|Wednesday, 26 February 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 26, 98-02-09
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 26, 9 February 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN ACTING PRESIDENT HOPES FOR MINSK GROUP SUCCESS...Armenian Prime Minister and acting President Robert Kocharyan said on 7 February that he hopes for a resumption of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group. But Kocharyan added it would be "correct" for the three Minsk Group co- chairmen to express their support for parallel direct talks between the Karabakh and Azerbaijani leaderships, which Baku has consistently rejected. Kocharyan's comments came during a meeting with RFE/RL President Thomas Dine. The Armenian Foreign Ministry also released a statement restating Yerevan's support for the Minsk process and suggesting recent reports that fighting might resume are incorrect. LF
 ...BUT CRITICIZES PREDECESSOR'S APPROACH TO TALKSKocharyan also said that the West had considered former President Levon Ter- Petrossyan's policy of "concessions and exaggerated compromise" to be the best way of resolving the conflict but that this had proved not to be the case. He said Armenia's "softer" approach had deterred Azerbaijan from embarking on direct talks with the Karabakh leadership and caused the Karabakh leadership to lose trust in Armenia. He added that confidence- building measures are vital to resolving the conflict, including the deployment at the front line of observers who would clarify all violations of the existing cease-fire. LF
 ARMENIAN DASHNAK PARTY AGAIN LEGALThe Armenian Justice Ministry on 9 February re-legalized the Dashnak Party (HHD), RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. That party was banned by Ter- Petrossyan in December 1994 on the basis of charges that it had maintained a clandestine terrorist arm. But subsequent trials failed to find a link. Dashnak leaders maintained that the ban was politically motivated and designed to limit opposition to Ter- Petrossyan. In a related move, the Armenian Supreme Court released Hrant Markarian, a prominent HHD member and Karabakh war veteran, after the court reduced his five-year sentence. PG
 MANUKIAN CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS AT POLLS...National Democratic Party (NDU) chairman and presidential candidate Vazgen Manukian told RFE/RL Newsline in Yerevan on 9 February that President Ter- Petrossyan's resignation creates a chance to expedite democratization in Armenia by ensuring the 16 March elections are perceived both by Armenians and the international community as wholly free, fair, and democratic. Both Manukian and Vigen Sargsian, editor of the NDU newspaper "Ayzhm," called for the deployment of the maximum number of international election observers to ensure such a ballot. Manukian said he opposes parliamentary speaker Khosrov Harutyunian's proposal to amend the existing electoral law as the electoral campaign is so short. Manukian also categorically rejected Ter- Petrossyan's assertion that his resignation marks a victory for the "party of war." He said he believes neither Armenia, Azerbaijan, nor Nagorno-Karabakh has an interest in the resumption of hostilities. LF
 ...AS DOES KOCHARYANKocharyan said on 7 February that his government would like to have "large numbers" of international monitors attend the 16 March presidential elections to ensure their fairness and transparency, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Meanwhile, acting Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told RFE/RL on 7 February that there will be unspecified changes in Armenia's Karabakh policy following the presidential elections. Oskanian said that Karabakh will be one of the key issues in the presidential election campaign. LF
 PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS BEGIN IN EARNEST...Leaders of the Armenian Pan-National Movement (HHSh), who support former President Ter-Petrossyan, have said the party should find a way of participating in the upcoming presidential race, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 7 February. The HHSh's two deputy chairmen, Andranik Hovakimian and Ararat Zurabian, said the party should either declare their own candidate or endorse one of the other candidates. Their statements contradict the position of HHSh Chairman Vano Siradeghian, who said the previous day that he will quit if the party decides to participate in the vote. The two men said the HHSh's official line on the elections will be defined at a 16 February extraordinary congress. But Zurabian said he backs the candidacy of Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisian. Sarkisian's refusal to stand by Ter-Petrossyan's softer position on the dispute with Azerbaijan played a key role in the latter's resignation. PG
 ...WHILE PRESIDENTIAL FIELD TAKES SHAPEDefense Minister Sarkisian told the "Respublika" newspaper on 7 February that he will not run for president in the 16 March elections. Acting President Kocharyan has said it is "unlikely" he will compete in the elections. But Armenia's small Communist Party has announced that the party's first secretary, Sergei Badalyan, will run. Soviet-era dissident Paruir Hairikyan has also indicated that he will compete. Given this mix of candidates, the front-runner is NDU leader Manukian, who lost to Ter- Petrossyan in 1996. Manukian has said he will seek to promote democracy and to limit the powers of the presidency. PG
 AZERBAIJANI SOLDIER REPORTED WOUNDED IN CLASH WITH ARMENIAN FORCESThe Azerbaijani Defense Ministry told the Turan news agency on 7 February that an Azerbaijani soldier had been wounded in an attack the previous day by Armenian forces near Nagorno-Karabakh. It provided no details. Neither Armenian nor Karabakh sources have confirmed that report. PG
 TAJIKISTAN TO PROVIDE HUMANITARIAN AID TO AFGHANISTANThe Tajik government has promised to deliver humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and to allow international organizations to use its airports for such deliveries, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 February. Earthquakes last week in northern Afghanistan left more than 4,000 people dead and many more homeless. BP
 MOTHERS DEMONSTRATE IN KAZAKHSTANSome 500 women and children gathered outside the Kentau administration building on 6 February to demand payment of back wages, pensions, children's allowances, and sick leave compensation. TAR-TASS reported on 7 February. The protesters stood outside the building all night, and several pregnant women were taken to the hospital after fainting. Meanwhile, AFP reported on 6 February that 70 people taking part in a hunger strike in Janatas--also over unpaid wages--have been hospitalized. One of the strikers died last week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1998). BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 KOSOVAR LEADER URGES WEST TO PREVENT BALKAN CONFLICTKosovo shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova said in Pristina that the international community should put pressure on Serbia to stop violent incidents between Albanians and Serbs and to launch a dialogue with the Albanians. Rugova warned that "if a conflict erupts in Kosovo, it will surely spread across the wider Balkan area." Rugova also called for Serbia and the international community to recognize Kosovar independence. Rugova and his policy of non-violence have increasingly lost political ground in Kosovo in recent months to the clandestine Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), which favors direct action against Serbia. Rugova has failed to attract sufficient international support to attain his minimal goal of political autonomy. The U.S. and EU have ruled out Kosovar independence as an option. PM
 KINKEL CALLS FOR KOSOVO AUTONOMYGerman Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said in Tirana on 6 February that Kosovo should enjoy "extended autonomy" within Serbia but not become independent. "We'll not tolerate that [the Albanian] 90 percent of the population is maltreated and oppressed by the [Serbian] 10 percent." Kinkel also stressed that the current instability in Kosovo has prompted many Kosovars to seek refuge in Germany. "There are 400,000 [mainly Kosovar] Albanians in Germany, 140,000 of whom have asked for asylum. Another 500 to 2,000 arrive every month... This is a problem that should be addressed," he commented. Kinkel also said that Kosovo was the most important issue on the agenda during his talks with top Albanian officials in Tirana. On 8 February, Belgrade's official news agency Tanjug accused Kinkel of meddling in Balkan affairs with the aim of expanding German influence in the region. PM
 NANO URGES DIALOGUE IN KOSOVOAlbanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano told an Athens daily that Kosovo is an internal affair of Yugoslavia and that Albania expects that the situation in Kosovo will improve as Yugoslavia becomes more democratic and more integrated into European institutions, BETA news agency reported on 8 February. Nano added that his government is following "Belgrade's retrograde policies in Kosovo with great concern" and is disturbed by the Yugoslav authorities' reluctance to enter into a dialogue with the Kosovars (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 1998). PM
 PALE TO COOPERATE WITH BANJA LUKAMomcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency and a leader of the Pale-based faction loyal to Radovan Karadzic, issued a statement in Pale on 7 February in which he pledged to work with the government of Prime Minister of Milorad Dodik. Krajisnik said that he continues to regard Dodik's election last month as flawed but noted he will work with Dodik and President Biljana Plavsic "in the interests of the Republika Srpska." PM
 KLEIN URGES RESTORATION OF BOSNIAN RAIL TRAFFICJacques Klein, a deputy of the international community's Carlos Westendorp, said in Sarajevo on 7 February that the rail system presents "the worst case of all the public utilities [in Bosnia]. Almost no train is running..., [which] means waste on a large scale, because no train means no investment, no investment means no jobs." Klein spoke after Republika Srpska Transport Minister Marko Pavic and his federal counterpart Rasim Gacanovic signed an agreement on restoring rail links between the two halves of the country. The German Volkswagen company has made restoration of rail traffic a condition for reopening its key Vogosca factory in the Sarajevo suburbs. PM
 DEADLINE FOR MOSTARHanns Schumacher, another deputy of Westendorp, told Croatian and Muslim political leaders in Mostar on 7 February that they must agree on the appointment of officials in the city's six districts by the end of the month or he will make the choices for them. Local elections took place last September, but the Muslims and Croats have not been able to agree fully on a division of offices between them. PM
 SERBIAN PRISONERS END HUNGER STRIKESome 16 Serbs convicted by Croatian courts of war crimes ended a six-day hunger strike in a Split prison on 8 February after Justice Minister Miroslav Separovic promised to speed up a review of their appeals. The Serbs were arrested by Croatian forces during and after the 1995 Croatian offensive and subsequently given sentences ranging between five and 15 years for murdering and mistreating Croatian civilians and policemen and for mining the Peruca dam in 1991. PM
 YUGOSLAVIA SAYS CROATS STALLING ON WAR FILESMaksim Korac, the Yugoslav government's chief representative on issues regarding persons reported missing during the 1991-1995 war, said on 7 February in Belgrade that his mission to Zagreb the previous week was "a failure." Korac charged that the Croatian authorities were not forthcoming on providing information on 3,143 missing Serbs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February 1998). PM
 SANDZAK MUSLIMS BACK MONTENEGRIN GOVERNMENTSandzak Muslim political leader Rasim Ljajic said in Novi Pazar on 7 February that his coalition of Muslim parties supports the new government of Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic and is confident that the government will carry out necessary political and electoral reforms. The historical region of Sandzak is divided between Serbia and Montenegro. Muslims make up just over one half of its population, but their political leaders charge that the nationalist leadership of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his Montenegrin allies led by former President Momir Bulatovic discriminate against the Muslims. Albanian and Muslim votes helped Montenegrin President Djukanovic defeat Bulatovic last October. PM
 ALBANIAN ARMS TRADE BOOMINGPolice near Salonika on 6 February arrested two Greek brothers transporting $3,500 worth of weapons from the Albanian border, where they bought the weapons from smugglers, to sell in Greece. The haul included over 64 Kalashnikov rifles, 45 assault rifles, 19 automatic weapons, and an unspecified number of grenades and anti-tank rockets. The Albanian authorities' efforts to persuade citizens to surrender weapons stolen from military bases and police stations during the anarchy last spring have met with only limited success, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote on 6 February. The authorities in neighboring Greece, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia have frequently discovered arms smuggled from Albania and have demanded that the government in Tirana take measures to stop the trade. PM
 ROMANIAN PREMIER OUTLINES 1998 ECONOMIC PROGRAM...Victor Ciorbea on 6 February told journalists in Bucharest that this year's budget envisages annual inflation at 37 percent (compared with 151 percent in 1997) and a deficit equivalent to 3.6 percent of GDP (4.5 percent in 1997). Forty percent of the budget will be used for the social costs of the reform, which is to be stepped up. The final version of the budget will be submitted to the parliament after discussions with the IMF chief representative for Romania Poul Thompsen who begins a two-week visit to Romania on 9 February. Democratic leader Petre Roman on 7 February said Ciorbea has not presented a program negotiated with his party but rather a "list of intentions," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ...INTRODUCES NEW CABINET MEMBERSConstantin Dudu Ionescu of the National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) is new minister of national defense. Also representing the PNTCD in the government are Ioan Avram Muresean, who is in charge of relations with the parliament, and Romica Tomescu, who has been appointed environment minister. The new ministers from the National Liberal Party are Anton Ionescu (transportation) and Mihai Sorin Stanescu (secretary of state with ministerial rank at the Defense Ministry). The Romanian Alliance Party, which is a member of the Democratic Convention of Romania, is represented by Horia Ene as minister of research and technology. The parliament has yet to approve the appointments. MS
 CONFLICTING REPORTS ON VAN DER STOEL'S VISITHigh Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel told Radio Bucharest on 6 February, after meetings with Senate Chairman Petre Roman, Education Minister Andrei Marga, and Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania leader Bela Marko, that European legislation on national minorities "neither prohibits nor compels" setting up universities offering instruction in national minority languages but "leaves an open door" to it. Marko said he received assurances from the commissioner that "at no point" during his visit did he recommend "restrictive measures" on teaching in national minorities languages. Marga said he supports separate sections for minorities within existing universities but not separate universities. Roman adopted a similar position, stressing that members of national minorities must master the country's "official language." MS
 MOLDOVANS REGRET DEMISE OF USSRNearly two- thirds (63 percent) of Moldovans believe that the demise of the USSR was detrimental for Moldova, according to an opinion poll conducted by the independent institute Opinia. Of those questioned,18.8 percent were of the opinion that the demise of the Soviet Union did "more good than harm." Moreover, 50.1 percent were opposed to a multi-party system, 32.7 percent were against democracy, 29.6 percent were opposed to private property, and, 25.7 percent were not in favor of freedom of emigration. But 59.7 favored freedom of speech and a free press, while 65.7 percent want closer ties with Western countries, Infotag reported on 6 February. MS
[C] END NOTE
 RUSSIA CRITICIZES PLANS TO CREATE NORTH-EAST NATO CORPSby Jan de Weydenthal
Germany, Denmark, and Poland are planning to establish a joint military force to guard the western approach to the Baltic Sea. Those plans have been criticized by Russia.
The force is to be called the Multinational Corps North-East and is to consist of three divisions, each from one country. Totaling some 25,000 troops under a rotating command, the force will be headquartered in the northern Polish city of Szczecin. It will also be NATO's first-ever permanent military mission in East Central Europe. Last year, the alliance invited Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join its ranks.
Andrzej Karkoszka, a former deputy minister of defense in the previous Polish government who was responsible for military and strategic planning, told RFE/RL on 4 February that the plans to establish the corps reflect the prevailing emphasis in NATO on creating multinational ties among separate members of the alliance.
Those trends have been evident since the establishment in 1993 of the Eurocorps, which, though separate from NATO, brought together German and French rapid-reaction military units. Similarly, there is a German- Dutch NATO division based in western Germany as well as a German-Danish NATO unit also stationed in Germany.
This pattern of transnational military cooperation is now being applied to Eastern European newcomers to NATO. Karkoszka said the experiment is currently limited to Poland, but there is a "theoretical" possibility that Czech military units will eventually be brought into the corps.
The plans to establish the Multinational Corps North- East have met with criticism from Russia. Visiting Germany last month, Russian Minister of Defense Igor Sergeev was reported to have complained that the move amounted to NATO's "advancing toward the Russian border with weapons in its hands." Sergeev said there is no need to create such multinational military units in East Central Europe.
Sergeev reportedly dismissed arguments by German officials that the corps will be purely defensive in nature and will not be equipped with nuclear weapons. Those officals had also pointed out that its operations will be relatively limited and that it will serve to promote regional stability through international integration and cooperation.
That view has reflected Russia's long-time policy toward NATO. While ready to develop bilateral cooperative links with the alliance, Moscow has been consistently critical of NATO's decision to expand in the East. Its stance has not changed, although Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic will almost certainly enter the alliance next year. Earlier this week, Canada and Denmark formally ratified the accord of those countries' accession to NATO.
Russia has increasingly criticized specific integrative efforts by NATO member states aimed at facilitating the membership of East-Central European countries (particularly extending military multinational groups and joint command centers to include those countries). That approach appears to reflect a hope that persistent criticism of any such efforts may eventually affect their implementation and that NATO enlargement in the East will be reduced to mere political rather than full military integration.
There is no indication, however, that Russia's criticism will affect the decision to set up the North-East corps. Rather, each of the three prospective partners appears to regard the new military force as a major step toward enhancing regional stability.
The author is an RFE/RL senior correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty