|Wednesday, 22 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 46, 99-03-08
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 46, 8 March 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 FORMER ARMENIAN RULING PARTY HOLDS CONGRESSSome 350 delegates attended the 11th congress of the center-right Armenian Pan-National Movement in Yerevan on 5-6 March, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The congress adopted a resolution describing the present Armenian leadership's advent to power as "illegal" and as resulting in the "criminalization" of the government and the establishment of a "military- police system." Delegates vowed to thwart the present leadership's alleged "plans to form a puppet parliament" by falsifying the outcome of the 30 May parliamentary elections. The resolution also called for the creation of a shadow cabinet. The congress failed to elect either a new 40-person ruling board or a new board chairman to replace former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian, who left Armenia in late January and is wanted for questioning in connection with his suspected complicity in a series of murders. LF
 NEW LOAN FOR ARMENIA POWER SECTORThe International Development Association (IDA) approved a loan of some $21 million on 4 March to help Armenia put its electric power industry on an efficient commercial footing, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington. The credit is the first of an anticipated total of some $53 million the World Bank plans to allocate to Armenia over the next four-and- a-half years to support power sector restructuring. It will be used to make sure that Armenia's power needs are met in a reliable and cost- effective manner while the industry is updated and made self-sufficient. The plan includes ending subsidies and will focus on three enterprises: Armenergo, High Voltage Electronic Network Company, and Yerevan Distribution. LF
 AZERBAIJAN IMPLICATES CIA IN ALLEGED ASSASSINATION PLOTAzerbaijan's National Security Ministry issued a statement on 6 March claiming that a former CIA agent advised former parliamentary speaker Rasul Guliev on the latter's alleged plan to assassinate former Azerbaijani President Abulfaz Elchibey, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 March 1999). A CIA spokesman in Washington declined to comment on the allegations. The Baku-based committee to defend Guliev, who has lived in the U.S. since his resignation in September 1996, will stage a protest demonstration outside the Ministry of National Security on 12 March, Turan reported on 5 March. LF
 GEORGIAN PRESIDENT RULES OUT NATO MEMBERSHIP, TURKISH BASESSpeaking in Tokyo on 5 March, Eduard Shevardnadze admitted that Georgia is unlikely to be admitted to NATO however much it aspires to membership in that alliance, Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze also said that Georgia's intensifying military cooperation with Turkey will not extend to the opening of Turkish military bases on Georgian territory. "The subject has never been discussed, the Turkish side has never even mentioned that possibility," ITAR-TASS quoted Shevardnadze as saying. LF
 RUSSIAN ENVOY, ABKHAZ LEADER DISCUSS REPATRIATION...Russian special envoy for Abkhazia Lev Mironov met with Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba in Sukhumi on 6 March to discuss the repatriation to Abkhazia of ethnic Georgian displaced persons, ITAR-TASS reported. Abkhazia formally began the repatriation process on 1 March. Mironov proposed that Abkhazia and Georgia sign a bilateral agreement on repatriation and on economic aid for the restoration of Abkhazia's war-damaged infrastructure. Estimates of the number of Georgians who have returned to Abkhazia differ widely. Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 6 March that "no process of repatriation has got under way," Interfax reported. But an official with the Russian peacekeeping force told ITAR-TASS on 5 March that "a large number" of displaced persons have returned to the villages of Tagiloni, Nabakevi, and Pichora. LF
 ...AS GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT ISSUES FORMAL PROTESTThe Georgian parliament, meanwhile, issued a statement protesting Ardzinba's unilateral initiative to allow Georgian displaced persons to return to Abkhazia before international guarantees of their security are in place, Caucasus Press reported on 5 March. The statement accused the Abkhaz leadership of seeking to exploit the returnees as cheap labor. It recalled an April 1996 resolution affirming that repatriation will not begin until Georgia's territorial integrity and Tbilisi's jurisdiction over Abkhazia are restored. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS ISLAMABAD...Kasymjomart Tokayev was in the Pakistani capital on 5-6 March, ITAR-TASS and dpa reported. Tokayev met with his counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, and President Nawaz Sharif to discuss the potential for trade after the opening in May of a highway from Kazakhstan to the Pakistani port of Karachi via Kyrgyzstan and China. Tokayev said Pakistan is interested in buying wheat from Kazakhstan. He also discussed cooperation in banking and aviation as well as cultural and humanitarian exchanges. Both sides confirmed a commitment to resolving the conflict in Afghanistan on the basis of non- interference in that country's internal affairs. BP
 ...MEETS WITH TALIBAN REPRESENTATIVESTokayev also met with Wakil Ahmed Mutawakil, an aide to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and said that Kazakhstan favors peace through the establishment of a coalition government in which all warring factions and groups are represented. The Afghan Islamic Press agency was cited by dpa as reporting that the meeting was "positive" and that the two sides agreed to "maintain contact." Tokayev later side-stepped a journalist's question about whether closer ties would be established with the Taliban. "Recognizing or not recognizing the Taliban is not important. The issue is we had direct talks with Taliban," he said. BP
 PRISONERS IN KAZAKHSTAN ATTEMPT SUICIDETwenty-six inmates of the Atyrau prison in western Kazakhstan stabbed themselves in the stomach in what reportedly was a mass suicide attempt to protest conditions in their jail, AP reported on 4 March. All are expected to recover from the wounds that they inflicted on themselves with home-made knives. The inmates were protesting overcrowding, lack of food, and other inhumane conditions that they claim exist in the prison. A similar incident happened at the same prison late last year. The country's Security Council recently discovered that funds slated for the prison have been misappropriated. BP
 GAZPROM CHIEF COMMENTS ON TURKMEN GAS SHIPMENTS...Rem Vyakhirev, addressing the Russian State Duma on 5 March, explained the state of affairs as regards Turkmen natural gas shipments to Ukraine via Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 February 1999), ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Vyakhirev said the system for those shipments allows Russia "to control the fuel supply from Turkmenistan to Ukrainian consumers." Vyakhirev also said Turkmenistan has lost about $1 billion since Turkmen gas shipments to Ukraine ceased in spring 1997 owing to disputes over shipping terms, Ukraine's large debt, and the low price paid to Turkmenistan for the shipments. Vyakhirev said that Gazprom, as the operator of the pipeline, sets the conditions for transportation of Turkmen gas. He also noted that his company will participate in projects to develop new gas fields in Turkmenistan and ship Turkmen gas to China. BP
 ...AS DOES RUSSIAN MINISTER FOR CIS AFFAIRSBoris Pastukhov said "the closer we are connected to Turkmenistan's gas and oil sectors, the more the CIS countries, above all Russia, will be the winners." Pastukhov noted that Turkmenistan still plans to build a pipeline to Pakistan and India via Afghanistan and that "sooner or later" this will take place. He recommended that Russia take part in this project. However, Pastukhov said the Russian government should block plans to lay a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan along the bed of the Caspian Sea. BP
 TURKMENISTAN, PAKISTAN SIGN MEMORANDUM ON ELECTRICAL SUPPLIESThe Energy Ministries of Turkmenistan and Pakistan have signed a memorandum on conducting a feasibility study for the export of Turkmen electricity to Pakistan via Afghanistan, Interfax reported on 6 March. Two routes will be examined: Mary-Sherberghan-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar and Mary-Herat- Kandahar-Quetta, both of which are some 1,150 kilometers long. Regions in Afghanistan would also receive supplies and two transit stations would be built in that country. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 BOSNIAN SERB OFFICIALS RESIGN OVER BRCKO RULINGBosnian Serb Premier Milorad Dodik and his government resigned on 6 March. Zivko Radisic, the Serbian chairman of the Bosnian presidency, said he will freeze his participation in that body to protest the ruling by an international panel the previous day to make the strategic town of Brcko a neutral district, AFP reported. Dodik, a moderate who is supported by the West, said the ruling should be suspended and revised to account for the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska, which would be split in two by the ruling. He urged Serbian officials to reject the ruling but to continue working with the West. Brcko is currently run by Serbs under international supervision. Robert Farrand, the U.S. administrator of Brcko, said he will do "all in his powers" to implement the ruling. The town had a majority population of Bosnian Croats and Muslims before the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. The UN and several Western countries praised the ruling, while Belgrade strongly condemned it. PB
 BOSNIAN SERB PARLIAMENT NOT TO ACCEPT BRCKO DECISION OR POPLASEN'S SACKINGThe Bosnian Serb parliament decided in an emergency session on 7 March in Banja Luka to withdraw all Bosnian Serb representatives from the country's federal institutions in protest at the Brcko decision, Reuters reported. In a resolution, the parliament voted not to accept the ruling and called on Serbian officials in federal institutions to "cease their work" until the ruling is rescinded. It also refused to accept the sacking of Republika Srpska President Nikola Poplasen. The hard-line president was removed from office on 5 March by Carlos Westendorp, the international community's high representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. PB
 WESTENDORP SAYS POPLASEN WILL BE REMOVED BY FORCE IF NECESSARYWestendorp, meanwhile, told the Spanish daily "El Pais" that the sacked president of Republika Srpska, Poplasen, will be removed by force if he continues to refuse to leave office. Westendorp, who dismissed Poplasen last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1999), said the president is acting on orders from Belgrade. Poplasen was locked in a power struggle with Dodik and has refused to recognize him as premier. Mirko Sarovic, Poplasen's vice president, is a member of hard-line Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party. Westendorp added that he will try to persuade Radisic, a member of Dodik's pro-Western alliance, to remain as head of the Bosnia presidency. PB
 VIOLENCE ERUPTS AS SFOR SOLDIER KILLS BOSNIAN SERB POLITICIANA SFOR soldier in northeastern Bosnia shot and killed a local politician on 6 March, Reuters reported. SFOR spokesman David Scanlon said the soldier fired two shots at the man, Krsto Micic, after being struck by a wooden club. The SFOR soldiers had reportedly been accosted in a restaurant in Ugljevik by a group of 14 angry Bosnian Serbs. Some 2,000 people attended Micic's funeral the next day. Micic was a member of a local town council and a member of the Serbian Radical Party, which said "these American occupiers and bandits will pay dearly for [this] criminal murder," Tanjug reported. Small protests occurred in many towns in Srpska. No casualties were reported, but some UN vehicles were torched in Zvornik. PB
 DOLE SAYS ETHNIC ALBANIANS TO SIGN PEACE ACCORD...Former U.S. Senator Robert Dole said on 6 March that he "is confident" Kosovar Albanians will sign the Rambouillet peace accord, AP reported. Dole said that at his meetings with Kosova Albanian officials in Skopje the previous day, those officials promised "many times" to sign the agreement. Dole was incorrect, however, in predicting that they would sign the agreement the very next day. A Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) meeting to discuss the accord was postponed until 8 March. Despite the postponement, Western officials are counting on all Kosovar Albanian officials who attended the talks in Rambouillet to sign the accord before talks resume in France on 15 March. PB
 ...AS LEADING UCK REPRESENTATIVE ACKNOWLEDGES PROGRESS...Hashim Thaqi, the political representative of the UCK, said in Tirana on 7 March that there has been "significant progress" among Kosovar Albanians toward acceptance of the Kosova peace accord, AP reported. Thaqi said discussions between UCK officials and ethnic-Albanian officials have moved in a "very positive direction." Thaqi was in Tirana for meetings with Albanian officials. He and UCK official Xhavit Halitit met with Albanian President Rexhep Meidani, Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, and Foreign Minister Paskal Milo. Thaqi said the Kosovar Albanians will continue to insist on a NATO presence in Kosova and that the UCK will remain a defensive force in the province. PB
 ...AND ANOTHER GROUP SIGNS ONRexhep Qosja, the head of the United Democratic Movement, announced on 7 March that his party has agreed to accept the Kosova peace agreement, Reuters reported. The movement unites six ultranationalist groups, including the Kosova Parliamentary Party of Adem Demaci, who has spoken out against the agreement. U.S. envoy Christopher Hill and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer are due to arrive in Prishtina on 8 March to urge Kosovar Albanian leaders to agree to the accord. PB
 TUDJMAN ASSURES JEWISH GROUP OF FAIR TRIALCroatian President Franjo Tudjman said on 5 March that the trial of former concentration camp commander Dinko Sakic will be "impartial and objective," AP reported. A statement from Tudjman's office said that the president told former Bnai Brith President Tommy Baer that "Croatia has condemned all crimes committed during the Ustasha regime" and that the trial will be fair. Sakic is suspected of involvement in the murder of up to 2,000 people during his rule as head of the Jasenovac concentration camp during World War II. A district court judge postponed the trial last week after doctors said Sakic's life would be at risk during the trial owing to poor health (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 1999). PB
 ROMANIAN POLICE GENERAL SANCTIONEDPresident Emil Constantinescu on 7 March signed a decree discharging General Gheorghe Lupu, former commander of a special police force, from "active service." An investigative commission at the Ministry of Interior ruled that Lupu was guilty of failing to implement standing orders and made "serious errors" during clashes with miners attempting to march on Bucharest in January. Interior Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu said on 7 March that General Teodor Zaharia, former state secretary at the ministry, will be "sanctioned" in line with the findings of a report prepared by the ministry on the clashes. That report says Zaharia bears the main responsibility for the troops' failure to stop the miners. He has been transferred to another executive position in the ministry. MS
 MOLDOVAN COURT DECLARES STURDZA CABINET INVALIDThe Constitutional Court on 6 March ruled that the narrow majority (51-50) by which lawmakers last week passed a vote of confidence in Ion Sturdza's cabinet was insufficient to validate the government. The court said that a confidence vote constitutes a so-called "organic law" and therefore requires a majority of at least 52. Presidential adviser Anatol Golea responded that President Petru Lucinschi will re-name Sturdza to form a cabinet. Christian Democratic Popular Front leader Iurie Rosca said that his party will again insist that ministers have "clean hands" and that it has least four ministers, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS
 MOLDOVAN DEPUTIES INITIATE DRAFT LAW ON 'BULGARIAN' COUNTYSeveral parliamentary deputies of the pro-presidential For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova bloc have submitted a bill that would make the Taraclia district an administratively independent county, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 5 March. President Petru Lucinschi refused to sign legislation approved by the parliament that would include the district (which is mainly inhabited by ethnic Bulgarians) into the newly created Cahul County. The parliament refused to meet Lucinschi's request that it revise the legislation. A local referendum in Taraclia overwhelmingly approved the demand for a separate county, but that vote was declared unconstitutional by the Central Electoral Commission. MS
 BULGARIA'S OPPOSITION CONCERNED ABOUT TALKS WITH NATOGeorgi Parvanov, leader of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), said on 7 March that his party is concerned about the "lack of information" on the recent talks between cabinet members and NATO officials. He said the cabinet is conducting negotiations on agreements under which Bulgaria "undertakes heavy commitments that can harm national security." Parvanov added that he will propose that President Petar Stoyanov convene the National Security Council to discuss the country's military doctrine and reforms in the army. MS
[C] END NOTE
 KOSTOV'S CRITICISM OF EU HIGHLIGHTS THREATS TO REFORMby Ron Synovitz
Recent complaints about the EU by Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov shed light on some key policy goals in Sofia as well as potential threats to reforms there and in neighboring countries.
Last week, Kostov told a Reuters correspondent that EU aid to Bulgaria since 1990 has been "negligibly little" and that Brussels has applied different standards for countries not named in the first wave of eastward enlargement. Those unusually outspoken remarks could be aimed at achieving several goals: future compensation in case of a renewed sanctions against Yugoslavia over the Kosova crisis, expediting Bulgaria's inclusion in EU membership talks, continuing full operations at the Kozloduy nuclear power station, and receiving more aid from the U.S. and international financial institutions.
In his interview with Reuters, Kostov said NATO airstrikes against Serbian forces in Kosova would be a "nightmare" for Bulgaria because they would likely be accompanied by a new embargo of Yugoslavia. Bulgarian officials estimate the country lost more than $10 billion dollars in trade during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war when road and rail links to Central and Western Europe were cut off under UN sanctions. The World Bank says Bulgarian losses were less than $1 billion a year. But World Bank officials in Sofia told RFE/RL the sanctions did strengthen organized criminal groups that smuggled weapons and fuel into Yugoslavia.
As in other eastern countries, the Yugoslav embargo allowed clandestine criminal groups in Bulgaria to gain considerable financial and political influence. In Bulgaria's case, some groups became strong enough to delay economic reforms for years so that they could continue to skim off profits from state companies through their ties with state managers.
Nicol Wegter, a spokesman for EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek, told RFE/RL that none of the countries in the Balkans should expect any EU compensation if their trade routes are cut again by a renewed embargo of Yugoslavia. He said that the EU has argued for a number of years that "it is the UN that is firstly and foremost responsible for [any] possible compensation whatsoever."
Clearly, Kostov wants Brussels to ease its demands for the closure of the two oldest reactors at Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear plant, which produces about 40 percent of the country's electricity. Kostov told Reuters that the EU is exerting a "meaningless diktat" by demanding the closures as a pre-condition to Bulgarian membership in the EU. Kostov said a shutdown would destroy what little competitiveness Bulgaria still has after suffering a severe financial crisis in early 1997.
EU officials thought they had won promises from Bulgaria on early closures in 1993, when a grant of about $35 million was awarded to improve nuclear safety there. Kostov's refusal to honor the pledge, which was made by an earlier government, is mirrored in Lithuania. The government in Vilnius wants the EU to pay compensation for lost earnings from the closure of the Ignalina nuclear plant, despite earlier commitments.
Wegter refutes Kostov's remark that Brussels is issuing "dictates" on Kozloduy: "I think the European Union cannot but insist on closure of those units. We do not dictate anything at all. But certain commitments have been made by Sofia and we think those promises should be fulfilled."
By stating that the EU is not doing enough to help Bulgarian reforms, Kostov also could be signaling a desire for more aid from the U.S., the World Bank, or the IMF. Such a move might suggest Sofia has drawn conclusions similar to ones reached in Ankara after Turkey was left off an EU list of countries ready for membership talks. Ankara responded by distancing itself further from Europe and announcing that it would focus its foreign policy on greater links with the U.S. and Russia.
But Wegter said he does not think Sofia is changing its key foreign policy goal of joining the EU. He noted that the remarks by Kostov were contained in a press interview only and have not been sent to Brussels in any official communique. And Wegter insists that Bulgaria and the EU are still on track in regard to implementing a pre-accession strategy. "The EU is doing its utmost to underpin the reform efforts in Bulgaria," he said, "but we also are aware that further improvements are needed before one can say that negotiations for membership are justified."
Whatever foreign policy goals Kostov may have had in mind when he criticized Brussels last week, the comments appear to have boosted his support within Bulgaria. Most Bulgarian newspapers are praising those remarks, and the public also appears to be rallying behind the Bulgarian leader.
That development could be important for Kostov in light of the fact that economic reforms have failed to reach official targets. Foreign investment last year was less than half of the $1 billion the government had hoped to attract. And the privatization of key state industries also is proceeding slower than Kostov's cabinet predicted.
The author is an RFE/RL editor based in Prague.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty