|Monday, 20 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 60, 99-03-26
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 60, 26 March 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT INVITES POPE TO VISITMeeting with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican on 25 March, Robert Kocharian reaffirmed the official invitation to the pontiff to visit Armenia, extended earlier this week by Armen Sarkisian, Armenia's ambassador to the Vatican, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. No date for the papal visit has been set. Kocharian and Armenian Catholicos Karekin I are to attend the formal opening of an exhibition at the Vatican Library devoted to the 1700th anniversary of Armenia's adoption of Christianity as the state religion. Kocharian also met on 25 March with his Italian counterpart, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, to discuss bilateral relations, according to Noyan Tapan. LF
 FORMER ARMENIAN MINISTER OF EDUCATION CHARGED WITH EMBEZZLEMENTYerevan city prosecutor Ashot Tamazian on 25 March said that a criminal case has been opened against former Education Minister Ashot Bleyan on charges of abuse of power and embezzlement of public funds totaling $120, 000 intended for the publication of school textbooks, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Bleyan, who currently heads the small Nor Ughi [New Path] opposition party and placed last of the 12 candidates in the March 1998 presidential election with 0.11 percent of the vote, dismissed the charges as "fabricated and unfounded." LF
 AZERBAIJAN CONTINUES INVESTIGATION OF IMPOUNDED MIGSTuran on 25 March quoted an unnamed official source in Baku as saying that the investigation into the impounded Russian freight plane and its cargo of six MiG fighters at Baku's Bin airport has not yet yielded any evidence that would be sufficient to bring a criminal case (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 March 1999). But ITAR-TASS the same day reported that Azerbaijani intelligence will need at least another two days to complete its examination of the freight plane and its cargo. LF
 FORMER RUSSIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR POLICY SHIFT ON GEORGIAOn a private visit to Tbilisi on 25 March, Sergei Kirienko told Georgian parliamentary chairman Zurab Zhvania that Moscow should revise its current policy toward Georgia since relations between the two countries are pivotal for the situation throughout the Caucasus, according to Caucasus Press. The two men agreed on the need to improve bilateral relations. LF
 TAJIKISTAN CONTINUES INVESTIGATION INTO LENINABAD INSURGENCYThe Prosecutor-General's Office has completed investigation into the role of 64 participants in the November 1998 insurgency in Leninabad Oblast by supporters of rebel Colonel Makhmud Khudoberdiev, ITAR- TASS reported on 25 March. The 64 are charged with treason, creating illegal armed formations, terrorism, and offenses against the state. Hundreds more people remain in pre-trial detention for their involvement in that uprising. LF
 UZBEK AUTHORITIES HARASS UNREGISTERED PROTESTANTSOver the last two months, twelve members of separate Christian communities in the Uzbek cities of Tashkent, Termez, Bukhara, and Nukus have been arrested and either fined or sentenced to short prison sentences , according to a Human Rights Without Frontiers press release dated 25 March. In three of those cases, the communities in question were preparing formal applications to register their Churches legally. The 1998 amended Uzbek law on religion bans all unregistered religious activities. LF
 TRANSCAUCASUS, CENTRAL ASIAN RESPONSES TO NATO STRIKESIn a 25 March statement, Armenian Foreign Ministry acting spokesman Ara Papyan expressed concern at NATO's recourse to force, adding that Yerevan hopes the conflict parties will still find a peaceful resolution to the Kosova problem, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported. "Armenia has always stood up for the right of peoples to self- determination," he added. In Tbilisi, President Eduard Shevardnadze the previous day expressed regret that the international community had failed to coordinate measures to impose peace. He said future steps should not lead to a new round of tension in international relations, according to Interfax. The Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan issued a statement that neither condemned nor endorsed the strikes but called for the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosova, RFE/RL's Astana bureau reported. The Tajik Foreign Ministry unequivocally condemned the strikes as destabilizing the global situation and called for immediate peace talks. No official comment from Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, or Uzbekistan is currently available. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NATO LAUNCHES SECOND NIGHT OF AIR STRIKESNATO aircraft attacked up to 20 military targets in Serbia and Montenegro during the night of 25-26 March, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Targets included army and air bases as well as military communications centers. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen told CNN that all planes returned to base safely. During the previous night's raids, NATO aircraft destroyed three Yugoslav MiG fighters, the BBC reported. The correspondent added that "there is not one shred of evidence" to substantiate Belgrade's claims that its forces shot down at least one NATO aircraft. Observers noted that NATO officials are surprised that the Yugoslav military has fired only one missile from its Soviet SAM air defense system at NATO aircraft. Retired Croatian General Martin Spegelj, who is one of the region's senior military commentators, told "Novi List" that he expects NATO attacks will become "even more intense" in the coming days. PM
 BELGRADE BREAKS DIPLOMATIC LINKSYugoslav authorities on 25 March announced that Belgrade has broken diplomatic relations with Washington, London, Paris, and Bonn. The Yugoslav authorities are considering the future of their diplomatic ties with other countries involved in the air strikes. PM
 INFORMATION BECOMES MORE DIFFICULT TO OBTAINSerbian authorities on 25 March told journalists from NATO countries that they must leave Yugoslavia because their reporting allegedly encouraged the Atlantic alliance to launch air strikes. It is unclear whether Greek journalists, who are often sympathetic to Serbian views, are included in the ban. It has become increasingly difficult to verify conflicting Serbian and Kosovar claims as to what is happening on the ground in that province because most foreign journalists and all OSCE monitors have left, several international broadcasters reported on 26 March. Observers noted that some of the Serbian independent media have recently moved closer to Belgrade's official line in their reporting on the conflict, including Radio B-92 and the BETA news agency. PM
 WHAT IS HAPPENING IN KOSOVA?Guerrillas of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) have taken advantage of NATO air strikes to attack Serbian positions, the Serbian Media Center reported from Prishtina on 25 March. Kosovar sources reported heavy fighting in the areas to the north and west of Prishtina. They added that Serbian tanks have surrounded Qirez, where 20,000 people have taken refuge. Serbian police in several localities have detained Kosovar males "of whom all trace is then lost," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. One Serbian soldier told a Kosovar woman to "ask NATO where your husband is." A UCK spokesman in London said that Serbian police have singled out middle- class persons and especially teachers in the latest round-up. In Prishtina, a Serbian policeman told Serbian residents of an apartment building to put special stickers on their doors, the BBC reported. PM
 SERBIAN FORCES "ETHNICALLY CLEANSE" BORDER VILLAGEAbout 200 Kosovar refugees, mostly women and children, arrived from the remote border village of Goden in the village of Dobruna in Albania's Kukes district on 25 March. The refugees reported that Serbian security forces entered Goden and separated the men from the women and children, whom they forced to march across the border along the only mine-free route. They then set the village ablaze, AP reported. FS
 OSCE FEARS NEW MASSACREOSCE spokesman Andrea Angeli told Reuters in Tirana on 25 March that "we confirm that Goden is in flames. Our monitors [on the Albanian side of the border] saw Serbian forces round up the [ethnic] Albanian population...and later heard gunshots." Albanian police reported seeing their Serbian counterparts enter Goden, round up all the residents in front of the school, take the men away, and then set fire to the schoolhouse. One of the 10 male eye-witnesses who managed to flee Goden said he fears the forces killed 24 male inhabitants. He added "I am alive only because I knew the Serbian commander." FS
 TENSIONS RISE ALONG BORDERAlbanian border officials told AP that reinforcements of Serbian forces have been deployed along the border, adding that those troops fired at villages in Kosova all day on 25 March. Reporters on the Albanian side of the border saw "large numbers" of Serbian forces armed with heavy artillery across the frontier. They also heard mortar fire and saw houses aflame in five villages. Captain Ramiz Tahari, who heads the border guards in the Has region, said Yugoslav guards opened fire on his station and wounded one of his men. Information Minister Musa Ulqini said in Tirana that Yugoslav forces fired mortars into Albania earlier the same day, slightly damaging three houses near Tropoja. Army commander Kudesi Lama told AP that "we are no longer talking about avoiding incidents but [are] preparing for possible attacks." FS
 ALBANIA CLOSES AIRPORTAlbania shut down its only international airport, which is near Tirana, on 25 March for an indefinite period owing to security reasons. Ferries to Italy are still in operation, Reuters reported. FS
 ALBRIGHT WARNS MILOSEVIC OVER MONTENEGROSpeaking in Washington on 25 March, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned President Slobodan Milosevic not to "attempt to use this crisis to broaden the conflict or spread violence and instability elsewhere in the region. Nor should he attack the democratically elected government of Montenegro, whose approach to the crisis has been rational and constructive, in stark contrast to that of President Milosevic." She added that "any attempt to either overthrow the democratically elected government [of Montenegro] or to create instability would lead to deeper isolation for the Serbs, for Yugoslavia, and escalate the conflict with NATO." Elsewhere in Washington, Montenegrin representative Zorica Maric warned that continuing NATO attacks on targets in her republic could "undermine support among the people for the democratically elected government" of President Milo Djukanovic, who blames Milosevic for the current crisis (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March 1999). PM
 BULATOVIC CALLS FOR MONTENEGRIN PARLIAMENT SESSIONYugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic called for an emergency meeting of the Montenegrin parliament to "decide whether to stand with Serbia," AP reported on 26 March. He added that "it's most vital to maintain peace and then the people of Montenegro can decide later" whether they wish to remain part of Yugoslavia. Bulatovic is the arch- rival of Djukanovic, who does not recognize the Bulatovic government. Djukanovic says he wants Montenegro to remain in Yugoslavia but demands that Milosevic change his policies on a variety of issues, including Kosova. PM
 CLINTON APPEALS TO SERBSPresident Bill Clinton, in a 25 March televised address broadcast via satellite to the Serbian people, appealed to "all Serbs and all persons of good will to join with us in ending this conflict." Clinton noted that Washington and its allies "have no quarrel with the Serbian people." He stressed that Milosevic and his policies are to blame for the crisis. Milosevic, he continued, "has your sons fighting a senseless conflict you did not ask for that he could have prevented.... Hopefully, he will realize that his present course is unsustainable The sooner we find a peaceful resolution of this dispute..., the sooner Serbia can join the rest of Europe and build a nation that gives all its citizens a choice and a chance for prosperity," Clinton said. He noted that the Milosevic regime has offered its citizens "too much propaganda and too little plain truth." PM
 SERBS STAGE VIOLENT PROTEST IN SKOPJESome 2,000 members of Macedonia's small Serbian minority, along with some Macedonian nationalists, fire-bombed the U.S. embassy and also damaged the German and British embassies on 25 March. U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Chris Hill said none of his staff was injured. Protesters threw rocks and other objects at cars belonging to the OSCE and international agencies and at the hotel where most foreign personnel are staying. The attacks appeared "orchestrated," the BBC reported. Some protesters physically attacked German journalists, Deutsche Welle added. PM
 TAIWAN TO HELP MACEDONIA WITH REFUGEESOfficials of Republic of China's Foreign Ministry said in Taipei on 26 March that Taiwan will provide $2 million to help Macedonia deal with an influx of refugees from Kosova. The officials added that Skopje requested the assistance. Some 20,000 Kosovar refugees are currently in Macedonia, but the total could eventually reach 200,000, Reuters reported from Taipei (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March 1999). PM
 CROATIA WANTS ASSURANCES FROM NATOPrime Minister Zlatko Matesa told the government on 25 March that Croatia supports the NATO air strikes but wants guarantees for its security from NATO and the U.S., "Jutarnji list" reported. He added that Croatia supports Western policies in the region and should receive the same assurances that the Atlantic alliance recently gave to members of the Partnership for Peace program, even though Croatia is not yet a member of that program (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 March 1999). PM
 MOST CROATIAN AIRPORTS REOPENA spokesman for Croatian Airlines said in Zagreb on 26 March that Croatia has reopened its airspace, which it closed two days earlier. He said that only the airport at Pula, which is near NATO's key air base at Aviano, Italy, will remain closed, Reuters reported. PM
 U.S. PROTESTS BOSNIAN SERB ATTACKThe U.S. embassy in Sarajevo issued a statement on 26 March condemning an attack on its office by violent protesters in Banja Luka the previous day. One staff member was seriously injured, Reuters reported. "The U.S. expects local authorities to aggressively investigate and prosecute those responsible for the attack," the text added. "We hold responsible all those officials who recently made statements suggesting that violence against the U.S. and the international community might be acceptable under any circumstances," the statement noted. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj recently called on Serbs to attack U.S. interests everywhere. PM
 ROMANIAN CLOSES AIRPORTS NEAR YUGOSLAV BORDERTransportation Minister Traian Basescu told journalists on 25 March that he has ordered the airports in Timisoara, Arad, and Caransebes closed "in response to a NATO request to set up an "air traffic safety zone" in the vicinity of the Yugoslav border. The Foreign Ministry the same day expressed "concern" over the consequences of the Kosova crisis for the region and said that Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu, rotating chairman of the South East European Cooperation (SEEC), which includes Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Turkey, and Romania, has convened a meeting in Bucharest of the monitoring group, formed by an SEES gathering in Bucharest on 19 March, to discuss the "humanitarian" consequences of the crisis. The Romanian Red Cross announced it is ready to extend aid "without discrimination" to either side in the conflict. MS
 FITCH IBCA DOWNGRADES ROMANIA'S RATINGThe Fitch IBCA international rating agency on 24 March downgraded Romania's rating for the service of its long-term external debt from B to B minus and for the servicing of the country's internal debt from BB minus to B minus, Mediafax reported. The agency downgraded the rating for external debt servicing from BB minus to B last December. MS
 MOLDOVA, TIRASPOL ON NATO STRIKESThe Moldovan Foreign Ministry on 25 March said it is "worried" about the failure of the negotiating process in Yugoslavia and "takes note" that the NATO decision to use force has been "to a large extent imposed by the irreconcilable position" of one of the sides involved in the Kosova conflict. The ministry said any use of force "carries with it inherent risks" and that Moldova will continue to support and participate in "efforts of the international community to restore peace and the respect of human rights in Kosova," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The communist parliamentary group expressed "indignation" over the strikes. Vladimir Atamanyuk, chairman of the separatist Supreme Soviet, said on 25 March that "Tiraspol will grant Russian armed forces the right to use its military or civilian airfields" and supports "blocking NATO- launched aggression and NATO's eastward expansion." MS
 MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT ALLOWS DEPUTIES TO RUN IN LOCAL ELECTIONSThe parliament on 25 March voted to allow deputies to run for mayor in the local elections scheduled for 23 May but requires them to resign from the legislature if elected, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Christian Democratic Popular Front leader Iurie Rosca and communist deputy Vasili Ivov were denied registration by the Chisinau Electoral Council on 19 March. Five days later, the Central Electoral Commission rejected Rosca's appeal against that decision. MS
 BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT URGES YUGOSLAVIA TO SIGN KOSOVA DEALThe parliament on 25 March passed a resolution calling on Yugoslavia to "sign the peace agreement in order to avert new human casualties and destruction." At the same time, it called on NATO to accept Bulgaria as a member. Both President Petar Stoyanov and Premier Ivan Kostov told the special session of the legislature that Bulgaria faces no immediate political or military danger from the conflict. The opposition, led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, voted against the resolution. Kostov told legislators that he and Stoyanov received a message from President Bill Clinton saying the U.S. will guarantee Bulgaria's security if the war spills over the border, BTA and Reuters reported. BTA reported that some 120 Albanians from Macedonia and Yugoslavia have fled to Bulgaria. MS
[C] END NOTE
 GERMAN ACADEMIC SEES PRO-ARMENIAN TURN IN KARABAKH CONFLICTby Emil Danielyan
A German scholar specializing in Eastern European law says the Armenian side in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has reversed diplomatic setbacks suffered at the last OSCE summit and has thereby secured a peace plan largely reflecting its interests.
"After major [diplomatic] losses, Armenia now has a considerable position advantage over Azerbaijan," despite the lack of progress in the stalled Karabakh peace process, according to Professor Otto Luchterhandt, who is director of the Department for Research of Eastern European Law at the University of Hamburg and who has been a legal consultant since 1992 in several former Soviet republics, including Armenia.
Addressing students, political analysts, and journalists at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan, Luchterhandt said Azerbaijan is facing a "difficult situation," having rejected the OSCE's most recent proposals to resolve the Karabakh dispute, endorsed by the EU earlier this month. He said by putting forward the idea of a "common state" between Azerbaijan and the Armenian-populated disputed enclave, the OSCE backed down from its previous unconditional support for the principle of territorial integrity.
That principle is championed by Azerbaijan as a necessary condition for a lasting peace with Armenia. Baku, for its part, has said the OSCE plan is unacceptable because it does not guarantee restoration of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh, which declared its independence in 1991. Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have largely accepted the plan.
At the OSCE's Lisbon summit in December 1996, Armenia found itself alone in opposing a document endorsing Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. Many considered it a serious diplomatic defeat. Luchterhandt believes that the OSCE's "diversion" from a hitherto "balanced approach" toward the conflicting parties was a consequence of the 1996 Armenian presidential election, which was marred by widespread fraud. And it was international pressure that led then President Levon Ter-Petrossian to call for sweeping concessions to Azerbaijan in his famous discourse in late 1997. But this, Luchterhandt said, "put Ter-Petrossian at odds with the military guarantors of the illegitimate president's power." The backlash cost Ter-Petrossian his presidency in February 1998.
Yet with Robert Kocharian's subsequent rise to power, the OSCE's Minsk Group returned to "pre-Lisbon principles" in its mediation efforts, the German professor argued. The new plan, unveiled last November, is based on a "package" strategy, whereby all major sticking points, including Karabakh's status, are to be settled by a single peace accord. Besides, the document apparently avoids using terms such as "autonomy."
In purely legalistic terms, Luchterhandt continued, the Karabakh Armenians' drive for independence from Azerbaijan is in accordance with the internationally recognized principle of self-determination. According to the German professor, Karabakh's secession from Azerbaijan in 1991 was in accordance with international and Soviet law since it took place before Azerbaijan's independence was recognized worldwide. A Soviet law allowed autonomous entities to decide their fate if the republic of which they were part seceded from the Soviet Union.
However, political considerations have prevailed over legal ones in the international community's response to the Karabakh and other ethnic disputes. In Luchterhandt's words, the West fears a change of borders would trigger a "chain reaction" of secessionist movements across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Luchterhandt drew parallels with the conflict in Kosova, whose ethnic Albanian majority, he said, has the right of self- determination enjoyed by other republics of the former Yugoslavia. The only difference, he said, is that Kosova's autonomous status was arbitrarily abolished by Serbian authorities in 1989, shortly before the breakup of Yugoslavia.
The scholar also noted that the unresolved Karabakh dispute is a serious obstacle to Armenia's integration in European structures, which is a priority of the Yerevan authorities. He said it is the primary reason why Armenia, unlike neighboring Georgia, failed to gain full membership in the Council of Europe. However, the unresolved dispute did not prevent the EU from signing "partnership and cooperation" agreements with all three Transcaucasian states in 1996. Those agreements will go into force next June following a lengthy ratification procedure by all EU members. Under its accord with the EU, Armenia committed itself to bringing its legislation into conformity with European norms. The EU, for its part, will assist the country in developing democratic institutions. Luchterhandt suggested that this may give a boost to political reform and democratization in the Transcaucasus.
At the same time, Luchterhandt came to the interesting conclusion that problems with democracy and human rights will not disappear in Armenia until the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. With the constant threat of a resumption of the war with Azerbaijan, the military and security apparatus play a disproportionately large role in politics, being, in effect, beyond civilian control. "As long as the Karabakh conflict remains unresolved, there will be no political disarmament of the military and movement toward a civil society," he said.
Europe--and more specifically the OSCE--will nonetheless remain the main forum to search for peace in Karabakh, he argued. True, the OSCE is far away from the region, but "that is both its weakness and its strength." There is simply no international organization (even the CIS) that can offer a credible alternative to the OSCE's mediation, Luchterhandt concluded.
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Yerevan.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty