|Tuesday, 21 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 178, 98-09-15
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 178, 15 September 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PLANS NEW DEMONSTRATIONMeeting on 14 September, leaders of the 37 political parties and organizations aligned in the Movement for Democratic Elections and Electoral Reform voted to convene a march in Baku on 20 September to demand that the 11 October presidential poll be free and fair. Also on 14 September, representatives of the National Democratic Institute issued a statement condemning police brutality during several hours of clashes on 12 September between police and demonstrators in Baku. The U.S. State Department has also issued a statement deploring the violence, AP reported. Azerbaijani Prosecutor-General Eldar Hasanov claimed on 13 September that the opposition's actions are tantamount to "an attempt to seize power by force," Turan reported. LF
 FORMER ARMENIAN RULING PARTY 'NOT PLANNING GOVERNMENT'S OVERTHROW'Vano Siradeghian, chairman of the board of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 14 September that a newspaper report claiming that the party's leaders recently held a secret meeting to discuss their return to power through discrediting and causing splits within the present leadership is "absolutely nonsensical." Another HHSh leader, former parliamentary speaker Babken Ararktsian, also refuted the claim, saying he has not participated in high-level party meetings for several months. The Dashnak party daily "Hayots ashkhar" published a report of the alleged meeting on 12 September. The newspaper's editor, Gagik Mkrtchian, told RFE/RL on 14 September he is confident that the source of the information is reliable but that he will reveal it only if taken to court. LF
 ARMENIAN OPPOSITION WANTS PARLIAMENT TO DEBATE CONTROVERSIAL PRIVATIZATION DEALOn the first day of the fall parliamentary session, deputies from the HHSh and its rival, the National Democratic Union (AZhM) pledged to continue to pressure President Robert Kocharian to convene the parliament to debate the sale of the Yerevan Cognac Factory to France's Pernod Ricard, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Opponents of the sale argue that the sell-off price of $30 million was too low. They also say that Kocharian is breaking the law by refusing to organize a debate on the issue. According to the Armenian Constitution, he is bound to do so if more than one-third of all parliamentary deputies request such a debate. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN SIGNS OIL DEALS WITH U.S., JAPANESE COMPANIESKazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev attended a ceremony in the capital, Astana, on 14 September at which representatives of U.S. and Japanese oil companies signed agreements with Kazakhoil, the national oil company, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The deals cover exploration of Kazakhstan's portion of the Caspian Sea, extraction of gas condensate, and the reconstruction of the refinery in the western city of Aktau and several other industrial complexes in the area. Represented were Japan's National Oil Agency, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, and the U.S. company Philip's Petroleum. The Japanese are prepared to invest $2.4 billion. The U.S. company will invest $500 million in the gas condensate project. BP
 KAZAKH DIPLOMATS RECEIVE EXTRA TASKKazakh Foreign Minister Kasymjomart Tokayev on 14 September urged Kazakhstan's official representatives abroad to encourage trade with the countries in which they work, Interfax reported. Tokayev also commented that no serious problem in the CIS or Central Asia can be solved without Kazakhstan's participation. BP
 KAZAKH NATIONAL BANK CLOSES SOME CURRENCY EXCHANGE BUREAUSThe Kazakh National Bank closed 46 currency exchange bureaus on 14 September, RFE/RL correspondents reported. The bank cited different rates used in trading hard currency. Meanwhile in northern Kazakhstan, Russian citizens were reportedly crossing the border to trade Russian rubles for Kazakh tenge and U.S. dollars. BP
 SERVICEMEN RUN AMOK IN TURKMENISTANFive soldiers in western Turkmenistan stole automatic weapons, handguns, and bullet-proof vests on 12 September and went on a rampage that left seven people dead, ITAR-TASS and RFE/RL correspondents in Ashgabat reported. After stealing a truck, the five soldiers headed for the main highway, where they opened fire on a car that followed them, killing two people. They then drove to the village of Garagan and took seven people hostage. A Turkmen police anti- terrorist unit arrived to negotiate with the soldiers, but in the ensuing shoot-out, one policeman and four of the soldiers were killed. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has ordered that an investigation into the incident be completed within three days and that the armed forces and law enforcement agencies take steps to improve discipline. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 OPPOSITION STAGES PEACEFUL MARCH IN TIRANACNN reported on 15 September that several opposition supporters held a silent march through the center of the capital, despite an earlier police ban on the protest. CNN added that security forces kept a low profile during the march and that both sides seemed interested in ending the current tensions through talks. Earlier that day, some 200 opposition supporters gathered outside Democratic Party headquarters, having acquired two tanks and several dozen machine guns. Police began negotiating with the men, trying to convince them to hand over their weapons, AP reported. The Interior Ministry had issued a statement in Tirana the previous day saying that police are under orders to "shoot without warning" if they encounter opposition. It also called on the "Democratic Party to distance itself from [armed] individuals," adding that "otherwise, it will bear responsibility for subsequent developments." FS
 ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT RESTORES CONTROL OVER TIRANAAlbanian special police forces on 14 September recaptured the buildings of state radio and television, the offices of Prime Minister Fatos Nano, and the parliament building. Opposition protesters had occupied them earlier that day during unrest throughout the city, in which at least three people died and 14 were injured (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1998). In the afternoon, crowds of armed opposition supporters had roamed the streets and fired in the air with machine guns, but they dispersed when special police forces arrived. Interior Minister Perikli Teta said on state television that "the attempt at a coup d'état today failed." Teta told Reuters on 15 September that most of those killed were police officers. According to Interior Ministry spokesman Artan Bizhga, "there was a small battle [around the television building] and those who had occupied it fled." FS
 OPPOSITION LEADER DENIES COUP ATTEMPTFormer President Sali Berisha told VOA's Albanian-language service on 15 September that he did not try to stage a coup d'etat the previous day. He called Teta's accusations "crazy and absurd" and stressed that he has called on his supporters to remain peaceful. Berisha charged government guards with provoking the clashes during the funeral that day of Democratic Party legislator Azem Hajdari, whom unidentified gunmen killed on 12 September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1998). Berisha also repeated his call for Nano's government to resign, but Socialist parliamentary leader Pandeli Majko rejected the demand. Nano's spokesman Ben Blushi told Reuters on 15 September that "we blame Berisha [for the unrest], because all the trouble started at the Berisha rally." He also claimed that Berisha's "bodyguards and political collaborators" played key roles in the violence that followed. Blushi said that Nano--who has not appeared in public since the riots started--has resumed working. FS
 U.S. CALLS FOR CONSTRUCTIVE DIALOGState Department spokesman James Rubin on 14 September urged the Albanian government to work with President Rexhep Meidani to draft "constructive proposals that will end the current upheaval." He stressed that "leaders of all political parties...must take responsibilities for the behavior of their followers," warning that otherwise the leaders must "bear the consequences." Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi advised Defense Ministry officials to draw up evacuation plans for Italian citizens in Albania. FS
 HUNDREDS OF KOSOVARS STRANDEDSeveral hundred refugees remain stranded in the area where Kosova borders Montenegro and Albania, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 14 September. Montenegro had earlier refused to admit several thousand recently arrived refugees--citizens of federal Yugoslavia, to which Montenegro belongs--and sent them by bus to Albania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1998). The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Prishtina sent a letter to Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic on 13 September appealing to him to keep his country's borders open. In other news, the Kosovar news agency KIC reported the following day that Serbian forces shelled the village of Sferka near Klina and later set fire to Kosovar homes there. PM
 VAN DEN BROEK WANTS 'ULTIMATUM' TO MILOSEVICHans van den Broek, who is the EU's chief official dealing with Eastern Europe, recently sent a confidential letter to EU foreign ministers warning that continued inaction over Kosova is not "compatible with vital EU interests," the "Financial Times" reported on 15 September. Van den Broek added that "the time has come for the EU to make a clear ultimatum to [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic to stop military operations [in Kosova] and thereby pave the way for negotiations." The diplomat added that time has come for the EU to distance itself politically from the international Contact Group, which has been unable to formulate a clear and effective policy because of Russian reluctance to oppose Milosevic. Officials from Germany and some other EU member states recently criticized the U.K. and Greece for refusing to implement the EU ban on landing rights for Belgrade's airline, JAT. PM
 U.S. PRAISE FOR BOSNIAN VOTEState Department spokesman James Rubin said on 14 September that the recent general elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina were "the freest and fairest elections in Bosnian history." He stressed that Washington will be waiting to see what policies the victors pursue and that the U.S. will help those politicians who actively back the Dayton peace agreement. In Sarajevo, Robert Barry, who led the OSCE mission to supervise the vote, warned against taking seriously unnamed politicians' claims of victory before official results are in (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1998). "We haven't the slightest idea who has won, and anybody who claims victory at this point is no doubt blowing a little bit of air," he said. Another OSCE official noted in Banja Luka that tens of thousands of absentee ballots from outside Bosnia have not yet arrived at counting stations in that country. PM
 OSCE WARNS CROATIAThe office of the OSCE in Zagreb said in a report to the Croatian government on 14 September that Croatia has not met its international commitments aimed at winning the confidence of the ethnic Serbian minority and encouraging Serbian refugees to return home. The text added that Croatia must take "urgent measures" aimed at encouraging pluralism in the media and reforming its electoral laws if it is to achieve further integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. PM
 COMPROMISE REACHED ON HUNGARIAN-LANGUAGE STATE UNIVERSITY IN ROMANIA?The leaders of the ruling coalition, meeting on 14 September, are reported to have reached a compromise in the dispute about the setting up of a Hungarian state university. The precise nature of the compromise is unclear, but Bela Marko, chairman of the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, told reporters after the meeting that the decision of the Chamber of Deputies' Education Commission will have to be changed into one that is "more permissive" on university education in the languages of national minorities. He also said a special law will deal with the setting up of a Hungarian language state university. The Chamber of Deputies Education Commission is meeting on 15 September to discuss the coalition leaders' proposal. MS
 BUCHAREST MAYORALTY RACE SCHEDULED FOR OCTOBERAt their 14 September meeting, the coalition leaders also decided that the Bucharest mayoralty elections will be held in October. The date of the ballot will be set by the government this week. The decision came after protests from opposition parties following Prime Minister Radu Vasile's statement that holding the elections may be "too costly." The Party of Social Democracy in Romania has threatened to move a motion of no confidence in the parliament and to appeal to the Council of Europe. MS
 BULGARIA TO SHUT DOWN KOZLODUY REACTORS IN 2004-2012Bulgaria will shut down its four aging nuclear reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear plant between 2004 and 2012 and will consider installing a new nuclear unit after 2005. Ivan Shilyashki, the country's top energy official, was cited by AP as saying on 14 September that units 1 and 2 at the reactor will be shut down in 2004-2005 and units 3 and 4 between 2008 and 2012. During a visit to Sofia on 11 September, European Commissioner Hans van den Broek urged Bulgaria to close down the two oldest reactors at Kozloduy in 2002 and the remaining two reactors by 2010. Van den Broek also urged the Bulgarian government to speed up the reform process, restructure or close down loss-making companies, and reform the state administration. MS
 BULGARIA SEALS PIRATE CD PRODUCERPolice sealed a compact disc plant in Sofia after seizing 200,000 pirate CDs there, the Interior Ministry announced on 14 September. AP quoted the ministry as saying that the SMC company had a license to record only Serbian folk music but produced discs featuring Whitney Houston and other internationally-known singers. MS
[C] END NOTE
 STARTING FROM SCRATCH IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH'S LARGEST DISTRICTBy Emil Danielyan
The picturesque landscape of Martakert is fascinating to all visitors. Beautiful mountains covered with vast forests, fertile land, and a mild climate reveal the splendor of the northern Nagorno-Karabakh district. Only the foundations of demolished houses are a reminder that the district was the scene of the heaviest fighting during the bitter war with Azerbaijan that was halted by a cease-fire agreement four years ago.
Martakert is the largest of Nagorno-Karabakh's six administrative districts. As a result of its size and fertile land, the district accounted for 40 percent of the agricultural output of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, which was part of Soviet Azerbaijan. In 1989, its population numbered 46,300, of whom 87 percent were Armenians and 12 percent Azerbaijanis.
Martakert did not escape the fighting that broke out in Karabakh in late 1991. A successful Azerbaijani offensive the following summer resulted in the occupation of more than 80 percent of its territory, prompting the Armenian population to flee. But an Armenian counter-offensive in February 1993 reversed the situation and culminated in the re-capture several months later of the town of Martakert. It was not until after the May 1994 cease- fire that refugees began to return to their homes en masse. Six out of the district's 60 towns and villages remain under Azerbaijani control. Today, there are no Azerbaijanis living in Armenian-controlled territory, nor do Armenians inhabit the land controlled by Azerbaijan.
In addition to heavy casualties, the war has dealt a severe blow to Martakert's economy and infrastructure. With 27 villages completely destroyed during the war, the district's GDP in 1997 was a mere 5 percent of its 1989 level. The district administration estimates war damage at $360 million, but only $3.6 million has been spent on reconstruction since 1993.
Housing is the number one problem in Martakert. Stone walls are all that remain of the houses in many villages. More than 500 families currently reside in temporary shelters. The authorities say they have re-built 1,336 houses to date, while the people themselves have done the rest. With existing funds, they are able to reconstruct only 50 houses a year.
Education is next on the list of Martakert's priorities. With 30 schools already repaired, almost all villages provide primary or secondary schooling. But the lack of teachers and textbooks, which are identical to those used in Armenia, is a major problem. Many parents, however, cannot afford to pay 1,500 to 2,000 drams ($3-4) for a textbook.
A common feature of all Karabakh schools is a special board featuring photographs of local soldiers who were killed in the "Goyamart" [fight for survival], Karabakh Armenians' reference to the war against Azerbaijan. The school in Haterk has 47 such photographs posted on its board. A Karabakh school is typically named after the local fallen war hero.
Some 690 Martakert soldiers paid with their lives for the military victory over Azerbaijan. Stepan Kalashian, a journalist from Yerevan currently based in Martakert, is collecting information about them to publish a book containing their photos and biographies. He says the book, sponsored by his "friends in Yerevan," will come out soon.
Agriculture remains the main source of income in Martakert. Grain is the primary crop, thus fertilizers and irrigation are important for local farmers. Karabakh's largest reservoir is located in the district, and the authorities hope to complete the repair of the water distribution system to irrigate thousands of hectares of land next spring. Some 5,300 hectares of agricultural land are not cultivated owing to numerous anti- personnel mines. De-mining the area will require substantial funding. Other tracts of land are left uncultivated owing to a lack of tractors and harvesters.
According to Sevak Ardzrouni, governor of the Martakert district, more assistance is needed from the Diaspora and Armenia. Ardzrouni, an ethnic Armenian from France, says the emphasis should be shifted from humanitarian aid to business programs. He is pinning his hopes on $12 million earmarked by the U.S. Congress last year in direct assistance to Karabakh
Adequate roads, which Karabakh lacked even before the war, would give a strong boost to the local economy by facilitating trade with other regions. The newly built 80- kilometer highway between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh begins in the Armenian border town of Goris, runs through Lachin (the administrative center of a district in Azerbaijan proper), and extends northward to the Karabakh capital, Stepanakert. The project, financed by the U.S. Diaspora, cost $8.85 million; virtually the entire sum was raised at a telethon in Los Angeles in May 1996. For Karabakh Armenians, control over the Lachin corridor is a non-negotiable issue.
In Lachin itself, the demographic situation is changing. Deserted of the Azerbaijani population that fled in 1992, the area has witnessed the settlement of ethnic Armenians from Karabakh, many of whose villages remain under Azerbaijani control, as well as Armenians from Armenia proper. Lachin's population may already number as many as several thousand, although there are no reliable statistical data. The territory is under the jurisdiction of a district administration appointed by the government in Stepanakert. With the construction of the new highway through Lachin, the resettlement is likely to gather momentum.
The author is a Yerevan-based RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty