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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 167, 99-08-27

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 3, No. 167, 27 August 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] FORMER ARMENIAN PREMIER WARNS OF DEFAULT DANGER
  • [02] AZERBAIJAN OPPOSITION BLASTS MUNICIPAL ELECTION
  • [03] GEORGIA TO BUILD NEW BLACK SEA OIL TERMINAL
  • [04] GEORGIA, ESTONIA DISCUSS ECONOMIC, SECURITY
  • [05] KAZAKHSTAN'S UIGHUR MINORITY ADDRESS 'SHANGHAI FIVE'
  • [06] MORE DEBRIS FROM EXPLODED RUSSIAN ROCKET FOUND IN
  • [07] KYRGYZSTAN ASKS RUSSIA FOR HELP TO CAPTURE HOSTAGE-
  • [08] TURKMENISTAN TALKS TOUGH ON TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE...
  • [09] ...AND GAS DEBTS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [10] NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE IN RAHOVEC
  • [11] KFOR FINDS MASS GRAVE WITH SUSPECTED SERBIAN BODIES
  • [12] SERBIAN TOWN COUNCIL PLEDGES SCHOOLING FOR REFUGEES
  • [13] MILOSEVIC SAYS U.S. BEHIND DRUG TRADE
  • [14] NO SPLITS IN PRO-MILOSEVIC RANKS?
  • [15] DJINDJIC THREATENS TO QUIT POLITICS
  • [16] PENSIONERS URGE MILOSEVIC TO RETIRE
  • [17] BEATEN SERBIAN DISSIDENT FINALLY HAS SURGERY
  • [18] FRENCH COURT ORDERS RELEASE OF SUSPECTED PRO-SERBIAN
  • [19] BELGRADE CALLS TALIC ARREST 'KIDNAPPING'
  • [20] U.S. WARNS CROATIA ON WAR CRIMES
  • [21] ALBANIAN POLICE FREES GREEK HOSTAGE
  • [22] ALBANIAN MINISTER REJECTS 'UNIFICATION' OF EDUCATION
  • [23] INCREASING ATTACKS ON ALBANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCHES
  • [24] ROMANIAN SENATE FAILS TO DEBATE LAND RESTITUTION BILL
  • [25] MOLDOVA, TRANSDNIESTER DECORATE GAZPROM CHIEF
  • [26] BESSARABIAN METROPOLITAN CHURCH DISPUTE ERUPTING
  • [27] BALKAN PEACE FORCE TAKES SHAPE IN BULGARIA
  • [28] YUGOSLAV OPPOSITION LEADER IN BULGARIA

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [29] GREAT EXPECTATIONS

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] FORMER ARMENIAN PREMIER WARNS OF DEFAULT DANGER

    Hrant

    Bagratian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 26 August that the Armenian government will

    be unable to make internal debt repayments on schedule if it continues to sell high-yield,

    short-term treasury bills. The yields stand at more than 50 percent annually, which is

    considered high given single digit inflation. In budget amendments submitted to parliament

    earlier this week, the government asked for an additional 1.65 billion drams ($3.1 million)

    to cope with the rising cost of borrowing. No top Armenian government official has yet

    mentioned the possibility of a default. T-bills have never been the principal source of

    covering the budget deficit. More than 90 percent of this year's deficit, projected at 56

    billion drams, is due to be financed by much cheaper external loans. LF

    [02] AZERBAIJAN OPPOSITION BLASTS MUNICIPAL ELECTION

    PREPARATIONS

    At a session on 26 August, the Chairmen's Council of the

    opposition Movement for Electoral Reform and Democratic Elections (MERDE) announced

    the creation of a nine-strong team charged with collecting information on violations of the

    election law during the preparations for and the conduct of the 12 December municipal

    elections, Turan reported. MERDE also issued a statement protesting violations during the

    creation of so-called sortition committees charged with appointing local election

    commissions, which, MERDE claims, are totally controlled by local administrators and

    local branches of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party. MERDE warned that if such

    infringements continue it may launch mass protests beginning in mid- September. The

    opposition Musavat Party issued a statement on 26 August condeming "offenses and

    violations" during the setting up of the sortition committees. LF

    [03] GEORGIA TO BUILD NEW BLACK SEA OIL TERMINAL

    Georgian

    President Eduard Shevardnadze has approved plans by an Austrian-Georgian joint venture

    to build a new oil terminal in the village of Kulevi, some 15 kilometers north of Poti,

    Caucasus Press and Interfax reported. The terminal will have a capacity of 5-6 million tons

    per year and will be used primarily for the storage of crude to be transported by barge

    across the Caspian from Turkmenistan and then by rail across Azerbaijan and Georgia. The

    joint venture has reached a preliminary agreement with the EBRD on financing for the

    project, the cost of which is estimated at $70 million. LF

    [04] GEORGIA, ESTONIA DISCUSS ECONOMIC, SECURITY

    COOPERATION

    Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and his visiting

    Estonian counterpart, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, discussed in Tbilisi on 26 August the

    prospects for defense and security cooperation both on a bilateral basis and within the

    framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, Caucasus Press reported. They also

    reviewed the prospects for cooperation between GUUAM and the Baltic States, with Ilves

    noting the particularly good relations between the Baltic States, Georgia, and Ukraine. The

    two ministers also signed a trade and economic cooperation agreement. LF

    [05] KAZAKHSTAN'S UIGHUR MINORITY ADDRESS 'SHANGHAI FIVE'

    The Association of Uighur Organizations of Kazakhstan issued a statement in Almaty on 25

    August pegged to the "Shanghai Five" summit in Bishkek, RFE/RL's bureau in the former

    capital reported the following day. The statement affirms that "the struggle of Uyghurs in

    Eastern Turkistan (Xin Jiang province, western China) has nothing to do with Islamic

    fundamentalism or extremism, that struggle can be defined as [one for] national liberation."

    In Moscow, Interfax on 26 August quoted an unnamed senior Russian diplomat as saying

    that the leaders or Foreign Ministries of several countries, which he declined to identify,

    have requested clarification of the security agreement signed by the heads of state of

    Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan at their 25 August summit. Some

    of those inquiries registered concern at the possible emergence of a new Russian-Chinese

    union. LF

    [06] MORE DEBRIS FROM EXPLODED RUSSIAN ROCKET FOUND IN

    KAAKHSTAN

    Kazakh officials 26 August recovered on 99 large chunks of debris

    from the Russian Proton rocket that exploded shortly after blastoff from the Baikonur

    cosmodrome in early July, Interfax reported. Those chunks included fuel tanks containing

    heptyl fuel, which the Kazakhstan authorities claim poses a serious environmental danger.

    Kazakh and Russian investigators are to determine the extent of the financial damage

    Kazakhstan suffered as a result of the explosion at a 31 August meeting in Moscow,

    according to ITAR-TASS. Kazakhstan's National Space Agency director Meirbek

    Moldabekov said on 26 August that the provisional estimate of $80,000 will probably be

    revised upward in the light of the new find. LF

    [07] KYRGYZSTAN ASKS RUSSIA FOR HELP TO CAPTURE HOSTAGE-

    TAKERS

    Acting Defense Minister Nuridin Chomoev told journalists in Bishkek on 27

    August that the Kyrgyz government has asked Russia for military and technical assistance

    to locate and disarm the groups of guerrillas holding several dozen hostages in southern

    Kyrgyzstan. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 August commented that the Kyrgyz armed

    forces are clearly not competent to neutralize the guerrillas without help. On 26 August,

    Kazakhstan offered to provide Kyrgyzstan with military equipment and personnel,

    according to Interfax. The same day, Kyrgyz forces launched an air strike on one of the

    militants' bases. Presidential administration official Bolot Dzhanuzakov said in Bishkek on

    26 August that the hostage-takers, whom Chomoev identified as members of an Islamic

    group from Uzbekistan, have not made any demands of the Kyrgyz authorities, not have

    they tried to establish contact with those authorities. LF

    [08] TURKMENISTAN TALKS TOUGH ON TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINE...

    Turkmenistan's Oil and Gas Industry Minister Redzhepbai Arazov told Interfax in

    Ashgabat on 26 August that Turkmenistan is considering the possibility of allowing

    Azerbaijan to use the planned Trans-Caspian gas pipeline to export gas from its Caspian

    off-shore Shah Deniz deposit. But Arazov added that Turkmenistan will not reduce the

    amount of gas it has contracted to supply Turkey via that pipeline. In Baku two days

    earlier, Ilham Aliev, who is vice president of Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR, told

    journalists that Azerbaijan cannot sign any agreement on the Trans-Caspian pipeline before

    it decides how much gas it wants to export via that pipeline, according to Turan. Aliev

    predicted that as a gas exporter Turkmenistan will have problems competing with

    Azerbaijan as production costs in Azerbaijan are lower. LF

    [09] ...AND GAS DEBTS

    Chairing a cabinet session on 26 August, Turkmen President

    Saparmurat Niyazov noted that Georgia and Azerbaijan owe his country some $374 million

    and $56 million, respectively, for supplies of natural gas, Interfax reported. Niyazov

    expressed the hope that those two countries will not jeopardize their long- term relations

    with Turkmenistan by failing to pay off those debts promptly. Visiting Ashgabat last week,

    U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson urged Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and

    Turkey to sign a four-way agreement pledging their commitment to the Trans- Caspian

    pipeline project. Senior EBRD official Yuri Woyzechowski told journalists in Ashgabat on

    25 August that his bank may help finance construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline,

    Interfax reported. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [10] NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE IN RAHOVEC

    Captain Mike Bos, who is a

    spokesman for the Dutch forces in Rahovec, told Reuters on 27 August that negotiations

    between Albanian protesters and KFOR will continue later in the day. Bos said "we're not

    expecting some sort of breakthrough.... We're just keeping the talks going." The previous

    day, local Serbs and Albanians participated in the talks. Meanwhile, ethnic Albanians

    continued their blockade of the city for the fifth day, preventing the deployment of Russian

    troops there (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 1999). FS

    [11] KFOR FINDS MASS GRAVE WITH SUSPECTED SERBIAN BODIES

    KFOR soldiers have discovered a mass grave in the village of Uglar, near Gjilan,

    containing 11 bodies presumed to be those of Serbs. The soldiers also found four more

    bodies above ground about 600 meters from that location, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service

    correspondent reported on 26 August. A KFOR official said that the victims were killed

    after the arrival of KFOR troops in Kosova in June. Local Serbs identified three of the

    victims. A team of forensic experts working for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal has

    begun investigations. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic issued a statement

    saying that KFOR "must thoroughly change [its] conduct and abandon patronage of the

    separatist and terrorist organization," by which he meant the Kosova Liberation Army

    (UCK), AP reported. He also called for an urgent session of the UN Security Council to

    review the role of KFOR. The KFOR spokesman said that there is no evidence to suggest

    UCK involvement in the killings. FS

    [12] SERBIAN TOWN COUNCIL PLEDGES SCHOOLING FOR REFUGEES

    Zivojin Pavlovic, who chairs the town council of Medvedja, said that all Kosova Serb

    refugee children there have the right to enroll in local schools, "Danas" reported on 27

    August. More than 100 children have registered for the new school year, the newspaper

    added. Medvedja is in southern Serbia near the border with Kosova. The Serbian

    authorities have generally not allowed refugee children to enroll in schools near their

    current places of residence. The government wants refugees to return to Kosova. PM

    [13] MILOSEVIC SAYS U.S. BEHIND DRUG TRADE

    Yugoslav President

    Slobodan Milosevic said in a statement on 26 August that Washington is in "alliance with

    murderers, drug traffickers, and terrorists" of the UCK. He added that "all steps by the

    American government so far in [Kosova]--especially founding and organizing the terrorist

    [UCK], organizing arms and drug trade--indicate a planned, deliberate criminalization of

    the entire region and of Europe." Referring to the mass grave of 13 Serbs, Milosevic

    argued that "this crime was....hidden for more than a month." That "proves [U.S.]

    protection of the criminals, which by all standards amounts to being an accomplice," AP

    reported. Observers noted that this is the Yugoslav president's strongest attack on

    Washington yet. He most likely intended it for a domestic political audience. PM

    [14] NO SPLITS IN PRO-MILOSEVIC RANKS?

    Ivica Dacic, who is a spokesman for

    Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, told a Belgrade press conference on 26 August that

    "our party has had no disunity in the last 10 years" since Milosevic took power. Dacic

    denied rumors that Serbian President Milan Milutinovic is in poor health. Observers note

    that there has been much speculation recently in the private Belgrade press regarding the

    possible extent of splits in the ranks of Milosevic's supporters. Western countries will not

    issue visas to 308 of them, and this ban has caused considerable difficulties for Milosevic

    backers with business interests abroad. PM

    [15] DJINDJIC THREATENS TO QUIT POLITICS

    Democratic Party leader Zoran

    Djindjic told the Belgrade mass-circulation daily "Blic" of 26 August that he will leave

    political life if Milosevic is not out of power by the end of 1999. Later in Sofia, he

    expressed support for the cantonization of Kosova on ethnic lines (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 26 August 1999). Djindjic said that cantons are already a "reality." He called

    them "necessary" because "Serbs need self-rule. They cannot be governed by Albanians."

    Observers note that one of the causes of Serbia's 1991 war against Croatia was the refusal

    of the Serbian minority there to live in a state in which Serbs were governed by others. PM

    [16] PENSIONERS URGE MILOSEVIC TO RETIRE

    Several hundred retired persons

    protested in Belgrade on 26 August because they have not received their pensions since

    May. "Retire, Milosevic!" was the motto of the gathering, "Danas" reported. PM

    [17] BEATEN SERBIAN DISSIDENT FINALLY HAS SURGERY

    Bogoljub

    Arsenijevic, who led anti-Milosevic protests in Valjevo in July, has undergone surgery for

    a broken jaw, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti" reported on 27 August. Belgrade

    police beat and arrested Arsenijevic on 17 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August

    1999). His friends subsequently claimed that the police held him incommunicado and

    denied him medical attention. PM

    [18] FRENCH COURT ORDERS RELEASE OF SUSPECTED PRO-SERBIAN

    SPY

    A Paris appeals court ordered the release of suspected French spy Major Pierre

    Bunel pending the outcome of an investigation. Bunel was working as an officer at NATO

    headquarters in Brussels until October 1998, when he was arrested on the suspicion that he

    gave Belgrade secret documents on plans for NATO air strikes. FS

    [19] BELGRADE CALLS TALIC ARREST 'KIDNAPPING'

    The Yugoslav Foreign

    Ministry issued a statement on 26 August in which it called the arrest of Bosnian Serb

    General Momir Talic and his deportation to The Hague a "kidnapping" (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 26 August 1999). The statement added: "This is an unprecedented trick,

    reminiscent of the dark era of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages and not of a Europe on the

    threshold of the third millennium. It was carried out with the assistance of Austria. By its

    complicity in this crime, Austria, which holds the position of high representative in Bosnia

    and Herzegovina, fully exposed its anti-Serb stance," Reuters reported. At his Belgrade

    press conference, Dacic said that the OSCE, which sponsored the conference at which Talic

    was arrested, "showed itself to be an ordinary dirty weapon in the hands of the U.S.

    administration." PM

    [20] U.S. WARNS CROATIA ON WAR CRIMES

    State Department spokesman James

    Foley said in Washington on 26 August that Croatia faces "the gravest possible

    consequences" if it does not improve its cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes

    tribunal (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August 1999). Foley specifically mentioned that

    Washington is "not convinced" by Zagreb's claim that indicted war criminal Mladen "Tuta"

    Naletilic is too ill to stand trial either in Croatia or The Hague. PM

    [21] ALBANIAN POLICE FREES GREEK HOSTAGE

    Albanian police freed Giorgos

    Laliotis, the son of a Greek entrepreneur, near Tepelena on 26 August and arrested 10

    suspected hostage-takers. Laliotis was kidnapped three months ago. The kidnappers had

    demanded a $262,000 ransom payment, AP reported. FS

    [22] ALBANIAN MINISTER REJECTS 'UNIFICATION' OF EDUCATION

    Education Minister Ethem Ruka told an RFE/RL correspondent in Tirana on 26 August that

    his government's initiative to improve cooperation with Albanian-language schools and

    universities in Kosova, Macedonia, and Montenegro must not be misunderstood as an

    attempt to impose Albania's education system on neighboring countries' Albanian-speaking

    populations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 1999). He said that the intention is to

    create a framework in which the schools and universities will recognize the validity of each

    other's examinations and diplomas. He stressed, however, that Albania does not want to

    create a "unified" education system for all Albanian-speakers in the Balkans. He said the

    priority is to help ethnic Albanians in the neighboring countries with expertise in drawing

    up their own education programs. FS

    [23] INCREASING ATTACKS ON ALBANIAN ORTHODOX CHURCHES

    Unidentified persons have damaged or desecrated more than 10 Orthodox churches and

    monasteries over the past two years in Albania, dpa reported. The Albanian Helsinki

    Committee issued a report on 26 August saying that some buildings have been blown up by

    explosives, burned down, or subjected to theft and desecration. It added that "these acts of

    vandalism are a dangerous attack against the old, civilized tradition of religious tolerance in

    Albania." The statement warned that the attacks could undermine harmony between

    Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Albanians. FS

    [24] ROMANIAN SENATE FAILS TO DEBATE LAND RESTITUTION BILL

    A

    26 August extraordinary session of the Senate adjourned without its members debating the

    law on the restitution of land nationalized by the Communists and incorporated into State

    Agricultural Farms. The decision not to debate the law was taken after two Senate

    commissions failed to draw up final recommendations to the house. On 24 August, the

    Judicial Commission had decided that restitution should be limited to 50 hectares per

    family, instead of per person, as envisaged by the government-sponsored bill. The next

    day, however, the Agricultural Commission--on which the opposition has a majority--

    limited restitution to 10 hectares per family The recommendations are not binding on the

    house, which will resume debate on the law at regular session early next month. MS

    [25] MOLDOVA, TRANSDNIESTER DECORATE GAZPROM CHIEF

    Acting on

    President Petru Lucinschi's behalf, Moldovan Ambassador to Russia Valeriu Bobutac on

    23 August decorated Gazprom chief Rem Vyakhirev with the "Glory of Labor" order on

    the occasion of the latter's 65th birthday, Flux reported on 26 August, citing

    "Nezavisimaya gazeta." The order was conveyed for Vyakhirev's "contribution to solving

    Moldova's energy problems."On 21 August, Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov awarded

    Vyakhirev the "Order of the Republic" for his contribution to ensuring energy supplies for

    the breakaway region. MS

    [26] BESSARABIAN METROPOLITAN CHURCH DISPUTE ERUPTING

    AGAIN

    Government spokesman Nicolae Chirtoaca on 26 August said the problem of the

    Bessarabian Metropolitan Church must be resolved in negotiations between the Romanian

    and the Moscow Patriarchates. Chirtoaca said the position of Ion Sturza's cabinet on

    recognizing the Church is "a continuation" of that taken by Andrei Sangheli's cabinet,

    RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. In July, Sturza turned down the Bucharest-

    subordinated Church's renewed registration, saying the Church is a "splinter-group of the

    [Moscow-subordinated] Moldovan Orthodox Church." A lawyer representing the

    Bessarabian Church expressed confidence that the complaint lodged in January at the

    European Court of Justice will be successful. MS

    [27] BALKAN PEACE FORCE TAKES SHAPE IN BULGARIA

    "I am honored to

    work for regional stability and security, all the more so since several southeastern European

    countries are pooling their efforts for the first time in a common cause, guaranteeing

    peace," Turkish Brigadier General Hilmi Akinzorlu told journalists in Plodviv on 26

    August. Akinzorlu said that Bulgaria's hosting the first Multinational Peace Force

    Southeastern Europe, which he commands, is "the first step" on the road toward that

    country's integration into NATO, BTA reported. The force was set up last September by

    Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, and Turkey and will be

    officially inaugurated at a ceremony in Plodviv on 11 September. MS

    [28] YUGOSLAV OPPOSITION LEADER IN BULGARIA

    During his two-day visit

    to Bulgaria, Serbian Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told BTA on 26 August that

    Serbian opposition activists will come to Bulgaria to learn from the experience of the ruling

    Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) in forming a unified opposition. The same day he met

    with Prime Minister Ivan Kostov and SDS deputy chairwoman Ekaterina Mihailova. He is

    also scheduled to hold talks with Deputy Premier Evgeni Bakardzhiev and Sofia Mayor

    Stefan Sofiyanski. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [29] GREAT EXPECTATIONS

    By Liz Fuller

    On 22 August, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan met at a lake-side chateau

    near Geneva for the second time in just over five weeks. The focus of their talks was how

    to bridge the differences between the conflicting sides over the optimum approach to

    resolving the Karabakh conflict.

    As was the case after the 16 July talks, few details were released initially about the

    topics discussed. But observers said this reticence clearly stemmed from the mutual desire

    to preserve and build on an atmosphere of incipient trust, rather than to conceal the

    magnitude of the differences between the two sides.

    Consequently, when speaking to journalists the two presidents focused on those

    areas where they had reached agreement. They said the defense ministers of the two

    countries will meet in the near future to discuss ways to prevent further violations of the

    cease-fire that has been in effect since 1994. They affirmed their intention to meet again

    soon but did not say when. (The Baltic/Black Sea summit in Yalta on 10-11 September has

    been named as a possible venue.) As in July, they termed the meeting useful, constructive,

    and a badly needed step toward a definitive solution of the conflict. And Azerbaijan's

    Heidar Aliev again told journalists that both he and his Armenian counterpart, Robert

    Kocharian, agree that the conflict must be resolved peacefully and on the basis of mutual

    compromise.

    Given subsequent statements by the two presidents and other senior officials

    present at the Geneva talks, it seems that the contentious issue of Karabakh's future status

    vis-a-vis the central Azerbaijani government was discussed, as was the need to resume

    peace talks in a broader format. On his return to Yerevan on 23 August, Kocharian told

    journalists that he and Aliev agreed that their foreign ministers should attempt to galvanize

    the stalled OSCE Minsk Group peace process and that Karabakh officials should participate

    in those talks

    Kocharian refused, however, to disclose any details of the discussions on

    Karabakh's future status, which he said amounted to no more than an exchange of

    opinions. He confirmed observers' impression that the two sides are making a concerted

    effort to avoid offending each other, which in itself, he said, is a positive achievement. And

    he added that he and Aliev have come to understand each other better as a result of the two

    Geneva meetings.

    At the same time, Kocharian cautioned that the conflict resolution process is

    "complicated" and that "one should not expect results with lightning speed." But a

    protracted negotiating process conducted in secrecy is likely to increase the risk both of

    leaks of confidential details and of domestic dissatisfaction and protests in both countries.

    Some Azerbaijani observers have pointed to Aliev's use of the term "compromise"

    as suggesting he is prepared to retreat from his previous insistence that the future status of

    the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic must not exceed "the broadest possible

    autonomy" within Azerbaijan. (Both Armenia and Karabakh favor as a basis for

    negotiations the formula "more than [conventional] autonomy but less than [outright]

    independence," which reflects the disputed enclave's present ambiguous status.) In an

    attempt to quash such alarmist inferences, Azerbaijan's State Foreign Policy Adviser Vafa

    Guluzade, who was present for part of the Aliev-Kocharian talks, told Turan on 24 August

    that both sides are seeking a compromise that will preserve Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.

    Interviewed by Turan, Azerbaijan Popular Front Party chairman and former

    President Abulfaz Elchibey argued that Aliev has no right to keep secret the details of his

    talks with Kocharian. Elchibey claimed to have details of a new draft peace agreement

    whereby Armenian forces would be withdrawn from seven occupied districts of Azerbaijan

    adjacent to Karabakh, but the strategic Lachin corridor that constitutes the sole overland

    link between the enclave and Armenia would not be returned to Azerbaijan's control.

    Elchibey predicted that the Azerbaijani people would not accept such an arrangement and

    that Aliev could be ousted if he agreed to it.

    The Democratic Congress, which unites the dozen most influential Azerbaijani

    opposition parties, issued a statement on 26 August rejecting outright the concept of a

    "common state" comprising Azerbaijan and Karabakh. That concept was outlined in the

    most recent draft peace plan proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group. The Azerbaijani

    leadership initially rejected the formula, but Aliev said after last weekend's Geneva talks

    that the plan as a whole remains on the table.

    Nor are misgivings and suspicion confined to Azerbaijan. The Armenian newspaper

    "Iravunk," which is published by the opposition Union for Constitutional Rights, claimed

    on 24 August that "Kocharian has already agreed that the territory of the [Nagorno-

    Karabakh Republic] should be reduced to that of the [pre-war] Autonomous Oblast and its

    overland link with Armenia should be minimal by including the Lachin corridor only." But

    even Lachin, "Iravunk" claims, would not be under full Armenian control. "There are facts

    indicating that at least a tentative variant of settling the [Karabakh] issue has already been

    found."

    The newspaper further argues that the Armenian president has no right to conclude

    "behind-the-scenes deals" without keeping the parliament informed of the details. The

    Union for Constitutional Rights is a member of the nationalist Right and Accord

    parliamentary bloc. Hard-line former Karabakh Defense Minister Samvel Babayan, who

    has said repeatedly over the past two years that he does not exclude the possibility a new

    war over Karabakh, supports that bloc.

    27-08-99


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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