|Thursday, 20 February 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 29, 98-02-12
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 2, No. 29, 12 February 1998
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 RUSSIA, U.S. TO HELP INVESTIGATE SHEVARDNADZE ASSASSINATION BIDGeorgian Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze told journalists in Tbilisi on 11 February that Russian military officials have agreed to allow Georgian border guards to monitor all flights to and from Russia's military base at Vaziani, near Tbilisi. Some Georgian parliamentary deputies believe President Eduard Shevardnadze's attackers used that facility as a base. Russia has also tightened security measures at its frontier posts with Georgia. The U.S. has offered to send a team of experts to help in the investigation of the failed 9 February attack on Shevardnadze's motorcade. Two days later, on 11 February, Georgian police found the car and weapons used in the assault. The same day, Georgian Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili said he will again demand that Moscow extradite former Georgian Security Minister Igor Giorgadze, who is suspected of master- minding the failed attempt on Shevardnadze's life in August 1995. LF
 ANKARA CONCERNED ABOUT SITUATION IN TRANSCAUCASUSTurkish Minister of State Ahat Andican has expressed concern that instability in the Transcaucasus following the assassination attempt against President Shevardnadze may adversely impact on plans to build a Baku-Ceyhan pipeline for the export of Azerbaijani, Kazakh, and Turkmen Caspian oil, the "Turkish Daily News" reported on 12 February. "Russkii telegraf" had reported the previous day that the Azerbaijani International Operating Committee may fail to meet its fall 1998 deadline for deciding whether to proceed with that project. Andican also said that the 3 February resignation of Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan will lead to a deterioration in Turkish-Armenian relations. He charged that "radicals headed by Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan do not want the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict solved. These are not favorable developments for Turkey and Azerbaijan." LF
 ARMENIAN COMMUNIST LEADER LAUNCHES ELECTION CAMPAIGNSergei Badalian, who polled 6.34 percent of the vote in the 1996 Armenian presidential elections, has unveiled his program for the 16 March poll, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 11 February. Badalian affirmed that, if elected, his first move will be to commit Armenia to membership of the Russia-Belarus union., which, he said, would help resolve the Karabakh conflict. Badalian also pledged to restore local soviets, halt privatization, and amend the constitution to curtail the power of the president and increase that of the parliament. Meeting on 11 February with members of the Fatherland parliamentary faction, Prime Minister and acting President Kocharyan called for the adoption of a new election law and of a statute differentiating between the status of a politician and that of a state official, Noyan Tapan reported. LF
 ARMENIAN SERVICEMAN SHOOTS DEAD SIX COLLEAGUESA private serving with an Armenian military unit at Armavir, 30 kilometers west of Yerevan, shot dead five sleeping servicemen and an officer in the early morning of 11 February, Noyan Tapan reported. The private then fled the barracks. His body was found in Yerevan the next day, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Defense Minister Vazgen Sargsian told journalists that the killer had evaded military service for two years before he was drafted in late 1996. LF
 AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS PROTEST HARASSMENTMass media representatives protested to President Heidar Aliev on 11 February over the assault the previous day on a journalist from the private ANS TV company, Turan reported. The local administrator of Binagadi district had beaten up journalist Eldaniz Aliev, who was investigating complaints by displaced persons living temporarily in the district. LF
 AGREEMENT REACHED ON NEW GOVERNMENT LINEUP IN TAJIKISTANAt their 11 February meeting, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov and United Tajik Opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri agreed on the ministries that are to be handed over to UTO representatives, RFE/RL correspondents in Dushanbe reported. The peace agreement signed last year provided for 30 percent of all posts to be allocated to the UTO. Representatives of the UTO will become ministers of economics (Davlat Usmon), labor and employment (Khudaberdy Kholiknazarov), water resources and land improvement (Davlatbek Makhsudov), and the head of the customs committee (Rahim Karimov). BP
 FRENCH COMPANY SIGNS CONTRACT WITH TURKMENNEFTThe French company Schlumberger has signed a long-term contract with Turkmenistan's national oil company, Turkmenneft, Interfax and AFP reported on 11 February. Schlumberger will service wells and provide equipment for three fields in western Turkmenistan. No details have been released on the total value of the contract. BP
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 PLAVSIC DEMANDS BRCKO FOR SERBS...Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic told an international arbitration hearing in Vienna on 11 February that if the strategically important town of Brcko "is not given to the [Bosnian] Serb Republic, any other solution will mean the division of the republic and a violation of the Dayton agreement." Plavsic warned against allowing the re-unification of Bosnia, saying it is in the interest neither of the Bosnian Serbs nor of peace, SRNA reported. "We can communicate on the basis of our being separated, but if everyone returns to his home and if the inter-entity boundary lines disappear, one might ask why so many victims and why recreate a situation that will lead us to war in a year or two". The 1995 Dayton peace treaty left the territorial status of Brcko to be decided through international arbitration. After a one-year break, hearings resumed last week. U.S. arbiter Roberts Owen, who is presiding over the hearings, is expected to deliver a final ruling on Brcko by 15 March. JN
 ...WHILE MUSLIM LEADERS THREATEN TO WITHDRAW SUPPORT FOR DODIKAlija Izetbegovic, Haris Silajdzic, Ibrahim Spahic, and Rasim Kadic, chairmen of the political parties belonging to the Coalition for a Single and Democratic Bosnia-Herzegovina, met in Sarajevo on 11 February to discuss Brcko. They warned that if the arbiter ignores the principles of the Dayton agreement and allocates Brcko to the Republika Srpska, the Muslim deputies in the Bosnian Serb parliament, who mainly represent Muslim refugees, will withdraw their support for Milorad Dodik's government, Sarajevo TV reported. JN
 AMNESTY ANNOUNCED FOR THOSE WITH COMBAT ITEMS, MINESBosnia's Joint Permanent Military Committee on 11 February announced that an amnesty for those in possession of land mines and combat equipment will begin on 19 February, Sarajevo radio reported. The committee meeting, the third ever, was attended by all members of the Bosnian Presidency, the defense ministers from both entities, and the commanders in chief of the armies of the federation and the Republika Srpska. Representatives of the Office of the High Representative, NATO's Stabilization Force (SFOR), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were present as observers. Participants also agreed on the basic principles for establishing locations and personnel at joint military missions abroad and agreed to announce in March the holders of those posts. JN
 VOJVODINA LEADERS ACCUSE BELGRADE OF ILLEGAL MOBILIZATIONAt a news conference in Novi Sad on 11 February, the leaders of the regional political coalition Vojvodina, Nenad Canak and Miodrag Isakov, accused military authorities in Belgrade of illegally mobilizing reservists in the province of Vojvodina with the assistance of local police. Canak told reporters he has "irrefutable evidence" that the mobilization is under way and that members of "special" units, tank units, and military police are being called up, "Nasa Borba" reported on 12 February. He said that for troops to be mobilized, the country would have to face a military threat, which, he said, is not the case. Canak said the number of Vojvodina's reservists who were killed during the siege of Vukovar or in the fighting in Bosnia is still not known. He does not want a repetition of such bloodshed in Kosovo, he stressed. JN
 BELGRADE REJECTS DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH BOSNIABosnian Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic received an official note from the federal Yugoslav government rejecting the establishment of diplomatic relations between Belgrade and Sarajevo until further notice, Sarajevo's "Vecernje Novine" reported on 11 February. The newspaper quotes the note as saying Belgrade does not intend to open diplomatic relations with Sarajevo until charges of genocide brought by Bosnia-Herzegovina against Yugoslavia before the Hague Tribunal are dropped. JN
 KOSOVAR PARTIES CONFERThe leaderships of the two major ethnic Albanian political parties in Kosovo, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) and the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo (PPK), met in Pristina on 10 February, "Koha Ditore" reported. The participants discussed ways of coordinating activities in the face of increasing repression by Belgrade against the Kosovars. JN
 MONTENEGRIN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL TO PROBE EX- PRESIDENTBozidar Vukcevic has ordered an investigation of former President Momir Bulatovic and three of his close associates for committing "a criminal act by attacking the constitutional structure" of the state. The Prosecutor- General's Office said on 11 February that the investigation focuses on last month's riots, in which some 50 people, mostly police, were injured. Also under investigation are Bulatovic's allies Bozidar Bojovic, Slobodan Vujosevic and Zoran Zizic, all members of parliament. The prosecutor wants the Montenegrin and Yugoslav assemblies to revoke the parliamentary immunity of those deputies. JN
 POLL SHOWS CROATS OPPOSE U.S. BASESSome 51 percent of respondents are against establishing U.S. military bases in Croatia, according to a poll published in "Vecernji list" on 10 February. Some 31 percent are in favor of the proposed military facilities, while 17 percent are undecided. A plurality of respondents nonetheless said that they have a basically positive view of Americans and feel that the bases would have a positive effect on Croatian political life. After his recent visit to the U.S., Defense Minister Gojko Susak said that U.S. General Wesley Clark, the supreme allied commander in Europe, asked permission to station U.S. servicemen in Croatia in order to back up their colleagues in Bosnia. Susak mentioned Zadar and Slavonski Brod as possible sites for bases. The Croatian government wants to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program and eventually the alliance itself. PM
 ALBANIAN DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS GREEK FORCE TO STAYDuring a visit to the southern city of Gjirokaster on 10 February, Sabit Brokaj said the presence of a Greek military unit in Tirana is lawful and based on agreements between Athens and Tirana, ANA reported on 11 February. Brokaj made the remark in response to opposition party criticism of the Greek military presence in Albania. Accompanied by the Greek consul and the U.S. military attache, he attended the inauguration of reconstructed installations of the Liaberia army division in Gjirokaster, destroyed during the unrest one year ago. JN
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY ON IRAQI CRISISA Foreign Ministry spokesman on 11 February said he could "neither confirm nor deny" that the U.S. has asked Romania to participate in preparations for a possible military intervention in Iraq. Mihnea Motoc said Romania and the U.S. are "closely consulting" within their "strategic partnership." He said he could only repeat a statement made last week by the ministry saying that Romania shares the "preoccupation of the international community concerning the danger of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" and that the "only means leading to lifting the sanctions imposed on Iraq is the full and unconditional implementation by the Iraqi government of the UN Security Council resolutions," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 ROMANIAN EXTREMISTS SIGN PROTOCOL ON ALLIANCECorneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of Greater Romania Party (PRM), and Cluj mayor Gheorghe Funar, who heads a dissenting wing of the Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), on 11 February signed a protocol that they called the "first step on the road to setting up the Great Alliance for the Resurrection of the Fatherland." The protocol, which is open to the signatures of other formations, envisages joint actions toward bringing about the dismissal of Victor Ciorbea's government, setting up a "government of national unity," outlawing the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania, and "stopping the pillaging of national assets and the national economy," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. MS
 IMF DELAYS TRANCHE TO MOLDOVAThe IMF will not disburse the next tranche of a $185 million standby loan to Moldova, approved in 1996, until after the 22 March parliamentary elections. The fund's chief representative in Moldova, Mark Horton, told Infotag on 11 February that the IMF wants to hold discussions with the next Moldovan government before deciding whether to release the next tranche. An IMF mission has been meeting with Moldovan officials for the last two weeks and will present its findings on Moldova's economic development to a fund board meeting on 18 March. Only three tranches of the loan, totaling some $52 million, have been disbursed so far; the latest was released last July. The IMF postponed several tranches owing to the country's unsatisfactory economic performance. MS
 REGISTRATION FOR MOLDOVAN ELECTIONS ENDSFourteen political parties and blocs have registered for the 22 March elections, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 11 February, the last day for registering. Twenty-four independent candidates have also registered. The parliament is to decide whether to amend the electoral law to lower the threshold for independents to gain representation from 4 percent to 1 percent. MS
 BULGARIAN PRESIDENT ON IRAQI CRISISPetar Stoyanov told journalists in Washington on 11 February that he hopes Iraq will comply with UN resolutions and that force will not have to be applied. At the same time, he said, he understands the increasing feeling that the Iraqis will have to be forced into compliance. Stoyanov said Bulgaria has economic reasons to want the UN sanctions against Iraq lifted. Baghdad owes Sofia $2 billion and Bulgaria "badly needs" that money for its reforms, he commented. He said that the combined amount owed by Baghdad and the former Yugoslavia as a result of the UN-imposed sanctions is "more than equal" to Bulgaria's entire foreign debt, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. MS
 BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT ACCUSED OF CENSORSHIPFollowing the 9 February decision to ban a satirical television show, the government is being accused of censorship, AFP reported. One day earlier, the show had poked fun at the election of Stoyanov's brother to the board of the national television, while Prime Minister Ivan Kostov was compared to a petty crook and Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova was portrayed as a stripper. Dimitar Koroudjiev, a member of the National Broadcasting Council, explained in an interview with "Trud" that there is a "limit beyond which democracy must defend itself." He said the program had provoked "chaos and hatred" and sought to incite the population against a "government that is fighting to get out of a crisis." MS
[C] END NOTE
 MOUNTING MOSCOW-GROZNY TENSIONSby Floriana Fossato
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov was sworn in one year ago, on 12 February 1997. His victory raised hopes that relations between Moscow and the separatist North Caucasus republic would significantly improve following some 20 months of bloody military conflict. However, one year later, Chechen and Moscow officials are growing increasingly impatient with the lack of progress in their talks.
Earlier this week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ruslan Abdulatipov said Moscow and Grozny are now beginning "real work" to overcome the tragedy of the war, but he added that there are powerful forces in both Moscow and Grozny opposed to any peace agreement.
Abdulatipov said the first meeting of the Russian Security Council inter- ministerial commission on Chechnya would focus on guaranteeing security along the Chechen- Russian border. Chechen border guards officials have said the republic is reinforcing its borders with neighboring Russian regions, particularly Dagestan. Chechen officials were not expected to take part in that meeting.
Abdulatipov also said Moscow and Grozny should work out together a "double compromise" on the status of Chechnya, but he did not elaborate.
A cease-fire agreement in 1996 and a peace treaty signed last year left the republic's status undecided. Since the withdrawal of Russian troops in late 1996, Chechnya has considered itself independent, but Moscow insists that the republic is--and will remain--part of the Russian Federation.
Maskhadov last week recalled all Chechen ministers and agency heads from Moscow and banned all flights from Grozny to the Russian capital. He accused the Kremlin of failing to meet its commitments under the peace accord that he and President Boris Yeltsin signed last May, which included agreements on customs and on direct international flights from Grozny.
Maskhadov also said his government might be "obliged to review whether to go on safeguarding" the 150 kilometers of pipeline delivering oil from the Caspian Sea to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk "if Russia does not honor its commitments under the 1996 Khasavyurt accord and other agreements." More than 400 armed Chechens have guarded the pipeline since November, when oil started flowing.
Chechen Information Minister Akhmed Zakayev has complained that the only agreement implemented by Moscow last year was on oil transit across Chechnya. He added that the agreement was implemented only because it was "advantageous for Russia."
The oil-transit agreement expired at the end of last year and, according to Russian reports, a new one has still to be worked out. The daily "Russkii Telegraf" on 10 February quoted unnamed Russian oil officials as saying negotiations between Moscow and Grozny at the beginning of the year yielded no results and a date for new negotiations has yet to be set.
The problem lies in determining the oil-transit fee. So- called early oil, or limited production capacity, from the Caspian started flowing on 12 November. Under the interim transit deal, a tariff of 43 cents a ton was established. Chechnya had demanded more than $2 a ton. Moscow insisted that 43 cents per ton is the normal transit fee for oil sent by pipeline across Russia. It thereby ignored Chechnya's request to be treated as an independent partner in the deal, instead of one of the 89 "subjects" of the Russian Federation. "Russkii Telegraf" quoted the new head of Chechnya's oil sector, Shirvani Basaev, as saying Chechnya expects oil to start flowing again at a tariff of more than $4 a ton.
Economic and political issues are closely linked in the strained relationship between Moscow and Grozny. Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov has said Chechnya's leadership "will be forced to take decisive steps if there is no breakthrough in the negotiating process in the near future." He has also insisted that a Moscow-Grozny treaty making clear Chechnya's status must be concluded this year. According to Udugov, if Moscow and Grozny do not sign such a treaty in 1998, "we will not be allowed to do so in 1999," when parliamentary elections are scheduled in Russia. Russian presidential elections are due to take place in the year 2000.
The failed assassination attempt against Georgia's President Eduard Shevardnadze on 9 February seems likely further to strain Moscow-Grozny relations.
Udugov reacted angrily at initial reports that one of the attackers was an ethnic Chechen from Dagestan. He blamed the attack on Russian secret services, which, he claimed, wanted to isolate Chechnya and damage its relations with Georgia. Udugov said he does not rule out that the assassination attempt was linked to plans to transit Caspian oil through Georgian territory, a route established as an alternative to the Chechen one. According to Udugov, forces behind the attack "are trying to prove to the world that the Caucasus is an unstable region and that the security of pipelines cannot be assured."
Like Shevardnadze and other Georgian officials, Udugov noted that "it is unlikely a terrorist taking part in such an operation would carry identification papers with him." Udugov said it seemed more likely that the slain attacker was killed by his comrades and the passport planted on his body.
No Russian reaction has followed Udugov's comments. The press secretary of Russia's Security Council, Igor Ignatev, declined comment in a telephone interview with RFE/RL. But he did say that harsh rhetoric does not help to create an atmosphere conducive for negotiations.
The author is a Moscow-based RFE/RL correspondent.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty