|Sunday, 17 November 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 137, 98-07-20
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 137, 20 July 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ABKHAZ RELEASE GEORGIAN COMMANDERFollowing negotiations between Abkhaz and Georgian intelligence officials and Chechen former Premier Shamil Basaev, the Abkhaz authorities have released Ruzgen Gogokhia, a Georgian battalion commander taken prisoner in Sukhumi in 1995 and sentenced to death the following year by an Abkhaz court, Caucasus Press reported. In other news, the EU has allocated 1.15 million ECUs ($1.265 million) in aid for the displaced persons forced to flee Abkhazia during the fighting in May, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
 COMMISSION ENDORSES MINOR AMENDMENTS TO ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONThe commission tasked with proposing amendments to the Armenian Constitution has rejected options that would drastically curtail the sweeping powers currently given to the president. On 17 July, 15 commission members approved a set of principles nominally providing for a "semi- presidential republic" but in effect maintaining the existing system of government. The remaining three members advocated a parliamentary system. President Robert Kocharian had warned against a "revolutionary" revision of the constitution but had proposed giving the cabinet greater latitude and limiting the president's power to dissolve the parliament. No amendments have been proposed for the areas of defense, national security, and foreign policy; changes in those areas are the president's prerogative under the constitution. The commission also voted down a motion by the opposition National Democratic Union to scrap the present constitution, which it claims was "illegally adopted," and start drafting a new basic law. LF
 FEW RESULTS AT CENTRAL ASIAN UNION SUMMITThe presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan as well as the prime minister of Uzbekistan met in the Kyrgyz resort town of Cholpon-Ata on 17 July, RFE/RL correspondents reported. As a result of Uzbek President Islam Karimov's absence owing to illness, the planned signing of several documents has been delayed until October, when the next summit is scheduled. However, the participants did agree on changing the name of the union to the "Central Asian Economic Community." Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed an agreement delimiting their countries common borders. And they also became in-laws the following day when Akayev's son married Nazarbayev's daughter. BP
 ISRAELI COMPANY TO HELP DEVELOP KAZAKH COMMUNICATIONSThe Israeli firm Gilat has signed a $6.2 million deal with Kazakhtelekom to provide 250 cities and towns in Kazakhstan with satellite communications, Interfax reported on 17 July. BP
 UZBEKISTAN ASKS FOR INTERNATIONAL AID IN WAKE OF FLOODUzbekistan has appealed for international aid to alleviate the effects of flooding in the eastern part of the country, Reuters reported on 17 July. Melting snow in the mountains of neighboring Kyrgyzstan caused reservoirs to overflow on 8 July and resulted in a major flood in the Uzbek section of the Fergana Valley. ITAR- TASS reported on 18 July that the death toll has reached 115. But, as the search continues for more bodies, Uzbek Interior Minister Zakir Almatov says "that number is sure to change." BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBS, UCK CLASH IN RAHOVECSerbian security forces and the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) fought for control of the town of Rahovec in southwestern Kosova over the weekend of 18-19 July. The current situation there remains unclear. Meanwhile, Christopher Hill, who is U.S. ambassador to Macedonia and has conducted talks with the UCK, told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service in a telephone interview on 17 July that the "main problem" for diplomats involved in the Kosovar crisis is that the Kosovars have not agreed on who can represent both the UCK and the political parties in negotiations. In Bonn on 19 July, UCK spokesman Jakup Krasniqi told German SAT 1 television that his organization has chosen its political leaders and will soon make their names public. And in Prishtina, unknown gunmen tried to kill Enver Maloku, who heads the Kosovar news agency KIC, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Kosovar capital. PM
 HEAVY FIGHTING ALONG KOSOVAR-ALBANIAN BORDERThe UCK also clashed with Serbian security forces near the Albanian border at Padesh on 18 July, "Koha Jone" reported. The Albanian daily says that fighting began after a large number of UCK fighters crossed into Kosova from Albania. Namik Dokle, who is deputy speaker of the parliament, told Albanian state television on 20 July that approximately 70 Kosovars died when Serbian forces shelled the border area two days earlier; 19 UCK fighters were injured and fled to Albania. Local authorities flew some of the injured by helicopter to hospitals in Tirana. Another 80 civilians fled to Albania from the area near Padesh, where some were injured by mines and mortar shells as they sought to flee. FS
 TIRANA CLAIMS BORDER VIOLATION...The Albanian government issued a statement on 18 July charging that Serbian forces fired shells 500 meters into Albanian territory during the fighting. The statement said that "today's Serbian military actions have directly threatened the integrity and sovereignty of...Albania." It continued that "the government...severely denounces these actions, considering them clear provocations aimed at engulfing Albania in the flames of a regional conflict." The statement stressed that Albania remains committed to a peaceful solution but is ready to respond to aggression. "The escalation of Serbian aggressive acts in Kosova against innocent people demonstrates once again that the military machine of Serbian chauvinism cannot be stopped by statements and resolutions but only by concrete, determined, and unequivocal actions." FS
 ...BUT BELGRADE ISSUES DENIALThe Yugoslav Foreign Ministry issued a protest on 19 July accusing Albania of being responsible for several recent border violations. The note also stated that Albania has been "indulgent" toward the UCK. Since Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic launched the crackdown in Kosova at the end of February, Tirana and Belgrade have accused each other on several occasions of border violations. In Prishtina, the Yugoslav Third Army issued a statement charging that the infiltrators on 18 July included "five Albanians from Macedonia, six citizens of Saudi Arabia, and one Yemeni national. Four had German documents issued to persons with Arabic names." There has been no independent confirmation of this or other periodic Serbian reports that "Islamic fundamentalists" are fighting on the side of the UCK, which is a secular, nationalist organization. PM
 ALBANIAN PREMIER WANTS UCK BROUGHT INTO SHADOW STATEFatos Nano wrote in an article published in "Zeri i Popullit" on 17 July that the Kosovar shadow state should work to integrate the UCK into their negotiating team, which is authorized to talk to the Serbs and the international community. He stressed, however, that the UCK still has yet to select its political leaders. Meanwhile, the Albanian parliament issued a statement welcoming the first session in years of the shadow state parliament (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July 1998). The statement says that the Albanian legislature "supports the will of the Kosovar population for self-determination through dialogue and peaceful means." FS
 U.S. SENATE CALLS MILOSEVIC 'WAR CRIMINAL'The upper house of Congress passed a non-binding resolution on 18 July urging the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to take action against Milosevic on charges of "war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide," an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Washington. The text added that Milosevic is the man most responsible for the wars on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Meanwhile in Kladanj in eastern Bosnia, some 5,000 Muslims attended a prayer service on 18 July to honor those killed in the Srebrenica massacres three years earlier. Participants included Alija Izetbegovic, who is the Muslim member of the Bosnian joint presidency, and Mustafa Ceric, who heads the main Muslim religious organization. PM
 PLAVSIC SAYS 'SPIRIT OF DAYTON' BIGGEST THREAT TO DAYTONRepublika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic said in Banja Luka that she hopes that the new Bosnian Serb government that takes office after the September elections can be elected in the parliament entirely on the votes of Serbian legislators, "Oslobodjenje" wrote on 20 July. (The current government needs Muslim backing.) Plavsic added that the main threat to what she called the substance of the Dayton agreement is attempts by the international community to make Bosnia a multi-ethnic society again, as it was before the war. She described this foreign commitment to multi- ethnicity as "the spirit of Dayton." And she warned that the Serbs must insist instead on the implementation of what she called the letter of the agreement, which grants specific rights to each ethnic group and to each of the two separate entities, including the Republika Srpska. PM
 CONCERN IN ALBANIA ABOUT TEENAGE PROSTITUTIONSeveral representatives of Albanian non- governmental organizations told a recent Tirana conference on trafficking in Albanian women and children that more than 14,000 Albanian women are currently working as prostitutes in west European countries. Between 8,000 and 9,000 are working in Italy, of whom an estimated 2,500 are teenagers., while of the 5,000 or so Albanian prostitutes in Greece, some 700 are under 18. Hundreds of others are working in Austria, France, Holland, Germany, and Britain. Most of the prostitutes come from Albania's rural areas. Speakers said that traffickers often lure girls by false promises of jobs in Western countries, but there have also reports of kidnappings of young girls who are then forced to become prostitutes. FS
 ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER UPSET OVER PRIVATIZATION DELAYSRadu Vasile said on 19 July that he will demand explanations from cabinet ministers about delays in the privatization process in the country, Reuters reported. Vasile said little progress has been made to privatize and restructure industry. He said that Privatization Minister Sorin Dimitriu will be given 30 minutes at the next cabinet meeting to explain the shortcomings and say what he will do to correct them. Vasile said he is "serious" about privatizing the telecommunications utility by September and two large banks by end of the year. In other news, 11 people were jailed on 18 July for their parts in the murder of three Roma in the village of Hadareni in 1993. Three of the defendants were found guilty of murder and the others of destruction of property. PB
 CONSTANTINESCU KEEPS BEATING NATO DRUMRomanian President Emil Constantinescu stressed during a meeting with U.S. business leaders in Washington that his country is ready to join NATO, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 17 July. He said that Romania should have been in the first wave of NATO expansion announced last year and that it has received only a "pat on the back" for its cooperation in military activities with the West. Constantinescu made similar arguments in a meeting earlier that day with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen. PB
 MOLDOVAN, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS DISCUSS BORDER ISSUESMoldovan Foreign Minister Nicolae Tabacaru met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Borys Tarasyuk, in Chisinau on 17 July to discuss disputed border issues, BASA-press reported. Tabacaru said the talks were constructive and that the three separate disputes over their common border would be resolved simultaneously rather than separately. Tabacaru said Ukraine's proposals are being studied, but he gave no details about those proposals. Tarasyuk also met with Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi, who said Chisinau will work to "consolidate its traditional relationships with Ukraine." PB
 BULGARIAN PREMIER ANNOUNCES ECONOMIC PROGRAMIvan Kostov said on 17 July that the government will tighten fiscal policy and accelerate privatization in an effort to secure an IMF loan, AP reported. Kostov said support from the IMF is necessary to make the transition process "painless" and to maintain a growth rate of 4.5-5 percent over the next three years. IMF mission head Anne McGuirk said after arriving in Sofia on 18 July that talks with the government on securing a three-year, $1.55 billion loan will be complicated. She said Sofia must introduce greater reforms in the social sphere and in its investment program. PB
 BULGARIA TO BECOME CEFTA MEMBERBulgaria on 17 July announced it will join the Central European Free Trade Agreement on 1 January 1999, AP reported. CEFTA includes the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The organization plans to phase out tariffs between member states by 2002 and is seen as a stepping stone to membership in the EU. In other news, Deputy Foreign Minister Antoaneta Pramatarova met with EU ambassadors in Sofia and requested that visa requirements for Bulgarians traveling to the EU be eased. Bulgaria and Romania are the only associate EU members whose citizens need visas to enter the EU. PB
[C] END NOTE
 DIPLOMACY WITHIN RUSSIAby Paul Goble
A dramatic increase in the number and intensity of ties between Russia's regions and various foreign countries has prompted the central Russian government to set up a special department within the Foreign Ministry to deal with such contacts.
Established earlier this year to "regulate rather than forbid" such contacts, the new department has yet to receive full parliamentary approval. The State Duma approved the measure last month, but the Federation Council--in which the regions are represented directly-- has yet to back it.
On the one hand, many people in Moscow approve such expanded contacts between the regions and foreign countries. Not only do such ties help to promote economic development, but they are widely viewed in Europe and the U.S. as entirely natural. The EU, for example, has institutionalized sub- state representation at a variety of forums. Any number of American states maintain special liaison offices in key foreign trade partners. And the Russian authorities themselves have openly pushed ties between regions within the Commonwealth of Independent States as a means of promoting the integration of that organization's 12 member countries.
On the other hand, even more officials in the Russian capital are concerned about the negative impact that such contacts may have on Russian foreign policy, Russian political development, and even the stability of the Russian state. Representatives of the Foreign Ministry noted several weeks ago that Moscow was extremely unhappy when several Russian regions entered into direct economic contacts with Abkhazia, a breakaway region in Georgia. Such contacts undercut Moscow's efforts to promote ties with Tbilisi, they argued.
The Russian Foreign Ministry was even more upset when representatives of Bashkortostan, Dagestan, Sakha, Tatarstan, and several other regions participated in an Istanbul conference that formally recognized the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Not only did that declaration contradict Russian policy vis-a-vis that island, but it inevitably raised questions in the Greek half of the island about just how reliable a partner the Russian government will prove to be.
And the Russian Foreign Ministry openly complained to the press in June that Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov's efforts to promote ties with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl crossed the line between what Moscow considers permissible and what it does not.
The Russian government is also concerned about the ways in which such ties between its regions and foreign countries could affect domestic political development. While the central authorities seem pleased by the economic aspect of such contacts, they are less happy about the way in which such an independent source of wealth allows the regions to act with respect to Moscow. Regions with significant foreign ties often negotiate with the relatively weak central government from a position of strength, giving the regions rather than Moscow the upper hand on such issues as tax collection and the implementation of centrally adopted laws.
Finally, many in Moscow are nervous about the way in which such ties could help to power secessionist movements within the Russian Federation. Many of the most independent-minded regions of the country, populated by ethnic Russian and non-Russian alike, are actively pushing to have representatives abroad, just as some union republics did in the Soviet period. Several recent Russian commentaries have recalled the symbolic importance for Ukrainians and Belarusians of the missions to the UN that those two republics maintained from 1945 until the end of Soviet power.
Tatarstan, for example, now has representatives of various kinds in more than 15 countries. Chechnya is actively pursuing such contacts. And even regions like Leningrad, Pskov, and Karelia are entering into special relationships with foreign states.
In most countries around the world, such ties between regions and foreign countries would not seem to be a serious problem. Both the central governments and the regions recognize that there is a more or less natural division between their powers and responsibilities.
But that is not the case in Russia. From the viewpoint of both Moscow and the regions, their relationship is one in which the gains of Moscow appear to the regions like a return to hypercentralization and the gains of the regions look to Moscow like the first step toward secession.
For this reason, the contacts Russian regions now have with foreign countries could prove explosive. But the creation of a new department at the Russian Foreign Ministry suggests that Moscow may now be preparing to institutionalize something that has long been common in other countries.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty