|Wednesday, 13 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 126, 98-07-02
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 126, 2 July 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 GEORGIAN OPPOSITION LEADER WANTS LAND PLOTS FOR FUGITIVESSpeaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on 1 July, the leader of the Laborist parliamentary group, Shalva Natelashvili, called on the government to distribute plots of land to the tens of thousands of Georgians who fled Abkhazia in 1992-1993, Caucasus Press reported. Many of those fugitives are still quartered in Tbilisi hotels. Natelashvili also called on the government to regulate payments of wages and pensions and to alleviate the tax burden on small and medium-sized business. Natelashvili expressed surprise at the Georgian leadership's negative reaction to last week's congress in Batumi of the Revival party, at which Adjar Supreme Council chairman Aslan Abashidze harshly criticized the Georgian government's policies. Praising Abashidze for having maintained political stability in Adjaria, Natelashvili said the congress constituted an attempt by various Georgian political forces to seek solutions to the country's problems within the framework of the constitution. LF
 ARMENIA VALUES TIES WITH FRANCE...President Robert Kocharian described France as "Armenia's strategic partner" at a 1 July meeting with a group of visiting French parliamentary deputies and businessmen, according to Noyan Tapan. Kocharian also called for more French investment in the Armenian economy, stressing that "all necessary conditions for normal business" are being created in his country, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The two sides also discussed the 29 May recognition by the lower house of the French parliament of the 1915 Armenian genocide. Delegation head Senator Jacques Oudin told Interfax that "an overwhelming majority" in the Senate will support the resolution when it is debated in the fall. LF
 ...AND RUSSIA"Respublika Armeniya" on 1 July quoted Armenian presidential adviser on foreign policy Aram Sargsian as predicting that Russian-Armenian relations will become more dynamic in the near future, given that "Moscow's political beau monde realizes that Armenia plays an almost pivotal role in the Transcaucasus," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Sargsian held talks in Moscow last week with senior Russian Foreign Ministry and Security Council officials. He noted that Yerevan is keen to "develop serious relations not just with Russia but with Europe, the U.S., China, and Iran, because it is in our national interests." And he stressed that Armenia is ready to resume talks with Azerbaijan on a settlement of the Karabakh conflict but that any agreement must include iron-clad security guarantees for all parties to the conflict. LF
 FORMER PREMIER, YEREVAN MAYOR TRADE ACCUSATIONSAzatutiun, the political party founded last year by former Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian, has issued a statement categorically denying allegations by Vano Siradeghian, former Yerevan mayor and chairman of the board of the Armenian Pan-National Movement, "Aravot" reported on 1 July. Siradegian claimed that Bagratian secretly acquired 25 percent of the shares in the Ararat winery. The statement charges that Siradeghian's accusations are an attempt to avoid imprisonment for murders that he had plotted, to safeguard the "unimaginable wealth" he has acquired, and to escape responsibility for "setting the country's development back 20 years," Noyan Tapan reported. Azatutiun says Bagratian's return to active politics is inevitable. LF
 DOES KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT HAVE SPEAKER?Usup Mukambaev told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bishkek on 1 July that he has not resigned his post. The daily "Vechernii Bishkek" wrote the same day that Mukambaev had submitted his resignation at a 30 June closed session of the Legislative Assembly the previous day. Mukambaev is at the center of a scandal following a 22 June vote by the assembly to raise the retirement age in Kyrgyzstan beginning 1 July. Although the Assembly passed the draft law on 22 June, they approved a final version on 26 June that changed the date it goes into effect to 1 January 1999. Between 22 and 26 June, Mukambaev met with Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, who signed the draft law into effect, but had not consulted the assembly about that meeting. The Assembly harshly criticized Mukambaev at the closing summer session on 30 June. BP
 WAGES, PRICES GO UP IN UZBEKISTANPresident Islam Karimov has issued a decree raising the average minimum monthly wage in Uzbekistan from 750 som (about $9.5) to 1,100 som as of 1 July, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Pensions and benefits for the disabled have also been increased. However, the same day the price of electricity and rents for housing doubled, while municipal transportation fares rose by 50 percent, bread by 42 percent, and gasoline by 25 percent. BP
 TAJIK PRESIDENT PAYS ONE-DAY VISIT TO UZBEKISTANTajik President Imomali Rakhmonov was in Tashkent on 30 June to take part in the "Tajikistan days" celebrations in the Uzbek capital, Interfax reported. His Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, spoke of "how close our two peoples are," adding that "Uzbeks and Tajiks are the same people speaking two different languages." Karimov said his country will help Tajikistan to restore normalcy after its five-year civil war. Rakhmonov thanked Karimov, saying "We are starting a new page in our relations." BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 U.S. CONTINUES DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE OVER KOSOVA...State Department spokesman James Rubin said on 1 July that U.S. officials are continuing talks with officials of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in an effort to bring about a cease-fire by talking to those who are fighting, VOA reported. He added that talks with the UCK are a "practical matter" and do not constitute formal recognition of the guerrillas. Rubin stressed that Washington still regards shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova as the legitimate Kosovar leader. Rubin added that U.S. diplomats, including Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke, will continue to be "engaged in an intensive effort...for some time." U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard will visit Bosnia later this week, and U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill goes to Albania. Russian and EU officials have stressed recently that only Rugova can represent the Kosovars internationally. PM
 ...BUT SHIFTS STANCERubin also said on 1 July that Washington no longer insists on an immediate withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosova. He added that a cease-fire must precede a withdrawal "as a practical matter." Observers noted that this new position corresponds to the view of Belgrade and Moscow that Serbia cannot withdraw its forces as long as an armed insurgency is in progress. Elsewhere, State Department officials said that at least 88,000 Kosovars are now homeless, AP reported. Of these, 60,000 to 85,000 remain in Kosova, 15,000 are in Montenegro, and 13,000 have crossed into Albania. PM
 ALBANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CALLS FOR 'REALISM' IN KOSOVA...Paskal Milo told a press conference in Tirana on 1 June that many Albanians confuse their desire for Kosova's independence with political realities. He stressed that Albania is part of the international community and has to respect the inviolability of international borders. Milo added that Albania is continuing to work for a peaceful solution to the Kosova conflict, which, he said, will take time. He warned, however, that time is running out and that negotiations will have to start next week or else the armed conflict could spread further. FS
 ...WANTS KOSOVARS TO HAVE JOINT NEGOTIATORMilo said that the UCK has become an important factor in determining developments in Kosova and must be part of negotiations, along with Rugova. Milo added that the UCK is not a terrorist group but consists of people defending their homes in the face of massacres by Serbian forces. Milo called on all political forces in Kosova, including the UCK, to appoint a joint "authorized and competent" negotiator for talks with Belgrade. It was unclear if he meant one person or a team, such as the one that Rugova appointed in March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1998). FS
 KOSOVAR POLITICIANS FAIL TO AGREE ON UCK ROLEEstablished political leaders reached no agreement in Prishtina on 1 July on how to integrate the UCK into political structures, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Rugova and his Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) want to convene the LDK-controlled shadow-state parliament so that it can "provide sponsorship" for the LDK. Opposition parties want to set up a new National Council that would represent politically the UCK. Amid the growing violence in recent weeks, the leading role of the moderate LDK has been under challenge from Adem Demaci of the Parliamentary Party and other radical politicians, who seek recognition for themselves as the political wing of the increasingly influential UCK. PM
 KINKEL SAYS INTERVENTION A MATTER OF 'WEEKS, MONTHS'German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said on 1 July that the Kosovars should "not be under any illusions" that NATO will intervene to stop the violence at any time soon. He added that any military intervention in Kosova could be a matter of "weeks or months" because of opposition from Russia and China, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. Kinkel suggested that "an appropriate means to contain the conflict" could be to send an OSCE observer mission to Kosova. Such missions, however, proved totally ineffective in the Croatian and Bosnian conflicts, where locals dubbed them "ice-cream men" because of their ineffectiveness and their white uniforms and vehicles. PM
 SERBS RELY EVER MORE ON ARMYThe Yugoslav army has recently become more active in the interior of Kosova, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 2 July, citing unnamed Western diplomatic sources in Belgrade. Previously, the army limited its activities largely to the border region with Albania. Meanwhile in the Drenica region, UCK fighters regrouped following their loss of the coal mine at Belacevac (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July 1998). Elsewhere, fighting continued around the besieged Serbian-held town of Kijeva, which Holbrooke recently called "the most dangerous place in Europe." PM
 UN INVESTIGATES ALLEGED PROSTITUTION RINGUN police spokesmen said in Sarajevo on 1 July that they have launched an investigation into charges that Bosnian Serb police are running an organized prostitution ring involving women from Eastern Europe and the former USSR. In Zagreb, customs officials found 16 tons of marijuana in two ship containers during a routine inspection. A police spokesman said that one man was arrested and added that this is the single largest drug bust in Europe this year. Also in Zagreb, the government has approved a program for the restructuring of Croatian Railways, according to which 7,000 workers will lose their jobs, "Jutarnji list" wrote on 2 July. PM
 INTELLIGENCE SERVICE CANNOT REVEAL DEPUTIES LINKS TO FORMER SECURITATEResponding to the Chamber of Deputies' resolution of 29 June, Romanian Intelligence Service Director Costin Georgescu on 1 July told the parliamentary commission supervising the service's activities that under existing legislation, the service is prohibited from making public the links of parliamentary deputies to the former secret police. In order for the chamber's request to be met, legislation prohibiting the disclosure of information from Securitate files for 40 years since the legislation's enactment would have to be changed, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ITALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIALamberto Dini on 1 July met with his Romanian counterpart, Adrian Plesu, to discuss bilateral relations, Italian support for Romania's quest to accede to NATO, and the conflict in Kosova, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Dini said that the Kosova Albanians' demands for full independence may result in a war affecting the entire region. Both he and Plesu advocated a "large [measure of] autonomy" for the Kosova Albanians within Yugoslavia's existing borders. Dini was also received by Premier Radu Vasile and by the chairmen of the two houses of the parliament, Petre Roman and Ion Diaconescu. MS
 LUCINSCHI ON TRANSDNIESTER CONFLICTPresident Petru Lucinschi on 30 June told the OSCE Secretary- General Giancarlo Aragona that Moldova is willing to solve the conflict with the Transdniester by granting the separatist region a special status with a large degree of autonomy, BASA-press reported the next day. He said this position coincides with that of the OSCE and the two mediating countries, Russia and Ukraine. He also said Moldova "counts" on OSCE support in its quest to solve the conflict. Aragona is participating in a OSCE-organized seminar on relations between central and local authorities. Separatist leader Igor Smirnov declined an invitation to attend the seminar. He wrote to OSCE mission chief in Moldova John Evans that "Moldova is not a central authority" for the Transdniester region. MS
 AGREEMENT ON REDUCTION OF FORCES IN TRANSDNIESTER BUFFER ZONEThe Joint Control Commission supervising the truce in the buffer zone announced on 2 July that the two conflicting sides will each reduce their number of "truce observers" by 500 over the next weeks, Infotag and BASA- press reported. At present, there are some 800 Moldovan, 900 Transdniestrian, and 500 Russian troops in the zone. The agreement is in line with the accord signed last March in Odessa by Lucinschi, Smirnov, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. MS
 SLOVENIAN PRESIDENT IN BULGARIAJanez Drnovsek, on the second day of an official visit to Sofia, told journalists in Varna on 1 July that Bulgaria could become "Slovenia's bridge" to other countries and regions, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Bulgarian capital reported. Prime Minister Ivan Kostov praised Slovenia's backing of Bulgaria's drive to join the Central European Free Trade Agreement. Last week, Bulgarian officials said Sofia will join CEFTA in mid- July. Drnovsek and Kostov signed four accords, including a memorandum on mutual protection of investments and an agreement on transport links between their countries. Drnovsek discussed the conflict in Kosova with both Kostov and President Petar Stoyanov. Drnovsek said both sides, but particularly Belgrade, must accept the need for a compromise solution. Stoyanov said a new embargo against Yugoslavia will be detrimental to reform in the entire region. MS
[C] END NOTE
 MOLDOVA, UKRAINE SQUABBLE OVER OIL TERMINALby Stefan Korshak
Plans to build an oil transfer terminal in Moldova are stirring opposition in Ukraine, which is worried about an adverse environmental impact.
The $38 million project is scheduled for completion next year. The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is providing a $25.5 million credit for the construction of the terminal, which will allow Moldova to transfer petroleum to and from tankers plying the Danube, bringing considerable savings for the small landlocked country.
"This is just the kind of project we need," noted Moldova Deputy Premier Minister Ion Gutsu at a recent EBRD conference. "It will create critical infrastructure...and enable our economy to grow."
But Ukraine sees the terminal in a very different light. "Our experts recently went to the site and inspected the project," Odessa Regional Administration spokesman Yuri Shiroparov told RFE/RL. "And they found many things wrong with it."
Situated on the Danube's left bank south of the village of Dzhurdzhulesht and snug up against the Ukrainian border, the terminal could transfer 2.1 million tons of oil annually, giving Moldova an alternative to Russian energy deliveries.
Ukraine has no problem with that. But Kyiv is arguing that because the terminal is only a few kilometers upstream in the middle of Europe's largest wetland, the project endangers the environment. "One of the most important problems our experts found is that [the terminal] threatens our ecology and vulnerable wetlands," Shiroparov said. "We need to make sure that our interests are protected."
The Danube Commission, composed of representatives from countries bordering the river, could have been a forum to iron out differences about the environmental impact of development in the basin. This proved, however, not to be the case.
The Ukrainians charge that the Moldovans may have misled them and brought to near-completion a major industrial project without providing full information on the scope of the work.
But Moldovan project managers counter that Kyiv has had ample opportunities to learn about the Dzhudzhulesht Terminal, as far back as 1994.
"Ukrainian and Moldovan commissioners met in Chisinau on 3 November 1994 to discuss the problems of the terminal," said Deputy General Director of the Terminal S.A., Yakov Mogorian, in a recent newspaper article. "Results of [an independent Dutch] study were presented in Chisinau on 9 December 1994...[and] on 23 November the Moldovan side invited [Ukrainian ecological representatives]...but no one came and no one made any comments."
There were several permutations of the project before it was finalized into a Greek/Moldovan/EBRD joint venture. The first funds were obtained in late 1996, and by 1997 Dutch general contractor Fredric R. Harris had begun construction.
Kyiv demands now that Harris's blueprints be approved by its Ministry of Ecological Protection. Protests have been made to the Danube Commission and, more recently, Ukraine has tightened border control near the frontier town of Reni. Dotted with woodlands, lakes, and swamps, the Danube frontier near Reni and Dzhurdzhulesht used to be a place where hunters could shoot ducks and fishermen hook pike, without too much attention paid to passports. Not any more.
"The Ukrainian border troops' defensive works and barbed wire opposite the terminal construction site are more intense than what you would see on the Tajik-Afghan border," said Mogorian. And there is little prospect that the dispute will end any time soon.
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Kyiv.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty