|Monday, 21 October 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 24, 99-02-05
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 24, 5 February 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION VISITS ARMENIAArmenian President Robert Kocharian assured a fact-finding mission from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 3 February that Armenia is committed to democracy and complete freedom of the press, speech, belief, and political activity, Noyan Tapan and Interfax reported. Presidential spokesman Vahe Gabrielian told journalists on 3 February that a Human Rights Watch report arguing that Armenia should not be granted full membership in the Council of Europe was based on inaccurate statistics. He added that the report, which cited widespread and egregious human rights violations, had exaggerated the incidence of such occurrences, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 1999). A member of the PACE delegation was quoted in the Armenian press as saying that a decision on whether to grant Armenia to full membership in the Council of Europe will be contingent on the fairness and transparency of the parliamentary elections tentatively scheduled for May. LF
 AZERBAIJANI FOREIGN MINISTER IN PARISMeeting in Paris on 2 February, Tofik Zulfugarov and his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, discussed ongoing efforts to mediate a solution to the Karabakh conflict, which Vedrine said undermines the region's potential for development. The two ministers also agreed to hold regular consultations on security issues and discussed the potential for expanding economic ties, Turan reported. Zulfugarov discussed the latter issue in greater depth with Foreign Trade Secretary Jacques Dondoux, focusing on aeronautics, telecommunications, and infrastructure development. LF
 MOSCOW WANTS TO EXPEDITE SOLUTION TO ABKHAZ CONFLICTSpeaking at the CIS Foreign Ministers' meeting in Moscow on 4 February, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of progress towards a negotiated settlement of the Abkhaz conflict, Russian agencies reported. He noted the "enormous difficulties" dogging the peace negotiations, and stressed Russia's interest in expediting a settlement. Also on 4 February, Caucasus Press summarized the results of a poll conducted among Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia that revealed 83 percent of those questioned will not return to their homes until Georgian jurisdiction over Abkhazia is restored. Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba has offered to allow all Georgian displaced persons from Gali Raion to return to their homes beginning 1 March. He has also created a government commission to ensure adequate economic and security conditions in the region. LF
 SIX CIS STATES AFFIRM READINESS TO PROLONG SECURITY TREATYAt the CIS foreign ministers' meeting in Moscow on 4 February, the representatives of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan said their countries will extend their participation in the CIS Collective Security Treaty beyond the April expiry date, Interfax reported, quoting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. Georgia will also do so after unspecified amendments are made to the treaty, Ivanov added. Speaking in Baku the same day, Azerbaijani presidential adviser Vafa Guluzade hinted that Azerbaijan should consider not extending its participation because the treaty failed to end Armenia's aggression against its fellow CIS state Azerbaijan, Turan reported. LF
 UZBEKISTAN CLARIFIES POSTION ON SECURITY AGREEMENTS...The Uzbek Foreign Ministry released a statement on 4 February clarifying the country's position on security agreements, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement confirmed that Uzbekistan will not renew its membership in the CIS Collective Security Treaty. But it added that "this position has no relationship to bilateral agreements on cooperation with the Russian Federation and other states of the Commonwealth." It also states that such relationships "will develop on the basis of generally accepted norms of international law, mutually advantageous cooperation, mutual respect, and non-interference in each other's internal affairs." BP
 ...WHILE RUSSIA SEEMS UNCONCERNEDRussian Minister for CIS Affairs Boris Pastukhov said on 4 February that it is pointless to "overdramatize" Uzbekistan's decision not to renew its participation in the CIS Collective Security Treaty, Interfax reported. Pastukhov said "all of the CIS's agencies and organizations are established on a voluntary basis," adding that "it is the sovereign right of a every state...to make a decision which it considers to be necessary." Pastukhov said he personally has heard nothing from the Uzbek side on the issue. BP
 TAJIKISTAN FORMS SPECIAL MILITARY UNITFollowing UN representatives' criticism about the lack of progress on integrating United Tajik Opposition units into the government forces, the press center of the Reconciliation Commission announced on 4 February that a special rapid reaction force combining government and opposition fighters will be formed, Interfax reported. The unit will be used to combat illegal paramilitary formations still present in Tajikistan. BP
 HUMAN RIGHTS WORKER DEPORTED FROM TURKMENISTANAleksandr Petrov from the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch was deported from Turkmenistan on 3 February, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported. Petrov was part of a four-man team that arrived in Turkmenistan on 29 January to evaluate the human rights situation there. After two members of the team departed on other business, officers from Turkmenistan's National Security Committee came to Petrov's hotel room, accused him of possessing material that threatened the country's security, and asked him to return to Moscow. Petrov told RFE/RL upon his return that the "offending" materials were earlier reports about human rights in Turkmenistan. BP
 EBRD CRITICIZES IMPORT RESTRICTIONS IN KAZAKHSTANAn economist for the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Martin Raisner, told a news conference in Almaty on 4 February that Kazakhstan should not restrict imports and should stop giving direct support to industrial and agricultural companies, Interfax reported. Raisner said restrictions would reduce competition and proposed instead that tariffs be regulated to promote competition. Raisner also said farming and industrial companies should be left to fend for themselves but that the EBRD is prepared to issue loans and offer technical aid and consultation to these companies. Raisner acknowledged that 1999 will be a difficult year for Kazakhstan, but he praised the monetary and lending policies of the country's National Bank, saying the EBRD sees no danger that Kazakhstan will default on its debts. BP
 U.S. DIPLOMAT TOURS CENTRAL ASIAA delegation from the U.S. State Department, led by senior department official Ross Wilson, arrived in Ashgabat on 4 February for talks with the Turkmen leadership, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The topic under discussion was implementing energy projects in the Caspian Basin, including the Trans-Caspian pipeline project. Companies participating in that project are due to be announced in Ashgabat on 19 February. Wilson promised his country would help mediate a dispute between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan over Caspian oil fields to which both countries lay claim. Wilson was also in Kyrgyzstan on 1-2 February, where he promised officials that the U.S. will recommend that the IMF extend further loans to the country. Wilson also visited Uzbekistan, but there is no information on that visit. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 CLINTON WEIGHS SENDING TROOPS TO KOSOVAPresident Bill Clinton said in Washington on 4 February that he is prepared to send ground troops to Kosova if a settlement is reached. He argued that "the Balkans are an explosive area. They touch other difficult areas, and unless we can contain and ultimately defuse the ethnic hatreds in that region, they can embroil us...in a much larger conflict.... The time to stop [the Kosova] conflict...is now, before it spreads and when it can be contained at an acceptable cost. If a settlement is reached, a NATO presence on the ground...could prove essential in giving both sides the confidence they need to pull back from their fight. If that happens we are seriously considering the possibility of our participation in such a force. We are discussing it now with Congress and our allies, but no decision has been reached," he concluded (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999). PM
 ALBANIA PLEDGES BACKING FOR NATO FORCEAlbanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko discussed the Balkan crisis with Clinton in Washington on 4 February. The Albanian leader said that "if NATO comes to a decision to be present on the ground in Kosova, the Albanian government has given the authority that all air or port facilities, including all the necessary infrastructure that Albania has,...will be at the disposal of NATO troops to fulfill their mission." Speaking of his four- month-old government's record, he noted that "we've been working very hard, and we're seeing the first results of our hard work," AP reported. He said that his main successes have been winning approval for the new constitution and state budget, beginning to breach the gap between the governing Socialists and the Democratic-led opposition, and encouraging the various Kosovar factions to agree on a joint political platform. PM
 ALBANIAN PARTIES BACK RAMBOUILLET TALKSParticipants in an Albanian multi-party round-table in Tirana on 4 February urged all Kosovar political groups, including the UCK, to take part in the peace talks on Kosova, which are slated to begin on 6 February in Rambouillet, near Paris (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999). The round- table concluded that NATO must send ground troops to Kosova to back any interim agreement there, "Koha Jone" reported. The parties also agreed to hold a large joint rally in Tirana on 5 February in support of a political solution for the conflict. The center-right Republican Party sponsored the round-table, whose participants include the Socialists and Democrats. FS
 SERBIA TO SEND DELEGATION TO RAMBOUILLETThe Serbian parliament voted by 227 to three on 4 February to participate in the peace conference. Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic told the legislators that the West "is knocking on an open door. We remain open to a peaceful solution" of the crisis. But he warned that "solutions are being offered that jeopardize our territorial integrity and sovereignty. [The province] can never be removed from Serbia. It has been part of it for centuries and only there can it stay." The government is expected to name its delegation on 5 February. The Kosovars have already agreed to attend the talks. PM
 BOTH SIDES TALK TOUGH IN RUNUP TO CONFERENCESerbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj told the parliament that if NATO troops want to come to Kosova, they will have to fight their way in, VOA's Serbian Service reported. Speaking in Prishtina, the Kosova Liberation Army's (UCK) spokesman Jakup Krasniqi said that he is "not very optimistic" about the prospects for either reaching a settlement or of ending the fighting. "We are going there to talk about peace and about freedom and independence for Kosova. The war never depended on us, and its continuation will not depend on us." He added that "it is only [the UCK's] military force that has succeeded in raising the question of Kosova to the international level." PM
 MACEDONIAN PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES VETO ON AMNESTYThe legislature voted 79 to 14 on 4 February to approve an amnesty measure, which President Kiro Gligorov recently vetoed (see " RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 1999). The law ends the jail terms for some 900 persons, including many ethnic Albanians jailed for violating the 1997 law on the public display of national symbols. Among the 900 are the mayors of Gostivar and Tetovo. Observers suggested that passing the bill was part of an agreement under which the Democratic Party of the Albanians agreed to enter the government. PM
 BOSNIAN SERB COALITION OPPOSES DJOKICThe moderate Bosnian Serb coalition Concord issued a statement in Banja Luka on 4 February rejecting President Nikola Poplasen's nomination of Socialist Petar Djokic as prime minister (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1999), RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Concord wants incumbent Milorad Dodik to remain in office. Dodik is currently in Washington. PM
 CROATIAN OPPOSITION SLAMS STATE-RUN TELEVISIONThe coalition of six opposition parties issued a statement in Zagreb on 4 February charging that televised broadcasts of Croatian Radio and Television (HRT) show an increasingly pronounced bias in favor of the governing Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). The statement added that HRT often fails to report important stories and portrays the opposition as quarrelsome. Elsewhere, the OSCE issued a report noting that HRT remains "subject to political control" by the HDZ. PM
 ZAGREB RECONSIDERING COOPERATION WITH THE HAGUE?Foreign Minister Mate Granic and other top HDZ officials said in the parliament on 4 February that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal devotes a disproportionately large amount of time and attention to prosecuting Croats. Granic added that Croatia has cooperated with the court better than other participants in the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. He warned that the government might reconsider cooperation if the court does not take what he called a more balanced approach. PM
 SLOVENIA HAS NEW DEFENSE MINISTERThe parliament on 4 February approved Franci Demsar, who is a physicist and belongs to the conservative People's Party, as defense minister. His predecessor, Alojz Krapez, resigned in October over a corruption affair (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 1998). PM
 ALBANIAN COUP ATTEMPT TRIAL OPENSThe trial of monarchist Legality Party member Ekrem Spahia opened in Tirana on 4 February. Spahia is charged with having participated in an alleged coup attempt last September (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1998). Representatives of the OSCE are attending the trial as observers. The charges against Spahia stem from his appearance on television at the time of the attempted coup. After opposition protesters captured the state-run television building, Spahia had announced in the name of the opposition coalition that state "institutions are now in our hands." He also claimed that the then government of Socialist Prime Minister Fatos Nano had resigned, Klan-TV reported on 4 February. FS
 ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS MOTION OVER SOCIAL POLICIESThe Chamber of Deputies on 3 February rejected by 116 to 74 a non- binding motion attacking the government's social policies and asking for better protection for laid-off employees, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest reported. The motion, which was moved by the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, received support from two extreme nationalist formations, the Greater Romania Party and the Party of Romanian National Unity. Premier Radu Vasile told deputies that the document was a "purely electoral initiative, aimed at breaking the ruling coalition." ZSM
 SOCIAL DEMOCRATS CONVENE IN BUCHARESTThe Committee for Central and Eastern Europe of the Socialist International convened in Bucharest on 5 February to discuss the EU's eastward expansion, as well as the situation in Kosova and the consequences of the Russian financial crisis, an RFE/RL correspondent reports. Socialist International Secretary-General Luis Ayala said the previous day that Romania's chances of joining European structures would increase if the Social Democrats won the country's next parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2000. Ayala singled out the Democratic Party and the Romanian Social Democratic Party as the organization's only "true partners" in Romania. Another prominent participant in the meeting, Hungarian former Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, said that his country is particularly interested in Romania's integration into NATO and the EU. ZSM
 NEW MOLDOVAN PREMIER NAMEDPresident Petru Lucinschi has named Chisinau Mayor Serafim Urecheanu as new prime minister, an RFE/RL correspondent in Chisinau reported on 5 February. The previous day, parliamentary speaker Dumitru Diacov appealed to all political parties to show "a maximum of responsibility" since "any actions that might prolong the current period of uncertainty...would further destabilize the situation and could provoke a serious political crisis." The same day, the parliament again approved the law on the social security budget, which Lucinschi had returned in late January. The legislature adopted the law without taking into consideration any of the president's objections. DI
[C] END NOTE
 SCANDAL EXPOSES SHADY SIDE OF TER-PETROSSIAN ERAby Emil Danielyan
One of the key politicians who helped shape the history of post-Soviet Armenia, former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian fled Armenia on 29 January, several days after state prosecutors accused him of murder. He is now rumored to be in Paris. While Siradeghian's supporters say he has gone abroad for medical treatment, his enemies are convinced that he fled to avoid punishment for serious "crimes." Whatever the truth, there are few indications that the formerly powerful and feared minister will voluntarily return home if the Armenian parliament eventually lifts his immunity. And regardless of whether the charges are based on facts--and Siradeghian and other members of the former ruling Armenian Pan-National Movement, which he heads, claim they are not--the Siradeghian affair is another sign of the crumbling legacy of Levon Ter-Petrossian, the country's first post-Soviet president.
The scandal broke on 25 January when Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian told the parliament that Siradeghian should be arrested and put on trial for ordering two police officers murdered five years ago, when he was interior minister. Hovsepian said the officers were shot dead after failing to assassinate an Armenian-born Russian businessman, Serge Jilavian, who was at odds with the former authorities. Hovsepian accused Siradeghian of obstructing the investigation into the two men's disappearance and misleading their relatives. Last summer, investigators found what they said were the officers' remains in a Yerevan suburb.
The main witness in the case is a former interior troops commander, Vahan Harutiunian, who the prosecutors say was instrumental in executing the death orders. Denying the charges, Siradeghian alleged that the arrested ex- commander is "mentally sick" and that his testimony was extracted by force. Siradeghian said the accusations against him signal the start of political "repressions," which, he added, could lead Armenia to "civil war" and ultimately "destruction."
Voting the day after the prosecutor's speech, the parliament refused to allow Siradeghian's prosecution. On 29 January, Prosecutor-General Hovsepian told reporters that he would again ask the parliament to lift Siradeghian's immunity. A few hours later, the former interior minister left Armenia. A question many observers are asking is why the authorities moved against him now. The explanation of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh) that President Robert Kocharian wants to "break up the party" ahead of parliamentary elections is hardly credible. The discredited former ruling party (of which Ter-Petrossian was the unofficial leader) is not a serious threat to the present regime. The material self-enrichment of many HHSh leaders against the background of a mostly impoverished population since1991 has engendered a widespread hatred toward the former rulers. And for many people, the flamboyant Siradeghian is the main symbol of an official engaging in corruption with impunity. Lashing out at Siradeghian was therefore bound to boost the dwindling popularity of Kocharian's leadership.
That Kocharian's blow struck home was evidenced by the fact that Ter- Petrossian finally broke the silence he had maintained since his resignation on 3 February 1998. The ex-president said the authorities have "disgraced" Armenia by targeting Siradeghian. Since Ter-Petrossian did not speak out last December, when Siradeghian admitted that the 1996 presidential election was rigged to ensure Ter-Petrossian's second term, the former president may well see a danger for himself if his old comrade-in-arms goes on trial. In such a case, the former president may be held accountable for the actions of his former subordinate. And if the murder allegations proved true, the disgrace caused to Ter-Petrossian would cast a shadow on his seven years in power, which he believes was a period of sweeping reforms constituting an important chapter in the country's history.
Siradeghian's rise and fall epitomizes the outcome of those reforms. Touted as a promising fiction writer in the 1980s, Siradeghian joined the famous Karabakh committee that led the 1988 movement for the unification of Armenia and Nagorno- Karabakh. His role was confined to "friend-of-the- people" functions until, in 1992, he was appointed interior minister. He held that post until 1996, when he was named mayor of Yerevan. Siradeghian's supporters credit him with a successful fight against crime, which declined dramatically during his tenure. Yet that period was also characterized by the pervasive power of the police, which also spread to the economic sphere.
Siradeghian is believed to have made a huge personal fortune, of which his house in Yerevan (estimated to be worth $1 million) is the most conspicuous evidence. His flamboyant behavior and extravagant, contradictory, and often cynical discourse were apparently based on political calculations. For example, in the wake of the 1996 post-election unrest, he reportedly endorsed the release of an amateur video featuring a drunken party of "power" ministers (including himself) and generals who could be seen congratulating one another on having successfully engineered Ter- Petrossian's re-election. Armenians were thus given to understand that they cannot change their leadership through fair elections.
Regardless of whether the parliament gives the green light for criminal proceedings against Siradeghian, the political survival of the former interior minister now hangs in the balance.
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Yerevan.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty