|Monday, 21 September 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 5, 99-01-08
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 5, 8 January 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 COMMUNIST CANDIDATE IN KAZAKHSTAN'S ELECTION WRAPS UP CAMPAIGN...Three of the four candidates in the 10 January presidential elections continued to campaign on 8 January, the last day of the election campaign, RFE/RL correspondents reported. Serikbolsyn Abdildin of the Communist Party held a press conference at the Press Club in Almaty, repeating that the government has paid no attention to his ideas or criticisms about the campaign or the vote itself. Abdildin said that his success in the elections would be a victory for democracy in Kazakhstan and that he would institute constitutional reform within one or two years and make changes in the institution of the presidency. He added that if he were to lose, he would work to unite various opposition groups. On 7 January, leaders of Kazakhstan's Workers Movement said they will support Abdildin in the upcoming poll. BP
 ...AS DO TWO OTHER CONTENDERSGani Kasymov, the chairman of the country's Customs Committee, was also campaigning in Almaty. At a press conference, Kasymov did not reply to questions about what he would do should he lose the election, nor did he respond to a question about his possible appointment to a cabinet post if he were defeated in his bid for the presidency. Incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev, meanwhile, met with voters in the village of Chemolghan, where he grew up. There are no reports that the fourth candidate, parliamentary deputy Engels Gabbasov, was campaigning on 8 January. BP
 PREPARATIONS FOR ELECTIONS FINALIZEDThe chairwoman of the Central Elections Commission, Zagipa Baliyeva, said on 8 January that the new computer system for tallying votes in the presidential election is up and working, ITAR-TASS reported. Updates will be given from around the country every two hours during the vote count. Baliyeva also noted that the commission has registered 6,147 observers from local organizations, the largest number of whom are from the Communist Party. In addition, 75 foreign journalists and 133 foreign observers--from Austria, Great Britain, Romania, the Czech Republic, Israel, the U.S., and India have been registered. RFE/RL correspondents report that a delegation from the U.S.'s Republican Party have arrived in Kazakhstan to be present during the elections. BP
 TAJIK GOVERNMENT SAYS CUTS NOT TO AFFECT UTOPresidential press secretary Zafar Saidov on 8 January said that cuts in the number of government officials will not affect the number of cabinet posts held by the United Tajik Opposition, ITAR-TASS reported. As of 1 January, 10 percent of government posts at all levels are to be abolished. Under the terms of the 1997 Tajik Peace Accord, the UTO is to receive 30 percent of cabinet posts. That process has still not been completed, however. BP
 SEVERAL DEAD IN AZERBAIJANI PRISON REVOLTAn unknown number of convicts and guards were killed on 8 January before guards succeeded in quelling an uprising at the Gobustan prison, southwest of Baku, AP and Reuters, reported quoting Interior and Justice Ministry officials. It is unclear how many of the prison's estimated 500 inmates participated in the uprising. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER DENIES ADVOCATING DEFENSE PACT WITH TURKEY...In an exclusive interview with Turan on 7 January, Vafa Guluzade denied having called for a bilateral agreement on defense cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey analogous to that between Russia and Armenia. The Turkish daily "Zaman" quoted Guluzade on 31 December as saying such a pact is desirable in view of the "Cold War" between Russia and Turkey (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1999). Guluzade told Turan he had merely advocated more intense military cooperation between Baku and Ankara. LF
 ...ACCUSES RUSSIA OF SUBVERSIONIn a lengthy article published in "Ayna/Zerkalo" on 26 December, Guluzade argued that what he terms the "Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict," meaning the war waged by the Karabakh Armenians for independence, was a proxy struggle between Russia and Turkey. He quoted an unnamed senior Armenian official as having admitted that the 1993 Armenian occupation of several Azerbaijani districts adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh was not an Armenian initiative but undertaken at Moscow's instigation. Guluzade also quoted then Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Anatolii Adamishin as having proposed in April 1993 the deployment of "at least one battalion" of Russian troops in Azerbaijan's Kelbadjar Raion, located between Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier, in exchange for the withdrawal of the Armenian forces that had recently occupied the region. LF
 AZERBAIJAN'S RULING PARTY NOT PLANNING COOPERATION WITH IRANEldar Sabir oglu, a spokesman for the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan party, has rejected allegations that the party has discussed with a senior Iranian diplomat in Baku the possibility of cooperation with Iranian political parties, Turan reported on 7 January. Those allegations were made at a press conference in Baku two days earlier by Piruz Dilenchi, one of the leaders of the Movement for the Liberation of Southern Azerbaijan. LF
 EU GRANT FOR GEORGIAGeorgian Finance Minister Davit Onoprishvili and the head of the EU mission in the Transcaucasus, Denis Corboy, signed an agreement in Tbilisi on 7 January whereby the EU will give Georgia 6 million ecus ($7.05 million) to underpin policies for overcoming the country's current financial difficulties, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBIAN POLICE KILLED IN GRENADE ATTACKUnknown persons fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a Serbian police car near Suhareka, southwest of Prishtina, on 8 January, AP reported. OSCE monitors said that two policemen died in the attack. Serbian police spokesmen added that a third policeman subsequently died of his wounds. The spokesmen blamed Kosovar guerrillas for the attack. A spokesman for the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) told "RFE/RL Newsline" that there was a "fierce fighting" between Serbian security forces and the UCK in the area. PM
 KOSOVA SERBS DEMAND ACTION FROM MILOSEVICHundreds of angry local Serbs blocked roads leading into Prishtina on 7 January to protest the killing of a Serbian security guard the previous day. Serbian spokesmen said that they hold the UCK responsible for the killing. The Serbs demanded that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his Serbian counterpart, Milan Milutinovic, travel to Kosova and announce "urgent measures" to provide security for local Serbs. AFP quoted one Serb as saying: "We cannot take any more of this. The terrorists are killing us in our work places [like the security guard] and in the cafés." He referred to a recent incident in which unidentified persons threw a grenade at a Serbian café in central Prishtina (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 January 1999). Another Serb said that "if nothing is done to guarantee our protection within another two or three weeks, we'll leave [the province] in convoys." On 8 January, protesters blocked only the main road leading south to Skopje and Prizren. PM
 RUGOVA, HILL CALL FOR RESTRAINTKosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said in Prishtina on 8 January that he hopes that the local Serbs will show "restraint" in response to what he called "quizzical killings," AP reported. The previous day, U.S. envoy Christopher Hill urged both sides to seek a negotiated settlement, adding that "nothing is going to be resolved by violence and blocking roads." He stressed that he is "working on some specific ideas for invigorating the political process and considering what [to do] nextto get a political process going that can gain momentum and lead us into a peaceful spring." PM
 CHIRAC URGES NEW DIPLOMATIC INITIATIVEFrench President Jacques Chirac told the diplomatic corps in Paris on 7 January that "all talks are now blocked by both sides [in Kosova]. They refuse any compromise and are tempted to use violence. Strong diplomatic action is urgently required to get out of this dangerous diplomatic impasse." He pledged that the international Contact Group will step up diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving a political settlement. France recently assumed the rotating chair of the Contact Group and increased its own diplomatic activity in the region (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 1999). PM
 SESELJ BLASTS BISHOP ARTEMIJESerbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj said in Belgrade that Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren is "using the unhappiness [of the Kosova Serbs] to promote his own political goals" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 January 1999), "Danas" reported on 8 January. Seselj added that only elected officials may represent Kosova Serbs and not "some crazy bishop or some politician who never won a single seat in an election." Artemije has long been one of the most eloquent voices among Serbs in calling for reconciliation with the ethnic Albanians and in opposing Milosevic's policies. Seselj has said that any Kosova Albanians who are not loyal to the Serbian state should leave. "Danas" suggested that Seselj's remarks could mark the beginning of a new conflict between the authorities and the Orthodox Church, which has never trusted the ex-Communist Milosevic. PM
 DEMACI "ENCOURAGED" AFTER TIRANA VISIT...Adem Demaci, who is the UCK's political spokesman, told dpa on 7 January in Tirana that he feels "more encouraged and more determined" after his visit to Albania (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January 1999). He said that he received "full understanding and support" in Tirana, but he did not elaborate. Unnamed Albanian government officials told Reuters that Demaci expressed his readiness to meet with rival Kosova leaders to discuss a common strategy for peace. FS
 ...WHILE ALBANIA WANTS TO INVOLVE RUGOVAForeign Ministry spokesman Sokol Gjoka told Reuters on 7 January that an unnamed Albanian special envoy visiting Prishtina in recent days has invited Rugova to Tirana. The invitation is part of Albania's efforts to bring together rival politicians from Rugova's moderate Democratic League of Kosova and from the UCK to agree on a joint negotiating position. FS
 SERBS, MONTENEGRINS RULE OUT ELECTORAL PACTRepresentatives of the anti- Milosevic governing coalition in Montenegro and of the Serbian opposition agreed in Podgorica on 7 January that federal Yugoslav elections should be held as soon as possible. The two sides also agreed not to form any alliance or sign any agreement between Milosevic's opponents in Belgrade and those in Podgorica, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 COUNCIL OF EUROPE SETS CONDITIONS FOR BOSNIAThe Council of Europe told the Bosnian authorities in a recent letter that Bosnia must institute greater media and judicial reform, enable more refugees to return home, and provide greater protection for human rights before it can join the Strasbourg-based body, Reuters reported on 7 January. Some observers have criticized the Council of Europe for having previously granted membership to some former communist states that do not meet European standards in human rights, respect for the rule of law, or independence of the judiciary. PM
 CROATIA WANTS UN OUT OF PREVLAKAThe Foreign Ministry asked the UN Security Council in a letter on 7 January to reduce the number of monitors stationed on the strategic Prevlaka peninsula and to bring to a close the UN's mandate there, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The letter noted that the UN has already extended the mandate six times but that Belgrade has shown little interest in resolving the dispute. The text concluded that an extension of the mandate is "unnecessary." Prevlaka is Croatian territory that controls access to Kotor Bay, which is home to Yugoslavia's only deep-water naval base. PM
 ALBANIAN NAVY INTERCEPTS ITALIAN FISHING BOATSAn unspecified number of Albanian navy vessels intercepted two Italian fishing boats inside Albanian territorial waters on 6 January and escorted them to Durres, Reuters reported. Albanian authorities fined the fishermen for fishing illegally and violating territorial waters. The Albanians later released the crews and ships, Commander Kudret Cela told public television the following day. He did not disclose the size of the fine imposed on the fishermen. Albanian officials claim that the country's fishing industry has lost $50 million annually owing to foreign vessels fishing illegally in its waters. Observers note, however, that Albania's fishing fleet is too small to take full advantage of the number of fish in Albanian waters. FS
 ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT TO CONTINUE CLOSING DOWN MINES, DESPITE STRIKEA government spokesman said on 7 January that Bucharest will continue with plans to close down 37 unprofitable metal and coal mines, Reuters reported. Razvan Popescu said the mines due to be closed are not located in the Jiu Valley, where miners are striking for a fourth consecutive day to demand pay increases and promises from the government not to close down mines. In Petrosani, thousands of miners marched one day after meeting with a Senate delegation that urged them to return to work. Union boss Miron Cozma said he will not sign an agreement with "the thieves and criminals who rule this country." He said other union leaders will travel to Bucharest to meet with officials from the Industry Ministry. Some 100,000 miners have been laid off in Romania over the past 16 months. PB
 MOLDOVAN WAGE ARREARS REACH RECORD HIGHThe Moldovan Statistics Department said that wage arrears in the state sector reached 638.2 million lei ($76.9 million) on 1 December, BASA-press reported on 6 January. That figure is a record high, exceeding the level of the previous month by 19.6 million lei. The average monthly wage in the public sector in November was 261.8 lei. PB
 FORMER BULGARIAN KING READY TO RETURN TO THRONESimeon II said in Sofia on 7 January that he is prepared to return to the country as king, AP reported. Simeon, who lives in Spain, said he can offer "50 years of experience, objectivity, and tolerance, things that nobody else can offer in the political battles." He said if "it occurs as necessary and if I still feel fit for it, I will be at my post." Simeon is on a two-week visit to Bulgaria, inspecting two palaces and five estates restituted to him last year. PB
[C] END NOTE
 SEA CHANGE IN GEORGIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS?by Liz Fuller
Over the past five years, Russian-Georgian relations have been characterized by tension, threats, recriminations, and mutual suspicion. Most Georgians suspect individuals or interest groups in Moscow of doing everything in their power to undermine Georgian sovereignty, torpedo domestic political stability, and prevent the economic upswing that is expected to result from the export via Georgia of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil. Many Russian observers, for their part, view with misgivings what they perceive as Georgia's unequivocally pro-Western orientation. In particular, they impute to Georgia the ambition of wanting to join NATO.
But in the course of the last several months, there are indications of changes in this relationship. If these changes continue, they are likely to have a major impact on the role of both Russia and Georgia in the future.
Despite an obvious asymmetry in their abilities to affect outcomes, each side has at its disposal levers that can be brought into play in order to rein in, or extract concessions from, the other. Georgians systematically accuse Moscow of encouraging the secessionist Abkhaz leadership to delay indefinitely any settlement of that conflict that would create secure conditions for the repatriation of an estimated 200,000 increasingly angry and militant displaced persons, for whom the Georgian government can provide neither jobs nor permanent homes. The Georgian parliament, for its part, refuses to ratify a 1994 agreement on the status of Russian military bases on Georgian territory until Moscow helps to restore Tbilisi's jurisdiction over Abkhazia and the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia.
Over the past two months, however, Russian and Georgian leaders appear to have reached a series of interrelated agreements possibly intended to pave the way for a less confrontational relationship. In early November, Georgian and Russian officials signed a formal agreement whereby Georgia would assume full control over guarding its sea borders as of 1 January 1999 and gradually take over full responsibility for protecting its land borders, currently guarded jointly by Russian and Georgian contingents. The Georgian parliament, which has been consistently more outspoken in its condemnation of alleged Russian interference in the country's internal affairs than has President Eduard Shevardnadze, had passed a law in July 1998 calling for Georgia's border guards to have full control over the country's land frontiers within two years.
But there may have been a quid pro quo for this apparent Russian concession to Georgian demands. During talks with senior Russian officials in Moscow later in November, Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze reportedly agreed that the Russian military bases in Georgia should not be closed (another maximalist demand by the Georgian parliament), as they constitute a "stabilizing factor" in the Caucasus.
Less easy to evaluate is Russia's role in the most recent failure of Georgian and Abkhaz leaders to sign documents intended to address the aftermath of the 1992-1993 war. In early fall, both sides expressed confidence that President Shevardnadze and Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba would meet in November to sign a protocol on peace and confidence-building measures and an agreement on Georgian economic aid for Abkhazia and on terms for the repatriation of Georgian displaced persons to Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. By the end of the month, however, Tbilisi and Sukhumi were accusing each other of sabotaging the meeting by seeking radical amendments to the previously agreed texts.
Interviewed by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" in mid-December, Abkhaz Prosecutor- General and presidential envoy to the peace talks Anri Djergenia suggested that the Georgian leadership may in fact have no interest in reaching an agreement with Abkhazia, as the unresolved conflict serves as a unifying factor in Georgian political life. He said that in late November, unnamed Russian mediators had tried to persuade the Abkhaz to soften their position, which inclined him to suspect that Moscow and Tbilisi had concluded some kind of secret deal. Pointing to previous occasions when an agreement appeared to be within reach, Djergenia observed that "whenever problems arise in relations between Russia and Georgia, Tbilisi adopts an openly anti-Russian stance, and we, in turn, begin to step up the negotiation process and try to achieve some kind of results, after which Georgia alters its position vis-a-vis Russia and begins to play tactical games with [Russia], then Moscow begins to pressure us and Abkhazia becomes a bargaining chip."
It is possible that, having wrested agreement from Tbilisi that Russian military bases should remain in Georgia, Moscow is now prepared to allow the current stalemate in the Abkhaz negotiating process to continue indefinitely. A recent comment by Shevardnadze indirectly corroborates both that hypothesis and the suggestion that the Georgian leadership considers the unresolved conflict advantageous since it diverts attention from acute social and economic problems, especially in the run-up to the Georgian parliamentary elections due in the fall of 1999. The Georgian president told journalists in Tbilisi on 31 December that he considers it unlikely that a political solution to the Abkhaz conflict will be reached this year and that such a solution will depend largely on the outcome of the Georgian presidential elections next year (in which he intends to run for a second term). But Ardzinba's presidential term also expires in 1999, and it remains unclear whether he will run for re-election. How a change of leadership in Sukhumi would affect either the negotiating process or the shifting relations between Russia, Georgia, and Abkhazia is difficult to predict.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty