|Monday, 17 February 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 24, 98-02-05
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 24, 5 February 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 KOCHARIAN ALLY ELECTED ARMENIAN PARLIAMENTARY SPEAKERKhosrov Harutunian, a long-time adviser of acting President Robert Kocharian, has been elected speaker of the parliament by a vote of 99 to 66, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 4 February. Khosrov was prime minister briefly in 1992 but was dismissed by then president Levon Ter- Petrossyan over policy differences. Also on 4 February, the parliament formally accepted Ter-Petrossyan's resignation (see "End Note" below). PG
 KOCHARIAN SAYS ARMENIAN VOTE WILL TAKE PLACE ON SCHEDULE...Acting President Kocharian said on 4 February that new presidential elections will take place within 40 days, as specified by the constitution, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Kocharian said the vote will be free and fair but declined to hint whether he will be a candidate. Because Kocharian comes from Nagorno-Karabakh, he would be allowed to run only if the constitutional provisions on Armenian citizenship and residency for the presidency are waived. PG
 ...OUTLINES HIS PLANS FOR KARABAKH, ARMENIAKocharian says he is committed to a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Karabakh and that his accession to the presidency does not represent any threat to peace, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 February. But Kocharian suggested that the current stability in the region may be upset by the introduction of peacekeepers or observers--both of which are provisions of the peace formula suggested by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group. In another move certain to strengthen those opposed to the Minsk Group formula, Kocharian announced he will re-legalize the Dashnak party, a nationalist group that Ter-Petrossyan banned in December 1994 for alleged involvement in terrorism. PG
 INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY EXPRESSES REGRET, HOPE OVER CHANGESGovernments around the world have generally reacted with regret over Ter- Petrossyan's resignation but also with hope that the political changes in Yerevan will not affect the Karabakh peace process or change Armenia's relations with other countries. Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev convened his Security Council and announced that he is "concerned" by developments in Yerevan, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 February. Russia's President Boris Yeltsin and State Duma leaders expressed regret at Ter-Petrossyan's departure but said they hope that ties between Yerevan and Moscow will remain strong. A U.S. State Department spokesman praised Ter-Petrossyan but said Washington has "every hope" that the OSCE Minsk Group's proposals will ultimately be accepted as the basis for peace. France, the third co- chairman of that group, expressed deep regret but also said it hopes that the peace process will continue. PG
 UTO FREES MORE GOVERNMENT TROOPSForces loyal to the United Tajik Opposition in the central Tavil-Dara region have freed the last 44 Tajik government soldiers captured during fighting there in 1996-1997, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. The UTO claims it has now freed all government soldiers captured in the five-year civil war. UTO spokesman Yusuf Khakimov said the organization now awaits "the release of 1,300 opposition soldiers from government prisons." BP
 TAJIK DEBT TO UZBEKISTAN RESCHEDULEDUzbek Prime Minister Utkur Sultanov paid a one-day visit to Tajikistan on 4 February to meet with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. The two leaders agreed to reschedule payment of Tajikistan's $150 million debt to Uzbekistan until the year 2000. They also discussed Tajikistan's entry into the Central Asian Customs Union (whose members are Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan) and Uzbek President Islam Karimov's upcoming visit to Tajikistan. Sultanov also met with his Tajik counterpart, Yahye Azimov, to discuss bilateral trade. BP
 HUNGER STRIKER DIES IN KAZAKHSTANOne of the hunger strikers in the southern city of Janatas has died, RFE/RL correspondents in Almaty reported. The 26-year-old Jumahan Esentayev, who worked at the Janatas phosphorus plant, died of a heart attack. Some of the plant's workers have been on hunger strike for three months demanding payment of wage arrears, which in some cases go back three years. BP
 KAZAKH CHILDREN ACCIDENTALLY INFECTED WITH TUBERCULOSISNegligence among medics in Janatas is being blamed for the infection of 133 children with tuberculosis, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 February. The children were diagnosed with disease last September and given inoculations of the wrong vaccine. Local officials attempted to cover up the mistake, and the incident went unreported until "several days ago." Criminal proceedings have been launched against both the medics and those who covered up the incident. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 NEW MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEDPrime Minister-designate Filip Vujanovic on 4 February presented to the parliament his nominations for the new government. There are five deputy prime ministers in the multi-party cabinet, and the key ministries remain in the hands of the governing Democratic Socialist Party of President Milo Djukanovic. The new director of state-run radio and television is outgoing Culture Minister Goran Rakocevic, and the new editor-in-chief of state-run television is Velibor Covic, who until now was RFE/RL's Podgorica correspondent. Vujanovic said his priorities include promoting democratization, economic reform, privatization, relations with Croatia, and international ties. PM
 BELGRADE HIGH SCHOOL BLAST INJURES 16Two 15 year-old students were badly injured when they accidentally set off a grenade at their school on 4 February. The explosion also injured 14 of their class-mates. PM
 YUGOSLAVIA GIVES VUKOVAR FILES TO CROATIAOfficials of the Yugoslav agency dealing with questions of missing persons from the 1991-1995 war have handed over to their Croatian counterparts the medical records of 393 Croats who disappeared after the Serbs took Vukovar in November 1991. The Croatian authorities will use the files to help identify bodies in a Vukovar cemetery when exhumations begin later in February. The Croats also received 350 files on unidentified bodies and asked the Yugoslavs about the possible location of mass graves of Croats on Yugoslav territory. Meanwhile in Vukovar, local Serbian leader Vojislav Stanimirovic said that Serbs in eastern Slavonia feel increasingly threatened by Croats returning to see the homes they formerly owned and in which Serbs now live. And in Zagreb, officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe criticized Croatian policies on returning refugees. OSCE representatives did not provide any details to the press. PM
 SCHUMACHER WARNS HERZEGOVINIAN CROATSHanns Schumacher, a deputy of the international community's Carlos Westendorp, told Croatian officials in Stolac on 4 February that attacks on returning Muslim refugees must stop. He added that the violence "violates human rights and we will do all we can to stop this." Schumacher said that he holds Mayor Pero Raguz responsible and will sack him if local Croatian police and other officials do not cooperate more fully with representatives of the international community within seven days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 1998). PM
 MACEDONIA WANTS NATO PEACEKEEPERSPrime Minister Branko Crvenkovski told the NATO Council in Brussels on 4 February that his government wants a "European" peacekeeping force stationed in Macedonia once the current UN peacekeepers' mandate runs out in August. Unnamed NATO diplomats told Western news agencies, however, that Russia does not favor a role for NATO in Macedonia and that the UN, not the Atlantic alliance, will make any decision on the future of peacekeeping after August. The current UN mission marks the first time that UN peacekeepers have been sent to a region to prevent a conflict from spilling across borders rather than to separate warring parties. PM
 POLITICAL REASONS FOR CANCELED MEETINGS?A spokesman for the Macedonian Defense Ministry said in Skopje on 4 February that a meeting of the Macedonian, Albanian, Bulgarian, and Greek defense ministers to discuss regional security issues has been indefinitely postponed. No reason was given for delaying that meeting, which was slated for later this month in Ohrid. Meanwhile in Ljubljana, a spokesman for the Slovenian Foreign Ministry announced the indefinite postponement of Foreign Minister Boris Frlec's visit to Britain on 5 February. No reason was given. Slovenia is currently a member of the UN Security Council, and Frlec was slated to discuss Iraq with his British counterpart, Robin Cook. Frlec has been under sharp criticism recently from the opposition and the media for having allegedly been too accommodating in a series of talks with Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel. PM
 ITALIAN-SLOVENIAN COMPENSATION DISPUTE OVER?Frlec, his Italian counterpart Lamberto Dini, and Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs agreed in Brdo pri Kranju on 4 February that a proposed trilateral peacekeeping unit could be set up within three months and be sent to Bosnia when SFOR's mandate runs out in June. Dini later said the three countries must "harmonize [their] activities so that [they] can limit illegal immigration." He added that Italy has agreed to accept money from special funds set up years ago by Croatia and Slovenia to compensate Italians who fled those two republics in the wake of World War Two. Dini stressed that Rome wants to "put the property question behind it" and move on to European integration. PM
 ALBANIAN POLICE CHIEF REBELS AGAINST SUPERIORSFlorenc Shpuza, the chief of the criminal police in the southern city of Devoll, launched an armed rebellion against his superiors on 4 February, charging them with corruption, "Koha Jone" reported. The conflict broke out after Agron Brockaj, who heads all local police units, ordered Shpuza to be suspended from duty for alleged misconduct. Shpuza responded by gathering together a number of his friends, some of whom are policemen, and threatening to kill Brockaj. Shpuza and his supporters later blocked the main highway and engaged in a shoot-out with special police forces from Korca. Nobody was injured, and the rebels fled the scene. FS
 ALBANIAN PREMIER DEMANDS FASTER PACE OF REFORMFatos Nano told his ministers on 4 February that they must carry out his reform program more quickly. Speaking at a cabinet meeting, he complained about the lack of coordination between government agencies and stressed that every department must put its own house in order, "Shekulli" reported. He added that the reasons behind firings and appointments are often unclear and that some departments have too many personnel. FS
 SIGNING OF ROMANIAN COALITION PROTOCOL POSTPONED AGAINThe leaders of the coalition parties, meeting on 4 February, were unable to finalize the new coalition protocol, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea said the protocol will be signed on 5 February. Earlier, the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR) Council decided that the portfolios left vacant by the Democrats' withdrawal from the government will be filled by ministers from the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (defense, environment, and relations with the parliament), the National Liberal Party (transportation), and Romanian Alliance (research). The Liberals have nominated Anton Ionescu as transportation minister. They will also have a secretary of state with ministerial rank for defense and have nominated Sorin Stanescu for that post. MS
 DEMOCRATS CONFIRM MARGINALIZATION OF SEVERINDemocratic Party leader Petre Roman told journalists on 4 February that the party's Standing Bureau has redistributed the duties of the party's vice chairmen and that Adrian Severin has been assigned no responsibility. Roman said the decision was due to "what Mr. Severin has been doing lately--and everybody knows what I have in mind." Severin, who has recently criticized Roman's handling of the coalition crisis, refused to comment. Roman also said the new coalition protocol about to be signed does not signal that his party has given up its aim to have the premier replaced. And party deputy chairman Victor Babiuc said the Democrats' deputy ministers will also resign from the government, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 TIRASPOL AUTHORITIES IMPOSE ENTRY TAXThe authorities in the separatist region have imposed an entry tax on all non-residents of the Transdniester, including Moldovan residents, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 4 February. The tax on non-residents is $10, which is the average weekly wage in Moldova. Those entering the region are also required to register with the police within three hours of crossing the border. Gheorghe Cirlan, Moldovan chief representative on the Joint Control Commission, which oversees the truce, described the new measures "unconstitutional and judicially void" as well as "contravening the principles of peace-keeping in the security zone." MS
 BULGARIANS CELEBRATE SOCIALISTS' DEMISESeveral thousand people rallied in Sofia on 4 February to mark the first anniversary of the Socialist Party's decision not to form a new government, despite its parliamentary majority at the time, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The former ruling party was compelled to make such a decision in the wake of mass demonstrations against its mismanagement of the economy. In the April 1997 elections, the Socialist were forced into opposition. Premier Ivan Kostov said Bulgaria is now "respected by the world" because "we succeeded in ousting an incompetent government and did it without violence." In a 4 February statement, the Socialists said their decision one year earlier was "a wise step to avoid civil war." MS
[C] END NOTE
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION LIKELY TO CAUSE POLICY CHANGESby Emil Danielyan
The sudden resignation of Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan is likely to have far-reaching consequences for both the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Armenia's internal politics.
An immediate result is that politicians who take a harder line are now in full control of the country. Prime Minister Robert Kocharian is acting president. Both he and his ministers have consistently rejected the recent "phased" peace plan on Nagorno-Karabakh proposed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group.
That plan, which has been approved by Ter-Petrossyan and Azerbaijan, would provide for the withdrawal of the Karabakh Armenian forces from six occupied districts in Azerbaijan proper before Nagorno-Karabakh's status is resolved. Ter-Petrossyan argued that confidence-building measures would facilitate an overall agreement on status.
Kocharian's government and Karabakh Armenians, however, say the plan is too dangerous because it provides no sufficient guarantees that Azerbaijan will not attack the disputed enclave once it regains lost territories. Instead, they call for a "package" deal that would involve a single framework accord on all contentious issues.
With the new Armenian leadership and Nagorno- Karabakh certain to reject the "phased" approach, the Russian, U.S. and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group may be forced to return to the "package" strategy. International mediators from the OSCE postponed a meeting in Paris on 4 February pending the resolution of the political crisis in Armenia.
In his final address to the nation, Ter-Petrossyan said internal government disputes over the peace process merely disguise fundamental differences on how and when to end the 10-year dispute with Azerbaijan.
Ter-Petrossyan appears to believe that Armenia has no prospect of economic development without a lasting peace with Azerbaijan. In his view, Armenia will eventually find it very difficult to cope with the oil-rich Azerbaijan. That made him inclined to compromise on Karabakh's status, namely to accept Karabakh returning to Azerbaijani rule but preserving a high degree of autonomy, its own armed forces, and a land corridor link to Armenia.
Kocharian and his two closest associates, Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian and Interior and National Security Minister Serzh Sarkisian (who is not related to Vazgen), take a much tougher view. They rule out any "vertical subordination" of Karabakh to Baku. Kocharian recently said that Armenia should insist on the establishment of some kind of trilateral confederation in which Karabakh and Azerbaijan would be equal entities.
Having forced Ter-Petrossyan's resignation, Kocharian and his associates feel that Armenia could reach prosperity even without a settlement of the Karabakh issue.
Karabakh is important to the Armenians because of historical and psychological factors. After having lost territories for centuries, the Armenians are reluctant to "lose" Karabakh now that they have won a war against Azerbaijan.
But it is clear that the ouster of Ter-Petrossyan will affect the peace process for at least several months. International reaction will depend on internal political developments in Armenia. Ter-Petrossyan's resignation will result in either the country's democratization or stronger authoritarian rule than is the case at present. Observers believe that democratization is the more likely of those two options.
Kocharian said on 4 February that presidential elections, scheduled for March, will be free and fair. He seems to think that he has good chances of winning those elections. Although only an Armenian citizen can become president, Kocharian, who comes from Nagorno-Karabakh, may find a loophole in the constitution enabling him to run.
Kocharian is likely to rally a broad coalition behind him. The re- legalization of the banned Dashnak party, expected later this week, will give a crucial boost to Kocharian's popularity. His main challenger will probably be the former opposition presidential candidate, Vazgen Manukian. In fact, the two men have similar agendas: both favor democratization and a firmer stand on Karabakh.
Another option is that Armenia could be transformed into a parliamentary republic. That idea is supported by most opposition parties but has not been formally considered.
The author is an RFE/RL corresponent based in Yerevan.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty