|Saturday, 19 September 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 127, 98-07-03
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 127, 3 July 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 FIVE-NATION SUMMIT IN KAZAKHSTAN HAILED AS 'COMPLETE SUCCESS'...The 3 July summit in Almaty, Kazakhstan, has been hailed as a "complete success," according to ITAR-TASS. The presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and China as well as the Russian foreign minister met for one hour to review implementation of the border agreement signed in Shanghai in 1996 and the military reduction accord signed in Moscow the following year. All leaders agreed that those accords have laid the foundation for boosting bilateral and multilateral trade and for turning the 7,000-kilometer border into a "frontier of cooperation, friendship, and complete trust." Chinese President Jiang Zemin said his country is prepared to act as a "transport bridge" for railroad traffic and pipelines to the "warm South- Asian seas." BP
 ...WHILE LEADERS VOICE CONCERNSKazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov said they are concerned about continued hostilities in Afghanistan, which, they said, have helped turn that country into a "major supplier of drugs to the criminal world." They also said a large amount of weapons are being smuggled from Afghanistan to CIS states. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov warned of the dangers posed by recent nuclear testing in India and Pakistan. He said those texts escalated tensions in the region. Jiang Zemin called for a comprehensive ban and complete destruction of nuclear weapons, Xinhua news agency and RFE/RL correspondents reported. Jiang vowed his country will never "use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any nuclear-free country or any nuclear-free zone." And he stressed that "China has no intention of resuming nuclear tests." BP
 ISRAELI DELEGATION WRAPS UP CENTRAL ASIAN VISITAn Israeli delegation led by Trade and Industry Minister Natan Sharanskii has concluded its five-day tour of three Central Asian states (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1998), ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 2 July. At a meeting with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, Sharanskii praised Turkmenistan's officially recognized neutral status and was optimistic about the possibilities for cooperation in developing the country's hydrocarbon resources. Sharanskii also promised his country would help with farming in Turkmenistan, by "turning the desert into a garden." Earlier, Sharanskii met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Tashkent and agreed to help Karimov's country with irrigation techniques, green-house farming, and developing solar and wind-powered energy systems. BP
 NATO CHAIRMAN IN UZBEKISTANThe chairman of NATO's military council, Klaus Naumann, concluded his visit to Uzbekistan on 2 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1998), according to ITAR-TASS and Interfax. Naumann was in Uzbekistan to review preparations for the NATO military exercises in Central Asia involving troops from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan as well as NATO and scheduled for September. (U.S. paratroopers began a training exercise with Uzbek soldiers in the Fergana Valley on 1 July as part of those preparations.) Naumann noted that NATO is "seeking security with Russia" and not against that country and that the image of NATO in Russia as an aggressive military alliance "needs to be scrapped." He also said NATO's "cooperation zone" now stretches from Vancouver to Vladivostok. Naumann left for Turkmenistan on 2 July. BP
 KARABAKH PRESIDENT ASSESSES PEACE PROCESSFollowing a meeting with Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, told journalists on 2 July that the OSCE Minsk Group understands Armenia's insistence on a new peace plan to resolve the Karabakh conflict and may be prepared to draft a "package" plan that would settle all outstanding issues within a single framework accord, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Both Karabakh and Armenia have rejected the OSCE's earlier "phased" peace plan, which Azerbaijan accepted. But Ghukasian added that the Azerbaijani leadership's opposition to a new plan "complicates the situation." Ghukasian said the positions of Yerevan and Stepanakert are largely identical. Ghukasian and newly appointed Karabakh Prime Minister Zhirayr Poghosian had met on 1 July in Yerevan with Armenian President Robert Kocharian to discuss the peace process and the socio-economic situation in Karabakh, Noyan Tapan reported. LF
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN GEORGIAEmil Constantinescu and his Georgian counterpart, Eduard Shevardnadze, held talks in Tbilisi on 1 July on expanding bilateral relations, including the opening of embassies and consulates. They also discussed cooperating within the framework of the TRACECA project and in the transportation of Caspian oil to Western markets. As in Baku two days earlier, Constantinescu argued that shipping oil to Constanta from Georgia's Black Sea port of Supsa, which he visited on 2 July, is the shortest and most economical route. Constantinescu also visited Batumi and Poti, from where ferry services to Constanta are to begin shortly. LF
 SHEVARDNADZE CONFIRMS DELAY IN COMMISSIONING BAKU-SUPSA PIPELINESpeaking at a press conference with Constantinescu in Tbilisi on 1 July, Shevardnadze said that oil will begin flowing through the Baku-Supsa pipeline in February, 1999, ITAR-TASS reported. Georgian and Azerbaijani officials earlier predicted that repairs to that pipeline, which have proved more extensive and far more costly than originally estimated, will be completed on schedule by the fall of 1998. Shevardnadze added that a decision on the route for the so-called main export pipeline for Caspian oil will be taken before the end of 1998. He hinted that the Baku-Ceyhan route will be chosen but added that some Caspian oil could still be exported via Romania. LF
 ANOTHER YOUNG GEORGIAN POLITICIAN THREATENS TO RESIGNMikhail Saakashvili, the 29-year-old chairman of the Georgian parliamentary Committee on State and Legal Affairs, told journalists on 2 July that there is no point in his remaining in that post unless "substantial changes" are made in the structure of the country's executive bodies, Caucasus Press reported. In recent months, Saakashvili has repeatedly criticized corruption both within the Tbilisi municipal authorities and the government. He argued that if a group of young reformers came to power, "real progress" toward solving the country's problems would be evident within one year. Parliamentary chairman Zurab Zhvania has similarly hinted that he may step down in protest at government policy (see also "End Note" below.) LF
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION WARNS OF KURDISH TERRORIST THREATThe Democratic Congress, composed of 10 major opposition parties, issued a statement on 2 July warning that an unidentified group is disseminating "anti-Turkic propaganda" among the ethnic Kurdish population of five raions in southwestern Azerbaijan that border on Armenia and Iran. The statement also claims that immigration to Azerbaijan among Kurds from Turkey and Iran is growing. (According to the results of the 1989 Soviet census, there were 12,200 Kurds living in Azerbaijan, but the Armenian newspaper "Kommunist" claimed in January 1990 that their number was close to 200,000.) The Democratic Congress added that the Workers' Party of Kurdistan (PKK) has established a representation in Baku. The Azerbaijan National Security Ministry denied earlier reports of a PKK presence in Azerbaijan. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 CLINTON BLAMES BOTH SIDES IN KOSOVAPresident Bill Clinton said in Hong Kong on 3 July that "Belgrade is primarily responsible" for the fighting in Kosova, but he added that "others, when they're having a good day or a good week on the military front, may also be reluctant to actually engage in dialogue." He concluded that "the conflict is going on. Both sides are involved in it. There is some uncertainty about who is willing and who is not willing to even negotiate about it. And we're working on it as best we can." Meanwhile in Tirana, five deserters from the Yugoslav army arrived after being taken across the Albanian frontier by fighters of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). A spokesman for the Albanian Interior Ministry said that two soldiers from Montenegro and three from Serbia "refused to kill women and children" and deserted their units. The five all have Muslim names, AP reported. PM
 HOLBROOKE, MILOSEVIC TO MEETU.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke is scheduled to arrive in Belgrade on 3 July for talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic aimed at defusing the crisis in Kosova. The previous day, Milosevic called for urgent talks between Serbs and Kosovars as "the only way" to solve the problem. He added that "there are not, nor will there be any repressive actions against the civilian population." Milosevic said that security forces are protecting citizens and their property from "bandits and terrorists." In Washington, a State Department spokesman said that Holbrooke's aim is to persuade Milosevic that "he's leading his country down the path to ruin and that it's time for him to get it through his head that the only course of wisdom is to pull back his forces, stop the crackdown, stop the use of heavy military equipment, and start...negotiations" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1998). PM
 BOMB EXPLODES IN PRISHTINAA bomb went off in a market in an ethnic Serbian neighborhood in northwest Prishtina at 7 a.m. local time on 3 July. The explosion caused material damage but no injuries, Reuters reported. No one claimed responsibility. It was the first bombing in Prishtina since Milosevic launched his crackdown at the end of February. Also in Prishtina, Yugoslav air force jets continued low flights over the city in a recently begun move that Kosovar spokesmen say is intended to intimidate the ethnic Albanian majority. Meanwhile, shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said the Kosovars are ready to "pay whatever price is necessary" to achieve independence, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 KIJEVA SIEGE OVERSerbian forces broke through the UCK's lines around Kijeva from the west shortly after dawn on 3 July, the semi-official Serbian Media Center reported. Kosovar sources confirmed the story, Reuters added. The UCK had cut off some 200 Serbian civilians and two dozen policemen in the town for more than a week. Holbrooke earlier called Kijeva "the most dangerous place in Europe" and suggested that the confrontation could end with much bloodshed. PM
 ALBANIA TELLS UCK NOT TO ATTACK CIVILIANSPrime Minister Fatos Nano said in a statement on 2 July that "we, the Albanian government, during our contact at different levels with our partners in Kosova, have asked that acts of violence on civilians of other ethnic groups be avoided." He warned that attacks on civilians would cause the international community to take a dim view of what Nano called "this Albanian popular movement." He also appealed to all Kosovar factions to agree on a joint negotiating platform. PM
 RUSSIA BLAMES KOSOVARS FOR CRISISForeign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told a briefing in Moscow on 2 July that "all outbursts of violence [in the province] were reactions by the Serbian security forces to provocations by Kosovar Albanians." He added that the Serbs will not be able to withdraw their forces before the "provocations" have ended. Rakhmanin noted that "only a political settlement can bring unquestionable long-term results. Judging from recent statements made in Washington and European capitals, such a view is starting to gain force there as well" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 1998). Rakhmanin called the UCK a "terrorist group" that has no place in negotiations, which are limited to political groups, Interfax wrote. PM
 SOLANA SAYS 'NO MORE BOSNIAS'NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana said in Sarajevo on 2 July that the Atlantic alliance "will not permit" a Bosnian-type conflict to emerge in Kosova. In Vienna, EU foreign affairs spokesman Hans van den Broek argued that NATO could intervene in Kosova even without a UN mandate if the conflict escalated. In Bonn, a government spokesman said that German officials will take steps to prevent the UCK from forcibly collecting contributions from Kosovars living there and have appealed to Rugova for help, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. Holbrooke recently commented that forced contributions from Kosovars in Western Europe are "vital" for the UCK. Rugova's shadow state has depended for years on a "tax" paid by Kosovars abroad. PM
 SERBIA STOPS BROADCASTS BY PRISHTINA RADIO STATIONSerbian police and an official of the Telecommunications Ministry disabled the transmitter of Radio Kontakt in Prishtina on 1 July, the Association of Independent Electronic Media in Yugoslavia (ANEM) said in a statement in Belgrade the following day. Police also blocked the entrance to the broadcasters' building. The ministry charged that the station does not have a valid license, which officials of Kontakt denied. The station began broadcasting music on 19 June and had no trouble with the authorities until 1 July, when it began rebroadcasting news programs of independent Belgrade Radio B-92, VOA, and BBC. ANEM added that Kontakt is unique in Prishtina because it is the only station that seeks to promote interethnic dialogue and broadcasts both in Serbo-Croatian and in Albanian. PM
 UN URGES CROATIA TO GUARD SERBS' RIGHTSThe Security Council said in a statement in New York on 2 July that "ethnically related incidents, evictions, and housing intimidation cases" have been on the rise recently in eastern Slavonia, which returned to Croatian administration in January. "A continuation of this trend could have a seriously negative effect on the restoration of a multi-ethnic society in the Republic of Croatia," the text concluded. In Rome, Pope John Paul II discussed his upcoming trip to Croatia with Zagreb's Archbishop Josip Bozanic and Split's Ante Juric. In October, the pontiff will visit Croatia to proclaim Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac "blessed," which is the first step toward sainthood. Many Croatian Catholics regard him as a martyr for his country and his faith under communism. Many Serbs view him as at least an accomplice in the Croatian Axis puppet state's persecution of Serbs and other minorities. PM
 ROMANIA BACKS HELICOPTER PROJECT DESPITE IMF WARNINGSThe government on 2 July approved a deal with the U.S. Bell Helicopter Textron company whereby it would guarantee a $1.45 billion bond issue to finance the purchase of 96 AH-1-RO Dracula helicopters based on the Cobra model, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The decision meets the conditions of Bell Helicopter Textron for purchasing a 70 percent stake in the Gimbav Brasov aircraft plant. Finance Minister Daniel Daianu and at least two other ministers abstained from voting. The IMF last year criticized the deal as over burdening the state budget. MS
 IMF DELEGATION ENDS ROMANIAN VISITMeanwhile, an IMF mission has wrapped up a visit to Romania to evaluate the country's economic performance. An IMF press release at the end of the visit was non-committal about renewing loans to Romania and said an IMF mission may return in the fall to review the implementation of the government's reform program. On 2 July, Prime Minister Radu Vasile met with IMF chief negotiator for Romania, Poul Thompsen. An IMF communique released after that meeting praised "progress in applying the market mechanism to monetary policies" but warned that the budget deficit may "increase substantially in the absence of revenue-enhancing measures and expenditure savings." It also urged Romania to "give priority to the privatization of autonomous state- owned companies and restructuring the banking system." MS
 MOLDOVAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL RESIGNSDumitru Postovan has submitted his resignation to parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov, who has yet to decide whether to accept it, Infotag reported on 2 July. The agency said his resignation is probably connected to the report released one day earlier by the State Audit Office, which revealed gross violations of financial and economic legislation among government agencies. Postovan is a close friend of former Premier Andrei Sangheli. Also on 2 July, the parliament set up a special commission to recommend measures following the findings of the State Audit Office. In other news, BASA-press reported the previous day that deputies representing the ruling coalition parties have submitted a draft law amending legislation on political parties. The amendment envisages raising the minimum number of members a party needs to register from 300 to 10,000. MS
 BULGARIA ANNOUNCES TELECOM PRIVATIZATIONZachary Zhelyazkov, director of the Bulgarian Privatization Agency, told journalists in Sofia on 29 June that by the end of this year, 51 percent of the stock in the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company will be sold to private investors, while the rest of the shares will remain in the government's hands. He said the government hopes to find a "strategic investor" capable of modernizing and developing the company, an RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reported. MS
[C] END NOTE
 IS GEORGIA HEADING FOR CATASTROPHE?by Liz Fuller
Developments in Georgia over the past several months have in effect ended the two-year period of political stability that followed the November 1995 parliamentary and presidential elections. The unsuccessful attempt to assassinate President Eduard Shevardnadze in February, the abduction of UN observers in western Georgia later that month (both of which were blamed on followers of the late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia), and the fighting between Georgian guerrillas and Abkhaz Interior Ministry forces in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion in May, which precipitated the flight of some 35,000 ethnic Georgians, have all highlighted the country's weaknesses.
Opposition political figures seized upon the Gali debacle to unleash a torrent of criticism of the country's leaders. That criticism was not confined to the leadership's response to the fighting in Gali but also focused on festering problems that the Georgian authorities have so far failed to solve, including uneasy relations with Russia and the social and economic hardships resulting from economic reform.
Outraged by Shevardnadze's refusal to deploy Georgian troops to support the Georgian guerrillas and protect Georgian civilians, several opposition politicians went so far as to demand the president's resignation and new presidential and parliamentary elections. Perhaps the most vicious attack on Shevardnadze was by Socialist Party leader Vakhtang Rcheulishvili, who predicted that the president's failure to resign would lead to further losses of Georgian territories. He also blamed Shevardnadze for the marked deterioration in Georgian- Russian relations and for his subservience to the IMF, whose policies he termed devastating for the country's economy.
Meanwhile, the expulsion of the Georgian population from Gali has served as a catalyst for the consolidation of opposition forces around one of the country's most controversial politicians, Adjar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze. Appointed to that position by Gamsakhurdia in 1991, Abashidze succeeded in preserving domestic political stability in his autonomous republic, whose location on the Black Sea coast bordering Turkey facilitated thriving cross-border trade that has led to the region's modest economic prosperity.
But Abashidze is regarded with mistrust by many Georgians because of his cordial relations with the sizable Russian garrison stationed in Batumi, the Adjar capital, and his imputed separatist ambitions. That mistrust prompted Georgian parliamentary deputies repeatedly to vote down legislation introduced by Abashidze's All-Georgian Union for Revival (the second-largest parliamentary group) calling for the creation in Batumi of a free economic zone. Advocates of such a zone claim it could generate millions of dollars for Georgia's still shaky economy.
In April, the Revival parliamentary group announced that it intends to boycott parliamentary sessions indefinitely to protest what it termed the obstructionist tactics of the majority Union of Citizens of Georgia, led by parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania. Revival's parliamentary group reaffirmed that intention at a congress in Batumi last week, to which representatives of all other opposition parties were invited. Addressing the congress, Aslan Abashidze lambasted the Georgian leadership, and Shevardnadze personally, for their inability to lead the country out of political and economic crisis. He also implicated Zhvania in the 9 February attempt to assassinate Shevardnadze.
To date, two other prominent opposition politicians-- Rcheulishvili and Laborist caucus head Shalva Natelashvili- -have aligned with Abashidze, who has hinted that the United Communist Party of Georgia (SGKP) may form an electoral alliance with Revival to contend the November 1999 parliamentary elections. Abashidze is perceived as a potential candidate for the presidential elections due the following year, as are Zhvania; Rcheulishvili; Djumber Patiashvili, Shevardnadze's successor as Georgian Communist Party first secretary; SGKP chairman Panteleimon Giorgadze; and Union of Georgian Traditionalists chairman Akaki Asatiani, who served as parliamentary speaker under Gamsakhurdia.
The Georgian leadership has only limited options available in the face of growing popular discontent. True, Shevardnadze has signaled his readiness to meet some of the opposition's demands, such as amending the constitution to redefine the duties of the Cabinet of Ministers and, specifically, the minister of state who heads that body. The present incumbent, former Communist apparatchik and Tbilisi Mayor Niko Lekishvili, is viewed as a mere figurehead. Moreover, for several years there have been persistent rumors of bad blood between him and Zhvania, who has been tipped to succeed Lekishvili and to be endowed with broader powers.
However, the issue crucial to stability--namely the nature of Georgia's future relations not only with Abkhazia but with the other autonomous formations of South Ossetia and Adjaria--is seemingly intractable. Shevardnadze has said repeatedly that he is prepared to offer all three territorial units varying degrees of autonomy within an "asymmetric federation"--an offer that Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba has categorically rejected. The Abkhaz, for their part, are insisting that the repatriation of the Georgians who fled Gali in May must be conditional on lifting the restrictions in force on the Abkhaz border with the Russian Federation.
While Moscow is apparently siding with Georgia at present, many Georgians fear that as long as no permanent solution to the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts is reached, Russia might use those conflicts as leverage against Georgia. Zhvania expressed his fears on that score in his address on the last day of the spring parliamentary session, warning that if, as alleged, Russia is pursuing a policy of encouraging the separatist aspirations of ethnic minorities in Georgia, including the Armenian community in the south of the country, the result could be a "catastrophe" for Georgia.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty