|Wednesday, 12 August 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 144, 98-07-30
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 144, 30 July 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 RUSSIA, AZERBAIJAN SIGN CASPIAN PROTOCOLA Russian government delegation headed by First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov and including the Russian co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, Yurii Yukalov, held talks in Baku on 28-29 July on Russian- Azerbaijani relations and the status of the Caspian Sea. Pastukhov told journalists on 29 July after meeting with President Heidar Aliev and Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov that Russia and Azerbaijan are ready to sign a formal agreement on the division of the Caspian sea bed and that Azerbaijan "holds the key" to reaching agreement among all five littoral states on dividing water resources. Azerbaijan wants the sea's waters similarly divided among the littoral states, whereas Russia favors the "condominium" principle, whereby each state would receive a 10 or 12 km zone of territorial waters, leaving the remainder of the sea under joint jurisdiction. Such an agreement, Pastukhov said, would facilitate the demilitarization of the Caspian. LF
 PROGRESS ON TRANS-CASPIAN GAS PIPELINEThe U.S. company ENRON has won the tender for conducting a feasibility study on laying an underwater gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Baku, Turan and Interfax reported on 29 July, quoting Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister Redjepbai Arazov. Under a U.S.-Turkmen agreement signed in April, 1998, the U.S. has made available $750,000 for such a study, which is expected to be completed by mid-November. Speaking in Baku on 29 July, Azerbaijani State Counselor Vafa Gulu-zade rejected Russian and Iranian claims that an underwater gas pipeline would pose a serious ecological threat to the Caspian. Gulu-zade said such arguments, which figured in a joint statement released after Pastukhov's visit to Tehran earlier this month, are tantamount to an attempt to prevent the export of fuel to the West via Azerbaijan and to have all export pipelines routed through Russia and Iran instead, according to Interfax. LF
 ARMENIA ADVOCATES 'UNCONVENTIONAL' STATUS FOR NAGORNO-KARABAKHArmenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparian told journalists in Yerevan on 27 July that a formal settlement of the Karabakh conflict should give Karabakh a status that is "unique and non- conventional" in international practice, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Gasparian said Armenia would welcome the introduction of "elements" of the status enjoyed by the Principality of Andorra, which is an independent country and a member of the OSCE and is headed by two "co- princes," France's president and Spain's bishop of Urgel. LF
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT ENDORSES DECENTRALIZATIONMeeting on 28 July with the mayors of more than 20 Armenian towns, Robert Kocharian argued that decentralization is an essential precondition for stability throughout the country, Noyan Tapan and "Hayastani Hanrapetutiun" reported. Kocharian proposed that local administrative bodies take over from various ministries the responsibility for kindergartens, schools, and hospitals. Financing will continue to be the prerogative of the central government. Kocharian vowed that the decentralization process will be completed before the local elections due in 1999. LF
 GEORGIA REJECTS RUSSIAN ALLEGATIONSThe Georgian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 29 July rejecting as "unfounded and irresponsible" claims that the Russian Foreign Ministry had made the previous day, ITAR- TASS reported. The Russian Foreign Ministry had accused Tbilisi of failing to take adequate measures to preclude further terrorist incidents in Abkhazia's Gali raion. More than a dozen Russian peacekeepers have been killed or injured in land-mine explosions in Gali in recent weeks. Under the terms of the cease-fire protocol signed in Gagra on 25 May, the Georgian government undertook to prevent Georgian guerrillas from infiltrating Gali. The Georgian Foreign Ministry also accused Abkhazia of violating the remaining three provisions of the 25 May protocol. Meanwhile, a top Russian military official told ITAR-TASS on 29 July that the Defense Ministry has no plans to withdraw the Russian peacekeepers from Abkhazia when their mandate expires on 31 July. LF
 FORMER GEORGIAN STATE MINISTER GIVEN NEW POSTNiko Lekishvili was named deputy chairman of the ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) at a meeting of the party's council on 28 July, Interfax reported. That meeting was attended by President Eduard Shevardnadze. Announcing his resignation on 26 July, Lekishvilki had said he planned to work with the SMK in the runup to the parliamentary elections due in November 1999 and that he will support Shevardnadze's candidacy in the presidential elections the following year. Interviewed by Interfax on 29 July, the head of the "Popular" parliamentary group, Mamuka Giorgadze, described the resignation of virtually the entire Georgian cabinet as "theater of the absurd" intended to distract the population from the unresolved Abkhaz conflict. Giorgadze argued that parliamentary chairman Zurab Zhvania and the heads of parliamentary committees should also step down. LF
 TAJIK GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL INJURED BY CAR BOMBAli Imomnazarov, deputy head of the Tajik customs committee, was seriously injured when a bomb exploded in his official car close to the presidential palace in Dushanbe early on 30 July, Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. An unidentified Interior Ministry official told Reuters the attack was probably not politically motivated. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBIAN OFFENSIVE CONTINUES IN KOSOVASerbian paramilitary police and Yugoslav army troops took control of the road linking Mitrovica and Peja in northern Kosova on 29 July. They also continued their attacks on Junik, which is controlled by the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1998). Heavy fighting also took place in the Gjakova region along the Albanian border. Serbian police killed four UCK fighters and captured seven others who had tried to take control of a stretch of the road linking Malisheva and Kijeva, Serbian sources reported from Prishtina. Kosovar sources said that up to 300,000 ethnic Albanian civilians have fled their homes throughout the province as a result of the fighting and that many live "in the forests and without basic necessities of life." PM
 RUGOVA CALLS FOR ACTIONShadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 29 July that he and leaders of other political groups have reached a compromise on setting up a coalition government, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He did not elaborate. Rugova also called upon the U.S., EU, and international community to take measures to "prevent ethnic cleansing and the stem the flow of refugees." PM
 STILL NO AGREEMENT WITH UCKIn the Drenica region, U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill continued talks with UCK representatives about their forming a joint team with the civilians to negotiate with the Serbian authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 1998). He did not finalize the deal, which involves the UCK being represented in talks by politicians close to it, Reuters reported. An unnamed senior U.S. diplomat told the news agency that the guerrillas are still "considering" the proposal. Observers noted that the recent reverses suffered by the UCK on the battlefield may be a factor in holding up their agreement on joining any future talks. PM
 UCK SOLDIERS AT TIRANA RALLYMore than a dozen UCK soldiers attended a meeting of the nationalist Albanian National Movement on 29 July in central Tirana. Idajet Beqiri, a deputy leader of the movement, introduced to those present a UCK commander called "Skender," who urged the participants to support the UCK's "fight for the national liberation from the occupier." Beqiri called for setting up a "Front of National Unity" among ethnic Albanians everywhere to draft a joint program for a solution to the Kosovar problem, "Koha Jone" reported. Daut Gumeni, who is the secretary of President Rexhep Meidani, was present and praised the plans for closer cooperation between Kosovars and Albanians. He added that "such a movement would also compensate" for the inability of the government for political reasons to support the UCK openly. FS
 MORE SHELLS HIT ALBANIAAlbanian border guards in Tropoja told "Gazeta Shqiptare" that there were six separate incidents in which Serbian forces fired with mortars and machine guns on Albanian territory on 28 and 29 July at different areas in the Has Mountains and near Tropoja. Nobody was injured in any of the incidents, but one shell almost hit four children near Padesh, in Albania. Meanwhile in Tirana, the parliament met in closed session on 28 July to discuss the security situation with Foreign Minister Paskal Milo and Interior Minister Perikli Teta. No results of that meeting were reported. FS
 ARGENTINA TO SEND NADA SAKIC TO CROATIAVictor Ramos, who is the head of the Argentine government's anti-racism unit, said in Buenos Aires on 29 July that the authorities will soon deport Nada Sakic to Croatia. He added that Argentina has turned down Yugoslavia's request for her extradition because the atrocities took place on what is now Croatian territory. Both Zagreb and Belgrade want her to stand trial on charges of war crimes she allegedly committed at a concentration camp during World War II. Argentina recently extradited Nada Sakic's husband, Dinko, to Croatia to stand trial on similar charges of war crimes. PM
 SHELLINGS, EXPLOSIONS IN BOSNIASome 70 Muslims returned to their former homes in the Croatian-held Stolac region on 29 July. Before they arrived, unidentified persons fired mortar shells at five of their houses. The Stolac region has witnessed many Croatian nationalist attacks on Muslims or their property since the Dayton agreement was signed at the end of 1995. Meanwhile in Muslim-controlled Kakanj in central Bosnia, a bomb damaged a Roman Catholic church. Bosnian Croats have frequently complained about harassment and discrimination by Muslims in that region. And in Sarajevo, a bomb went off outside the offices of the independent bi- monthly "Dani." The magazine's offices have been the scene of several incidents recently following "Dani's" publication of an article linking some members of the Muslim political establishment to organized crime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June 1998). PM
 BOSNIAN SERB POLICE STORM RADIO STATIONIn Pale on 29 June, police loyal to Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic stormed the offices of Radio Serbian Sarajevo, whose hard-line management refused to accept their recent dismissal by Plavsic's government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 July 1998). In Sarajevo, the governing board of Radio-Television Bosnia-Herzegovina elected Mirsad Purivatra as its new director. Elsewhere, spokesmen for the office of the international community's Carlos Westendorp said that Bosnian nationals may legally hold dual citizenship provided that the other country in question has signed an agreement on dual citizenship with Bosnia. To date, however, no country has done so. Many Bosnian Serbs have Yugoslav passports, and Croatia freely issues its travel documents to Bosnian Croats, who are allowed to vote in Croatian parliamentary elections. PM
 ROMANIAN PREMIER ATTACKS 'ANTI-REFORM MANEUVERS'Prime Minister Radu Vasile on 29 July said he will "not admit" the "perverse maneuvers of anti-reform forces". He added that "any blocking of the reform process will place a question mark over [the country's] future." Speaking in Ramnicu Valcea at festivities marking Romania's first-ever "Day of the National Anthem," Vasile attacked unnamed trade union leaders and "extremist parties" for attempts to hinder the reform process. He also said it is "inadmissible" that the Financial Guard has delivered to the state budget only some 6 million lei ($687) in exposed tax evasions when some 30 percent of Romania's economic activity takes place "underground." He again criticized the State Property Fund for being inefficient and over- bureaucratized, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ROMANIAN FINANCE MINISTER ON POSSIBLE COALITION CRISISDaniel Daianu on 29 July said there are indications that "dissenting forces reminiscent of those that brought about the fall of the [Victor] Ciorbea cabinet" are now emerging in the ruling coalition, Mediafax reported. In an interview with Reuters, Daianu rejected Premier Vasile's recent accusations that his ministry failed to bring in sufficient tax revenues and said he needs the support of the whole coalition, not merely that of the National Liberal Party (PNL), to carry out reform. Daianu said at a meeting with the PNL leadership the same day that "under no circumstances" will he stay in the cabinet if the contract with the U.S.'s Bell Helicopters is approved. PNL deputy chairman Valeriu Stoica said the party will withdraw its support for Daianu if he fails to adhere to its decisions. Agriculture Minister Dinu Gavrilescu and Industry Minister Radu Berceanu also criticized the performance of the Finance Ministry. MS
 ROMANIAN DEFENSE COUNCIL DISCUSSES NATIONAL SECURITYThe Supreme National Defense Council, which is chaired by President Emil Constantinescu, discussed the country's national defense strategy on 29 July. Presidential counselor Dorin Marian said on national television after the meeting that the discussion was prompted by the need to "update" the strategy in light of developments in the course of the last year, particularly NATO and EU expansion. The council said joining the two organizations and cooperating with them will continue to be Romania's main focus. It added that the country's main objectives are "protection of [the country's] citizens, safeguarding fundamental and individual rights," promoting Romania's international interests, and supporting the "ethnic identity" of Romanians who live beyond the country's borders. The document approved by the council is to be discussed with political parties and put to public debate by 15 August. MS
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENT, PREMIER DISCUSS NATIONAL MINORITIES POLICIESPresident Petar Stoyanov on 28 July urged Premier Kostov to speed up the ratification of the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities. Bulgaria signed that document some 18 months ago. The premier said after the meeting that the government is "ready to seek consensus" for its ratification. Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova, who also attended the meeting with Stoyanov, said consensus- seeking rather than a "strong- arm policy" is required when "serious problems concerning the nation" are at issue, BTA reported.
[C] END NOTE
 METHOD TO LUKASHENKA'S MISCHIEF?by Christopher Walker
As the controversy surrounding the Drazdy diplomatic housing compound in Minsk continues, it may be useful to examine more closely Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's strategy for diverting attention from domestic ills in Belarus, while simultaneously consolidating his position as one of the most effective populist politicians in the post-Soviet world.
While the boorish action taken by Belarusian authorities against foreign diplomats is emblematic of Lukashenka's blatant disregard of international norms, this approach has also served his purposes, helping him to burnish his image as a politician prepared to stand up to the West and further his goal of becoming a player on a larger stage in the former Soviet Union. Lukashenka's recent public dialogue with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov provided a forum in which Lukashenka could portray the West as a bully set on dictating terms of behavior to former Soviet states, thus rallying his base in Belarus and gaining political mileage with Russians frustrated by the slow pace of economic reform.
Lukashenka's railing against the West is part of an ongoing effort to blame present-day economic pain on Western reform programs and methods rather than on the backward Soviet era policies that originally brought on economic implosion. In Russia, where a great deal of reform has been undertaken, the distress resulting from social and economic dislocation has created an environment where reforms already applied are more closely associated with current pain than the decades of Soviet communism that crippled the country's economy and infrastructure.
Whether Lukashenka will be able to wedge himself more deeply into the Russian political scene is not yet clear, but if he fails, it will not be for lack of trying. Albeit on a limited scale, the Belarusian president continues to travel to Russia and to broadcast his populist, Soviet- style message via Belarusian State Radio to Russian regions. As times get tougher, Lukashenka's claims of Western heavy-handedness and his own promises of stability and order may gain greater currency.
Lukashenka will not likely ignore the fact that Boris Yeltsin nearly had to beg the Western financial community to stave off collapse of the Russian ruble and financial markets. The tough conditions set by the IMF to encourage needed restructuring of the Russian economy may be characterized by some as a noose being tightened around the country's economic neck, rather than medicine to help it get better. With the Russian economy and so many of its key institutions in disarray, it is easy to understand how many Russians could be led to the conclusion that the West does not have Russia's best interests at heart or at least is not fully sensitive to the depth of the hardships being experienced there. Loss of prestige as a world power is now as palpable as ever in Russia, and Lukashenka does not hesitate to play upon this sensitivity.
In Belarus, the operative word is "control." This wide- ranging control enables Lukashenka to exert his authority over virtually all spheres of Belarusian life. He himself deems this governing style as necessary for avoiding the problems Russia and other former Soviet republics are now facing. This domination extends over the judiciary, parliament, media, NGO community, and economy. It is, however, Belarus's own poor economic health under Lukashenka's stewardship that may be his greatest domestic political problem.
It is telling that during the dispute over diplomats' housing, both the IMF and the World Bank recalled their respective representatives from Belarus. The IMF and the World Bank explained that move by citing Belarus's failure to fulfill mutual agreements and the obdurate refusal of the regime to implement serious economic reform. With its low levels of foreign investment and privatization and its heavy reliance on barter arrangements with Russia, the World Bank's country director for Belarus has said that the Belarusian government needs "to have a fundamental rethinking of its economic strategy".
Russians may have been compelled to swallow their collective pride in requesting this latest massive IMF loan package, but Belarusians will enjoy only short-term relief from their own government's economic policies, such as restriction on foreign exchange trading and other quick-fix measures taken in Minsk to prop up the Belarusian ruble. In addition, Lukashenka's attempt to distinguish Belarus from Russia with respect to wage arrears has been simply to direct his treasury to print more money in order to pay workers, thus raising the specter of inflationary pressures.
But while Lukashenka and his inner circle may possess a weak grasp of market economics, he does understand the politics of the economic and social pain experienced by people in former Soviet republics. The very issues to which Lukashenka routinely refers--corruption, fraud, wage arrears, profiteering, and economic insecurity--are, in fact, those which plague Russia.
As Russia contends with its most severe economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lukashenka gathers more fodder for his arguments against the incomplete results of Western-style reform. The stakes are high. Russia's internal situation is weak and its foreign policy--less Western-friendly since the parliamentary elections of December 1994--is being contested by nationalist xenophobes and those who seek greater integration into and cooperation with the West.
With all of his apparent limitations, there is a danger that in some disturbing ways, the times in post-Soviet Russia could increasingly be more suited to Lukashenka and his brand of populist politics. Though Lukashenka may not be able to make good on his claim of being "president for life", he may remain in power long enough to cause a great deal of discomfort to those hoping for greater cooperation and integration east of the newest NATO member countries.
Never short on surprises, Lukashenka has made stability his rallying cry at home; at the same time, his approach will generate just the opposite effect abroad.
The author is based in Prague and manager of programs at the European Journalism Network.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty