|Thursday, 4 June 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 73, 99-04-16
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 3, No. 73, 16 April 1999
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS MAY MEET IN WASHINGTONA spokeswoman for Armenian President Robert Kocharian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 15 April that Kocharian has received a proposal from the U.S. government to meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, to discuss the Karabakh conflict on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Washington on 23 -25 April. She said that the proposal has not been rejected, but that no concrete agreement on such a meeting has yet been reached. In Baku, however, presidential advisor Vafa Guluzade told AFP on 15 April that Kocharian has already agreed to negotiations with Aliev. And Interfax quoted Aliev as saying that "since it was [U.S. President Bill] Clinton who advanced this initiative, it will have an important and effective outcome." LF
 CORRECTION:"RFE/RL Newsline" on 15 April inaccurately identified Lieutenant-General Mikael Harutiunian as commander of the Armenian air force. He is armed forces chief of staff. In the same item, Kyrgyzstan was mistakenly included in the list of members of the CIS Joint Air Defense System.
 TWO ARMENIAN POLITICAL PARTIES FOUND BRANCHES IN NKRThe Social Democrat Hnchakian Party (SDHK) and the liberal Ramkavar Azatakan Party (RAK) both plan to open branches in the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 15 April. Arkady Soghomonian, chairman of the NKR parliament's committee on social security and head of an "organizing committee" preparing for the founding congress of the Social Democratic Hnchakian Party of Artsakh, said that party will participate in parliamentary elections in the enclave scheduled for next year. The Ramkavar Azatakan Party of Artsakh, which is headed by Boris Arushanian, chairman of the NKR parliament committee on foreign affairs, held its founding congress in Stepanakert on 15 April. Hitherto the Communist Party and the Dashnaks (HHD) have been sole parties registered in the self-proclaimed republic. Most prominent Karabakh political figures have no party affiliation. LF
 GEORGIA, AZERBAIJAN, UKRAINE SET TO CONCLUDE JOINT MILITARY EXERCISESome 100 members of the Georgian, Azerbaijani, and Ukrainian armed forces embarked on 16 April on the final stage of exercises begun three days earlier near Tbilisi on maintaining the security of the Baku-Supsa oil export pipeline in the event of a natural calamity or terrorist attack on that facility, Caucasus Press reported. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 16 April reported that Georgia is creating mobile patrols, stationary posts and a communications system to guard the pipeline. That force will be supplied with military hardware and helicopters. LF
 GEORGIAN INTERIOR MINISTER RULES OUT THREAT TO SUPSA CEREMONYKakha Targamadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 16 April that there is no chance that fugitive rebel Colonel Akaki Eliava will make good on his threat to attack the oil terminal at Supsa during the 17 April ceremonies to mark the departure of the first tanker carrying Azerbaijani oil exported via the Baku-Supsa export pipeline, Caucasus Press reported. The presidents of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine and senior U.S. government officials are due to attend that ceremony. Eliava has been on the run since launching an abortive insurrection in western Georgia last October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19-20 October 1998). LF
 PROTESTS OVER WAGE ARREARS CONTINUE IN KAZAKHSTAN...More people continue to join the women picketing the office of the mayor of Qyzyl-orda to demand back wages, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 16 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1999). Local authorities have prevented KHABAR News Agency from relaying reports on the protest to Almaty and Astana. Meanwhile 13 of the 15 workers from the Mangyastau oil and gas research facility who launched a hunger strike at the beginning of April to demand their salaries for the past 24 months have been hospitalized after refusing an offer of payment in kind in the form of pasta. LF
 ...AS GOVERNMENT ASSESSES ECONOMIC SITUATIONDeputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uraz Djandosov told visiting representatives of Switzerland's International Center For Public Affairs that the government of Kazakhstan is hoping for economic growth in the second quarter of 1999, Interfax reported on 15 April. Industrial output in the first three months of this year was only 95.9 percent of the 1998 level. Djandosov also predicted that the recent fall in the value of the tenge will not result in serious inflation, given the tight budget and the government's strict monetary and fiscal policies. But RFE/RL correspondents across Kazakhstan report that prices for sugar and gasoline, which are mainly imported, have already increased by 30-40 percent. LF
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENT'S INDIAN VISIT TERMED A SUCCESSFirst Deputy Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev told journalists in Bishkek on 15 April that President Askar Akaev's visit to India will contribute to increased trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 1999). The volume of bilateral trade has already increased from $3.9 million in 1996 to $13.81 million in 1998. In addition to four inter-state agreements, on avoiding dual taxation, combating crime, civil aviation and cooperation in tourism and the arts, 24 further agreements were signed during Akaev's visit between individual Indian and Kyrgyz companies. Askar Aitmatov, who is a member of the presidential staff, told Interfax on 15 April, that the Kyrgyz and Indian positions on key foreign policy issues, including Afghanistan, coincide. LF
 TAJIK, RUSSIAN INTERIOR MINISTERS SIGN COOPERATION AGREEMENTKhumidin Sharipov, one of the Tajik government delegation currently accompanying President Imomali Rakhmonov to Moscow, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Stepashin, signed an agreement on 15 April on coordinating measures to counter Islamic fundamentalism and the smuggling of arms and narcotics, ITAR-TASS reported. They also undertook to cooperate in efforts to apprehend Tajik criminals on Russian territory, of whom Stepashin observed that "there are not very many of them, but they are rather dangerous." LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 CLINTON: DEMOCRATIZATION OF SERBIA IS THE KEY...U.S. President Bill Clinton told the American Society of Newspaper Editors in San Francisco on 15 April that peace and stability in the Balkans "will require a democratic transition in Serbia, for the region's democracies will never be safe with a belligerent tyranny in their midst." Clinton said that he does not think that an independent Kosova would be economically viable or contribute to regional stability. He added that "the last thing we need in the Balkans is greater balkanization. The best solution for [Kosova], for Serbia, for Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and all the countries of southeast Europe, is not the endless rejiggering of their borders, but greater integration into a Europe in which sovereignty matters but in which borders are becoming more and more open and less important in a negative sense." PM
 ...AS IS LONG-TERM WESTERN COMMITTMENTPresident Clinton added that "we must follow the example of the World War II generation by standing up to aggression and hate and then by following through with a post-conflict strategy for reconstruction and renewal...[A peaceful future] "will take constant, steady American engagement together with our European allies, old and new...It will take money in the form of investment and aid," he added. Clinton also urged the U.S. and Western Europe to keep the doors of NATO and the EU open for new members. PM
 CLINTON WARNS SERBIA ON CHEMICAL WEAPONSSeveral U.S. government agencies believe that Serbia has stocks of lethal and non-lethal chemical weapons, and that some forms of tear gas may have been issued to paramilitary forces carrying out the ethnic cleansing of Kosova, "The New York Times" wrote on 16 April. The U.S. agencies do not believe that the Serbian military have used such weapons or plan to do so. Clinton added in San Francisco that any use of chemical weapons on Belgrade's part will meet with a "swift and overwhelming" response. PM
 GLIGOROV SAYS SERBIA DESTABILIZING MACEDONIARepresentatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in Skopje on 15 April that they are expecting an additional 20,000 expellees from Ferizaj to arrive soon, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 1999). President Kiro Gligorov told parliament that "we are again faced with a new huge wave of refugees...The fact remains that the state has a limited ability to accept more refugees." He accused the Serbian authorities of trying to destabilize Macedonia. Gligorov told the "Sueddeutsche Zeitung" that neither NATO nor the Macedonian authorities had expected so many refugees. He added, however, that he was not surprised by the brutality and violence used in the deportations. "Those are the methods that the Serbs used in Bosnia and Croatia, too," Gligorov concluded. PM
 NATO APOLOGIZES FOR HITTING REFUGEE CONVOYNATO spokesman Jamie Shea said in Brussels on 15 April that the pilot of an F-16 aircraft mistakenly hit a tractor at the head of a column of refugees: "The pilot reported what he believed to be military vehicles in a convoy. The pilot reported at the time he was attacking a military convoy." Shea added: "Let us not allow one accident, no matter how tragic, to obscure the real stakes in this crisis, which is sometimes one has to risk lives of the few in order to save lives of the many." PM
 CONVOY MYSTERY CONTINUESObservers noted that an attack on one vehicle would not account for the extensive carnage shown on Serbian state-run television (RTS) on 15 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April 1999). RTS said that NATO deliberately bombed the column to prevent the refugees from going home and in order to justify continuing air strikes. Some observers suggested that Serbian forces may have attacked the refugees after the F-16 struck and blamed the carnage on NATO. Several refugees later said in Albania that Serbian MiGs attacked them. Some observers suggested that several of the dead and wounded shown on RTS appeared to have been machine gunned. The question also remains open as to how many columns of civilians and Serbian forces were on the Gjakova-Prizren road at the time. PM
 YUGOSLAV FORCES SHELL ANOTHER NORTHERN ALBANIAN VILLAGEResidents of Kolsh near Kukes told Reuters that Serbian forces fired four artillery shells into their village on 15 April. One person was wounded in the attack. OSCE representatives in Tirana confirmed the reports. ATSH added that Serbian soldiers fired with machine guns at the border village of Dobruna nearby. Elsewhere, another three shells fired from inside Kosova exploded in the Tropoja region, as did one near the border crossing of Morina linking Kukes with Prizren. The same day, some 3,000 refugees crossed the border at Morina into Albania. A local government spokesman in Kukes told ATSH that the Albanian authorities have evacuated many people living close to the border and reinforced border security with additional military units. FS
 OSCE AMBASSADOR PRAISES ALBANIA'S RESTRAINTOSCE Ambassador Daan Everts told Reuters on 15 April that the border skirmishing is only the latest in "a long series of border incidents." He added that the fighting has "always been contained by the Albanian military restraint...There is also considerable restraint...on the other side." Everts said the shelling included sophisticated cluster bombs and was aimed largely at presumed positions of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK). He added that the Serbian attacks are "limited in scope and distance." Everts acknowledged that Serbian troops in hot pursuit of UCK fighters are unlikely to stop at the unmarked border line. Everts stressed that "the vehemence with which Belgrade denied the Kamenica incident (see "RFE/RL Newsline 14 April 1999) shows you that they are aware of the international repercussions ...if they really attacked another state rather than attacking presumed guerrilla nests." FS
 FRENCH MINISTER PROPOSES FREEZE ON MACEDONIAN AND ALBANIAN DEBTSFinance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn on 15 April proposed a two-year freeze on debt service charges for Macedonia and Albania, AP reported from Paris. Strauss-Kahn said the debt service charges for both countries amount to less than $600 million for the Paris Club of creditors and around $1.2 billion to global creditors. Strauss-Kahn said the proposal will be discussed at upcoming meetings of EU Finance Ministers and the International Monetary Fund. FS
 MONTENEGRO SLAMS ARMY FOR PROVOKING NATODeputy Prime Minister Dragisa Burzan said in Podgorica on 15 April that no civilians were injured in the attack by NATO aircraft against Yugoslav army anti-aircraft installations. He also accused the military of provoking what was the biggest single NATO strike against targets in Montenegro to date, Reuters reported. "I can confirm there were absolutely no civilian casualties. My main concern is that the army is shooting like mad at the [NATO] planes," he added. Other Montenegrin officials noted that the anti- aircraft batteries have no chance of hitting high-flying Western aircraft. The officials added that the military's sole aim is to drag Montenegro into Serbia's war with the Atlantic alliance. On 16 April, NATO jets and missiles hit a military airfield and airport just outside Podgorica, AP reported. PM
 WESTENDORP SHUTS DOWN BOSNIAN SERB TV STATIONA spokesman for the international community's Carlos Westendorp said on 15 April that Westendorp endorses the decision of the Independent Media Commission, which controls broadcasting licensing, to take Pale-based Kanal S off the air. The spokesman argued that the broadcasts of what some call "Karadzic TV" are "inflammatory," the daily "Oslobodjenje" wrote. PM
 EU WARNS CROATIA OVER TIES TO U.S.Per Vinther, who is the EU's representative to Croatia, told an audience in Zagreb on 15 April that the question is not whether Croatia wants to join the EU but when it will do so. He said that a bilateral agreement is "inevitable," "Jutarnji list" reported. He stressed that the EU--and not the U.S.--is Croatia's "natural economic partner," even though Zagreb and Washington have recently forged closer links. Vinther noted that many Croats have high expectations regarding their country's relationship with the U.S. The diplomat warned that Croatia will need EU support in order to join NATO or the WTO. He was attending the formal presentation of the Croatian edition of the pamphlet "The EU in Ten Lessons." PM
 NATO PLANE FUEL TANKS FALL ON ROMANIAN TERRITORYTwo fuel tanks with English inscriptions were found on Romanian territory near Timisoara on 15 April. The fuel tanks apparently belonged to an F-15 fighter and Romanian defense officials cited by RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau said the plane might have jettisoned the tanks after being hit by Yugoslav ground fire. No one was hurt. The opposition Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) on 16 April demanded that the Defense Ministry report to the parliament on the incident. MS
 FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER ENDS ROMANIAN VISITEnding his visit to Romania on 15 April, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said it was "paradoxical" that the countries admitted to NATO are from a region without strategic problems, and promised that at the Washington summit later this month Romania's membership will be "considered with priority." In other news, Premier Radu Vasile will undergo a medical check up in Israel "in the next days," a government spokesman announced on 15 April. MS
 ROMANIAN DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION MAKES PROGRESS ON PROTOCOLA commission charged with working out a new protocol for the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) on 15 April reached an agreement on most points, including the participation of civic organizations in selecting candidates for the CDR lists of parliamentary candidates proposed by the parties' members of the CDR and in proposing their own candidates for those lists. The commission said that "additional efforts" must be made to secure the return of the Civic Alliance to the CDR. The commission failed to reach agreement on the proposal by the National Liberal party to allow the participation of parties' members in the CDR on separate lists in local elections. MS
 MOLDOVA NOT APPROACHED ABOUT TRANSITING RUSSIAN AID TO YUGOSLAVIAThe Moldovan Foreign Ministry's Department for Relations with the CIS States on 15 April told the Flux agency that Moldova has not yet been "officially or unofficially" approached about Russia's intention to transit aid to Yugoslavia through its territory. The question was posed after ITAR-TASS cited Russia's Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying that Russia is "examining the possibility of transiting the aid through Romania," which would only be possible if the convoys were to transit Moldovan territory as well. In other news, Flux reported that the joint Ukrainian-Moldovan Elektroalians has taken over the January-March $12.5 million Moldovan debt to Ukraine for electricity deliveries, following which Ukraine, which supplies 60 percent of Moldova's electricity, will resume deliveries through 1 May. MS
 BULGARIA, GREECE, CALL FOR EU-SPONSORED BALKAN PEACE CONFERENCEVisiting Greek Premier Costas Simitis on 15 April told journalists after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov, that Greece has proposed holding a Balkan peace conference sponsored by the European Union to strengthen stability in the region after a Kosova peace settlement has been negotiated, Reuters reported. He said that "21 days of air strikes" produced no results and have brought about "unforeseen dimensions, with hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced from their homes." Kostov backed the Greek proposal, saying that a "protracted conflict...will cause not only huge economic losses, but also lead to the further political and social destabilization of the Balkans." He said Bulgaria would welcome a peace initiative with the participation of the EU, the U.S., and Russia. MS
[C] END NOTE
 Avoiding a Minefield in Estonia's NortheastBy Mel Huang
Estonia's new government, led by Mart Laar, faces a potential political minefield in the country's northeastern quadrant. This predominantly Russian-speaking area has suffered more than any other part of the country from the recent economic crisis in Russia. And its economic position is worsening with each passing month. Some observers in Tallinn and elsewhere fear that these declines could trigger a new round of social and political instability.
In recognition of this potential danger, the Laar government has already indicated that it will focus on problems in that region. Three ministers-- Economics Minister Mihkel Parnoja, Social Minister Eiki Nestor, and Minister without portfolio (for population affairs) Katrin Saks--visited the region to assess the situation and speak about initiatives during their first week in office. Local officials complained about unemployment, and lack of job training or access to the government. The visiting ministers emphasized that the new three-party coalition in government will do more than its predecessor to help.
What coverage this region has received has focused either on ethnic issues or comparisons between the standard of living in towns on either side of the Estonian-Russian border. Relatively little attention has been devoted to underlying economic difficulties, except in the local Russian-language press, which in almost every case treats these as a reflection of ethnic difficulties. But the new Laar government recognizes that it cannot afford to ignore the structural economical problems there.
Though the restructuring of many large industries in the region was painful and created significant social tension, it initially brought some stability and the region began to grow once more. The foreign press, such as the "Christian Science Monitor," featured success stories such as Kreenholm Textiles, as a testament to the success of the restructuring process. Though struggling, the rare-earth metals plant Silmet knows full well it has a near-monopoly on its industry in the entire world. Solid foreign investment stabilized many other industries and the region for awhile looked quite solid.
But the August 1998 Russian economic crisis destabilized the region. Many analysts, both foreign and domestic, applauded the fact that the Russian crisis did not hurt Estonia as much as it did other countries in the region. The Russian downturn, however, has affected one part of the country profoundly: the northeast. The chemical giant Kiviter was declared bankrupt and 2,000 people were laid off. Though most of those workers were immediately placed in successor companies, a significant number remained unemployed. Successful fish processor Viru Rand went bankrupt and 800 people lost their jobs. Such was the trend, not the exception.
The Estonian Labor Market Board announced that the March unemployment rate nationally was 5.3 percent, while the northeast Ida-Viru county's jobless rate was 9.5 percent. With an unemployment rate nearly double the national total, any further growth in the jobless rate could send the region into social chaos. This is why plans to close several oil shale mines and reducing the workforce of Eesti Polevkivi (Estonian Oil Shale) plans have been carefully scrutinized in consultations with the World Bank. Several hundred workers have already been let go in 1999 due to operational mergers, the closure of mines, and the company plans to pension off another 400 in the near future.
As the Laar government appears to recognize, these economic problems could pose a serious challenge to Estonia unless Tallinn focuses more on the northeast. The previous government worked on the issues of integration and language teaching, but that was during the quietly prospering years. The situation is different now, and Laar must tread carefully--especially with local elections slated for the fall. After all, it was during his watch on Toompea years ago that the region voted for autonomy.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty