azerbaijani lives but has failed to materialize into a lasting peace. Recent developments in the region suggest that the peace process still has a long way to go before the parties to the conflict will reach an agreement. Although there is little information about the visit last week to Yerevan, Stepanakert, and Baku by the three co-chairmen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, they evidently made scant progress toward breaking the stalemate.
Yet the very fact that the cease-fire has largely held for four years without the presence in the region of peace- keepers is quite remarkable. Initially signed for three months only on 12 May 1994 by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with Russia's mediation, the cease-fire agreement has come to acquire a permanent nature. It has suspended a bitter war, in which more than 20,000 people were killed, and left Karabakh Armenians in control of virtually the entire disputed region and territories in Azerbaijan proper, which surrounds Karabakh. Minor skirmishes from time to time disturb the calm on the front line around the Armenian- populated enclave, but they have so far not developed into all-out hostilities. However, many believe that it is only the parties' own interests that prevent the war from resuming.
The latest toughening of Armenia's position will either provoke strong pressure from the Minsk Group or cause the latter to restart its peace efforts from scratch. The new authorities in Yerevan reject the group's most recent "phased" plan, which provides for the return of the occupied Azerbaijani territories ahead of an agreement on Karabakh's status. Armenia and Karabakh favor a "package" deal, settling all contentious issues by means of a single framework accord. The Armenians also vigorously oppose any kind of "subordination" in future relations between Baku and Stepanakert.
Under such circumstances, it is reasonable to expect pressure on the Armenians as the recalcitrant party (Azerbaijan has accepted the OSCE's plan). But there are few indications that the Russian, U.S., and French co- chairmen of the Minsk Group will go so far as to advocate "peace enforcement." Hence the "wait-and-see" strategy of Armenian President Robert Kocharian, who appears to want to stick to the harder line, avoiding "hasty" concessions.
Indeed, Kocharian may well be in a position to continue that line for several years to come. With the flow of the "main" Azerbaijani oil expected no earlier than 2003, Azerbaijan will hardly be able to embark on a large- scale military build-up before then. Kocharian may also think that Western oil giants, too, have a vital interest in peace and will therefore pressure Baku to make concessions. The constant threat of war puts their multi- billion-dollar investments at enormous risk.
In one respect, the package strategy is more conducive to peace than a step- by step one, which is full of pitfalls, as evidenced by the Middle East peace process. The formal establishment of Nagorno-Karabakh's status would pave the way for settling other bones of contention, such as security guarantees and a land corridor with Armenia. Such a development would require reconciling "the highest degree of autonomy for Karabakh in Azerbaijan," supported by the international community, and "horizontal" ties between two equal entities, as demanded by Armenia. "Horizontal ties" resemble the Bosnia option, with each ethnic community having its own army and enjoying an equal, internationally guaranteed status. This would be a face-saving solution whereby the principle of the inviolability of existing frontiers would not be compromised.
But it is unlikely that Azerbaijan will agree to serious concessions at this juncture, not least because of presidential elections scheduled for October. Although President Heidar Aliev is virtually assured an election victory, he will nonetheless be reluctant to discuss a compromise during the election campaign. And Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Gulu-Zade insisted last week that direct talks between Baku and Stepanakert are possible only if the latter agrees beforehand to autonomous status within Azerbaijan.
Moreover, the co-chairmen's visit to the Transcaucasus failed to clarify whether they will press on with the current plan or shift to the package option. (Armenia and Karabakh both stressed their desire to resume peace negotiations in the hope of quickly reaching a solution.) Thus, a delay in the peace process until the fall now seems likely and would give the mediators more time to consider which strategy to adopt. Even more than till now, the future of the troubled region will depend on that strategy.
The author is a Yerevan-based RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty