|Friday, 15 February 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 68, 99-04-08
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 68, 8 April 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 CANADA TO HELP PRIVATIZE ARMENIAN TRANSPORT SECTORArmenian Transport Minister Yervand Zakharian told journalists in Yerevan on 7 April after meeting with his visiting Canadian counterpart, David Collonate, that Ottawa will provide technical assistance in privatizing and restructuring the country's transportation sector, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Zakharian said the Canadian government will help Armenia privatize state-owned Armenian Airlines and that a "tentative agreement" has been reached whereby Armenian Airlines will lease several middle-range commercial jets from Canada to replace its aging Soviet aircraft. LF
 OSCE CHAIRMAN POSTPONES TRIP TO TRANSCAUCASUSOSCE chairman Knut Vollebaek has postponed his trip to the Transcaucasus that was due to begin on 13 April, Turan reported on 7 April, citing unnamed diplomatic sources in Baku. Instead, Frank Lambach, who is Germany's representative to the OSCE Minsk Group, will travel to Armenia and Azerbaijan on 5-7 May. An OSCE spokesman told RFE/RL on 8 April that the primary reason for Vollebaek's decision was the situation in Kosova, and that he may visit Armenia and Azerbaijan in August. LF
 AZERBAIJANI OIL CONSORTIUM CUTS BACK ON PRODUCTIONAzerbaijan International Operating has halved production from the Chirag Caspian field, from 100,000 barrels per day to 50,000 bpd, as a result of the closure of the Baku- Novorossiisk oil export pipeline, Turan and ITAR- TASS reported on 7 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 1999). ITAR-TASS quoted Ilham Aliev, vice president of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, as saying that more crude would be transported through the western Baku-Supsa pipeline. But oil experts point out that the capacity of that pipeline is only 40,000 bpd. LF
 ABKHAZIA CHALLENGES TBILISI OVER DETAINED FISHERMEN...Abkhaz Security Minister Astamur Tarba said on 7 April that the Abkhaz leadership has begun negotiations with Tbilisi on exchanging the 10-man crew of a Georgian fishing vessel detained in Abkhaz territorial waters on 3 April for four Abkhaz civilians held prisoner in Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. But Georgian intelligence service press spokesman Archil Chkhartishvili said those negotiations are likely to be complicated by the fact that the four Abkhaz are being held by Georgian guerrillas who do not take orders from the central government. LF
 ...AND ACCUSES GOVERNMENT-IN-EXILE OF 'TERRORIST' ATTACKAlso on 7 April, Tarba told Caucasus Press that he has evidence that the Security Ministry of the so-called Abkhaz government-in-exile, representing ethnic Georgians forced to flee Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war, was responsible for a 2 April landmine explosion in Abkhazia's Gali raion. Four people were seriously injured in that explosion, which Tarba said had been intended to kill Konstantin Ozgan, who heads the Abkhaz commission that is overseeing the unilateral repatriation to Gali of ethnic Georgian displaced persons. Ozgan had traveled to Gali that day to meet with Georgian repatriates. Abkhaz Security Minister- in-exile Vitalii Mikhelidze denied the accusation. LF
 IS ADJAR LEADER IN DANGER OF BEING KILLED?A leading security official from Georgia's Black Sea republic of Adjaria is currently in Tbilisi investigating the claims by Georgian Interior Ministry employee Omar Kedelashvili that he was ordered by Georgian intelligence to assassinate Adjar parliament chairman Aslan Abashidze, "Rezonansi" reported on 7 April. Georgian security officials have denied Kedelashvili's allegations. A spokesman for Abashidze, who for the past seven years has ruled independently of the central Georgian government in Tbilisi, told Interfax on 7 April that Georgia's expression of support for the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia are "a departure from...balanced foreign policy" and run counter to Georgia's declared policy of strategic partnership with Russia. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN'S TENGE STABILIZESThe exchange rate for Kazakhstan's currency against the dollar rose by over 17 percent on 7 April and a further 4.7 percent on 8 April, Interfax reported. As of 8 April, the tenge was trading at 112.79 to the dollar, compared with an average of 118 to $1 the previous day and 138.5 to the dollar on 5 April. National Bank chairman Karim Masimov told journalists on 7 April that the exchange rate should be set at 115-120 tenge to the dollar. President Nursultan Nazarbaev told journalists in Astana on 7 April that the decision by the government and National Bank to allow the tenge to float was a normal reaction to "a crisis environment," and should not be regarded as "a disaster." He predicted that inflation will remain low and that the tenge will not fluctuate widely (see also "End Note" below). LF
 KYRGYZ OFFICIALS DOWNPLAY IMPACT OF TENGE DEVALUATIONActing Prime Minister Boris Silaev said on state television on 7 April that the government of Kyrgyzstan is taking measures to stabilize the som, which he said will not fall further in value, Interfax reported. Silaev said the initial decline in the som's exchange rate to the dollar was a natural reaction to the devaluation of Kazakh's tenge. He added that the government will discuss whether amendments to the 1999 budget, or the adoption of an austerity program, are necessary. Acting National Bank chairman Ulan Sarbanov said the official som/dollar exchange rate was 36.5:1 on 7 April, and that the Bank will make every effort to stabilize it at 36-38.5 soms to the dollar. LF
 TAJIKISTAN, RUSSIA SIGN PROTOCOL ON DEFENSE COOPERATIONOn 7 April, the final day of his three-day visit to Dushanbe, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and his Tajik counterpart, Sherali Khairulloev, signed a protocol on military cooperation for 1999, AP-Blitz reported. Sergeev later told journalists that the agreement formally allowing Moscow to maintain a military base in Tajikistan will be signed during President Imomali Rakhmonov's visit to Moscow later this month, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 1999). LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 UNHCR: 10,000 REFUGEES 'DISAPPEAR'Macedonian authorities dispersed at least 35,000 Kosovar refugees from the Blace border-area refugee camp to other parts of Macedonia on 7 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April 1999). "The operation, unannounced and executed...under the cover of darkness, was chaotic, even brutal," the "International Herald Tribune" wrote. The expulsion took place in such haste that many refugees left their meager personal possessions behind. A spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that "some 10,000 refugees are still unaccounted for" as of the morning of 8 April, Reuters reported. The UNHCR is looking into accounts that some refugees were forced onto buses that took them to Albania, Greece, or Turkey. A Macedonian Foreign Ministry spokesman denied that there is any mystery surrounding the refugees. "Maybe half of them are deployed in different places inside Macedonia...and around 7,000-8,000 persons...were transported by buses to Albania because the Albanian government announced that they are willing to accept these refugees," he added. PM
 MACEDONIA EXPELS SOME REFUGEES TO ALBANIAOver 10,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees from Macedonia arrived in the Korca area of southeastern Albania on 7 April. An OSCE spokesman in Tirana told Reuters that local people accommodated half of them immediately and that 38 required hospital treatment on arrival. The authorities housed others in a sports stadium. ATSH quoted refugees from Blace as saying that Macedonian police forced them to board buses and maltreated them with batons, and that many children were forcefully separated from their parents. Albania now accommodates some 300,000 refugees. Meanwhile in Luxembourg, EU interior ministers agreed to concentrate efforts at refugee relief on Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro. The ministers opposed relocating refugees out of the region, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. FS
 YUGOSLAVIA CLOSES BORDER TO ALBANIAYugoslav authorities closed the border crossing from Kosova into Albania at Morina near Kukes on 7 April, thereby halting the flow of refugees. Albanian border guards told Reuters that only 26 people crossed through that day, saying that Serbian soldiers had ordered them from their homes only a few hours before. Several Roma said they traveled more than 21 miles and saw only Serbian police and soldiers every 100 yards along the main road. One of them stressed that "we didn't see anything else: no people and no cars." An OSCE spokesman in Tirana said that Serbian soldiers have been telling Kosova refugees it was safe for them to go home because of a unilateral cease-fire declared by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for Orthodox Easter. FS
 SERBIAN FORCES PREPARE DEFENSESYugoslav soldiers planted land mines and dug defensive positions along the Albanian border on 7 April, AP reported. The news agency added that this means the Serbian forces are preparing combat and trying to create a depopulated buffer zone. Serbian forces also mined border crossings with Macedonia and dispersed waiting displaced persons back into the devastated interior of Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. FS
 SOLANA SEES 'SIGN OF WEAKNESS' IN BELGRADEFollowing another night of air strikes against Serbian targets, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana told a French radio station on 8 April that "we must interpret some [unspecified] Serbian movements as a sign of weakness in the regime...Milosevic, in time, is going to disappear from the political scene in a very clear way," Solana concluded. PM
 DJUKANOVIC: 'PEACE IS NEAR'Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic told the Italian daily "Corriere della Sera" of 8 April: "I'm optimistic -- peace is near, you can already detect it, it's even a certainty. It could even be a question of 10 days...It's important that someone in Belgrade has already started thinking about peace. Every peace proposal must be taken with political and diplomatic wisdom. It mustn't be suffocated: it will bear some fruit," Djukanovic said. The day before, he told a French television station that Milosevic has been trying to overthrow him ever since he was elected in 1997. He called on NATO to stop bombing but stressed that Milosevic should himself help end the bombing by accepting NATO demands, AFP reported. In Podgorica, a spokeswoman for the Information Ministry noted that Yugoslav troops have recently harassed or detained several Western journalists in Montenegro. She described the situation as "very, very difficult" and urged foreign journalists to travel only with a Montenegrin police escort. PM
 CANADA URGES CONSIDERATION OF GROUND TROOPSDefense Minister Art Eggleston called on the Atlantic alliance on 7 April to "look at options" other than sending ground troops into Kosova only with Serbian consent and to protect civilians. This is the first time that a key official of a NATO-member country has publicly suggested that the alliance consider sending in ground troops. Sweden's Carl Bildt, who became the international community's chief civilian administrator in Bosnia in 1996, told the BBC that NATO will have to send ground troops to the troubled province sooner or later. In Washington, AP quoted former President Gerald Ford, who does not often comment on Balkan affairs, as saying that NATO will have to send in ground forces if it intends to win. PM
 FRENCH JOURNALISTS REPORT FROM KOSOVAFour radio and print journalists from France arrived in Kosova on 7 April under the protection of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). The four noted that NATO air strikes have severely hampered the "Serbs in getting from one point to another." The poorly armed UCK helps NATO identify Serbian military targets via satellite telephone, AP quoted the journalists as saying. They added that the UCK lacks equipment but not recruits, especially from Peja. Members of the UCK told the French that the guerrillas do not need foreign ground troops but only weapons. The Serbian authorities expelled all foreign journalists from Kosova at the start of the ethnic cleansing campaign in March. PM
 'DEAD' JOURNALIST GIVES INTERVIEWBaton Haxhiu, who is the editor-in-chief of the banned Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore" and whom NATO reported dead in March, recently arrived in Macedonia. He had spent some days hiding in Prishtina and then joined the columns of refugees fleeing southward. He told Reuters in London on 8 April that the Serbian forces systematically destroyed Albanian-owned properties and businesses in Prishtina. En route to Macedonia, "Serbian police and paramilitaries would come to the queue of cars at night and rob people and take the attractive girls and women off with them. It was a terrible scene." Haxhiu added that he does not know how the report of his death emerged, but suggested that police may have stopped looking for him when they thought he was dead. The whereabouts of many prominent Kosovars remain unknown, including Adem Demaci and Veton Surroi. PM
 ANNAN BLASTS SERBIAN 'GENOCIDE'UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva on 7 April that "of all gross violations, genocide knows no parallel in human history. Though we have no independent observers on the ground, the signs are that it may be happening, once more...The vicious and systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing conducted by the Serbian authorities in [Kosova] appears to have one aim: to expel or kill as many ethnic Albanians as possible, thereby denying a people their most basic rights to life, liberty, and security." The secretary general stressed that "if we allow the United Nations to become the refuge of the 'ethnic cleanser' or the mass murderer, we will betray the very ideals that inspired the founding of the United Nations." PM
 CHIRAC: 'JUSTICE MUST PREVAIL'French President Jacques Chirac said in Paris on 7 April that "justice must prevail" in Serbia and "savagery must not have the last word," the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote. He warned that "criminals will have to answer for their deeds." Chirac referred to "Milosevic" and not "President Milosevic" in his remarks. Meanwhile in Washington, the State Department published a list of nine Yugoslav army commanders who could find themselves liable for prosecution for war crimes because they failed to prevent their subordinates from committing atrocities, a State Department spokesman said. PM
 ROMANIAN 'DIALOGUE' ON CRISIS APPROVES OPPOSITION PROPOSALParticipants attending a "dialogue" on the country's political crisis chaired by President Emil Constantinescu on 7 April accepted a proposal of the opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania to set up a Standing Consultative Council of experts to work out Romania's medium and long-term range strategy of development, and on the need to avoid defaulting on the country's external debt, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. It was also agreed to set up a so-called "Reflection Group" to "clarify the status of private property" and its restitution. Apart from parliamentary political parties from the coalition and the opposition, participants included representatives of business, trade unions, and civic organizations. Constantinescu said the consensus reached was "historic," but the trade union representatives said preparations for industrial action planned for later this month will continue, since their demands have not been met and "talking is no solution to problems." MS
 ROMANIA 'CAUTIOUS' ON BELGRADE'S UNILATERAL CEASE FIRE DECLARATIONForeign Ministry spokeswoman Simona Miculescu said on 7 April that Bucharest was "cautious" over Belgrade's unilateral cease-fire declaration, considering the "extensive depletion of the Albanian population in Kosova and the political context in which the declaration is being made," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Romanian media (as well as the media in Bulgaria) report that the blocking of the Danube River due to NATO's destruction of two bridges in Novi Sad is causing extensive losses to shipping companies. Navrom company Director Iordache Panaite told AFP that the blockage has already cost his company $10 million and that some 3,500 employees might soon be dismissed. Other shipping companies estimate their monthly damages at between $100,000-600,000, Mediafax reported. MS
 TRANSDNIESTRIAN SUMMIT CANCELEDMoldovan presidential spokesman Anatol Golea announced on 7 April that the summit on the Transdniester conflict planned for the next day in Kyiv has been canceled due to the illness of Russian Premier Yevgenii Primakov, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Golea said he believed the meeting will nonetheless be held soon, "maybe even in April." In other news, Prime Minister Ion Sturza told journalists on 7 April that his cabinet "needs a stability period" at least until the end of 1999 and proposed organizing a round table with the participation of President Petru Lucinschi, political parties and the trade unions to work out a program for overcoming the country's economic crisis. Sturza said Moldova's GDP in 1999 may drop by 25 percent due to the loss of its traditional export markets, in particular from the CIS and Romania. MS
 UKRAINE, ROMANIA, CUT ENERGY DELIVERIES TO MOLDOVAUkraine and Romania have suspended the supply of electricity to Moldova because of Chisinau's mounting debt. The move places the country on the verge of what Anatol Saracuta, chief of the Moldovan state energy company, called an "energy disaster." Chisinau owes Romania about $9 million and Ukraine some $24 million, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. MS
 BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTEThe parliament on 7 April rejected by a 139-87 vote a no- confidence motion submitted by the Socialist Party (BSP) and supported by two other opposition groups, Reuters reported. The BSP accused the cabinet of Premier Ivan Kostov of failing to implement promises made when it took power two years ago to work out a modern policy and implement structural reforms in industry. Kostov admitted that there has been a delay in the pace of the reform but attributed it to last year's global financial crisis. MS
 SOFIA DEMANDS HALT OF YUGOSLAV MOBILIZATION OF ETHNIC BULGARIANSForeign Ministry spokesman Radko Vlaikov on 7 April said that Yugoslavia was conducting "wholesale mobilization" among the 50,000 ethnic Bulgarians from eastern Serbia, including leaders of the minority, BTA reported. Vlaikov said this was "an unfriendly act" and that "the use of members of one minority against other minorities benefits nobody." He also said that what is needed in Yugoslavia is a "lasting, not an interim solution," adding that "certain conditions should have been met before the [unilateral] cease-fire" was declared by Belgrade. Vlaikov echoed the conditions set forth by NATO before the cease-fire should have been called and air strikes can halt. MS
[C] END NOTE
 Mostly Silence On Impact Of Kazakh Currency FloatBy Robert Lyle
The international financial community is keeping a discreet silence on Kazakhstan's attempt to float the foreign exchange rate of its currency, the tenge, and the impact this is having on the country's neighbors.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) resident representative in Almaty, Paul Ross, praised the move earlier this week saying it would "restore the competitive position" of Kazakhstan globally and help promote growth.
He said it should have a positive impact on Kazakhstan's trade balance by heading off protectionist pressures which have emerged in the last few months. It should also help reduce the high interest rates in the country, he said.
Additionally, said Ross, the move will reduce the vulnerability of the economy to future external shocks like the Russian financial crisis.
On 7 April the World Bank's resident representative, Kadry Tanzhu Yurukoglu, added his institution's endorsement, calling the currency float "a step in the right direction" which will both improve Kazakhstan's competitiveness and its macroeconomic stability.
But beyond those comments, the IMF, the World Bank, and even commercial financial analysts have had nothing more to say about the early effects of the move and its impact on neighboring countries, especially Kyrgyzstan.
Kazakhstan Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev said the move was necessary because since the start of the Russian financial crisis, Kazakhstan's foreign trade has decreased by $1.3 billion due to dramatically reduced exports. Kazakhstan's exports were far too expensive, especially in countries like Russia, because the tenge was being traded at such a high rate.
But the country's trade union federation said that while Kazakhstan's export competitiveness may improve, it believes workers will be hurt. The federation predicts a radical drop in consumer purchasing power because it believes the floating tenge will hurt, not help, trade.
While there were reports of some hoarding of goods by consumers who quickly cleaned out retail stores in anticipation of higher import prices, the country's bankers late on 7 April said there had been no run on deposits at the Narodnyi (National) Bank and that the supply of hard currency and the demand for it were about equal.
That would indicate, said National Bank Chairman Kadyrzhan Damitov, that the rate of around 118 tenge to the dollar is a relatively adequate reflection of the market.
Kyrgyzstan, which saw its currency, the som, drop in reaction to the moves in Kazakhstan, waited anxiously as the som began to recover on 7 April. Still, observers in Bishkek were noting that privately-owned exchange officers were not trading after the previous day's 14 percent drop in the som's exchange rate.
Government officials have been meeting with banks and other domestic financial organizations to look for ways to invigorate the development of small and medium-sized businesses as a way to broaden and strengthen the country's basic economy. That is precisely why the IMF, the World Bank, and others have refused to comment any more beyond endorsing the concept. It is a policy that the head of the U.S. Federal Reserve (Central Bank), Alan Greenspan, and senior American treasury officials have followed religiously -- never comment on exchange rates. No matter what the comment is, they all say privately, it can have dramatically unexpected consequences.
So the IMF, the World Bank, and others will continue their discreet silence for the foreseeable future, allowing their pointed inattention (they hope) to help take the focus off the exchange rate and return it to building more solid, market-oriented economies.
An IMF team will be flying to Kazakhstan at the end of this month to begin Almaty's annual review and to help decide what further lending the fund may need to provide. Kazakhstan is finishing up a three-year extended facility loan and is expected to draw the final $218 million shortly. The annual review will be the time when the fund can tell Almaty and the rest of the world just how it believes the currency float has been handled.
Robert Lyle is an RFE/RL senior correspondent based in Washington.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty