|Monday, 20 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 54, 99-03-19
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 54, 19 March 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SUGGESTS NEW ZEALAND MODEL FOR KARABAKHFollowing a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Vartan Oskanian said on 18 March in London that New Zealand's relationship with some small islands off its coast could serve as a model for resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, RFE/RL's London correspondent reported. Oskanian said that the Niue islands are neither independent nor autonomous vis-a-vis New Zealand but instead exist within a common state. The OSCE Minsk Group has proposed a "common state" approach as a way to break the current deadlock between Yerevan and Baku. PG
 DEMIRCHIAN CONFIRMS MEETING WITH KOCHARIANSoviet-era Armenian leader Karen Demirchian on 18 March confirmed that he recently met with Armenian President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Demirchian said that the meeting took place "within the framework of the president's ongoing consultations with political parties," but he refused to give any details. In another move with possible implications for the upcoming elections, two small opposition parties--the 21st Century Party of former national security chief David Shahnazarian and the Liberal Democratic Party of Vigen Khachatrian--announced that they will boycott the poll. PG
 FRENCH GOVERNMENT TO OPPOSE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE BILLThe French government on 18 March warned its parliament that a motion to condemn the 1915 killing of Armenians in eastern Anatolia could significantly harm relations between Paris and Ankara. The bill was approved by the National Assembly in May 1998. The Senate is now considering whether to put the bill on its agenda. PG
 GEORGIA, AZERBAIJAN DISCUSS ENHANCED MILITARY COOPERATIONGeorgian President Eduard Shevardnadze met with visiting Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiyev on 18 March to explore ways in which the two countries can expand their program of military cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. The two also discussed the war on crime, terrorism, and other subversive activities in the Caucasus region. PG
 GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT TO PRESS FOR RUSSIAN PULL- OUTRevaz Adamia, the chairman of the Georgian parliament's military and security committee, told Reuters on 18 March that the country's legislature will seek to force President Eduard Shevardnadze into demanding that Russian forces withdraw from Georgia and Russian bases there close. Adamia said that Moscow was using the bases to destabilize the situation as well as feeding an illegal arms trade. "It is time now to become harder with Russia. Either they should fulfill their obligations or get out," Adamia concluded. PG
 GEORGIA, RUSSIA MEET TO DISCUSS ABKHAZIAGeorgian State Minister Vazha Lordkipanidze, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Leonid Drachevsky, and Russian Interior Ministry special envoy Lev Mironov met to discuss the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia and a resolution of the Abkhaz conflict, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 March. PG
 UN SPECIAL ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN MEETS WITH TURKMEN PRESIDENT...The UN special envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in Ashgabat on 19 March to extend a message of thanks from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for hosting the recent round of Afghan peace talks (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March 1999), ITAR-TASS reported. Brahimi leaves for Kandahar on 20 March to meet with officials from the Taliban. BP
 ...FOLLOWING TALKS IN TAJIK CAPITALThe previous day, Brahimi was in Dushanbe to meet with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov to discuss progress in the Afghan peace talks, ITAR-TASS reported. Brahimi also met with Ahmed Shah Masoud, the defense minister of the Northern Alliance, which opposes the Taliban. Masoud agreed that "war cannot solve Afghanistan's problems," stressing that the Ashgabat talks were "useful and important as a first step." Masoud added that he expects the exchange of 20 prisoners, which forms part of the Ashgabat agreement, will take place around the Nawruz holiday, on 21 March. BP
 KAZAKHSTAN, UKRAINE HAND OVER SUSPECTS IN TASHKENT BOMBINGSSeven suspects in the 16 February bombings in Tashkent have been extradited from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 18 March. According to reports, all detainees are ethnic Uzbeks, although some are citizens of Afghanistan and Kazakhstan, and were found to be in possession of Wahhabi literature. Another four Uzbeks caught in Ukraine and suspected of involvement in the bombings will be extradited to Uzbekistan, Interfax quotes Ukrainian Minister Yuri Kravchenko as saying (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 1999). BP
 TURKMENISTAN DETAINS, DEPORTS JOURNALISTThe Information Center on Human Rights in Central Asia released statements on 18- 19 March saying that Nikolai Mitrokhin, a reporter for the Russian newspaper "Panorama," was detained and then deported by the Turkmen authorities to Uzbekistan. According to the statement, Mitrokhin was in the Turkmen city of Charjoi on 16 March, when he crossed into Uzbekistan and was detained by Uzbek authorities. Turkmen special service agents "attempted to forcibly bring him to Turkmenistan." However, Uzbekistan, "in violation of the norms of international rights," handed Mitrokhin over to the Turkmen authorities. Once back in Charjoi, Mitrokhin telephoned "Panorama" to say he was under "administrative arrest." Around midnight, he was deported to Uzbekistan, where he spent the night at the home of the head of Bukhara's National Security Committee chief. Mitrokhin is the author of several articles critical of the Turkmen government. BP
 KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT CRITICIZES JUDICIAL SYSTEMAt the 17 March session of the Supreme Judicial Council during which Nursultan Nazarbayev appointed Igor Rogov head of the council (see RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 1999), the president also criticized the work of the courts, , Interfax reported. Nazarbayev said citizens are writing letters to "the president, the government, and the local authorities" to ask for help in resolving their legal problems. "I have been working all these years so that citizens can bring their cases to court," Nazarbayev continued. "If Kazakh citizens do not turn to the courts for settling their legal disputes," legal reform will become redundant, he argued. Prosecutor- General Yuri Khitrin pointed out that so far this year, two judges have been arrested, while last year five were arrested and five dismissed. BP
 KAZAKHSTAN'S OPPOSITION CRITICIZES ELECTORAL LEGISLATIONThe chairman of Kazakhstan's Peoples' Republican Party, Akezhan Kazhegeldin, Communist Party leader Serikbolsyn Abdildin, and 15 other "prominent Kazakh citizens" have sent an appeal to the country's parliament criticizing a presidential Decree on elections, Interfax reported on 18 March. The signatories claimed that current electoral legislation "favors manipulation of the electoral process contrary to the interests of the republic's people." They also noted that there are "inconsistencies between constitutional provisions that make the electoral system less democratic and deprive the people of Kazakhstan of the right to express their will." The appeal urges parliamentary deputies to pass new legislation to make the upcoming elections to the parliament and local government "truly democratic." BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 KOSOVARS SIGN RAMBOUILLET ACCORDSFour members of the ethnic Albanian negotiating team signed in Paris on 18 March the international Contact Group's proposal for a political settlement for Kosova. Hashim Thaci, who is heads the delegation and represents the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), said that "we have signed an agreement to bring peace to Kosova. We hope that the force of the international community will make Yugoslavia sign. We say that the violence must stop." PM
 CONTACT GROUP 'SUSPENDS' PARIS TALKSFrench Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine and his British counterpart, Robin Cook, who are co-chairs of the Paris conference, issued a statement on 19 March praising the Kosovars for signing the document and accusing the Serbs of trying to "unravel the Rambouillet accords." The ministers added: "The negotiations are adjourned. The talks will not resume unless the Serbs express their acceptance of the accords. We will immediately engage in consultations with our partners and allies to be ready to act. We will be in contact with the secretary-general of NATO." The ministers concluded by "solemnly warning the authorities in Belgrade against any military offensive on the ground and any impediment to the freedom of movement and of action of [international peace monitors], which would contravene their commitments. Such violations would have the gravest consequences." PM
 SERBIA DENOUNCES AGREEMENT...Serbian President Milan Milutinovic said in Paris on 18 March that the Rambouillet accord is a "fake document that the Albanians signed with their American friends." He accused Western mediators of using "deceit and manipulation" in conducting the peace talks, adding that the West "can't force us to sign under the threat of bombs." Milutinovic pledged that Serbian forces will resist any attempt by NATO forces to intervene in his country and commented, "Che sera, sera." The previous day, the Serbian delegation signed their own document, which, they said, is the only one they accept (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 March 1999). PM
 ...AND REMAINS DEFIANTSerbian forces continued their offensive in the Drenica region of Kosova on 18 March. In Nis, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who commands the Third Army in the region that includes Kosova, vowed that his troops "will have no problem confronting the remaining terrorists in [the province], and we will do it the moment our country is attacked, irrespective of whether it will be an air or ground attack There is a realistic danger that all the pressure on our country will lead to a war that our country will certainly not lose." Observers noted that "terrorists" is Belgrade's term for the UCK. PM
 YUGOSLAV ARMY PUTS PRESSURE ON MONTENEGROIn Podgorica on 18 March, Yugoslav Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic formally asked the Montenegrin parliament to lift the immunity of Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda. Bulatovic has filed charges against Kilibarda for urging Montenegrin conscripts not to obey call-up notices and for asking the Montenegrin government to prevent the Yugoslav air force from using Montenegrin territory in responding to possible NATO attacks, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Elsewhere, Montenegrin Interior Minister Vukasin Maras said on state-run television that he met with the top Yugoslav army and navy commanders who are responsible for Montenegro. He did not provide details. PM
 RUSSIAN NEGOTIATOR DOES NOT SIGN AGREEMENTBoris Mayorskii said in Paris on 18 March that he will not sign the Rambouillet accords because they do not constitute a proper settlement unless the Serbs' signatures, as well as those of the Kosovars, are added to them. Mayorskii added that he nonetheless understands why his Western colleagues--U.S. envoy Chris Hill and the EU's Wolfgang Petritsch--signed the texts, namely in order "to underline the importance" of the Kosovars' acceptance of them. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in Moscow, "We urged our Belgrade colleagues to show the most constructive approach, taking into account the fact that the Albanian side has already consented to sign the document." PM
 ALBRIGHT WARNS BELGRADEU.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright praised the Kosovars for signing the accord. She also said in Washington on 18 March that the Serbs have "gone backwards" in the peace process. Albright added: "I would like to remind [Yugoslav] President [Slobodan] Milosevic that NATO stands ready to take whatever measures are necessary." Elsewhere, the State Department issued a warning to "U.S. citizens against travel to Serbia-Montenegro and strongly urged U.S. citizens to depart the country due to the possibility of military intervention by members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization." The following day, Germany and Britain issued similar warnings to their citizens. PM
 ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT WELCOMES SIGNING...The Albanian government issued a statement on 18 March saying that "the signing of the draft agreement...constitutes an outstanding historical, civilized, and patriotic act that will have positive effects for the Albanian people of Kosova," Reuters reported. The government added that the Kosovars' signature "encourages international partners to show the same spirit of cooperation and unity in exercising pressure on Yugoslavia to sign the agreement or face the alternative of military force." The government thanked the Contact Group for taking the lead in the negotiations and especially the U.S. "for the decisive role in starting and continuing the peace talks." It expressed hope that the signing will help reduce tension in the Balkans. The government added that "it was Milosevic and not the Albanians" who are responsible for the crisis in Kosova. FS
 ...AND URGES NATO INTERVENTIONPrime Minister Pandeli Majko sent a letter to NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana on 18 March urging NATO to send troops to Kosova as soon as possible, AP reported. Majko expressed concern that "Belgrade may start a general offensive in Kosova. If such a development is not brought under control, this could have catastrophic consequences for my country and the entire region." He stressed that "the Albanian government strongly believes that NATO is the only institution that can prevent a catastrophe in Kosova." Meanwhile, President Rexhep Meidani met with a delegation of the Russian Duma in Tirana and urged them "to influence Belgrade to accept [NATO's] military presence" in the province to implement the Rambouillet accords. FS
 ALBANIAN MINISTER ORDERS FORMER OFFICIALS TO SURRENDER ARMSAlbanian Interior Minister Petro Koci ordered all former government officials to surrender by 31 March the weapons they have been issued for their personal protection, "Koha Jone" reported on 18 March. He warned that those who fail to do so face arrest. The order also includes other persons who received arms from the Democratic Party-led government for personal protection during the anarchy in 1997, including lawyers, businessmen, and former police officers. The order also says that current officials who legally carry weapons must hand them in within 72 hours of changing jobs. Koci's predecessor, Perikli Teta, issued a similar order in 1997 but failed to implement it. FS
 BOSNIAN CROATS LAUNCH BOYCOTTOfficials of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) said in Sarajevo on 18 March that the party will not participate in the work of any federal or local government or legislative bodies from 22 to 28 March. The move is to protest the recent assassination attempt against Deputy Interior Minister Jozo Leutar, who is a prominent member of the HDZ (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 March 1999). PM
 ROMANIAN NATIONAL BANK GOVERNOR EXPLAINS CURRENCY DEVALUATIONMugur Isarescu told the Senate on 18 March that the recent sharp decline of the national currency is partly a result of market speculation and that he expects the leu to stabilize soon. Isarescu said the depreciation reflects the general state of the economy and the downgrading of Romania's country risk by rating agencies that have doubts about Bucharest's ability to service its foreign debt. He acknowledged that the National Bank's has encouraged the depreciation in order to promote exports in view of "fierce competition" from Asian markets, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The bank set the rate for 19 March at 15,115 lei to $1, reflecting a further 1.4 percent drop in one day. MS
 ZEMAN, KLESTIL VISIT ROMANIAVisiting Czech Premier Milos Zeman on 18 March told his Romanian counterpart, Radu Vasile, that Prague will continue supporting the further enlargement of NATO and the EU, CTK reported. Vasile said that they discussed the Kosova problem and that their views were "in many ways similar." Also on the agenda were bilateral economic cooperation and illegal immigration. The same day, visiting Austrian President Thomas Klestil and his Romanian host, Emil Constantinescu, attended the signing of an agreement on combating organized crime, terrorism, and drug trafficking. MS
 MOLDOVAN GOVERNMENT APPROVED THROUGH FORGERY?Transdniestrian television on 17 March broadcast a statement by Ilie Ilascu in which the parliamentary deputy said he did not write the letter used as an absentee ballot on 12 March, when the parliament approved Ion Sturdza's cabinet. Parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov said the next day that the statement was made "under pressure." Ilie Matei, chairman of the Party of Democratic Forces, on whose lists Ilascu was elected to the legislature, said that a graphological expertise comparing the letter with others sent by Ilascu from prison can prove its authenticity. Matei added that Ilascu has been "physically and mentally tortured" following the dispatch of his ballot. Party of Moldovan Communists leader Vladimir Voronin said he will challenge the parliamentary vote before the Constitutional Court and will ask the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate "the forgery," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS
[C] END NOTE
 EASTERN CANDIDATES UNRUFFLED BY EU ROWBy Breffni O'Rourke
The Central and East European candidate countries appear to be taking in their stride the surprise resignation of the entire Executive Commission of the EU.
The 20-member commission- the executive arm of the EU--stepped down earlier this week in an unprecedented move following sharp criticism in a report for mismanagement, corruption, and nepotism.
Fears have been raised that this move will lead to a loss of direction in EU affairs at a time when the 10 candidate countries are impatient to make further progress in their bids to join the union. Selection of a new commission by member states--including a senior political figure to replace outgoing President Jacques Santer--could drag on until the falls.
However, Brussels-based Central and East European diplomats are expressing cautious optimism that the enlargement process will not be severely damaged. One of them--Vesselin Valkanov, counselor at the Bulgarian mission to the EU-- told RFE/RL that "it's business as usual for us, but we are keeping a watchful eye on developments in the EU and hope they will find a way to settle the problem as fast as possible and to the benefit of all the candidate countries, as well as themselves."
At the Lithuanian mission to the EU, counselor Rytis Martikonis told RFE/RL he believes that, at least in the short term, the enlargement process-- particularly from a technical point of view--is still on the right track. He said he does not believe the blow to the commission as an institution will influence the process substantially. He says that--on the contrary-- the union's institutions seem to work better in times of crisis and the whole affair might have a positive influence on next week's key summit of EU leaders in Berlin "I think that the resignation of the commission has [increased] pressure [on the summit] to resolve the problems more swiftly, so as to demonstrate the capacity to act and not to let the crisis escalate," Martikonis commented.
The current president of the EU, Germany, wants the summit to agree on a package of sweeping internal financial reforms that are considered essential if the EU is to be capable of absorbing new members. German officials say they believe the reform package has now developed such momentum that it cannot be derailed by the events in Brussels. However, given the probable delay in appointing a new commission, the presidency of Finland--which begins in July--could be more heavily impacted.
A Finnish spokesman in Brussels, Reijo Kemppinen acknowledged that the situation could become complicated. But he told RFE/RL that if the Berlin summit can clear the way for reform--and if other factors fall into place, such as the timely nomination of a replacement for Commission President Santer--then the focus will stay on eastward expansion. "The priorities in our presidency," he said, "would be the enlargement of the union, giving new impetus to the enlargement negotiations, plus enhancing the role of the EU externally, be it the trade policy or the foreign and security policy, and questions relating to the strengthening of EU institutions vis- a-vis the upcoming enlargement."
It is unclear whether the commissioner in charge of relations with Central and Eastern Europe, Hans van den Broek of The Netherlands, wants to stand as a candidate for the new commission. Sources in the commission say his candidacy is unlikely because he's from a political party now in opposition in his homeland, rather than in government. In addition, the report on mismanagement--although it singled out only a few commissioners by name-- was critical of the entire outgoing team. This, too, makes holdovers from among the outgoing commissioners improbable.
The author is an RFE/RL editor based in Prague.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty