|Sunday, 25 August 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 167, 98-09-01
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 167, 1 September 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 TURKMEN, CHINESE PRESIDENTS SIGN AGREEMENTSTurkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, who is on a six- day visit to China, met with his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, in Beijing on 31 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Their talks focused on regional security, including the situations in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Taiwan, and the fight against separatism. They also discussed the construction of a 6,700 kilometer gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China, which eventually may also provide gas to Japan. The Japanese company Mitsubishi and U.S. company Exxon are participating in that project. The two presidents signed a declaration on strengthening bilateral ties. Jiang emphasized "the extreme importance of selecting this or that path of socio-economic development in accordance with the realistic conditions in one's own country while preserving internal stability." Agreements were also signed on air links, education, scientific and technical cooperation, and tourism. BP
 ALL OPPOSITION FIGHTERS IN TAJIKISTAN TAKE OATHITAR-TASS reported on 1 September that all fighters from the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) who are currently in Tajikistan have taken the oath of allegiance to the government. The total number of those who have sworn allegiance is 5,200; only 200 UTO fighters in northern Afghanistan have not yet done so. The UN will assist in returning those fighters to Tajikistan after the Tajik government and UTO hand over those suspected of killing four UN employees in late July. The arrival of those suspects in Dushanbe has again been delayed owing to "technical reasons." UN special envoy to Tajikistan Jan Kubis met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on 31 August. Kubis said later that he is satisfied that the suspects have been detained. However, Kubis has recently said the UN will not help repatriate the UTO fighters in Afghanistan until the suspects arrive in Dushanbe. BP
 KAZAKH OFFICIALS DISMISSEDChairman of the National Security Committee Alnur Musayev has been demoted to deputy chairman of the same committee, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 1 September. No reason was given for his demotion. Musayev has made several statements in the media recently about the fight against corruption, but a recent article in the Kazakh independent newspaper "DAT" questioned how Musayev's daughter was able to study abroad at a university where tuition costs are $40,000 per year. Presidential adviser Nurtay Abikayev replaces Musayev. Also dismissed was Akhmetzhan Yesimov, the head of the president's administration. Yesimov is being transferred to another post and is replaced by Alikhan Baymenov, deputy head of the presidential administration. BP
 COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION IN TRANSCAUCASUSA Council of Europe delegation headed by Secretary-General Daniel Tarschys visited Baku, Tbilisi, and Yerevan on 29-31 August to assess the chances of the three Transcaucasus states of being granted full membership in the council. Currently, those states have "special guest" status. Tarschys discussed with both Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian the prospects for a settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Progress toward reaching such a settlement is a precondition for Azerbaijan and Armenia to receive full membership in the council. In an indication that the council has revised its previous intention that the three Transcaucasus states be granted full membership at the same time, Tarschys said in Yerevan on 31 August that simultaneous accession would be "a coincidence," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF
 ARMENIA'S PRESENT, EX-PREMIERS ASSESS RUSSIAN ECONOMIC CRISISPrime Minister Armen Darpinian told Noyan Tapan on 29 August that he is confident the Russian financial crisis will not adversely affect Armenia, where there is an absence of those conditions that brought on the crisis. Darpinian said that in Armenia the correlation between budget revenue and expenditure is "realistic" and that there is no threat of an unanticipated deficit. But former Premier Hrant Bagratian disagreed, pointing out that one-quarter of Armenia's foreign trade is with Russia and that the fall in the value of the ruble will curtail Armenian exports. A correspondent for RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau noted that proposed investments in Armenia's industrial sector by leading Russian banks may be in jeopardy and that those Armenians who depend on money transfers from relatives working in the Russian Federation will now receive less in dollar terms. The ruble exchange rate fell last week from 64 to 52 Armenian drams to one ruble. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 KOSOVARS SAY SERBS LAUNCH OFFENSIVE OUTSIDE PRIZRENThe Kosova Information Center (KIC), which is close to the shadow-state government, reported on 1 September that Serbian special police launched an offensive against several suburbs of Prizren early that morning. The police action allegedly began with "two large explosions," which were followed by gunfire. The police demanded that local residents surrender their weapons by noon or risk attack. KIC reported that the Kosovars began fleeing their villages soon after receiving the ultimatum. In Geneva, a spokesman for the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that the UNHCR has turned down a Yugoslav government request for aid to restore damaged houses in Kosova. The spokesman added that the destruction of houses must stop before reconstruction can begin. PM
 YUGOSLAVIA BARS U.S. ENVOYDavid Scheffer, who is President Bill Clinton's special envoy for war- crimes issues, said in Zagreb on 31 August that the Yugoslav authorities recently denied him a visa to investigate rights abuses in Kosova. He added that Belgrade's decision reflects "once again that government's insecurity about its own accountability under international law." The diplomat had planned to investigate several reported atrocities, including possible mass graves of Kosovars at Rahovec and an alleged crematory at Klecka, where the Serbian authorities charge that Kosovars burned the remains of Serbian civilians (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 1998), RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Meanwhile in Prishtina, the General Staff of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) issued a statement denying any responsibility for possible atrocities at Klecka. The text added that the charges constitute a "typical lie by the genocidal Serbian regime," the Belgrade daily "Danas" wrote. PM
 SERBIAN WOMEN STONE U.S., RED CROSS OFFICESSome 200 Serbian woman on 31 August stoned the Prishtina-based office of the U.S. Information Agency, which serves as the main U.S. diplomatic representation in Kosova. The women had first demanded to speak to U.S. officials about the alleged atrocities at Klecka. When no diplomat responded to their calls, they began shouting "this is Serbia" and "the high and mighty democrats...only want to talk to [ethnic] Albanian politicians." Later, the women also threw stones at the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross and physically attacked a Kosovar security guard there, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Prishtina. PM
 HELSINKI COMMITTEES WANT HAGUE COURT TO INVESTIGATE CHARGESThe International Helsinki Federation and the Montenegrin Helsinki Committee said in a joint declaration in Budva on 31 August that both sides in the Kosova conflict should enact a cease-fire in order to prevent a "humanitarian catastrophe," "Danas" reported. The text added that the "more than 300,000 displaced persons" must be allowed to return home. The two NGOs urged the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to investigate all charges of atrocities, including those at Klecka, and condemned the recent killings of three aid workers and of 11 members of one Kosovar family by Serbian gunners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 28 August 1998). PM
 ALBRIGHT, CLARK DISCUSS KOSOVAU.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reviewed NATO plans for possible military intervention in Kosova with General Wesley Clark in Sarajevo on 31 August. Two days earlier in Washington, she said that the U.S. is pursuing a three-track policy on Kosova. The policy includes providing aid for refugees and displaced persons, encouraging efforts aimed at reaching a peaceful settlement, and preparing plans for possible military intervention. Meanwhile at the UN in New York, Slovenia's Danilo Turk, who is current Security Council chair, said on 31 August that "Europe seems to have been vacationing in August...[and that as a result] very little was said, let alone done," by the international community to deal with the conflicts in Kosova and the former Zaire during that time. PM
 ALBRIGHT SAYS DAYTON REMAINS UNCHANGEDAlbright told Muslim and Croat leaders in Sarajevo on 31 August that the Dayton agreement will not be revised and that Bosnia must not be partitioned, "Oslobodjenje" reported. She also stressed that "it's time for Bosnia to have something it didn't have before the war: a chance to be a free country that is fully a part of Europe." She met the day before with the Banja Luka-based Bosnian Serb leaders but did not meet with the Pale-based leadership, which is opposed to the Dayton agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 1998). In response to this snub, Momcilo Krajisnik, the Pale-based Serbian member of the joint presidency, said that Albright is deluding herself if she thinks that the Banja Luka group is truly representative of Bosnian Serb voters. PM
 ALBANIAN OPPOSITION STAGES RALLY, DESPITE POLICE BAN...Some 3,000 supporters of the Democratic Party defied a police ban and staged a rally in central Tirana on 31 August. They were protesting the arrest of six officials of the previous Democrat-led government. Addressing the demonstration, former President Sali Berisha said "we shall use all peaceful means, but the government should be aware that we are ready to fight dictatorship with all means." He then urged the demonstrators to march to Prime Minister Fatos Nano's office. The crowd surged past lines of police, who carried truncheons and shields, but there were no clashes. The following day, spokesmen for the Democrats announced the establishment of a Coordinating Council of Protests and called for demonstrations throughout Albanian on 4 September. FS
 ...WHILE SECURITY SITUATION DETERIORATES ELSEWHEREPolice spokesmen announced on 31 August the arrest of two people who planted explosives next to the Socialist Party offices in Shkodra the previous evening. Earlier that day, an explosion damaged a medical laboratory next to Socialist headquarters, Reuters wrote. Police set up several roadblocks near Shkodra in an attempt to control any influx of weapons into the city. Elsewhere, Democratic supporters blocked the main highway near Gjirokastra for several hours on 31 August until police intervened. A police spokesman in Tirana told Reuters that the number of police guards has been increased around public and government buildings in the capital. FS
 ALBANIAN PYRAMIDS COME UNDER HAMMERThe first auction of property belonging to pyramid investment companies ended in Tirana on 31 August. The U.S. accounting firm Deloitte & Touche sold 133 pieces of property from five pyramid companies for a total value of $300,000. The most expensive item was a coastal vacation complex near Durres, previously owned by VEFA, which sold for $270,000, ATSH reported. VEFA owner Vehbi Alimucaj had claimed that he bought the complex for $600 million. Assets owned by the five pyramid companies will continue to be auctioned off until the end of this year. FS
 ROMANIAN PREMIER IN LEBANONRadu Vasile on 31 August met with his Lebanese counterpart, Rafik Hariri, to discuss bilateral economic relations, ways to attract Lebanese investments in Romania, Romanian participation in the reconstruction of Beirut, and the Middle East political situation. In addition, they decided to begin negotiations on a free trade accord. Vasile was also received by President Elias Hrawi. MS
 MOLDOVA MARKS 'LANGUAGE DAY'Moldova on 31 August marked Language Day, the country's second most important public holiday after Independence Day (27 August). Romanian was granted the status of "state language" on 31 August 1989, but the parliament in 1994 changed the official state language to "Moldovan." On 30 August in Chisinau, Romanian Culture Minister Ion Caramitru, who attended the celebrations, and his Moldovan counterpart, Genadie Ciobanu, signed an agreement on cooperation between the two ministries, Romanian state radio reported. MS
 BULGARIAN SPIES BROUGHT BACK IN FROM COLDBulgaria is withdrawing its secret agents from foreign countries, dpa reported on 31 August, citing the daily "24 Chasa." A plan for the gradual disbanding of the Bulgarian armed forces' military intelligence department is already being implemented and has begun with the closing down of a unit that spied on the U.S. military. Meanwhile, the NATO unit will also be closed shortly. U.S. specialists were quoted as saying Bulgaria no longer needed such military secret services, since they are able to obtain all necessary information through diplomatic sources. MS
[C] END NOTE
 DEMIREL'S OVERTURE: OLIVE BRANCH OR CHALLENGE?by Liz Fuller
Armenian presidential adviser for public relations Gassia Apkarian told journalists in Yerevan on 26 August that Turkish President Suleyman Demirel has invited his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, to participate in the celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey. Kocharian has accepted that invitation and will announce shortly who will represent Armenia at the ceremonies in Ankara and Istanbul on 29-30 October.
Demirel's overture and Kocharian's acceptance are the most concrete manifestations to date of Ankara's and Yerevan's desire, expressed by both after Kocharian's election as president in March, to improve bilateral relations. Although in late 1991 Turkey recognized the independence of Armenia, along with that of the other former Soviet republics, it has never established formal diplomatic relations with Armenia. And despite flourishing informal business contacts, Ankara has refused to reopen the border crossing with Armenia that was closed at the time of an Armenian offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1993.
The Turkish government insists that reopening the border and establishing formal diplomatic relations are contingent on the withdrawal of Armenian forces from six districts of Azerbaijan adjacent to the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Yerevan's recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over the disputed Armenian- populated enclave. Turkey is keenly interested in promoting a lasting political solution to the Karabakh conflict, fearing that continued instability in the Transcaucasus may adversely affect the prospects and timetable for construction of the proposed Main Export Pipeline, which will transport Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean terminal at Ceyhan. The realization of that project will not only benefit Turkey financially; it is considered symbolic of Turkey's aspirations to be recognized as a regional power.
From the Armenian perspective, the primary obstacle to improved relations with Turkey is one of moral principle, namely the refusal of successive Turkish governments to acknowledge that the killings of up to 1.5 million ethnic Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 constituted a deliberate policy of genocide. The new Armenian leadership has pledged that securing international recognition and condemnation of the killings will be a key tenet of its foreign policy. But Armenian officials stress that the motivation for achieving that aim is not because Yerevan aims to force a confrontation with Turkey but because failure to discuss that legacy "poisons" bilateral relations and precludes increased cooperation.
In this context, the timing of Demirel's proffered olive branch may be intended to highlight the distinction between Ottoman Turkey and the Republic of Turkey and thus underscore Ankara's argument that the latter should not be held morally responsible for the crimes committed by the former. In addition, the Turkish leadership may hope that by adopting a more conciliatory attitude toward Armenia, there is less likelihood that other countries will follow the example of France in formally condemning the Armenian genocide. Turkey reacted with shock and anger when the French National Assembly (the lower chamber of the parliament) adopted such a resolution in July.
There is also a second foreign-policy dimension to Demirel's overture insofar as it raises the possibility of Ankara's reconsidering its position of linking the establishment of diplomatic relations with Armenia to concessions by Yerevan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Such a "de-linkage" would constitute a retreat from Turkey's hitherto unwavering support of Azerbaijan's position on resolving the Karabakh conflict. In the same vein, Demirel's invitation to Kocharian may be intended to convey the message to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev that Ankara expects him to deliver on his professed commitment to implementing the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project.
It is equally possible that the Turkish leadership is counting on Kocharian's decision not to travel to Turkey for the October anniversary celebration but to send instead a lower-level delegation. Last month, Kocharian declined an invitation to attend an EU-sponsored conference on the TRACECA project in Baku. Kocharian's foreign policy adviser, Aram Sarkisian, explained that Kocharian's participation would have given an overtly political dimension to what is first and foremost an economic forum. "Anti-Armenian hysteria in the Azerbaijani press" would have turned Kocharian's presence at the conference into "a political show," he argued.
Another reason why President Kocharian may not attend is the possible adverse public reaction in Turkey to such a visit--especially in the light of his key role in coordinating the Karabakh Armenians' military victory over Azerbaijan. Similarly, Armenian public opinion and several of the political parties that currently support Kocharian may argue that if he were to accept Demirel's invitation, he would be presenting the Turkish president with a public relations victory, without a guarantee of receiving anything in return. The Armenian president thus has to weigh the possibility of a domestic political backlash against the opportunity to drive a wedge between Turkey and Azerbaijan and simultaneously to demonstrate to the international community that he is not the hard-liner he is frequently portrayed as.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty