|Thursday, 12 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 129, 98-07-08
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 129, 8 July 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT CALLS FOR AMENDMENTS TO ELECTION LAW...Heidar Aliev on 6 July sent a special missive to the parliament requesting amendments to the new law on the presidential elections, RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported. Those amendments provide for local observers to monitor the poll and limit to 2.5 percent the number of signatures supporting prospective presidential candidates that can be verified by electoral commissions. (Numerous opposition candidates were refused registration in the November 1995 parliamentary elections because signatures collected in their support were deemed to be forged.) The amendments did not, however, include the opposition demands for the minimum turnout to be reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent of registered voters and for 50 percent of the members of the Central and local electoral commissions to be nominated by the opposition, according to Turan. LF
 ...BUT OPPOSITION ADAMANT ON BOYCOTTThe five main prospective opposition presidential candidates issued a statement on 7 July saying the changes proposed by Aliev are inadequate to ensure that the 11 October poll will be free and fair, Turan reported. Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar and Democratic Party of Azerbaijan chairman Ilyas Ismailov both said that the five's decision is "final" and that they will not recognize the legitimacy of the president elected under current legislation. Also on 7 July, Ashraf Mekhtiev, head of the virtually unknown Association for the Victims of Illegal Political Repression, announced his intention to contend the poll, raising to five the number of candidates who have announced their intention to run. LF
 AZERBAIJANI CENSORS BAN ARTICLE ON PKKThe 7 July issue of the opposition Azerbaijani newspaper "Chag" was rejected for publication by censors because it contained a half-page article questioning whether the Azerbaijani authorities support the Workers' Party of Kurdistan (PKK), Turan reported, citing a statement by the paper's editorial office. The Azerbaijani National Security Ministry has denied any official PKK presence in Baku (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1998). LF
 ABKHAZ-GEORGIAN TALKS BOGGED DOWNThe 5 July talks in Moscow between Georgian Ambassador Vazha Lortkipanidze and Abkhaz Special Envoy Anri Djergenia failed to yield what Caucasus Press called "principally new proposals." Interfax quoted unnamed sources close to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba as saying that the Abkhaz side offered "some significant compromises" but that the Georgian leadership is unwilling to make concessions. Djergenia told Interfax that documents have been prepared for signing at the proposed meeting between Ardzinba and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. "The ball is now in the Georgian court," he added. Shevardnadze has consistently said he will meet with Ardzinba only to sign an agreement that defines how and when ethnic Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia during fighting in 1992-1993 and in May 1998 will be repatriated. LF
 GEORGIAN-ARMENIAN INTER-PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION MEETSA Georgian parliamentary delegation was in Yerevan from 5-7 July for the first session of Armenian-Georgian inter-parliamentary commission, Noyan Tapan and Caucasus Press reported. The discussions focused on bilateral trade and economic relations, the creation of regional bodies, and cooperation among the three Transcaucasus states. The Georgian delegation also met with Armenian government officials, including Prime Minister Armen Darpinian, to assess prospects for economic integration, specifically in the energy as well as the tax and customs sectors. Armenia has offered to supply electric power to Georgia to offset part of its debts for rail transportation, according to Caucasus Press on 7 July. LF
 ARMENIA, RUSSIA SATISFIED WITH BORDER COOPERATIONMeeting in Yerevan on 6 July with Russian Federal Border Service Director Colonel-General Nikolai Bordyuzha, Armenian President Robert Kocharian called for the continued presence in Armenia of the Russian border- guard troops who, together with the Armenian armed forces, are protecting Armenia's frontiers with Turkey and Iran, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Speaking to ITAR- TASS, Bordyuzha expressed "satisfaction" over his talks with both Kocharian and Armenian Interior Minister Serzh Sarkisian. Bordyuzha said the talks focused on deepening cooperation and "streamlining our structures." But he denied media reports that the Russian presence in Armenia will be reduced. LF
 UN OFFICIAL CONCLUDES VISIT TO TAJIKISTANUN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Sergio Viera de Mello wrapped up a three-day visit to Tajikistan on 6 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Meeting with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov two days earlier, Viera de Mello said the UN will continue to offer Tajikistan humanitarian aid and to seek donor nations that are also willing to extend assistance. Rakhmonov said that rebuilding more than 10,000 homes in Tajikistan's Khatlon region is "the greatest problem," at present. Shortly before his departure, Viera de Mello noted that the peace process in Tajikistan is gaining momentum but that further success depends on the timeliness and quality of international aid. BP
 NIYAZOV IN IRANTurkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov concluded a three-day visit to Iran on 8 July, IRNA and ITAR-TASS reported. During their two meetings, Niyazov and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami stressed that any agreement on the legal status of the Caspian Sea must be approved by all five littoral states. That statement followed the signing of the Kazakh-Russian deal on the division of the sea bed into sectors (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). Both Niyazov and Khatami praised the development of Turkmen-Iranian ties and pointed to the joint gas pipeline opened at the end of last year and the Meshed-Sarakhs-Tedjen railroad as examples of success in bilateral relations. Also during Niyazov's visit, agreement was reached on setting up six joint commissions (on business, oil and gas, health protection, transport and telecommunications, finance, and power engineering). BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NANO CALLS FOR KOSOVAR UNITYAlbanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano said in Tirana on 7 July that the shadow state of President Ibrahim Rugova, the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and other political groups should form a joint National Council. Such a body, Nano continued, would enable the Kosovars to work out a joint position and speak with one voice, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Senior U.S. and Russian envoys recently said that the failure of the Kosovars to develop a joint program is hampering international efforts aimed at ending the crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). PM
 RUGOVA AIDE BLAMES FOREIGNERS FOR KOSOVAR DISUNITYRugova's top adviser, Alush Gashi, said in Prishtina on 7 July that the international Contact Group-- the U.S., Russia, France, U.K., Italy and Germany--lacks a coherent strategy for Kosova. He added that this confusion has in turn led to a widening of divisions in ethnic Albanian ranks, AP reported. Gashi said that "the international community blames their failures to bring peace on natural divisions in Albanian politics. The Contact Group keeps demanding the Serbs withdraw their forces, but [the demands] are ignored. Without a doubt, the biggest problem for us is that there's no international agenda." In Bonn, senior diplomats from the Contact Group countries began a new round of discussions on Kosova on 8 July. PM
 GREECE WARNS AGAINST INTERVENTIONGreek Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos said in Washington on 7 July that NATO intervention in Kosova could lead to a regional "explosion." Reuters wrote. He added that "the [UCK] aims at independence, and perhaps even unification with Albania, via conflict. This cannot be tolerated because it would lead to a change in borders, which is extremely dangerous as an idea for the whole area. By participating militarily, NATO therefore [would be encouraging] secession and impelling the [UCK to choose] armed conflict in the hope that NATO would intervene against Serbia. If you once open the window to violent changes of borders, then you will have an explosion in the Balkans." PM
 GEREMEK SAYS PEACEFUL MEANS MAY NOT BE ENOUGHSpeaking in his capacity as OSCE chairman, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek told the OSCE parliamentary assembly in Copenhagen on 7 July that "sometimes the peace process cannot be [fostered] by peaceful means. We should look for a peaceful solution, but we cannot accept the impotence of the international community." In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin said that both sides in Kosova must realize that they cannot attain their respective goals through violence. In Blois, France, Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine told Reuters that the UCK may be included in negotiations only if they do not undermine Rugova's moderate position. Vedrine added that the UCK might cause any talks to fail by taking hard-line positions. PM
 HAGUE COURT CLAIMS AUTHORITY FOR KOSOVAThe office of Louise Arbour, who is the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, issued a statement on 7 July in which she argued that the court has the authority to investigate alleged atrocities in Kosova. The text said that "the nature and scale of the fighting indicate that an 'armed conflict,' within the meaning of international law, exists in [the province]. As a consequence, she intends to bring charges for crimes against humanity or war crimes, if evidence of such crimes is established." PM
 MOSTAR AIRPORT REOPENSThe international community's Carlos Westendorp and U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard led ceremonies on 7 July to reopen Mostar airport to civilian traffic after a break of more than six years. Airplanes from Croatian Airlines and Air Bosna were the first to arrive. Elsewhere in Mostar, Gelbard told Ante Jelavic, the leader of the Herzegovinian branch of the Croatian Democratic Community, that the Croats are not observing several provisions the Dayton agreement. Gelbard charged the Croats with rebroadcasting only programs of Croatian television, maintaining their own telephone system, and failing to cooperate with the joint police force. He reminded Jelavic that the Dayton agreement specifies that Bosnia is a unified, multi-ethnic country. PM
 UN SLAMS GERMANY OVER REFUGEE REPATRIATIONAriane Quentier, who is a spokeswoman for the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, said in Sarajevo on 7 July that Germany's policy of strongly encouraging Bosnian refugees to go home is "premature," Reuters reported. She stressed that the German authorities are virtually forcing people to return to areas where there are no homes or jobs for them. "The UNHCR is very concerned [because] the latest wave of refugees aggravates an already difficult refugee situation in Tuzla. The [German] authorities are using take-it-or- leave-it tactics: 'If you don't take the [$4,700 resettlement payment] and leave now, you will be deported from Germany in few months.'" The federal Interior Ministry and the state governments of Bavaria and Berlin have been particularly outspoken in encouraging refugees to leave. German critics charge the authorities with seeking to exploit anti- foreigner sentiments in an election year. PM
 ALBRIGHT MEETS CROATIAN OPPOSITION LEADERSRadimir Cacic of the Croatian People's Party, Liberal Party leader Vlado Gotovac, Ivan Jakovcic of the Istrian Democratic Assembly, Social Democrat Ivan Racan, and Zlatko Tomcic of the Croatian Peasants Party discussed the Croatian political situation with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Washington on 7 July. Gotovac told the VOA's Croatian Service that Albright "expressed great interest" in Croatia's playing a bigger role in regional affairs. Racan noted that she does not wish to interfere in Croatian politics but added that she expressed the hope that Croatia will become a dynamic multi-party democracy. Albright invited the opposition leaders despite objections from the governing Croatian Democratic Community. Meanwhile in Zagreb, several thousand pensioners demanded that the government pay them $4.6 billion in back benefits, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. A recent court decision endorsed the pensioners' claim, but the government says it does not have the money. PM
 ALBANIAN DEMOCRATS RESUME PARLIAMENTARY BOYCOTT...The Democratic Party on 7 July resumed its boycott of the parliament, which it had ended four months earlier. Party chairman and former President Sali Berisha told "Koha Jone" that the boycott is in response to government "corruption and violence" aimed at the Democrats. He also blasted "the return to work of [communist-era] employees of the secret service...and the creation of a parliamentary commission investigating the [chaotic] events of January to March of last year," at which time Berisha was president. The decision to resume the boycott coincided with parliament's approval of a report by the commission calling on the Prosecutor-General's Office to start investigating Berisha's role in the unrest. The report concluded that "Berisha is...legally responsible" for the 1997 chaos. FS
 ...BUT BERISHA FACES OPPOSITION WITHIN HIS PARTYBerisha's deputy, Genc Pollo, and former Democratic Party chairman Tritan Shehu criticized the decision to resume the boycott. Pollo said in Tirana on 7 July that it will be difficult to explain the walkout to the international community, "Shekulli" reported. Just one week earlier, European parliamentarians visiting Tirana urged Berisha to remain closely involved in parliamentary work, especially in the drafting of a new constitution (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 30 June 1998). Shehu said on 7 July that participation in the parliament gives the party a valuable opportunity to make its views known to the voters. FS
 ROMANIA INVITES POPE TO VISITPremier Radu Vasile, during his two-day visit to Italy, met with Pope John Paul II and handed over a written invitation from President Emil Constantinescu to visit Romania in May 1999. Vasile told journalists in Bucharest he "regrets" that "for now" the Romanian Orthodox Church has given the Pope only a "verbal invitation" to visit. The same day, the Romanian Patriarchate said the church's Holy Synod will discuss the invitation at its meeting on 15-17 July. If the meeting approves inviting the pontiff, a written invitation will be dispatched in September. The Orthodox and the Uniate Church (which is subordinated to Rome) have been in conflict over the restitution of property confiscated from the Uniates by the Communists and transferred to the Orthodox Church. Vasile also met with Italian Premier Romano Prodi and discussed bilateral relations as well as Romania's NATO bid. MS
 MOLDOVAN, TRANSDNIESTER PARLIAMENTARIANS MEETThe chairmen of the Moldovan and the Transdniester parliaments, Dumitru Diacov and Grigori Marakutsa agreed in Tiraspol on 3 July to start negotiations on an accord between the two legislatures, Infotag and BASA- press reported. Diacov called the move "historic." The two sides will exchange information on a regular basis. Transdniester Supreme Soviet Deputy Chairman Vladimir Atamanyuk said Tiraspol is not willing to negotiate on a "special status" for the region but does not rule out the possibility that a joint commission will examine the case of Ilie Ilascu, who was condemned to death in Transdniester in 1992 and has been detained there. Atamanyuk said a resolution of Ilascu's case may depend on Moldova's revising its attitude toward the Cossacks who fought on the side of the separatists six years ago. MS
 TIRASPOL CLOSES DOWN ROMANIAN-LANGUAGE SCHOOLThe authorities in Tiraspol have ordered the closing of the city's only school in which instruction was in Romanian, Radio Bucharest reported on 7 July citing the BBC. The separatist government said the school curriculum does not correspond to the agreement reached between Chisinau and Tiraspol on teaching programs. It also noted that the school director failed to obtain a license from the Ministry of Education. The BBC said the main reason for the decision was that the Latin rather than the Russified Moldovan alphabet was used at the school. MS
[C] END NOTE
 PREPARING FOR NATO: POLAND PROFITS FROM PEACEKEEPING EXPERIENCEby Kitty McKinsey
Poles are proud of the history of their army. Polish soldiers fought repeatedly over the ages for their country's independence and freedom as well as for the freedom of the future United States of America during the American Revolutionary War. They were actively involved in both the First and the Second World Wars.
In recent years, Polish soldiers have been proving their mettle not on the battlefield, however, but in peacekeeping operations from Haiti to Cambodia, from Bosnia to Rwanda.
Poland is the world's number-one supplier of troops to UN peacekeeping missions in danger zones. It currently has some 1,500 soldiers serving as peacekeepers as well as UN and OSCE military observers. This year, it celebrates 25 years as a permanent contributor to UN peace missions. Polish military officials say that experience will serve the country well when it joins NATO in 1999.
Why are Poles in such demand as peacekeepers? "We are good soldiers," says Lieutenant-Colonel Marek Olbrycht, commander of the Polish Army's Peacekeepers Training Center in Kielce, southern Poland. "We have a lot of experience and the result is that we feel [comfortable] in the international family, and I am 100 percent sure the international family also feels comfortable with us."
Olbrycht adds that "the peacekeeper has to be the best soldier in the world" because he has to inspire respect from local people without using any weapons.
A UN official at headquarters in New York (who spoke on condition he not be named) agreed that "in Poland, they have a tradition of participation in UN operations, so they have established a very good reputation."
At the Kielce center, Polish soldiers and officers-- from privates to generals--are trained for specific missions immediately before going abroad. They train for exactly the tasks they will be performing in the field. As Olbrycht jokes, "we prepare them for everything but the climate," which in areas like the Golan Heights and south Lebanon can be dramatically different from Poland's.
Lieutenant-Colonel Marian Kolus, second in command at the Kielce center, explains that "we prepare our soldiers for combat, but for UN soldiers, the main task is to see and be seen." The Kielce school aims to allow peacekeepers to hit the ground running at their assigned destination; there's no room for "on-the-job training" once they are out in the field.
All Poles who go on peacekeeping missions are volunteers, and the army has more volunteers than it can actually send abroad. For conscripts, the incentive is the pay. Instead of the measly $21 per month they make in Poland, they earn $450 a month as peacekeepers.
Former Polish peacekeepers agree the main challenge for a UN peacekeeper is to be seen as impartial by locals on all sides who have recently fought a war. Olbrycht learned this lesson when he served in Serb-occupied Krajina in Croatia during the war there. "If for instance you give one piece of bread to [one side], you have to give the same kind, the same amount, the same size, and the same piece of bread to the opposite side."
In the experience of many Polish soldiers, "peacekeeping" is even a misnomer. In many cases, UN peacekeepers are sent into areas where they are expected to impose, enforce, and build peace. But Olbrycht says only the local people can build peace. If they don't want it, he says, nobody can impose peace on them.
Polish soldiers serve today as peacekeepers in the Golan Heights and south Lebanon, and with the NATO-led peace force in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Polish officers are also UN military observers in, among others, Angola, western Sahara, Georgia, and Tajikistan. Along with participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace exercises, Poland's role in peacekeeping operations is good preparation for the country's entry into NATO next year. By serving abroad, Polish soldiers learn above all how to communicate in English and also how to deal with soldiers from other armies.
Major Marek Obrusiewicz, in charge of the Polish army's peacekeeping training, says Polish soldiers are learning valuable lessons while serving with SFOR in Bosnia, especially how to do things NATO's way.
And U.S. defense officials reportedly welcomed the recent appointment of Henryk Szumski, a young general, as chief of the Polish general staff. The reason for that reception was Szumski's UN field experience.
The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty