|Tuesday, 9 March 2021|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 32, 01-02-15
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 32, 15 February 2001Meeting in Grozny on 14 February with Russian presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Vladimir Kalamanov, Ahmed-hadji Kadyrov said that in future humanitarian organizations will not be permitted to operate in Chechnya without supervision, Interfax reported. He claimed that some such organizations are "speculating" on peoples' suffering. Kadyrov also criticized the practice of unloading aid shipments in the neighboring republics of North Ossetia, Ingushetia and Daghestan, implying that much is stolen during that procedure. Also on 14 February, Kadyrov again said that he is in contact with moderate field commander Ruslan Gelaev who, according to Kadyrov, has given up fighting and left Chechnya. There have been numerous unconfirmed reports in recent months that Gelaev is in Georgia (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 3, No. 41, 20 October 2000). LF
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 KARABAKH ASSASSINATION SUSPECTS PLEAD NOT GUILTYSamvel Babayan, former Defense Minister of the unrecognized Nagorno- Karabakh Republic, on 14 February formally pleaded not guilty to charges of plotting the attempt in March 2000 to assassinate the enclave's president, Arkadii Ghukasian, with the aim of seizing power, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent reported. Babayan and co-defendant Levon Mirzoyan have repeatedly denied any complicity in that attack, while Sasun Aghadjanian has admitted to opening fire on Ghukasian's limousine, but denies any intent to kill the president. Aghadjanian has also denied that Babayan knew in advance of the planned attack (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 29 December 2000 and 31 January 2001). LF
 AZERBAIJAN CRITICIZES FRANCE, RUSSIA OVER ARMENIAN GENOCIDEIn a formal statement published on 14 February, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev condemned as "a mistake" and "meddling in Turkey's internal affairs" the resolution passed by the French parliament last month condemning "the Armenian genocide of 1915," AFP reported. That resolution contains no explicit reference to Turkey. Aliev said that Baku "protests this decision by France." The previous day, Aliev had held a telephone conversation with French President Jacques Chirac to discuss the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. Chirac assured Aliev that as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, France will continue its efforts aimed a speedy resolution of that conflict. Some Azerbaijani opposition parties argue that the resolution testifies to France's pro-Armenian bias, and that France should therefore be replaced as Minsk Group co-chair by Germany (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2001). Also on 14 February, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev told MPA news agency in Baku that Russia has "no moral right" to raise the issue of the Armenian genocide, Groong reported. The Russian State Duma declined the same day to discuss a statement initiated by Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) on the Armenian genocide, RIA reported. LF
 BAKU AUTHORITIES BAN AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS' PROTESTThe Baku municipal authorities have rejected as "inexpedient" a request by the Union of Editors of Azerbaijan to stage a picket of the Council of Ministers' building on 16 February to protest the newsprint shortage, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 2001). Deputy Mayor F. Huseynova said the government is working to overcome that deficit. Prime Minister Artur Rasizade said on 12 February that the recent steep increase in the price of newsprint is temporary and that the price will fall once the Russian State Duma ratifies a bilateral agreement abolishing dual taxation. LF
 GEORGIAN RULING PARTY SUES FORMER INTELLIGENCE CHIEF OVER RUSSIAN FUNDING CHARGESThe Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) intends to bring a lawsuit for slander against former national intelligence chief Irakli Batiashvili, the party's secretary-general, Eduard Surmanidze, told Caucasus Press on 14 February. The SMK rejects as "groundless" Batiashvili's allegations that then Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko provided $1 million to pay for Russian PR experts to advise the SMK during the runup to the October 1999 Georgian parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 13 February 2001). Batiashvili claims to have evidence to substantiate his allegations. LF
 DATE FOR CASPIAN SUMMIT FINALIZEDThe long-planned summit of Caspian littoral states will take place in Turkmenbashi on 8-9 March, Interfax reported on 14 February. A statement published in advance of that meeting in the official Turkmen press repeats that Ashgabat believes that the division of both the seabed, surface and waters into equal national sectors is "the only acceptable approach" to defining the status of the Caspian. It said such a division would preclude the need for creation of any multilateral structures to rule on the use of the sea's resources. Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, however, advocate dividing only the seabed and leaving the surface and waters in common use, while Azerbaijan opposes any modification of the existing median line dividing the Azerbaijan and Turkmen sectors. The statement also said that the summit should address "issues of regional security," and declare the entire Caspian a demilitarized zone. Deputy foreign ministers from the five littoral states are to meet in Tehran on 20 February to finalize the agenda for the summit. LF
 KAZAKH OPPOSITION POLITICIAN BRINGS LAWSUIT AGAINST GOVERNMENTAmirzhan Qosanov, who is a leading member of the opposition People's Republican Party of Kazakhstan, told journalists in Almaty on 14 February that he has filed suit with the Supreme Court against the government and intelligence services, ITAR-TASS reported. Qosanov is claiming moral and material damages resulting from the security service's refusal to allow him to travel to London in December 2000 to attend a seminar there. LF
 'SHANGHAI FORUM' PARTICIPANTS ANTICIPATE NEW INCURSIONS BY ISLAMIC MILITANTSAt a meeting in Bishkek of security officials from Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that opened on 14 February, Kyrgyz General Askar Mameev expressed concern that members of the outlawed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) will begin their infiltration of neighboring states earlier this year and on a larger scale than in 1999 and 2000, Reuters and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Mameev estimated the number of IMU militants currently in Tajikistan as between 1,500 and 2,000. Kyrgyz National Security Council secretary General Bolot Djanuzakov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 13 February most of the IMU militants recently deported by the Tajik authorities to Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11, 17 and 31 January 2001) have already returned to Tajikistan. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBIA SEEKING NATO BACKING FOR PRESEVO SWEEP?Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic and Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic arrived at NATO headquarters in Brussels on 15 February with details of a plan to remove the sources of tensions in the Presevo valley (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 6 and 9 February 2001 and "End Note" below). Reuters reported that the two officials are "expected to press the alliance to let Serbian security forces begin counter-insurgency operations against the rebels, who number several hundred and operate with relative impunity in a buffer zone where Serbian forces are not allowed to pursue them" under the 1999 Kumanovo agreements that ended the Kosova conflict. Some observers suggest that Belgrade is using the Presevo conflict as a first step toward undoing the Kumanovo agreements and gradually reestablishing its position in Kosova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2001). PM
 NATO PREPARING TO YIELD TO SERBIA?NATO is prepared to consider changes regarding the demilitarized zone, Reuters reported from Brussels on 15 February. NATO Secretary General George Robertson told his visitors that Belgrade should not issue any ultimatums to ethnic Albanian fighters and should not seek to end the tensions through violence or "so-called anti-terrorist operations." He praised the Covic plan and called on Belgrade to remove the army's Prishtina Corps from the region in order to help build confidence with the Albanians. Covic replied that Belgrade will work with "moderation, patience, and no ultimatums, but quickly enough because we don't have time" lest Presevo lead to a wider conflict. PM
 YUGOSLAV EX-GENERAL: 'WE WILL DEFEND OUR TERRITORY'Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Momcilo Perisic, who is a former commander of the Yugoslav General Staff, said in Belgrade on 14 February that "those who reject a political dialogue and continue with terrorism should know that the democratic authorities in Serbia know how to protect [their] citizens and territory and are able to do so," "Danas" reported. He added that if the ethnic Albanians "insist" on including "terrorists" in their negotiating team, that will mean that the Albanians want talks to fail. Perisic argued that the new Belgrade authorities will not "take the bait" offered by the Albanians as quickly as the regime of President Slobodan Milosevic did in Kosova, but did not elaborate. In any event, he added, the Albanians now lack the strong foreign support they enjoyed in 1999. Perisic recently warned the authorities against using force in Presevo (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 February 2001). "Vesti" reported on 15 February that Serbian tanks recently "destroyed two Albanian bunkers" in the Susajski Rid area in an exchange with "Albanian terrorists." PM
 PRESEVO ALBANIANS WANT AUTONOMYPresevo Mayor Riza Halimi told a news conference on 14 February that ethnic Albanians want autonomy, demilitarization, and international mediation. He referred specifically to an "adequate level of autonomy that would not envisage a change of borders." Halimi also called for an end to the "drastic discrimination that has been carried out here for decades," AP reported. Referring to Belgrade's plan for the region, he charged that it is an attempt to present a "done deal" even before any talks have begun. Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica has already ruled out autonomy and international mediation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 13 February 2001). In place of demilitarization, Belgrade wants to reduce the size of or eliminate the demilitarized zone (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2001). PM
 MONTENEGRIN PRESIDENT CALLS BELGRADE LEADERS 'NATIONALISTS'President Milo Djukanovic told Reuters in Podgorica on 14 February that his government intends to seek independence despite sharp warnings from the EU and U.S. that it should remain in a joint state with Serbia. He said that the Belgrade authorities are "nationalists who want to dominate Montenegro." Djukanovic added that "the international community has had such a bad experience with the Balkans over the past decade [that] it cannot believe that an initiative like ours could have a democratic and non- violent outcome. I don't want to be held hostage [to that] Balkan heritage." He denied any link between Montenegrin constitutional issues and those affecting Kosova. "What is the necessary condition for resolving the Kosovo problem? A sincere and constructive political initiative between Belgrade and Prishtina, now with the inevitable arbitration of the international community. It's in that triangle that the formula for resolving the Kosovo problem must be found," Djukanovic argued. PM
 DEL PONTE TAKES ARREST WARRANTS TO MONTENEGRODjukanovic said in Podgorica on 14 February that "it is the obligation of the democratic Montenegrin leadership to provide full cooperation with the tribunal and to make sure that all those charged be handed over to the court," AP reported. On 15 February, chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte is slated to give Djukanovic and other top officials an unspecified number of indictments for war criminals, including three for Montenegrins involved in the 1991 shelling of Dubrovnik, the "Financial Times" reported. An additional indictment is that of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is originally from Montenegro and may be planning a trip home to see his sick mother. PM
 BELGRADE AUTHORITIES MARK 100 DAYS' ANNIVERSARY WITH MIXED RECORDThe Serbian legislature took the first steps on 14 February to dismantle the legal system of the Milosevic regime and oust numerous judges and other personnel widely seen as political appointees, the "Daily Telegraph" reported. Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic said elsewhere that it is "in the national interest" to cooperate with The Hague, adding, however, that cooperation does not mean accepting all of the tribunal's demands, "Danas" reported. Federal Information Secretary Slobodan Orlic told "Glas Javnosti" that the private B92 radio "is [still] working under the same conditions as under [Milosevic's] rule, the only difference being that journalists' lives are no longer in danger." In London, the "Independent" noted that "a hundred days after Vojislav Kostunica's velvet revolution, the Serbian capital remains a place of refuge for indicted war criminals." PM
 SWITZERLAND BALKING OVER YUGOSLAV ENVOY?"Vesti" reported on 15 February that almost all of the new government's diplomatic appointees have received the approval of the countries to which they have been named. The sole exception is Dragan Vuksic, whom Switzerland has not approved as ambassador. Bern has given no reason for the delay. Vuksic is a former colonel and military attache. PM
 SERBIAN RADICAL LEADER IN IRAQVojislav Seselj is visiting Iraq, apparently as a guest of President Saddam Hussein, London's the "Independent" reported on 15 February. Little is known about the purpose of the trip. Seselj's party was part of Milosevic's last coalition government, which had close relations with Baghdad. PM
 CROATIAN PROTEST RALLY FIZZLESFugitive General Mirko Norac did not call on President Stipe Mesic on 14 February, as Mesic had suggested he might (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2001). It is not clear what the general's plans are. His approach to Mesic and his expression of willingness to face trial have split the ranks of his backers. Only 5,000 people turned out for a 15 February demonstration in his support in Zagreb, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2001). Veterans' leader Marinko Liovic charged that Norac betrayed his supporters by contacting the government, AP reported. Liovic added that the government is "manipulating the people" by its handling of the case, "Jutarnji list" reported. Former Foreign Minister Mate Granic told the daily that the government should not yield to any of the veterans' demands on war crimes lest it risk international isolation. PM
 BOSNIAN BISHOP CALLS FOR MOVES AGAINST ETHNIC CLEANSINGRoman Catholic Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka told "Oslobodjenje" of 15 February that the international community has not done enough to enable non-Serbs to go back to their pre-war homes in the Republika Srpska. He charged that the foreigners have the knowledge and ability to change things, but that their inaction "is as if they wanted an ethnically pure Republika Srpska." He noted that only 10 percent of Roman Catholic refugees and displaced persons have returned home since the end of the conflict at the close of 1995. PM
 ROMANIAN PREMIER DENIES 'PRIBOI SCANDAL' AFFECTS NATO INTEGRATION...Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, on a tour of the western Arad and Timis counties, on 14 February denied that the "Ristea Priboi scandal" is likely to affect his country's NATO integration chances. Nastase said that "as far as he is informed" Priboi "performed his duties as an officer" and "if he is guilty of abuses and excesses, these will have to be examined." Nastase said the affair is being blown up to serve "personal friendships" in the National Liberal Party (PNL). On the same day, PNL First Deputy Chairman Valeriu Stoica said Priboi's appointment, as well as the earlier appointment of Radu Timofte as new Romanian Intelligence Service chief, shows that the "hard-liners" in the party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) who are close in views to the Greater Romania Party (PRM) are still influential. MS
 ...SAYS IMF MUST UNDERSTAND ROMANIA'S SPECIFIC PROBLEMSNastase also said his cabinet considers the IMF to be "a partner in implementing its economic strategy," but added that the fund "must understand Romania's problems at this particular point in time." He said responsibility for Romania's economic policies lies not with the IMF but the country's government, in line with the mandate it received last fall from the electorate. This is why Romania is insisting on a larger budget deficit in parleys with the IMF. An IMF delegation headed by its chief negotiator for Romania, Neven Mates, is currently visiting Romania. MS
 ...IS SKEPTICAL ON SOON MEETING EU REQUIREMENTS FOR VISA ABOLITION...The premier also said he doubts Romania can meet within six months the EU requirements for abolishing visas for Romanian citizens. Nastase said it is more likely that implementing the requirements will take one year. He explained that the most difficult problem is that of securing Romania's border with Ukraine, which necessitates "large financial resources and a great amount of specific equipment." MS
 ...AND OPPOSES HUNGARIAN-LANGUAGE UNIVERSITYNastase said in Arad that "the government does not support the setting up of a Hungarian-language university." He said the existing university structure is capable of meeting the requirements for study in their mother tongue of the Hungarian, as well as of other national minorities. The premier noted that his PDSR had already said during the electoral campaign that it is ready to improve the financing of the Hungarian sections of the Cluj-based Babes-Bolyai University and is also in favor of improving Hungarian professorial representation on that university's decision-making senate. MS
 SENATE 'WARNS' ROMANIANS WHO VISITED IRAQSenate chairman Nicolae Vacaroiu said on 14 February that the chamber's Permanent Bureau has decided to apply the "warning sanction" to the two PRM senators who recently visited Iraq without the prior permission of the Senate, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. On 15 February, Mediafax reported that the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chamber of Deputies has asked the Foreign Ministry to present a report on the possible consequences of the visit. The Romanian "delegation" that went to Iraq also included three deputies--one from the PRM and two from the PDSR. MS
 ROMANIA DENIES REPORTS ON INFRINGING ARMS EMBARGOThe Defense Ministry on 14 February denied a report carried by the British media, according to which a team of UN experts has concluded that Romania, alongside Bulgaria and Ukraine, infringed the UN embargo on arms deliveries to Angola, Mediafax reported. The report was published by "The Daily Mail" and "The Guardian" and says that the weapons were delivered to the Angolan UNITA rebels via Togo and Burkina Faso. MS
 EU PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR MOLDOVA...The EU high-ranking delegation that visited Moldova on 14 February said it is interested in the continued democratization of the country and in contributing to the peaceful resolution of the Transdniester conflict, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said the EU "supports Moldovan territorial integrity" and that Russia must meet the obligations assumed at the November 1999 Istanbul summit. Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh said the EU is interested in stability in Moldova, a country that will become "a neighbor" after the organization's expansion. Commissioner Chris Patten said the EU has pledged 15 million euro (about $14 million) in financial assistance to help fight crime, money laundering and corruption. Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi urged the EU to open a permanent representation in Chisinau and said more EU members should have embassies in Moldova. At present, only Germany and France do so. MS
 ...BUT MOLDOVANS NOT ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT EUJust over 51 percent of Moldovans believe their country should strive for integration into the EU, while 43 percent would rather opt for consolidating relations with other CIS countries, according to an opinion poll conduced by the Romanian Center for Opinion and Market Studies (CSOP), Flux reported on 14 February. Support for EU integration is particularly high among those aged 18 to 29 (66 percent), while 54 percent of those aged 60 and more opt for the CIS. Those with university education are generally inclined to support EU integration (58 percent) while the lesser educated opt for the CIS (60 percent). MS
 RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE HEAD IN MOLDOVANikolai Patrushev, Federal Security Service (FBS) chief, on 14 February conducted talks in Chisinau with his Moldovan counterpart, Information and Security Services chief Valeriu Pasat, Flux and ITAR-TASS reported. They signed an agreement on cooperation to fight international terrorism and the illegal arms trade, extending and amplifying a similar 1994 agreement. In response to a journalist's question, Patrushev said the FBS "has no information" that Russian armaments stationed in the Transdniester may have found their way into the hands of the Chechen rebels, adding that this is nonetheless "theoretically possible." Neither is the FBS aware of the existence of Chechen "rebel camps" in Moldova, Patrushev said. Patrushev also conducted talks in Tiraspol with the separatist leadership and met there with commanders of Russian troops stationed in the region. MS
 ANOTHER POLL SHOWS COMMUNISTS AHEAD IN MOLDOVAInstitute of Social Technologies (IST) director Victor Dordas on 14 February told journalists in Chisinau that three consecutive polls conduced by the IST have shown the Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) enjoys the largest backing. According to the latest poll, which was conducted between 10 and 12 February, the PCM will garner 48.2 percent in the elections scheduled for 25 February. In second place is the Braghis Alliance (18.5 percent), followed by the Popular Party Christian Democratic (7.8) and by the Party of Revival and Conciliation (7.3 percent). Dordas said the Democratic Party is likely to receive between 4.3 and 6.2 percent, Infotag reported. MS
 BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT DEBATES NO-CONFIDENCE MOTIONThe parliament on 14 February began debating the no-confidence motion moved against the cabinet headed by Ivan Kostov by the opposition Socialist Party, Reuters reported. Socialist deputy Tatiana Doncheva accused the government of links with shady businesses and of doing too little to establish the rule of law. Premier Kostov said in reply that "there is no evidence" at present of "serious organized crime in Bulgaria." The vote on the motion is likely to take place on 16 February. MS
 BULGARIAN NATIONAL CARRIER SUSPENDS FLIGHTSThe Israeli Zeevi Holding company, majority owner of Balkan Airlines, announced on 14 February it has decided to halt financing for the airline, "as a result of which Balkan Airlines suspends flying operations," Reuters and AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2001). Zeevi Holding is demanding that the Bulgarian government pay it $230 million for breaches in the acquisition agreement. It also says flights will remain suspended until the government pays it $6 million in compensation for assets missing from the company after its 1999 purchase. Premier Kostov called the demands "unwise and not serious" and said no court will consider them. MS
 U.S. COMPANY TO UPGRADE KOZLODUY REACTORSThe U.S. Westinghouse company signed a $76 million contract on 14 February to update two units at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, AP reported. The project involves the two newer 1,000 megawatt units at the plant, installed between 1987 and 1989. Bulgaria has bowed to EU pressure to close the oldest two 440 megawatt units next year. Kozloduy has a total of six reactors, but only the two newer units have safety encasement. MS
[C] END NOTE
 YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT REVEALS DETAILS OF PRESEVO PEACE PLANBy Jolyon Naegele
Details are now emerging of the peace plan for the Presevo Valley that Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic will present to NATO officials today in Brussels. Several versions of the plan, which is hoped to end a year of ethnic violence in Serbia's southernmost region, have appeared in print recently, leading to confusion over details.
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica helped to clear up some of the confusion at a press conference on 13 February in Belgrade and a letter to the editors of "Politika," which published what they said was a version of the plan.
Kostunica said the final version calls on the international community not to mediate in peace talks between Serbs and ethnic Albanians, but only to support the overall peace process. Kostunica told reporters on 14 February the international community should help the ethnic Albanian side choose a negotiating team that will represent "in the best way the interests -- in fact -- the future coexistence of Serbs and Albanians and not the interests of terrorists or the spread of terrorism and violence in the south of Serbia."
Kostunica said the international community would also be allowed to verify progress in establishing peace in the five-kilometer-wide ground safety zone in the Presevo Valley along Serbia's boundary with Kosovo. The zone is now off limits to the Yugoslav army and to heavy weapons. Ethnic Albanian insurgents control most of the villages in the zone and use it as a haven from which to attack targets beyond the zone. Belgrade would like to reduce the size of the zone.
In his letter to "Politika," Kostunica said he expects the international community to be actively involved in the economic development of the Presevo Valley, which he describes as "extremely poor".
United Nations Security Council members on 13 February expressed support for the Covic plan, saying it deserves serious consideration. They praised the restraint shown by Yugoslav leaders in dealing with the tensions in the Presevo Valley and their assurances of continued respect for the military- technical agreement. But Yugoslavia representative Vladislav Mladenovic warned that time is running out for a peaceful solution. He told the Security Council that "the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia cannot exercise indefinite patience since keeping the situation as it is or the status quo is totally unacceptable."
Covic's "Plan for Resolving the Crisis in Southern Serbia" emphasizes integrating the region's 70,000 Albanians into Serbia's state and social system, and respecting their human rights in keeping with European standards. Some of the specifics of the plan include:
Harmonizing the ethnic make-up of those employed in state services, business, and social activities with the ethnic make-up of the population. In other words, the plan calls for integrating Serbs and ethnic Albanians instead of separating them. Albanians would be guaranteed an "appropriate level of representation" in municipal councils and assemblies, as well as Serbia's government and parliament. Police operations would be ethnically mixed. Patrols would have "one Serb and one Albanian."
The plan also says the insurgents, whom it refers to as "Albanian terrorists," must be told their acts will not receive international support.
But insurgents told RFE/RL's Kosovo unit this week there can be no discussion as long as the Serb side refers to them as "terrorists." The insurgents are far from united over how to respond to the plan. However, some ethnic Albanian leaders, in consultation with insurgents, are preparing their own plan, which they expect to have ready by 19 February.
The mayor of the town of Presevo, Riza Halimi, said on 14 February that ethnic Albanians in the region want "a certain level" of autonomy to protect their rights. He told reporters the nine-member Albanian negotiating team will insist on the full demilitarization of the area and will demand a halt to all hostilities in the municipalities of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac. But Halimi says the Albanian negotiators will not demand a change to any borders - an apparent concession as some insurgents have called for annexing the area with Kosovo.
The Covic plan stipulates that Serbia and Yugoslavia reject as "unacceptable" any kind of autonomy, special status or change in the borders of Serbia and Yugoslavia. It calls for a peaceful and diplomatic solution through direct negotiations between Serbia and Yugoslavia on the one side, including a representative each of Presevo Valley Serbs, Kosovo Serbs and the Serbian Orthodox Church, and a negotiating team of "the Albanian national community" on the other side, with the inclusion of a representative of the Islamic community.
The plan warns that if efforts at a peaceful settlement fail and all other means are exhausted, Serbia and Yugoslavia will be forced to protect their constitutional order by counter-terrorist operations, as the only means left for settling the crisis, provided there is international support for such operations.
The Covic plan says for police to able to protect citizens, the
five kilometer-wide ground safety zone must be narrowed or phased out and that KFOR should allow what the plan calls "appropriate police and army units" into the zone.
The plan also calls for the demilitarization of two large villages outside of the zone which are currently in the hands of the insurgents: Lucane and Veliki Trnovac, both near Bujanovac. Under this plan, the insurgents and the special police units now in the area would have to leave and local police patrols would enter the two villages. The army would withdraw its tanks and heavy artillery from the Veliki Trnovac-Lucane line and from the area around Bujanovac and Presevo. This would then serve as a model for demilitarizing the rest of the region.
The Covic plan also calls for economic development, particularly in agriculture and timber processing, as well as the repair of 527 Serb homes to accommodate 2,300 displaced Serbs from Kosovo. In addition it provides for the repair of all Albanian houses to accommodate displaced Albanians who wish to return to the area.
The plan envisions peace unfolding in three phases. A precondition for phase two would be KFOR's reduction or abolition of the five-kilometer buffer zone. The second phase calls for a complete and permanent halt to terrorist acts, the disarming of the insurgents and the destruction of fortified installations. It also foresees the withdrawal of military and police forces, with a regular, mixed local police and regular military formations to remain. Insurgents would be amnestied and "reintegrated" into civilian life.
A third phase is intended to promote the prosperous development of a multiethnic and multifaith community on democratic principles. This includes the complete integration of Albanians into the socio-political system and the withdrawal of special military and police forces from the region. Displaced persons would be returned to their restored homes.
The plan envisages demilitarization to begin immediately after the agreement is signed, with complete implementation achieved in four months.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty