|Monday, 20 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 55, 99-03-22
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 55, 22 March 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 AZERBAIJAN REJECTS RUSSIAN STATE DUMA STATEMENT ON U.S. BASESState Foreign Policy Adviser Vafa Guluzade dismissed as "groundless" the 18 March statement by the Russian State Duma condemning Baku's stated willingness to host U.S. military bases, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March 1999). Guluzade said that Azerbaijan is a sovereign state and thus entitled to decide on its own security policy. He also dismissed as "ridiculous" the Duma's denial that Russia is supplying arms to Armenia. LF
 KARABAKH PARLIAMENT WELCOMES EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTIONBoris Aroushanian, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic, has described the 11 March endorsement by the European Parliament of the OSCE Minsk Group's Karabakh peace proposal as "a hopeful sign," Interfax and Noyan Tapan reported on 18 March. At the same time, Aroushanian expressed incomprehension at Azerbaijan's rejection of those proposals, given that they comprise "not a formula for the final resolution of the conflict but principles for continuing talks." Also on 18 March, Azerbaijan's opposition Vahdat Party and National Unity Party issued a joint statement condemning the European Parliament resolution as "against the will" of the Azerbaijani people, according to Turan. The two parties blamed the resolution on the erroneous foreign and domestic policies pursued by the present Azerbaijani leadership. LF
 GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS YEREVANOn a one-day working visit to Yerevan on 19 March, Irakli Menagharishvili discussed with his Armenian counterpart, Vartan Oskanian, the Abkhaz and Karabakh conflicts, the recent meeting in Strasbourg of the parliamentary speakers of all three Transcaucasus states, and the prospects for strengthening economic ties, Noyan Tapan reported. Speaking later to journalists, Menagharishvili said that while Georgia does not currently aspire to NATO membership, it considers the alliance "an important component of the future European security structure" and intends to increase its participation in the Partnership for Peace program, according to Interfax. Oskanian characterized "stable" Armenian-Georgian bilateral relations as an important component of regional stability in the face of growing "polarization." LF
 TURKMENISTAN'S DECISION TO INTRODUCE VISA REGIME CRITICIZED...Speaking in Minsk on 19 March, the chairman of the Integration Committee of the CIS Customs Union, Nigmatzhan Isingarin, said the CIS will make an "adequate" response to Turkmenistan's announcement that as of June, it will require citizens of most CIS countries to have a visa when traveling to that country (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March 1999), Interfax reported. Isringarin said the decision has "pluses and minuses," adding that "Turkmenistan will not only isolate itself from CIS countries but other countries will be closed to it." Isingarin pointed out that some highways connecting southwest Asian countries with the CIS run through Turkmenistan and that many CIS businessmen transit Turkmenistan on routes from one CIS country to another. "This means [such businessmen] will find routes around Turkmenistan,...,which will lose most of all." BP
 ...AS ASHGABAT EXPLAINS DECISION...Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry has sent a note to the CIS Executive Secretariat explaining the decision to introduce a visa regime, Interfax reported on 19 March. The note said the action "should in no way be understood as aspiring to break off relations with governments of the CIS." It added that the 1992 agreement on visa-free travel was concluded to "create favorable conditions for those who elected or desired to return to the country they considered their homeland." Now, it continued, "the situation has been complicated as those who do not heed laws and criminal elements have become the main users of the visa-free regime." This situation is becoming "more and more difficult to control," the note said. BP
 ...INTRODUCES NEW TRANSIT RULES FOR SOME GOODSTurkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov signed a decree on 19 March establishing new rules for the transit through Turkmenistan of beer, hard liquor, wine, and tobacco products, Interfax reported. An unspecified fee will be imposed on goods transiting Turkmen territory at the point of entry into the country. Those same goods must leave Turkmen territory within 30 days and the fee will be returned at the point of departure. The Foreign Ministry is charged with informing accredited embassies in Turkmenistan "and other interested parties" about the new regulations by 3 April. The action is aimed at "protecting the domestic market," according to Niyazov. BP
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT DECLARES ANOTHER AMNESTYNiyazov on 19 March signed a decree freeing 5,000 prisoners, Interfax reported. This latest amnesty coincides with the holidays of Nawruz and Kurban Bairami. The news agency reported that in 1999, more than 22,000 people have been freed under amnesties. The crime rate in January and February has reportedly dropped by 20 percent compared with the same period last year. BP
 TURKMENISTAN PLANS 10-YEAR SOCIO-ECONOMIC REFORM PROGRAMAt an expanded session of the Cabinet of Ministers on 19 March, President Niyazov signed a resolution on drafting a socio- economic reform program through 2010, Interfax reported. All proposals must be submitted by 1 September, and final approval is expected to be given at a joint session of the Peoples' Council, the Council of Elders, and the parliament in December. BP
 KAZAKHSTAN'S GOVERNMENT WANTS CUTS IN BUDGET EXPENDITURES, REVENUESKazakhstan's Finance Minister Uraz Jandosov told the parliament on 19 March that 1999 budget expenditures and revenues need to be cut by 29 billion tenge ($333 million) and 32.9 billion tenge, respectively, Interfax reported. Jandosov said the government predicts that this year's GDP will be down by 1.5 percent on 1998 and will be 8 percent smaller than forecast in the current version of the 1999 budget. The government also predicted that inflation for this year will be 3.7 percent, not the 8.3 percent foreseen by the budget, and that exports will shrink by 10.3 percent and imports by 12.3 percent (compared with the planned 1.3 percent increase). BP
 ORLEU MOVEMENT IN KAZAKHSTAN PREPARES FOR PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONSThe head of Kazakhstan's Orleu Movement, Seydakhmet Kuttykadam, said at a meeting on 19 March in the city of Shymkent that he expects his movement to win three or four seats in the parliamentary elections later this year, Interfax reported. Kuttykadam said he believes the elections will be moved forward from December to June. He also said he expects incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev to remain in office no longer than three more years. Kuttykadam said Nazarbayev will have to step down because of "Kazakhstan's growing international isolation, on the one hand, and the catastrophic scale of the country's economic decline and corruption in all strata of government, on the other hand." BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MILOSEVIC TO MEET WITH HOLBROOKE...U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke discussed the Kosova crisis with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in Brussels on 22 March. Holbrooke is slated to meet Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade later that day. On 21 March in Washington, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said "Holbrooke will emphasize to President Milosevic that NATO airstrikes against [Serbian targets] are being prepared. [The envoy] will make clear that Milosevic faces a stark choice: to halt aggression against the Kosovar Albanians and accept an interim settlement with a NATO-led implementation force or bear the full responsibility of NATO military action." PM
 ...RECEIVES WARNING FROM WESTERN LEADERSPresident Bill Clinton said in Washington on 19 March that "if we and our allies do not have the will to act, there will be more massacres. In dealing with aggressors in the Balkans, hesitation is a license to kill. But action and resolve can stop armies and save lives." Over the weekend, Cook, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, and several other Western leaders publicly warned Milosevic that time is rapidly running out for him to accept the Rambouillet accords. Unnamed NATO officials said in Brussels on 21 March that the alliance will be able to launch air strikes against Serbia "within hours" of NATO leaders' deciding to do so. Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini added the same day that matters will "come to an end" by 23 March. PM
 SERBIA PREPARES FOR WAR...General Nebojsa Pavkovic, who commands the Third Army in the region that includes Kosova, inspected border defense units and anti-aircraft batteries on 21 March, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He stressed that the military are taking "all possible measures to prevent foreign troops from entering our territory." Broadcasts on state-run television also emphasized that the military are prepared for any eventuality. PM
 ...BUT MONTENEGRO WANTS NO PART OF ITMeanwhile, President Milo Djukanovic told a political rally in Podgorica on 19 March that Milosevic is prepared "to go to the end" over Kosova in order to preserve his power, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Djukanovic added that Milosevic has "usurped control" over all key federal institutions, including the army. The Montenegrin president called on Montenegrin officers not to take part in a conflict on Milosevic's behalf and stressed that only a truly Yugoslav army is welcome on Montenegrin territory. PM
 OSCE WITHDRAWS MONITORS FROM KOSOVASome 1,400 OSCE civilian monitors left Kosova on 20 March. Serbian border police invalidated their visas as they left. The previous day, Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek, who currently holds the rotating OSCE chair, had announced in Oslo that the monitors would leave Yugoslavia immediately. PM
 SERBIAN FORCES LAUNCH MAJOR OFFENSIVEFollowing the departure of the monitors on 20 March, Serbian forces launched an offensive in the Mitrovica, Vushtrri, and Drenica regions to the west of Prishtina. "Serbs in white coveralls and black ski masks drove thousands" of Kosovar civilians from Skenderaj "in a classic ethnic- cleansing operation not seen since the Bosnian war," Reuters reported. A grinning Serbian soldier said to journalists: "See what we're doing? When are the Americans coming?" Elsewhere, Serbian forces closed to civilian traffic the road connecting Prishtina and Podujeva. On 21 March, Serbian sources said that unidentified persons shot dead four Serbian policemen in Prishtina. Following the reported killings, Serbian forces set up checkpoints on roads leading into and out of the provincial capital. One unidentified Serb told the news agency: "If [armed conflict] is starting in Prishtina, it's going to be very dangerous for everyone." PM
 ALBANIA WANTS NATO HELP AFTER BORDER INCIDENTForeign Minister Paskal Milo on 21 March asked the Tirana ambassadors of NATO countries to give "immediate support to improve our military infrastructure and our ability to handle any humanitarian emergency." He demanded an urgent meeting of the NATO Council and Albanian diplomats, AP reported. Milo also urged international organizations such as the OSCE to "increase the number of their monitors on our northern border so that there are eyewitnesses in case of further Serb provocations." His appeal came one day after a reported gun battle between Albanian forces and about 30 Yugoslav soldiers who had entered Albanian territory at Lugu i Zi, near Tropoja. The exchange lasted at least 50 minutes, "Shekulli" reported. FS
 UCK LEADERS CALL FOR NATO ACTION...In Tirana on 20 March, several leaders of the Kosova Liberation Army's (UCK) delegation to the Paris peace talks called for swift NATO action against Yugoslavia. UCK spokesman Jakup Krasniqi said that Serbian forces have mounted a large-scale offensive against ethnic Albanian civilians with the aim of driving them from Kosova. He added that "today, the whole of Kosova is at war. This fighting that follows our signing of the final agreement obliges the international community and NATO to intervene against this fascist and barbaric machine," Reuters reported. The following day a delegation member told the Kosova Information Center that the UCK leaders will delay a planned visit to the U.S. because of the "grave situation" in Kosova. FS
 ...BUT HAVE DIFFICULTIES GOING HOMEFollowing the collapse of peace talks in Paris on 19 March, the UCK leaders traveled to Tirana with the rest of the ethnic Albanian delegation. Delegation member Rame Buja told Reuters that the UCK representatives do not feel that it is safe for them to return to Kosova after the withdrawal of OSCE monitors. Serbian authorities have issued arrest warrants against most of the UCK members in the delegation. Buja, however, stressed that the UCK leaders plan to go home at a later point. Non- UCK members of the delegation continued on to Skopje. FS
 MACEDONIAN MINISTER SAYS NO ATTACKS FROM HIS COUNTRYForeign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov said in Skopje on 21 March that his government will "not allow a [NATO] attack to be conducted from Macedonia. We don't want to see the conflict spread into our territory," AP quoted him as saying. Elsewhere, Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Trajkovski said that a "unit" of Yugoslav soldiers crossed into Macedonia the previous day. Although Macedonian soldiers told them to leave immediately, the Yugoslavs did not do so until "several hours" later. Officials of the Macedonian Foreign Ministry then summoned the Yugoslav ambassador over the incident, but he refused to accept Skopje's official protest, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 WILL THE HAGUE TRIBUNAL INDICT CROATIAN GENERALS?Unnamed employees or former employees of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal told "The New York Times" of 21 March that the court has prepared a 150-page study of Croatia's Operation Storm in the Krajina region in the late summer of 1995. The study reportedly concludes that "during and in the 100 days following the military offensive, at least 150 Serb civilians were summarily executed, and many hundreds disappeared." The report adds that Generals Mirko Norac, Ante Gotovina, and Ivan Cermak may be indicted in the future for their involvement in "ethnic cleansing." Court spokesmen told the daily that the tribunal is investigating the source of the leak. PM
 BOSNIAN SERB POLITICAL CONFUSION CONTINUESOfficials of the Bosnian Serb branch of the Serbian Radical Party said in Banja Luka on 20 March that Prime Minister Milorad Dodik had "no authority" to state in Vienna the previous day that the Bosnian Serbs will accept international mediator Roberts Owen's decision on Brcko (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 March 1999). PM
 BALKAN FOREIGN MINISTERS URGE BELGRADE TO SIGN PEACE DEALAfter meeting in Bucharest on 19 March, the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, and Turkey issued a joint statement calling on Serbia to sign the Kosova peace agreement and expressing support for the deployment of an international force in the region, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Serbia and Albania declined to attend the meeting. MS
 ROMANIAN LEADERS BACK NATO OVER KOSOVAIn a statement released in 21 March following talks with Premier Radu Vasile and Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, President Emil Constantinescu said NATO intervention in Kosova is "necessary and legitimate" if the international community's efforts to achieve a peaceful solution fail. Defense Minster Victor Babiuc said two days earlier that Romania "will be on NATO's side," will allow NATO planes to overfly its territory, and is ready to dispatch "a medical unit and peace-keepers," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. In other news, President Bill Clinton, in a letter to Constantinescu made public on 19 March, expressed support for Romania's political and economic reforms and urged that Bucharest speed up its reform process. Clinton assured Constantinescu that the April Washington summit "will offer aspiring candidates a clear way and a package of practical programs to help them become full NATO members," AP reported. MS
 MOLDOVAN MINISTERS ACCUSED OF CORRUPTIONIurie Rosca, leader of the Christian Democratic Popular Front (FPCD), on 19 March accused four members of Ion Sturza's cabinet of "corruption and incompetence." The four are Agriculture Minister Valeriu Bulgari, Defense Minister Valeriu Pasat, Finance Minister Anatol Arapu, and Minister of State Vladimir Filat, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. All are members of the For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PMPD). The FPCD had objected to their being re-appointed to the cabinet. Rosca said the Prosecutor General's Office is "a pit" where "any evidence on corruption [by government officials] is buried." MS
 CHISINAU ELECTORAL COUNCIL RULES AGAINST FPCD LEADER'S CANDIDACYThe Chisinau Electoral Council on 19 March ruled that neither Rosca nor parliamentary deputy Vasili Ivov can run for mayor in the 23 May local elections because the constitution prohibits the city head from simultaneously being a parliamentary deputy, Flux reported. The same day, the council registered outgoing Chisinau mayor Serafim Urecheanu as a candidate. Rosca responded that Urecheanu (whose appointment as premier was hindered by the FPCD) is "trying to eliminate his competitors." He said that he will appeal the decision in the Constitutional Court, adding that he will resign from the parliament if elected mayor. MS
 BULGARIAN DEFENSE COUNCIL APPROVES CUT IN ARMY SIZEDeputy Defense Minister Velizar Shalamanov told state radio on 21 March that Bulgaria will cut its army within five years from 85,000 to 50, 000 troops and will improve its funding, training, and equipment to bring it up to NATO standards, AP reported. The decision was reached at a meeting of the Defense Council on 19 March, BTA reported. MS
[C] END NOTE
 A DISASTER THAT DIDN'T HAPPENBy Paul Goble
A march by veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS Legion held in Riga last week had been widely expected to trigger confrontations between ethnic Latvians and ethnic Russians in Latvia and lead to a deterioration of relations between Riga and Moscow.
But those disastrous outcomes did not materialize. Not only did the march by 300 aging veterans of a German- organized unit that had fought advancing Soviet troops during World War II not lead to disturbances in Latvia itself; it also revealed some quite remarkable restraint at the official level in both the Latvian and Russian capitals.
As a result, the prospects for inter-ethnic relations in Latvia have dramatically improved, while the possibility of better relations between Latvia and Russia has increased--a development few observers would have predicted only a month ago.
There were some very good reasons for the earlier pessimism. One year ago, a march by Waffen SS veterans exacerbated tensions all round. There were clashes between the marchers and ethnic Russians in the Latvian capital. Several senior Latvian government officials took part in the demonstration. And the Russian government roundly condemned Riga for permitting what it called a manifestation of fascism.
Even though the Latvian authorities dismissed the officials who took part, Riga appeared to have compounded its problems when the parliament voted to make 16 March an official day of remembrance for all those who fell in the service of Latvia, regardless of what uniform they wore.
While supporters of this measure argued that such a memorial day was appropriate, opponents were deeply troubled. The latter argued that by choosing 16 March--the anniversary of the Legion's first battle against Soviet troops, near Velikyy Luky in 1943--Riga appeared to be giving special preference to those Latvians who served in German uniforms rather than all Latvians.
Consequently, many Latvians, ethnic Russians, and Moscow officials predicted that this year's commemoration would provoke an explosion. All were wrong.
First, Latvian officials carefully distanced themselves from the demonstration. The Latvian government announced that no official would take part. President Guntis Ulmanis suggested that the date of such a memorial was wrong and should be changed. And both he and other senior officials chose to be out of town on the date of the march.
Second, all press accounts suggest that the Latvian police acted with professionalism, discipline, and restraint. In contrast to their handling of some earlier demonstrations, the police behaved in a manner that suggested they were there to protect public order rather than to back any particular group. That, in turn, had the effect of reassuring many in the Latvian capital that they could now count on the police, regardless of their own ethnicity.
And third, the predominantly ethnic Russian counterdemonstration called attention to a pattern many of the earlier doomsayers had missed. Local ethnic Russians who participated in it behaved with dignity. Only those with close ties to Moscow political groups appeared interested in provoking any real problems.
The counterdemonstration which attracted ethnic Latvians as well as ethnic Russians was both peaceful and respectful. Speakers denounced the fact that the march was taking place but did not denounce Latvia as such--also a sharp contrast with some similar events in the past.
The only disturbance came from a group of extreme Russian nationalists, both the Latvian and Russian media reported. They condemned Latvia in terms that questioned its right to national existence and even raised a portrait of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin attached to balloons. So hostile and violent were the remarks of this group that others at the counterdemonstration denounced them in even sharper terms than they had criticized those who had taken part in the Waffen SS demonstration itself.
Some in Moscow who had indicated they planned to be outraged by the Latvian demonstration continued to complain-- but in remarkably mild terms. Roman Popkovich, the chairman of the Russian parliament's defense committee, said the Russian Duma "regrets and does not understand" Riga's sanctioning of the demonstration and believes Europe should understand that "Latvia is a country where human rights are not respected."
But a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry is perhaps more telling. While its spokesman, Vladimir Rakhmanin, said Moscow "will always denounce any attempts" to make national heroes of those who supported the German side in World War II or to revive fascism, he concluded with some surprisingly mild and conciliatory words. "Moscow has paid attention to the fact," he commented, "that the Latvian authorities have disassociated themselves from the commemorations." And he expressed the hope that "the next step will be made" by changing the date of the soldiers' memorial day in Latvia.
If that happens, Rakhmanin said, "that will be the best proof of Latvia's genuine adherence to the course of integration of society and the country's merging with democratic Europe." Because Latvian leaders are now saying the same thing, the disaster that didn't happen may point to an even better outcome in the future.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty