|Wednesday, 20 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 131, 98-07-10
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 131, 10 July 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 INTERFAX RETRACTS REPORT ON NATO PEACEKEEPING FORCEInterfax on 9 July issued a revised version of a report released the previous day on a Tbilisi press conference held by newly appointed U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Spencer Yalowitz. Interfax admitted that the original report "contained an error which significantly affected the essence of what the ambassador said." That report cited Yalowitz as saying the U.S. intends to promote a decision on the deployment in Abkhazia of a NATO peacekeeping force (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1998). The revised dispatch quotes Yalowitz as saying that a political decision by Georgia and Abkhazia is a necessary precondition for the deployment of a NATO force and that since no such decision has been made, there are no grounds for deploying NATO peacekeepers in Abkhazia. LF
 DOCUMENT READY FOR SIGNING AT ARDZINBA- SHEVARDNADZE MEETINGAbkhaz presidential envoy Anri Djergenia and Georgian Ambassador to Moscow Vazha Lortkipanidze have reached agreement on "the basic principles" of a document to be signed by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and his Abkhaz counterpart, Vladislav Ardzinba, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 July. Djergenia said the planned meeting between the two presidents can now take place "in the very near future." The document focuses on measures to repatriate and guarantee the security of the estimated 35,000 ethnic Georgians who fled from Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion during the fighting in late May. LF
 GEORGIAN OPPOSITION WANTS TERRITORIAL DIVISIONS ABOLISHEDFifty-two opposition representatives on 9 July announced they will appeal to the Constitutional Court to abolish the existing territorial- administrative division of the country, Caucasus Press and RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau reported. Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili told journalists that the present division of the country into administrative regions is inadmissible, both politically and economically. He added that unspecified regional administrators may demand formal autonomy for their fiefdoms and that the funds allocated for local administration could better be spent on social needs. Natelashvili said that his party and other opposition parties agree on the need for changes in the Constitution to redefine the role of the Cabinet of Ministers and to introduce a two-chamber parliament. LF
 ARMENIA'S YEZIDI KURDS WANT REPRESENTATION IN PARLIAMENTMeeting on 9 July in Yerevan, the Presidium of the Union of Yezidis of Armenia unanimously agreed to propose to the president, prime minister, and parliament that the new election law allow the Yezidi community to elect a representative to the Armenian parliament, Noyan Tapan reported. There are an estimated 50,000-70,000 Yezidi Kurds in Armenia, some of whom are lobbying for recognition as an ethnic group distinct from the Muslim Kurds. LF
 ARMENIAN SUPREME COURT DISBANDEDIn accordance with the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, the Supreme Court has been superseded by a Court of Appeals, which is vested with fewer responsibilities, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 9 July. The new court is divided into two "chambers": criminal-military and civil- economic. It will examine only those appeals against verdicts handed down by lower courts. Introducing chairman Henrik Danielyan to the new court, President Robert Kocharian rejected criticism of the new Criminal Procedural Code adopted by the National Assembly, according to Noyan Tapan. LF
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION CRITICIZES ELECTION LEGISLATIONThe Democratic Congress, which is composed of 10 opposition parties, issued a statement on 9 July assessing the recent changes to legislation on the upcoming presidential elections, Turan reported. The statement said the changes are not substantive and do not address the opposition's criticisms. It stressed that the opposition will nominate a candidate for the elections only if the minimum turnout is reduced from 50 percent plus one vote to 25 percent and if parity is observed in forming electoral commissions. Also on 9 July, the Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan announced it will join the opposition boycott of the 11 October ballot. President Heidar Aliev has signed a decree empowering the parliament, Foreign Ministry, and Central Electoral Commission to invite foreign observers to monitor voting. LF
 KAZAKH GOVERNMENT SPARED AX--FOR NOWKazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev expressed displeasure after hearing a report on the country's economic performance in the first half of 1998 but did not sack the government of Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbayev as had been rumored, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 10 July. ITAR-TASS the previous day had quoted an unnamed government official as saying Nazarbayev would dismiss the government after hearing the report. Interfax the same day quoted presidential press secretary Kairat Sarybayev as refuting such rumors. According to the report, tax revenues and investments are down and the economic situation is worsening. While not dismissing the government, Nazarbayev told cabinet members "I am warning you, perhaps for the last time." BP
 ALMATY WATER SUPPLY CONTAMINATEDTraces of cholera bacteria have been found in the reservoirs and rivers that provide water to Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 July. Local epidemiologists have requested that all water reservoirs within city limits be drained, their beds dredged to a depth of 1.5 meters, and the soil transported outside Almaty for treatment. Waste from recreation areas in the nearby mountains is being blamed for the problem. BP
 FLOODING IN UZBEKISTAN LEAVES 71 DEADFlooding in the Uzbek section of the Fergana Valley has left at least 71 people dead, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 July. A landslide in the mountains of neighboring Kyrgyzstan two days earlier causes the water of lakes to rise by 3-4 meters; those lakes were already over-filled as a result of earlier rains. The Uzbek village of Shakhimardan was especially hard hit when water in the Ak-su River also rose by 3-4 meters. An Uzbek official from the Fergana Oblast said "the main reason" why people were not evacuated from the area was the lack of a timely warning by the Kyrgyz authorities of the approaching flood. BP
 CENTRAL ASIA'S 'ROYAL WEDDING' ANNOUNCEDAydar Akayev, the oldest son of Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev will marry Aliya Nazarbayeva, the daughter of Kazakh President Nazarbayev, in the second half of July, Interfax reported on 10 July. The ceremony will be held at President Akayev's residence on the shores of Issyk-Kul near the town of Cholpon-Ata. The wedding will follow a Central Asian Union summit meeting in Kyrgyzstan scheduled to begin on 17 July. BP
 FEDERATION COUNCIL CALLS FOR ACTION AGAINST LATVIAThe Federation Council on 9 July unanimously approved a non-binding resolution calling on President Boris Yeltsin to "take the toughest steps against the Latvian authorities, going as far as an economic embargo against Latvia, to put an end to the large-scale violations of the rights" of ethnic Russians, Interfax reported. The same day, the Council unanimously approved a statement "on the continuing violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms" in Latvia. It called on the government to consider imposing an economic embargo on Latvia and urged politicians and entrepreneurs to put more pressure on Latvian authorities, "going as far as curtailing business relations with Latvia." Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, one of the most outspoken critics of Latvia's policy toward ethnic Russians, urged his colleagues to pass both documents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 30 March 1998). LB
 LATVIAN PRESIDENT URGES OSCE TO CEASE RECOMMENDATIONS ON CITIZENSHIPAt a joint press conference with Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski in Riga on 8 July, Guntis Ulmanis said he hopes the OSCE will give Latvia guarantees that it will not make any "new and unfeasible" recommendations on amending Latvia's citizenship law, Interfax reported the next day. Poland currently chairs the OSCE. In response to a journalist's question as to whether such guarantees would be forthcoming, Kwasniewski said that in Europe there is a "long-established approach" to the problem of ethnic minorities. "If the OSCE leadership confirms that this approach is correct, then we accept it," he said. JC
 BIRKAVS IN ST. PETERSBURGEarlier this week, Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs visited St. Petersburg, despite calls by the Russian presidential administration for regional leaders to snub him (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 1998). RFE/RL's Latvian Service reports that Birkavs met with the deputy governor of St. Petersburg but that a scheduled meeting with the governor of that city did not take place. JC
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 DIPLOMATS UNDERTAKE FIRST MONITORING MISSION IN KOSOVADiplomats from the U.S., U.K., Russia, The Netherlands, and Belgium visited the Prizren, Gjakova, and Peja regions of Kosova on 9 July, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The envoys, who traveled without journalists, said that their mission helps them to identify regions that require additional monitoring. An U.S. diplomat told the VOA that both sides are more likely to "be on their best behavior" if they know they are being observed, even though the monitors have no authority to intervene (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 1998). In Vienna, spokesmen for the OSCE said that the Yugoslav authorities have agreed to admit OSCE monitors to Kosova. Until now, Belgrade refused to allow OSCE missions to work in Kosova until that body restores Yugoslavia's membership, which was suspended in 1992. PM
 HOLBROOKE SAYS KOSOVA 'TOUGHER THAN BOSNIA'U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke said in Washington on 9 July that the crisis in Kosova "is tougher than Bosnia [and] enormously dangerous." He added that Kosova "is a crisis, and it could, without too much difficulty, slip into an emergency if things go wrong. In Bosnia we didn't get engaged for two or three years. Here, we got engaged early because the danger of this fighting exploding into a general war is very great." In London, unnamed officials of the Foreign Office told Reuters that the meeting of the Contact Group in Bonn the previous day was "very difficult." Diplomats from the U.S., U.K., Russia, Germany, France, and Italy agreed on a package aimed at giving Kosova broad autonomy within Yugoslavia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1998). PM
 NANO HAILS CONTACT GROUP PLANAlbanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano on 9 July welcomed the peace plan for Kosova. Speaking to the government in Tirana, Nano said that Serbia "should create all conditions for the safe return of the Albanians displaced from their homes in Kosova." He added that Belgrade should allow international observers full freedom of movement throughout Kosova and invite EU monitoring teams there. Nano stressed that "the Kosovar Albanian negotiating team should be as representative of all ethnic Albanians as possible." That comment suggests he advocates including the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). But Nano warned against inviting Belgrade to resume its role in international institutions until the Kosova dispute is settled. FS
 THREE ALBANIANS REPORTED KILLED IN BORDER INCIDENTVillagers from Letaj north of Kukes said Serbian border guards shot and killed three Albanian citizens inside Albania on 9 July, "Gazeta Shqiptare reported. They added that Serbian forces took three other Albanians hostage. Albanian authorities have not confirmed the report but have sent police and border guards to the village to investigate. FS
 ALBANIAN CUSTOMS SEIZE WEAPONSCustoms authorities confiscated one-and-a-half tons of arms and ammunition in Durres on 9 July but made no arrests. The weapons were hidden in a van with a Zagreb license plate that arrived on a ferry from Ancona, "Koha Jone" reported. Durres prosecutors declined to comment on the preliminary results of their investigations but said they believe the arms were bound for the UCK. Customs officials in Durres seized a large quantity of arms on 18 June. FS
 KINKEL SAYS 'TIME RUNNING OUT'German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said in Tirana on 9 July that not much time is left to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Kosova, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. He added that the Contact Group wants the province to have broad autonomy but not the full status of a republic that Serbia and Montenegro enjoy. Kinkel noted that Russia agreed in Bonn to the stationing in Kosova of "mixed" police units that would include foreigners, Serbs, and ethnic Albanians on a model similar to that used in Bosnia. Kinkel urged the international community to give Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic positive incentives to end the crisis. The minister stressed that the prospect of renewed OSCE membership could be a "light at the end of the tunnel" for Milosevic and help convince him to change his policies in Kosova. PM
 MONTENEGRO SAYS NO RECOGNITION OF BULATOVICA spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Podgorica on 9 July denied recent accounts in the domestic and foreign media that the Montenegrin and Yugoslav federal authorities have reached an agreement on Montenegro's border with Croatia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1998). The spokesmen said that Podgorica does not recognize the federal government of former Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, whose election to that post Podgorica considers illegal, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May 1998). PM
 WASHINGTON, BRUSSELS SUSPEND SARAJEVO AIDA spokesman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp said in Sarajevo on 9 July that U.S. Agency for International Development and the EU have suspended $20 million in development assistance for the Bosnian capital. The payments will resume only when the city honors the pledge it made in March to allow up to 20,000 non-Muslims to move back to the Muslim- controlled city. Since the Dayton agreement was signed at the end of 1995, only 2,000 or so non-Serbs have returned to the Republika Srpska and 36,000 Serbs to the Muslim-Croatian federation, about half of whom went back to Sarajevo, AP reported. PM
 TWO DEAD IN ATTEMPT ON LIFE OF BOSNIAN SERB POLICE CHIEFTwo men were killed instantly in Bijeljina on 9 July when they tried to plant a bomb in the car of Ljubisa Savic, also known as "Mauser." He is the local chief of police and is loyal to Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic. Savic led a paramilitary unit known as the Panthers in ethnic cleansing operations in the area during the early stages of the 1992-1995 war. PM
 ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ON POPE'S VISITThe Romanian Orthodox Church on 9 July said it "remains open to the possibility of a visit" by Pope John Paul II to Romania but wants such a visit "to be thoroughly prepared" by "creating an atmosphere of [mutual] understanding" between Orthodox believers and [Rome-affiliated] Uniate Church members in Transylvania. That understanding would "contribute to a rapprochement between the Orthodox Church and Catholic Church," it added. Observers say the statement in effect amounts to a rejection of the Pope's visit. In a press release, the Orthodox Church said it has "repeatedly asked" the Uniate Church to "begin a dialogue on litigious problems" between the two sides. It noted, however, that such a dialogue cannot begin because the Uniates insist that Uniate churches and other properties confiscated by the Communists first be returned by the Orthodox Church. MS
 ROMANIA'S NEW 'STRATEGIC CONCEPT' FOR NATO INTEGRATIONForeign Minister Andrei Plesu on 9 July told Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe General Wesley Clark that Romania's "new strategic concept" for integration into NATO is one of "active attendance." Defense Minister Victor Babiuc told journalists after meeting with Clark that this new concept, first presented by Premier Radu Vasile, does not signify that Bucharest no longer gives priority to NATO integration. Rather, it seeks "to avoid over-dramatization" in the event that Romania again fails to be invited to join the organization in 1999 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 June 1998). MS
 MINERS' LEADER FREED FROM PRISONMiron Cozma, the leader of the miners who several times went on a rampage Bucharest in 1990-1991, has been freed from prison after completing an 18- month sentence for his role in the September 1991 disturbances (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 1998). On 9 July, he was welcomed in Petrosani by Ilie Neacsu, a parliamentary deputy of the extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM). Cozma joined that party while in pre- trial detention. Neacsu said it is up to Cozma to decide whether he will run for the legislature on the list of the PRM or return to his former position as miners' union leader. MS
 OSCE DISCUSSES WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN TROOPS FROM TRANSDNIESTERParticipants at a 9 July OSCE meeting in Vienna on "Military Transparency in Moldova" said the process of Russian troop withdrawal from the Transdniester is "stagnating" and must be accelerated, Romanian Radio reported. Moldovan delegation member Mihai Critincea told the forum that Romania is ready to assist Moldova and Russia financially for the purpose of accelerating the withdrawal. MS
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENT IN BRUSSELSPresident Petar Stoyanov on 9 July told the permanent representatives of NATO member states in Brussels that the situation in the Balkans in general and the Kosova crisis in particular are "additional arguments in favor of Bulgaria's accession to the organization" as soon as possible. Stoyanov said Bulgaria's and Romania's accession would "create a security belt" between the organization's northern and southern flanks, BTA reported. Meeting with the president of the European Commission, Jacques Santer, one day earlier, Stoyanov said he was bringing "a realistic assessment of our achievements but also an awareness of what remains to be done." Santer said the commission has registered Bulgaria's efforts toward political and macro-economic stabilization but noted that Sofia must still implement reforms of the economy, public administration, and judiciary. MS
 CORRECTION"RFE/RL Newsline" incorrectly reported yesterday that a former Bulgarian premier has been appointed ambassador to the UN. Filip Dimitrov (not Dimitri Filipov, as reported) was in fact appointed ambassador to the U.S.
[C] END NOTE
 PIPELINES UNDER TROUBLED WATERSby Paul Goble
The actions of Western oil companies and the concerns of their Russian counterparts have prompted Moscow to change its position on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.
But Moscow's shift, as reflected in a new accord with Kazakhstan signed earlier this week, seems unlikely to end disagreements among Caspian littoral states over the exploitation of the natural resources in and below that body of water. Instead, both Moscow's response and the Western actions that appear to have triggered it may mean that development in the Caspian basin will proceed without any formal resolution of this dispute.
That development, in turn, could set the stage for some new and even more intense disagreements among the countries and companies involved in the dispute.
On 6 July, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and visiting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed an accord delimiting the northern Caspian sea bed and thus allowing the two countries to exploit resources lying under the sea bed without having to worry about a legal challenge from the other.
Both Russian and Western media suggested that this was a major change in Moscow's position and that Moscow's new position in effect settles the conflict over the status of the Caspian Sea. And Umirsek Kasenov, a senior Kazakhstan scholar, told RFE/RL two days later that the accord marked "the first step toward the full regulation of the issue."
In fact, the accord may not do anything of the kind. It does not represent a complete negation of Russia's earlier insistence that the Caspian be treated as a lake and exploited only on the basis of a joint agreement of all littoral states. Rather, it simply draws a line on the sea floor of one small part of the northern Caspian that adjoins the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan. And it specifically holds that exploitation of the fish and other bio-resources of the sea should be governed by a joint agreement between all five littoral states.
Moreover, the Russian-Kazakh agreement does not satisfy the other littoral states, which continue to insist that the Caspian be treated as a sea and thus subdivided on the basis of territorial waters. And it has already been denounced by two of those countries as a breach of earlier internationally recognized agreements.
Azerbaijan, for example, continues to insist that both the sea and the sea bed must be divided, while the leaders of Turkmenistan and Iran denounced the Russian-Kazakh agreement.
Speaking in Tehran on 8 July, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said that "the sea bed and the waters of the sea cannot be divided on a bilateral basis." And the previous day, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that Tehran "will not recognize" a bilateral accord that is "contrary to the existing legal regime of the Caspian Sea."
But three other announcements this week suggest that the Russian shift may mark a turning point in the development of the region, albeit one very different from the kind many are predicting.
First, Russian reporting on the accord suggested that it had been concluded for largely economic reasons. Several Moscow experts described as "equally distant from the internal political ambitions" of Yeltsin and Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko said Moscow had acted because it is seeking "cheap credits" from the West.
By suggesting that the latest shift does not reflect Russia's strategic interests, they implicitly pointed to the power of Russian oil and gas interests in forcing Yeltsin's hand. That, in turn, suggests a new coalition in the Russian capital that may try to cut economically beneficial deals with other littoral states even at large geopolitical costs.
Second, another Russian analyst suggested that "only Washington" will be able to promote a consensus on the Caspian, "considering the interests of American oil and gas-producing companies." Having argued that Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have "granted the Americans de-facto the right to divide the Caspian," this analyst suggested that Moscow had little choice but to modify its earlier views.
Third, and perhaps most significantly, Azerbaijan indicated on 8 July that it would no longer let disputes on the Caspian affect the construction of pipeline under the Caspian between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.
Vafa Goulizade, a senior adviser to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev, said that the building of this pipeline should "absolutely not" be linked to a resolution of the legal question of the status of the sea.
If that attitude receives the support of Western oil and gas companies and the deference of Russian petroleum concerns, that in itself could set the stage for a new kind of competition over the Caspian. Instead of being between governments, it would be among firms.
But as has happened so often before, the actions of large companies could draw in the governments as well. And in the absence of any semblance of legal regulation of the status of the Caspian Sea, such involvement by strong firms and regional governments might not only lead to potentially serious clashes but draw in outside powers as well.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty