|Saturday, 25 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 199, 00-10-13
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 4, No. 199, 13 October 2000
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 DEFENSE MINISTER OPPOSES SENDING ARMENIAN TROOPS TO CENTRAL ASIASerzh Sarkisian told journalists in Yerevan on 12 October that although Armenia is committed to continuing to participate in the CIS Collective Security Treaty, he would not want Armenian troops to be sent to fight "in Central Asia, Siberia, or anywhere else," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. On 11 October, Armenian President Robert Kocharian, together with the presidents of the five other signatory states to the CIS Collective Security Treaty, signed a treaty in Bishkek on establishing a joint rapid- reaction force to be deployed in the event of aggression or a terrorist attack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2000). LF
 PEOPLE'S PARTY FAILS TO PLEDGE SUPPORT FOR ARMENIAN GOVERNMENTThe People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), the junior partner in the majority Miasnutiun parliamentary bloc, declined on 12 October to affirm its support for the government of Andranik Markarian, who heads the other member group of Miasnutiun, the Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Markarian had called on the HZhK on 11 October to signal its unequivocal support for his government's policies. The future of the Miasnutiun bloc has been in the balance for weeks, during which time Markarian has held talks with five other parliamentary parties on cementing an alternative majority alignment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September and 4 October 2000). LF
 FORMER PARLIAMENT SPEAKER TO RETURN TO AZERBAIJANDemocratic Party of Azerbaijan Chairman Rasul Guliev, who has lived in the U.S. since resigning as parliamentary speaker in 1996, said on 12 October that he will return to Azerbaijan to contest the 5 November parliamentary election, despite the warrant issued for his arrest on charges of massive embezzlement, Interfax and AP reported. It is unclear whether under Azerbaijani law parliamentary candidates enjoy immunity from arrest. Meanwhile on 10 October the U.S. State Department hailed the Central Election Commission's decision two days earlier to revoke its decision not to register eight parties, including the DPA, to contest the poll under the proportional system, Turan reported. The statement expressed the hope that the commission will take "additional steps" to ensure the fairness of that ballot, as called for by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. That office issued a statement in Baku earlier on 10 October calling on the commission to register those candidates in single-mandate constituencies who had earlier been refused registration (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 11 October 2000 and "End Note" below). LF
 RUSSIA WILL NOT INTRODUCE VISA REGIME WITH AZERBAIJAN...Presenting his credentials to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev in Baku on 12 October, Russia's new ambassador Nikolai Ryabov said Moscow will not introduce a visa requirement for Azerbaijani citizens, Turan reported. Ryabov added that his acceptance of the post of ambassador was contingent on the non-imposition of a visa regime between the two countries. He confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Baku next month, adding that one of the issues to be discussed during that visit is the Karabakh conflict. LF
 ...BUT PLANS TO DO SO FOR GEORGIANewly appointed Russian ambassador Vladimir Gudev said in Tbilisi on 12 October that it is in Russia's interest to impose a visa requirement for persons wishing to enter the Russian Federation from Georgia in order to prevent Chechen and "international terrorists" from entering the country, Caucasus Press reported. A Russian consular official had said earlier this month that Russia will introduce such a visa requirement unilaterally if Tbilisi does not agree to a mutual visa regime. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze predicted on 9 October that Moscow will not impose a visa requirement for Georgia as doing so would hinder communications between Georgia's breakaway Republic of South Ossetia and the neighboring Republic of North Ossetia in Russia. LF
 FOUR GEORGIAN JAIL BREAKERS RECAPTUREDGeorgian police have apprehended four of the 12 men who escaped on 1 October from a Tbilisi security prison, Caucasus Press reported on 12 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 2 and 3 October 2000). The four, who were detained in the west Georgian district of Ratcha, include Loti Kobalia, who headed former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia's presidential guard, and Gamsakhurdia's Finance Minister Guram Absandze. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN PLANS TO REDUCE BUDGET DEFICITThe lower house of the parliament has approved government-proposed changes to the current year's budget that reduce the planned deficit and increase spending, Interfax reported on 12 October. Kazakhstan posted a budget surplus of 40.9 billion tenges ($208 million) during the first eight months of this year. The draft proposes lowering the budget deficit from the anticipated 3 percent to 2.7 percent of GDP or 63.8 billion tenges. Echoing estimates voiced last week by Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, the amended draft budget predicts GDP growth this year of 5 percent. Toqaev noted that GDP during the first half of this year grew by 10.5 percent and industrial production by 16 percent. Foreign trade turnover during the same period increased by 70 percent year-on-year. LF
 FIRED KAZAKH OIL REFINERY DIRECTOR ACCUSES CANADIAN COMPANY OF MALPRACTICENurlan Bizaqov, who was fired in August as director of the Shymkent Oil Refinery after the refinery was taken over by the Canadian company Hurricane Hydrocarbons, told journalists in Almaty on 11 October that the Canadian company is engaging in unspecified illegal operations, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. He added that he has taken legal action demanding to be reinstated as director of the refinery. Bizaqov also accused Hurricane Hydrocarbons of maintaining two separate pay scales, one for local and one for Canadian personnel, and of repatriating all its profits rather than reinvesting them in oil extraction elsewhere in Kazakhstan. He suggested that the Kazakh government consider renationalizing the refinery, according to Interfax. LF
 KYRGYZ ECONOMIC RECOVERY CONTINUESStatistics released in Bishkek on 12 October show that the economic recovery registered during the first six months of the year is continuing, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August 2000). GDP grew by 5 percent during the first nine months of the year to 83 billion soms (approximately $1.7 billion). Industrial production increased over the same period by 6 percent to reach 30.8 billion soms, while foreign trade turnover was up by 13 percent year-on-year to $699 million. No data was given for agricultural output, possibly as the country's grain harvest is estimated as 6 percent lower than in 1999. LF
 TAJIKISTAN, IRAN DISCUSS AFGHAN CRISISTajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov met with visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Sadeq Kharrazi in Dushanbe on 12 October, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The two discussed the potential threat posed to both their countries by an influx of refugees fleeing the fighting in neighboring Afghanistan. They agreed that the civil war in that country can be ended only by negotiations with a view to creating "a broad-based government" that "would take into account the interests of all sections of the Afghan population." They also reviewed the potential for expanding bilateral economic cooperation. Speaking in Tashkent the same day, Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov similarly said that peace in Afghanistan is impossible as long as all that country's ethnic and religious groups are not represented in the government, Interfax reported. Karimov said the composition of that government is of no interest to Tashkent, provided that peace is restored. And he stressed that Uzbekistan is not seeking confrontation with Afghanistan or to interfere in that country's internal affairs. LF
 TAJIK FIRST DEPUTY PREMIER'S BODYGUARD CHARGED WITH MURDERFirst Deputy Prime Minister Khodji Akbar Turadjonzoda's bodyguard Mukhtor Djalilov, who was forcibly detained by armed men in Dushanbe on 11 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2000), is being held by police on suspicion of robbery, terrorism and murder, AP reported on 12 October, quoting a Tajik Interior Ministry spokesman. Turadjonzoda termed the arrest "a provocation" but declined to comment on the charges that Djalilov faces. LF
 UZBEK, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTS DENOUNCE NEW EURASIAN ECONOMIC UNIONPresident Karimov and his visiting Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, told journalists in Tashkent on 12 October that the Eurasian Economic Union launched in Astana three days earlier on the basis of the CIS Customs Union is "a time bomb" that could destroy the CIS, Interfax and Reuters reported. Karimov predicted that the new body will not prove capable of resolving problems that its predecessor had created. Kuchma, for his part, posed the question why other CIS members were not invited to join the new body. The two presidents also signed an agreement on 12 October that will facilitate the return to Ukraine of Crimean Tatars deported to Central Asia by Stalin in 1944, according to AP. LF
 UZBEKISTAN SEEKS TO PROMOTE FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN PROVINCESThe Uzbek cabinet has adopted a five-year program intended to encourage foreign participation in some 343 joint ventures throughout the country's regions, Interfax reported on 12 October. Most of those joint ventures will engage in the processing of agricultural production or in light industry and the manufacture of construction materials. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 LIBERALS LEADING IN POLLS AS SLOVENES PREPARE TO VOTEThe center-left Liberals, led by former Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek, are poised to emerge as the largest single party in Slovenia's legislative elections on 15 October, AP reported. Polls give him some 35 percent. The governing center-right coalition of Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk's New Slovenia Party and Defense Minister Janez Jansa's Social Democrats has only 15-20 percent in the polls. The parliament is the center of political power. Slovenian politics have been characterized since Habsburg times by liberal, Roman Catholic, and leftist currents. Party politics tend to be fractious--there are currently at least three Catholic-based parties. All parties agree on the major policy goals of promoting Euro-Atlantic integration. President Milan Kucan, who has only limited powers, has let it be known that he considers his fellow former communist Drnovsek as the leader best able to put together a stable cabinet. Bajuk is the first Slovenian prime minister since independence in 1991 not to have a communist past. PM
 SLOVENIAN-SERBIAN RELATIONS ON THE MENDSlovenian Foreign Minister Lojze Peterle and State Secretary Mitja Drobnic received Zarko Korac at Mokrice castle on 12 October. Korac is a leader of the Serbian opposition and is tapped to be the next Yugoslav foreign minister, "Delo" reported. Peterle told reporters after the meeting that he expects rapid progress in developing political, economic, and cultural ties between Slovenia and Serbia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October 2000). Drobnic is slated to go to Belgrade for talks on 13 October. PM
 CROATIA SETS CONDITIONS FOR BELGRADE TIESThe Croatian government agreed on 12 October that any improvement in relations with Belgrade will be contingent on the Serbian authorities' policies vis-a-vis the arrest and punishment of war criminals and on Serbia's position regarding "the aggressive policies of [former Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic." Other conditions center on Belgrade's stance toward its ethnic minorities, its policy on refugee returns and missing persons, and its attitude on the question of the Prevlaka peninsula, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. PM
 SERBIAN LEADER OFFERS CONCESSION TO MONTENEGROIn an apparent reversal of policy, Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said in Belgrade on 12 October that "one must respect the will of the Montenegrins if they decide [in a referendum] that they do not want to remain part of the [Yugoslav] federation" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 October 2000). He added, however, that he believes most Montenegrins prefer to remain in the federation. Representatives of the Serbian opposition are slated to hold talks on 13 October with Predrag Bulatovic and other leaders of Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 2000). Elsewhere in Belgrade, supporters of Kostunica and backers of Milosevic held inconclusive talks in the evening of 12 October on a possible power-sharing arrangement in the Serbian government. Reuters reported the next day that Serbian parliamentary elections will take place on 24 December. PM
 SERBIA, U.S. TO MEND TIESIn yet another change in a previously held position, Kostunica took a conciliatory line toward the U.S. after talks in Belgrade on 12 October with President Bill Clinton's adviser James O'Brien. Kostunica said he regretted that there has been what he called a "gap in communication" between Washington and Belgrade and that "we hope we will bridge that gap and our relations [will] normalize, "The New York Times" reported. O'Brien said that Kostunica must first clarify some "technical issues" before diplomatic relations are restored. The daily noted that Kostunica, who has often been a sharp critic of the U.S. and its Balkan policy, must move carefully in view of the widespread anti-American sentiment in Serbia. Some observers have noted that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has not been among the steady stream of visitors to Belgrade in recent days. PM
 NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL HAILS NEW SERBIAN LEADERSHIPLord Robertson said in Sofia on 13 October that "we look forward to the day when a newly democratic Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will again take its place alongside its neighbors in the Euro-Atlantic community," AP reported. PM
 MACEDONIAN OPPOSITION QUITS PARLIAMENTDeputies from five opposition parties, including the Social Democrats and the Party of Democratic Prosperity, left the parliament on 12 October, MIC news reported. The deputies will not return until the governing parties agree to discuss what the opposition regards as significant irregularities and violence in the recent elections. The government and most international observers do not regard the incidents sufficiently important to have affected the overall outcome of the vote. Carlo Ungaro, who is the OSCE's ambassador to Macedonia, said, however, that some armed incidents in Ohrid were "serious." He added that the OSCE will send experts to Macedonia to investigate and ensure that such incidents do not take place in the future. PM
 BOSNIAN SERB WAR CRIMES SUSPECT BLOWS HIMSELF UPJanko Janjic killed himself with a hand grenade in Foca on 12 October as German peacekeepers attempted to arrest him. Four of the Germans were injured, two of them seriously, Reuters reported from NATO headquarters in Brussels the next day. The Hague-based war crimes tribunal has indicted Janjic for having directed and participated in the torture and rape of "many" Muslim women in 1992 and 1993. He was a paramilitary and police commander. In 1997, he offered to sell his story to U.S. CBS Television for $2,500. He said he would "tell everything. How I slit throats, killed them, and dug their eyes out...you can tape me." PM
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT RECEIVES ROMANIAN OFFICIALS...President Petru Lucinschi received Romanian Deputy Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu and Romanian chief of staff general Mircea Chelaru on 12 October, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Ungureanu said a protocol on European integration to be signed by the joint Romanian-Moldovan commission the next day provides for ways of assisting Moldova in adopting legislation in line with that of the EU. Lucinschi said that a number of joint projects now under way might help Moldova achieve EU integration. Chelaru told Lucinschi that military relations between the two countries are "exemplary" and contribute to "strengthening the stability climate in Europe." Earlier on 12 October, Chelaru and his Moldovan counterpart, General Mircea Coropceanu, signed an agreement on military cooperation. Chelaru said the accord "lays the ground for a strategic partnership" between the two states and will create a "joint security space" within the Balkan Stability Pact framework. MS
 ... SAYS 'NOT INTERESTED' IN ANOTHER PRESIDENTIAL TERMIn an interview with the Russian-language daily "Kishinevskie novosti" on 12 October, Lucinschi said he would "never agree" to be elected to a second term by the current parliament, Infotag reported. He said the differences between himself and the legislature over the issue of the "parliamentary republic" are differences "of principle" and cannot be bridged. The same day, parliamentary chairman Dumitru Diacov told journalists in Chisinau that he is "not interested" in the position of head of state and believes the president elected under the amended law must be a politically independent personality. MS
 BULGARIA WANTS FREE TRADE ZONE WITH YUGOSLAVIABulgaria is examining the possibility of setting up a free trade zone with neighboring Yugoslavia, Deputy Premier Petar Zhotev told journalists on 12 October after a meeting of the cabinet. He said liberalizing trade with Belgrade would help both countries overcome losses resulting from the 1999 Kosova crisis, Reuters reported. The plan under consideration also includes joint infrastructure projects, the building of a new border checkpoint, and upgrading a highway that links Sofia with the Serbian border. MS
[C] END NOTE
 AZERBAIJANI LEADERSHIP MAKES TACTICAL CONCESSIONSBy Liz Fuller
On 5 October, Azerbaijan's prosecutor-general approved the release from pre- trial detention of opposition "Yeni Musavat" newspaper editor Rauf Arifoglu, who had been arrested in late August and charged with terrorism, involvement in an airplane hijack, illegal possession of arms, and planning a coup d'etat. On 8 October, the Azerbaijani Central Electoral Commission complied with President Heidar Aliev's request to reverse its ruling barring from the 5 November parliamentary poll all but five of the 13 parties that had applied to contest that ballot under the party list system. Aliev explained that request by pointing to the need to "provide all levels of the population with the opportunity to express their political views."
Politicians and observers in Baku attribute those tactical reversals partly to pressure from the U.S. State Department and partly to the desire not to jeopardize Azerbaijan's acceptance as a full member of the Council of Europe, which is largely contingent on the 5 November poll being recognized as free, fair, and democratic and on an end to harassment of the media. The U.S. State Department last week had deplored the ban and called on the Azerbaijani authorities to allow the opposition Musavat Party and the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan to contest the party list mandates.
Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar characterized both Aliev's appeal to the Central Election Commission and that body's subsequent decision as politically motivated, while Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP) Chairman Etibar Mamedov said that the election commission's turnabout demonstrates that the commission is not an independent agency and does not obey the law. Possibly in order to avoid laying itself open to such accusations, the commission initially rejected Aliev's request, arguing that no constitutional grounds existed for lifting its ban and proposing that President Aliev raise the issue in the outgoing parliament. But meeting again one day later, the commission complied with Aliev's request. The head of the Azerbaijani NGO For A Civil Society argued that neither the law nor the constitution gives the election commission the right to comply with Aliev's request, irrespective of the motives behind it.
How many people hold that opinion is a matter for conjecture. But the election commission's seemingly reluctant compliance with Aliev's directive is unlikely to augment public confidence in its efficiency and objectivity. In mid-September, the independent daily "Zerkalo" published the results of two surveys conducted among 50 political observers, journalists, and politicians. In the poll carried out in February, only 8.1 percent of respondents said they believed that the November parliamentary elections would be less free and fair than that in 1995; by September, when the second survey was taken, the percentage who shared that view had risen to 27.3 percent.
Suspicions that the outcome of the poll is being determined in advance are by no means confined to the opposition. Echoing recent claims by Azerbaijan Popular Front Party member Fazil Gazanfaroglu, former Baku Mayor and ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party member Rafael Allakhverdiev told "Zerkalo" in early October that the heads of local election commissions have already received instructions from a member of the presidential administration about which candidates should be "elected."
The decision to allow all 13 political parties to register to contest the party list seats is unlikely to have a major impact on the outcome of the poll. First, only 25 of the total 125 seats are to be distributed under the proportional system. Second, those 25 mandates will be divided only among those parties that surmount the minimum threshold of 8 percent of the vote. Observers consider that besides the Yeni Azerbaycan Party, the AHCP, and the opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party--all of which are already formally registered--only Musavat and the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan have any chance of winning parliamentary representation under the proportional system. The Central Election Commission's decision does mean, however, that Musavat party chairman Gambar, can contest a seat in the new legislature. Since the death in late August of former AHCP chairman Abulfaz Elchibey, Gambar, who heads Musavat's party list, has become the most respected and influential opposition political leader.
A total of 1,008 candidates have applied to register to contest the remaining 100 parliamentary mandates in single-mandate constituencies, of whom the Central Election Commissions had formally registered 365 as of 9 October. Of that number, 122 are independents, 126 represent Yeni Azerbaycan, 34 the Azerbaijan Popular Front conservative wing, 24 AMIP, and 17 Musavat. Eleven small parties have registered between one and four candidates each.
Almost every day, the Azerbaijani opposition and independent press reports incidents in which prospective opposition candidates in single-mandate constituencies have been refused registration by local election commissions. But even before the 5-6 October demonstration of people's power in Belgrade that brought down President Slobodan Milosevic, Azerbaijani voters were protesting such refusals. In Tovuz, additional police had to be brought in from neighboring raions to disperse a crowd of 1,500 people angered by the local election commission's refusal to register a Musavat party candidate.
It remains to be seen whether the Yugoslav example, together with the realization that Azerbaijan's leadership is both vulnerable to international pressure and prepared to violate the law in responding to that pressure, will result in a massive "protest vote" against Yeni Azerbaycan. If it does not, the 8 percent minimum threshold and the large number of opposition parties and candidates seeking to win the protest vote are likely to limit opposition representation in the new legislature.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty