|Thursday, 21 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 100, 98-05-28
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 100, 28 May 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ABKHAZ PRESIDENT IMPOSES STATE OF EMERGENCY IN GALIVladislav Ardzinba on 27 May imposed a state of emergency in Gali and parts of neighboring Ochamchira Raion for three months, Interfax reported. Speaking later that day at a news conference in Sukhumi, Ardzinba accused Georgian leaders, including Tamaz Nadareishvili, chairman of the so-called Abkhaz parliament in exile, of deliberately provoking the fighting in Gali in order to bring the entire district under Georgian control and establish joint local administrative bodies there, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. The resolution on Abkhazia adopted by the CIS Moscow summit in April mandates the creation of such bodies in order to expedite the repatriation to Gali of Georgian displaced persons. Ardzinba expressed his willingness to work for peace and reconciliation but added that the restoration of good neighborly relations with Tbilisi is contingent on "a desire for mutual understanding and compromise." LF
 GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES GALI EVENTSGeorgian lawmakers on 27 May adopted a statement accusing Abkhazia of a deliberate policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing toward the region's Georgian population, Caucasus Press reported. The statement claims that since early 1994 some 1,500 Georgian inhabitants of Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion have been killed and 1,000 homes destroyed. It blames the Abkhaz leadership and the Russian peacekeeping force for the latest round of fighting and calls on the OSCE and the UN to raise with the UN Security Council the question of replacing the CIS peacekeeping force with an international contingent. Caucasus Press on 28 May quoted Abkhaz Television as reporting that 300 Abkhaz were killed during the fighting of the past week. LF
 CONTROVERSIAL GEORGIAN PARAMILITARY ORGANIZATION STILL ACTIVEThe paramilitary organization Mkhedrioni, formally banned in late 1995 on charges of terrorism and involvement in the August 1995 attempt to assassinate Shevardnadze, is still functioning, Caucasus Press reported. Tornike Berishvili, one of the group's new leaders, told journalists on 27 May that some 100 Mkhedrioni members took part in the recent fighting in Gali along with other Georgian guerrilla units. LF
 SOUTH OSSETIAN PARLIAMENT ADOPTS NATIONAL SYMBOLThe parliament of Georgia's former autonomous republic of South Ossetia has passed legislation adopting a snow leopard against a mountain background as the region's national symbol, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 May. That symbol is very similar to the state symbol of the Republic of North Ossetia--Alania. South Ossetian parliamentary chairman Kosta Dzugaev said that South Ossetian citizens had "persistently demanded" that the region's parliament adopt a symbol similar to that of North Ossetia. LF
 OFFICIAL, UNOFFICIAL RALLIES MARK AZERBAIJANI INDEPENDENCETwo demonstrations were held in a Baku suburb on 28 May to mark the 80th anniversary of the declaration of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918, RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. Some 4,000 people congregated near the cemetery where the family of Mehmet-Emin Rasulzadeh, one of the ADR's founders is buried, while 600 people attended a rally convened by the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan party at a nearby statue of Rasulzadeh. Police have cordoned off Azadlyg Square in central Baku to prevent opposition supporters gathering there. LF
 AZERBAIJAN CASTS DOUBT ON ARMENIAN SPY CLAIMSThe press service of Azerbaijan's National Security Ministry has rejected as "pure invention" a 23 May Armenian Television broadcast reporting the arrest of a Russian former colonel recruited by Azerbaijan to carry out espionage activities in Armenia, Turan reported on 27 May. The Russian was charged with infiltrating the military leadership of either Armenia or Nagorno-Karabakh, according to Interfax. LF
 KYRGYZ PREMIER COMMENTS ON ISSIK-KUL DISASTERKubanychbek Jumaliev held a press conference in Bishkek on 28 May to report on the consequences to date of the sodium cyanide spill into the Barskoon River, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Jumaliev said more than 1,000 residents of the southern Issik-Kul area have sought medical treatment and at least 93 have been kept in the hospital. Two people have died, while eight are in a serious condition and have been moved by helicopter to better facilities in Bishkek, he noted. The previous day, Deputy Premier Boris Silayev said the Kumtor Mining Company was irresponsible in its handling of the situation, pointing to the company's failure to inform the Kyrgyz government or local residents for several hours after the spill. A team of experts from the World Health Organization is due to inspect the scene of the incident on 28 May. BP
 TAJIK PEACE PROCESS AT STANDSTILLThe 23 May decision of the parliament to ban religious parties has brought the Tajik peace process to a halt. A 26 May meeting of representatives of the nations and organizations guaranteeing that process yielded only a statement encouraging the two sides to engage in further talks, ITAR-TASS reported. The following day, President Imomali Rakhmonov met with United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri behind closed doors, but no details were provided. Also on 27 May, U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin called on Rakhmonov to use his powers to veto the parliament's decision on political parties. Rubin said the decision violates the terms of the peace accord. He also hinted that international aid to Tajikistan may be threatened if the provisions of the UN- mediated peace accord are not fulfilled. BP
 TAJIK OPPOSITION SAYS NO FOREIGN TERRORISTS ON TAJIK SOILSultan Khamadov, the UTO's press secretary, told ITAR-TASS on 27 May that the UTO is neither training nor harboring foreign terrorists. Khamadov invited the UN observer mission in Tajikistan to send representatives to UTO camps to verify his statements. He was responding to the Uzbek and Kyrgyz governments' claims that the UTO is providing bases for terrorists whose aim is to commit acts of sabotage in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. BP
 NAZARBAYEV WRAPS UP MIDDLE-EAST VISITKazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev concluded his three-day official visit to the United Arab Emirates on 27 May, following a trip to Qatar, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL correspondents reported. The two Arab countries have promised to provide $100 million in loans for developing Kazakhstan's new capital, Astana, and improving environmental conditions around the Kazakh section of the Aral Sea. Nazarbayev invited both countries to participate in Kazakh natural gas and oil projects. He also signed agreements on trade and economic cooperation and on setting up embassies in both countries. BP
 RUSSIA SAYS 'POSITIVE DYNAMICS' IN RELATIONS WITH UKRAINEIn a statement released following Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov's visit to Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Russian- Ukrainian relations have assumed "positive dynamics." Primakov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Borys Tarasyuk, told journalists after their 27 May meeting that both sides showed "a constructive approach and good will" in discussing bilateral relations, Ukrainian Television reported. Tarasyuk said that a "zero option" was considered for dividing the property of the former USSR and that significant progress was made toward delimiting the Russian-Ukrainian maritime border in the Azov Sea. JM
 ...WHILE PRIMAKOV REAFFIRMS RUSSIAN OPPOSITION TO NATO EXPANSIONPrimakov also stressed in Kyiv that Russia "has been, is, and will be against NATO expansion," ITAR-TASS reported. The Russian foreign minister added that there is no chance that Russia will become a member of the alliance but will cooperate with it in order to reduce tensions in Europe. Primakov's remarks came on the first anniversary of the signing of the NATO- Russia partnership accord. The same day, Colonel General Leonid Ivashov told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that Europe will become "unstable" if NATO were to make "former Soviet republics" candidates for NATO membership. And NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana wrote in "Izvestiya" that he hoped people in Moscow can maintain an open mind about the alliance. PG
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO ADOPTS KOSOVA STRATEGYForeign ministers of the 16 NATO member states have agreed in Luxembourg on a strategy for containing the conflict in Kosova. The package includes detailed planning for "preventive deployment" of troops from the Atlantic alliance in Albania and Macedonia, AFP reported on 28 May. More details are to be released later today. On 27 May, Russian diplomats said in Brussels that Moscow wants detailed information about NATO's plans for Kosova. One diplomat said Moscow has doubts about the legality of any NATO role in the region. PM
 U.S. BACKS RUGOVA'S LINERobert Gelbard, who is the U.S. special envoy for the former Yugoslavia, told CNN on 27 May that the administration wants Kosovar shadow- state President Ibrahim Rugova's upcoming visit to Washington "to demonstrate that the path Dr. Rugova pursues, one of non-violence, one of support for democracy, is the right path for Kosovar Albanians to follow.... We want to show our support for that, and we have urged other governments in Europe to show the same kind of support for him." Also in Washington, a State Department spokesman said that the administration expects the Serbs and Kosovars to continue their weekly talks even though this week's session was canceled because of Rugova's trip to the U.S. PM
 RUGOVA SAYS AUTONOMY NOT ENOUGHSpeaking in Vienna en route to Washington, Rugova told Austrian Radio on 27 May that the Kosovars will not accept autonomy. They insist that Kosova become an "international protectorate" as a transitional stage on the road to full independence. But in Strasbourg, the Congress of European Local and Regional Governments passed a resolution calling for the restoration of Kosova's autonomous status as prescribed in the 1974 Yugoslav and Serbian constitutions as a solution to the current crisis. The congress also concluded that Belgrade must make progress in democratization and clarify the status of Vojvodina and Sandzak if Yugoslavia wants membership in the Council of Europe. The congress also ruled that Belgrade must accept Spain's Felipe Gonzalez as the sole mediator in the Kosova crisis and not allow the U.S. to play a predominant role, "Nasa Borba" reported. PM
 EUROPEAN CONCERN OVER SERBIAN BLOCKADEDoris Pack, who is the European Parliament's representative for East European affairs, said in a statement in Brussels on 27 May that the ongoing Serbian blockade of Kosova has led to "alarming humanitarian conditions," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. She added that the blockade has not only cut off normal supplies of food and medicine but is also preventing 200 trucks containing European humanitarian aid from entering the region. Pack noted that available supplies in Kosova are going primarily to the Serbian troops and paramilitary police. She called for urgent international pressure on the Belgrade authorities. Meanwhile in Geneva, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that fighting in Kosova since February has led to some 34,000 persons being displaced. Some 3,000 ethnic Albanians have sought refuge in Montenegro. PM
 NANO SAYS BOSNIAN LESSONS APPLY TO KOSOVAAlbanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service in a telephone interview on 27 May that the international community has learned from the Bosnian war that it must act quickly and decisively in Kosova. He added that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "does not have a future if he continues to behave like a warlord." Nano said that he is against calling the Kosova Liberation Army "terrorists" because "desperate people who defend their homes and their children...[in the face of] massive ethnic cleansing and violent operations" cannot be legitimately classified as terrorists. The prime minister urged that Kosova become a special entity within Yugoslavia, based on the model of the status of the Republika Srpska within Bosnia. Nano stressed that Tirana backs Rugova's non- violent line and tries to prevent arms smuggling into Kosova. PM
 BELGRADE RECTOR QUITSDragan Kuburovic, who is the rector of Belgrade University, submitted his resignation on 27 May to protest the new Serbian law that ends the autonomy of the universities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May 1998). He said his decision becomes effective as of 29 May, when the faculty will meet to decide whether to join the students' call for a "general strike." Several thousand students protested against the new law outside the buildings of the Philosophy Faculty. PM
 DJUKANOVIC CALLS FOR 'OPEN DOORS'Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic told the Belgrade daily "Novosti" of 28 May that Milosevic's government is leading Yugoslavia into ever greater isolation precisely when the country needs more democracy and more openness to the outside world. Djukanovic added that Montenegro has shown the way Yugoslavia should go by "opening all doors" to the EU, the U.S., and Russia. Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Miodrag Vukovic told "Nasa Borba" that Montenegrins will make their own decisions in the 31 May parliamentary elections and do not welcome any pressure from the outside, by which he presumably meant from Milosevic. Some 120 international observers will monitor the election process, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 27 May. PM
 CROATIA READY FOR 'PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE'?William Montgomery, who is U.S. ambassador to Croatia, said in Zagreb on 27 May that Croatia could become a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace Program by the end of this year if it makes sufficient progress in democratization, in allowing Serbian refugees to return, and in supporting the Dayton peace process. Elsewhere in the capital, President Franjo Tudjman received Ante Jelavic, whom the Herzegovinian Croats recently elected to head their branch of the Croatian Democratic Community despite Tudjman's support for another candidate (see "RFE/RL Bosnia Report, " 20 May 1998). PM
 ALBANIAN ARMS-TRAFFICKING INCREASESPolice on 26 May stopped three trucks filled with arms, "Koha Jone" reported on 28 May. The haul included 500 Kalashnikov machine guns, hundreds of boxes containing ammunition cartridges, grenades, and mortars. The trucks were stopped in Fushe Kruja, in central Albania, en route from Tirana to the north. The drivers fled the scene. Also on 26 May, army officials discovered that some 100 mortars and an unspecified numbers of anti-aircraft guns have disappeared from an army storage facility near Tirana, "Shekulli" reported on 28 May. The daily noted that arms trafficking has become increasingly profitable since the recent intensification of the conflict in Kosova. FS
 ROMANIAN DEFENSE INDUSTRY PRESENTS NEW HELICOPTERThe new IAR Puma 330 helicopter produced in Brasov was presented to journalists on 27 May, RFE/RL's Bucharest service reported. The helicopter is jointly produced with Israel's Elbit Systems Ltd. and is equipped with a modern anti-tank device aimed at bringing Romanian military forces up to NATO standards. In other news, a spokesman for the Socialist Party on 27 May denied that his formation has signed an agreement with seven parliamentary and non-parliamentary parties to back the candidate of the Party of Social Democracy (PDSR) in Romania in Bucharest mayoral elections scheduled for October. PDSR chairman Ion Iliescu had announced the signing of such an agreement the previous day. MS
 IMF TELLS MOLDOVA TO REDUCE DEBTThe IMF on 27 May said that Moldova's current account deficit is too large and that the government should stop accumulating external debts in order to get its economy on course, Reuters reported. The IMF praised Moldova for progress in the energy and the agricultural sectors reform but said the growing external debt and the government's increasing difficulties to service it are worrying. The fund also urged Moldova to tighten spending and borrowing controls on local authorities, restructure its health and education services, and stop granting tax amnesties and concessions. MS
 BULGARIAN-US ECONOMIC GROUP MEETSAt its first meeting in Washington on 27 May, a joint U.S.-Bulgarian economic group discussed ways to strengthen the Bulgarian economy. The meeting was chaired by U.S. Under Secretary of State Stuart Eisenstat and Bulgarian Deputy Premier Aleksander Bozhkov. State Department spokesman James Rubin said Bulgaria has undergone a "remarkable economic transformation" under Ivan Kostov's government. He added that the U.S. will continue to provide assistance in privatization, tax reform, and reducing the bureaucracy. MS
[C] END NOTE
 ABKHAZ OFFENSIVE RUINS PEACE PROSPECTSby Liz Fuller
Clashes last week between Georgian guerrillas and Abkhaz Interior Ministry forces in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion precipitated a major offensive that has claimed more than 100 lives and in effect destroyed what tenuous chances had existed for achieving a formal settlement of the deadlocked conflict.
On 18 May, Georgian guerrillas from the so-called White Legion killed some 20 Abkhaz police officers in a surprise attack. Two days later, Abkhaz forces armed with heavy artillery launched a counteroffensive against several Gali villages. Estimates of casualties differ widely, but it appears that dozens of Georgian civilians have been killed, as well as a similar number of Abkhaz and Georgian combatants. In addition, 30,000-40, 000 ethnic Georgian repatriates who returned to the homes in Gali, from where they had fled during the 1992-1993 war have again sought refuge on the other side of the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. On 24 May, Georgian Ambassador to Russia Vazha Lortkipanidze and Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba agreed on the wording of a protocol on a cease- fire, the withdrawal from Gali of Abkhaz reinforcements sent there over the past few days, and the return of the Georgian fugitives. Meeting in Gagra the next day, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and his Abkhaz counterpart, Sergei Shamba, signed that protocol, while the UN special envoy to Georgia and the commander of the Russian peacekeeping forces appended their signatures to it.
The cease-fire was scheduled to take effect at 6:00 a.m. local time on 26 May and to be followed within hours by the withdrawal of forces from the 12- kilometer security zone on the northern side of the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. But hostilities continued for most of that day, with each side accusing the other of violating the cease-fire agreement. (Given that the Georgian leadership has repeatedly disclaimed any connection with or control over the Georgian White Legion and other guerrilla forces in Abkhazia, it is unclear how the former intended to ensure the latter would comply with the cease- fire.) On 27 May, Abkhaz spokesmen claimed to have expelled the last Georgian guerrillas from Abkhaz territory.
It is also unclear, however, whether the White Legion has in effect been neutralized. Before the most recent fighting, spokesmen for the Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia predicted that failure to expedite the repatriation of those persons could prompt thousands of Georgians to join the partisans. Moreover, unclarity surrounds the alleged links between the White Legion and the Georgian authorities : the legion is said to take orders from Tamaz Nadareishvili, the chairman of the Abkhaz parliament in exile composed of the ethnic Georgian deputies from the Abkhaz parliament elected in 1991. Nadareishvili is a member of the Georgian National Security Council.
The fighting over the past week has called into question the effectiveness of both the CIS peacekeeping forces that were deployed in the security zone in 1994 to oversee the repatriation of the Georgian displaced persons and of the UN observer force in western Georgia. One of the White Legion's commanders has charged that the CIS peacekeepers did nothing to prevent the Abkhaz from bringing heavy artillery into the security zone in violation of the cease-fire agreement signed in May 1994. Nadareishvili, for his part, accused the peacekeepers of failing to take any measures to protect the civilian population from Abkhaz reprisals. As for the (unarmed) UN observers, they were said to have done nothing except take photographs of the fighting and compile reports to be sent to the UN secretary-General.
The most serious consequence of the fighting, however, is the setback to the process of repatriation. Abkhaz, Georgian, Russian, and UN representatives had signed an agreement on repatriation in April 1994, but the Abkhaz had for years systematically sabotaged its implementation. Moreover, many Georgians had simply circumvented the repatriation procedure and returned spontaneously to their homes. After they were forced last week to flee for a second time, the Abkhaz torched many abandoned Georgian dwellings. At the CIS summit in Moscow in late April, participants had agreed on a new document detailing measures to expedite the repatriation process. But its implementation was contingent on the presence of the CIS peacekeeping force, whose withdrawal the Abkhaz parliament subsequently demanded.
There is also precious little hope that the two sides can be persuaded to resume negotiations on Abkhazia's future status vis-a-vis the central Georgian government in Tbilisi. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze recently proposed that Georgia become an "asymmetric federation" in which Abkhazia, Adjaria, and South Ossetia enjoy varying degrees of autonomy. Abkhaz President Ardzinba, however, rejected that variant out of hand, insisting that Abkhazia and Georgia "establish state and legal relations as equal subjects of international law." And following the actions of the Georgian guerrillas over the past few days, the Abkhaz leadership has even less incentive than before to agree to a compromise with Tbilisi.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty