|Wednesday, 22 January 2020|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 191, 00-10-03
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 4, No. 191, 3 October 2000
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT ASKED TO RULE ON PARLIAMENT SPEAKERParliamentary deputy speaker Gagik Aslanian on 2 October signed the parliament's disputed 27 September decision to accept the resignation of speaker Armenian Khachatrian, which President Robert Kocharian submitted to the Constitutional Court with a request to rule on its validity, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), to which both Khachatrian and Aslanian belong, argue that an absolute majority of 66 of the 131 deputies is needed for the decision to be binding. Only 63 deputies approved Khachatrian's resignation. Also on 2 October, the leaders of five parliamentary parties who claim that Khachatrian is acting illegally by refusing the recognize the validity of the vote to accept his resignation met with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian to continue consultations on naming a new parliamentary leadership. LF
 ARMENIA DENIES PRESSURING U.S. CONGRESS OVER GENOCIDE BILLArmenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ara Papyan on 2 October rejected a statement unanimously approved by the Turkish parliament the previous day accusing Armenia of pressuring the U.S. Congress to adopt a bill in effect recognizing as genocide the killings in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Turkish statement warned the Armenian leadership to stop raising the issue in the international arena or risk a further deterioration of its already strained relations with Turkey. Papyan said that Ankara should raise with Washington its objections to the U.S. bill rather than blame support for it on Armenia. He added that "threatening statements" from the Turkish authorities are unacceptable. Papyan explained that while seeking recognition that the 1915 deaths were genocide is one of Armenia's foreign policy priorities, Yerevan is not seeking to exacerbate relations with Turkey. "On the contrary, we believe that problems between the two peoples can be overcome if they jointly try to find acceptable solutions." he said. LF
 BAN ON AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION PARTY'S ELECTION PARTICIPATION UPHELDAzerbaijan's Appeals Court on 2 October rejected an appeal by the opposition Musavat party against the Central Electoral Commission's refusal to register Musavat's proposed candidates to contest the 25 mandates to be allocated under the proportional system in the 5 November parliamentary poll, Turan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2000). The commission had ruled that out of the total 54,000 signatures that Musavat had submitted, fewer than the minimum 50,000 were valid. Musavat secretary Arif Hadjiev said that a further examination had proved that 6,250 of the 9, 758 signatures that the commission had rejected were genuine and valid. He accused the commission of bowing to political pressure to exclude the Musavat party from the ballot. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT RULES OUT TALKS WITH KARABAKH LEADERSSpeaking on his return to Baku on 29 September, President Heidar Aliev rejected the suggestion by his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, at the UN Millennium Summit that direct talks between the leadership of Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic would be the most effective way to reach a solution to the Karabakh conflict, according to Azerbaijani State Television, as cited by Groong. Aliev recalled that former Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov had similarly proposed direct talks with Stepanakert before his March 1992 ouster. Aliev also rejected as "fantasy and lies" claims by Mutalibov's supporters to have collected more than 1 million signatures in support of their demand that he be allowed to return to Azerbaijan from Moscow. LF
 ONE HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG QUESTIONS REPORTS OF GEORGIAN JAIL BREAK...In a statement released in Frankfurt am Main on 2 October, Germany International Society for Human Rights casts doubt on Georgian media reports that 12 prisoners escaped the previous day from a Tbilisi jail through a 30-meter tunnel they had dug. The statement quotes Georgian Prosecutor-General Djamlet Babilashvili as questioning how former Finance Minister Guram Absandze, who weighs more than 150 kilograms, could have made his way through such a tunnel. The society expressed concern that the alleged jail break may be a pretext for liquidating Absandze, a supporter of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia who is currently on trial on charges of involvement in the February 1998 attempt to assassinate President Eduard Shevardnadze. It suggests that the Georgian authorities may subsequently announce that Absandze was "shot while resisting capture." LF
 ...AS ANOTHER SLAMS GEORGIA'S 'BACKTRACKING' ON REFORM OF OVERSIGHT SYSTEMAlso on 2 October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement deploring the repeal by the Georgian parliament of amendments to the criminal procedural code that had increased access to courts by prisoners or detainees who alleged torture or abuse by police, procuracy, or security officials. That vote was taken just weeks after Georgia became a full member of the Council of Europe in April 1999. HRW also claimed that since Georgia's accession to that organization there has been no improvement in what HRW called Georgia's "abysmal record on torture." LF
 PRESIDENT CHARGES DIPLOMATIC CORPS WITH IMPROVING KAZAKHSTAN'S INTERNATIONAL IMAGE...Addressing Foreign Ministry staff in Astana on 2 October, President Nursultan Nazarbaev criticized unnamed Kazakh diplomats abroad for their passivity and urged them to make greater efforts to create a positive image of the country, Interfax reported. Nazarbaev also characterized as unsatisfactory Kazakh diplomatic missions' failure to promote economic relations, noting that direct foreign investment in Kazakhstan declined from $1.34 billion in 1998 and $1.41 billion in 1999 to less than $500 million in the first six months of this year. LF
 ...PROMOTING SETTLEMENT OF AFGHAN CONFLICTNazarbaev also called on Kazakh diplomats to join the search for effective approaches to ending the civil war in Afghanistan, Interfax reported. He argued that the incursions into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in August by fighters from the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan demonstrate that the actions of Islamic militants in Central Asia, Chechnya, China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region and Afghanistan are interconnected. LF
 KYRGYZ SECURITY OFFICIAL AGAIN WARNS OF AFGHAN 'THREAT'Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary General Bolot Djanuzakov told journalists in Bishkek on 2 October that developments in Afghanistan pose a threat to the security of Central Asia, Interfax reported. He said the influx into Central Asian states of drugs, arms, and "international terrorists" from Afghanistan has been steadily increasing. Djanuzakov said Kyrgyz government troops continue to hunt down the last remaining IMU militants in southern Kyrgyzstan and killed 10 of them last week. LF
 UZBEKISTAN ADMITS TO 'INFORMAL' TALKS WITH TALIBANUzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov told journalists in Tashkent on 2 October that Uzbekistan's ambassador in Pakistan met the previous day in Islamabad with Taliban representatives, AP reported. Komilov said that the two sides pledged non-interference in each other's internal affairs. Komilov added that numerous other countries have established such contacts with the Taliban, but he declined to name them. He said Uzbekistan will recognized the legitimacy of any government in Afghanistan that has the support of that country's population. Meanwhile AP reported on 2 October that the Uzbek government has banned foreign tour firms from taking tourists to the border mountain regions that were the scene of fighting between IMU and Uzbek government forces in August-September. LF
 DOSTUM DENIES HELPING UZBEK AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN ON ISLAMIC MILITANTSAfghan Uzbek General Abdurrashid Dostum on 1 October rejected allegations that his men fought alongside Uzbek government troops this summer in the latter's campaign to repel incursions by the IMU, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Dostum said his men are currently fighting against Taliban forces in Afghanistan. In a telephone interview with the BBC on 29 September, IMU leader Tahir Yuldash had accused Dostum and Tajik renegade Colonel Mahmud Khudoberdiev of participating in fighting in Uzbekistan against the IMU militants. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SERBIAN GENERAL STRIKE ENTERS SECOND DAYTens of thousands of protesters gathered in several cities and towns on 2 October to demand that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic leave office and to hail the victory of opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica in the recent Yugoslav elections. Some 60,000 people turned out in Kragujevac, while up to 40,000 took to the streets in Novi Sad and the same number in Kraljevo, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. In Novi Sad, some returning gold-medal winners from the Yugoslav Olympic team addressed the crowd. Milosevic had hoped to co-opt the athletes for his cause by awarding them a high state medal for their "patriotism." On 3 October, Reuters reported from Belgrade that the protests have "little effect on life in the capital." Many businesses are open and traffic, including public transportation, is moving freely. AP reported, however, that several roads remain blocked and that bus traffic has been cut between Serbia and Montenegro. PM
 SERBIAN GENERAL FAILS TO GET MINERS BACK TO WORKGeneral Nebojsa Pavkovic, who is the chief of the General Staff and a staunch Milosevic loyalist, appealed to striking miners at the important Kolubara coal mine to end their support for the general strike and return to work, AP reported from Belgrade on 3 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). The miners refused to give in to his demand that they go back to work or face compulsory work orders. An unspecified number of military police arrived near the mine but did not enter it. The news agency notes that Pavkovic's talks with the miners are the first instance of the army's becoming involved in the general strike. Beta news agency reported that the miners at one shaft blocked army vehicles from entering and that the entire management of the shaft resigned and joined the strike. The miners are slated to hold a press conference later on 3 October. PM
 SERBIAN OPPOSITION CANDIDATE PRAISES MINERS...Kostunica also went to Kolubara, where he told a crowd of 7,500 on 2 October that "you are the ones who ignited the flame of democratic change in Serbia. Just hold on and we will finish this struggle together," AP reported. The mine provides coal for the Nikola Tesla power plant at Obrenovac, which supplies half of Serbia's power needs. The strike has already begun to affect power supplies, with cuts being reported in Cacak and Nis, the news agency noted on 3 October. PM
 ...CRITICIZES MOSCOWKostunica criticized Moscow's failure to openly endorse his election victory, saying that "Russia is too cautious. Russia is defending the indefensible," AP reported from Belgrade on 2 October (see Part I and "End Note" below). He did not elaborate. Kostunica added, however, that Washington is prompting Milosevic to hang on to power by insisting on prosecuting him for war crimes. Kostunica is usually effusive in his praise for Russia and the EU while invariably critical of the U.S. PM
 MILOSEVIC SLAMS SERBIAN OPPOSITIONIn a rare television appearance, Milosevic said on 2 October that the opposition is seeking to "break up Yugoslavia" and submit the country to "foreign occupation." He added that he intends to win in the second round of elections on 8 October. The opposition argues that it won outright in the first round and says it will not participate in the second one. PM
 DIENSTBIER CALLS FOR YUGOSLAV VOTE RECOUNTFormer Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier, who is the UN's human rights envoy to the former Yugoslavia, said in Belgrade on 3 October that the election "results must have been manipulated," Reuters reported. He stressed that he does not know who to blame for the fraud, saying that "both sides should accept the demand to recount votes." Dienstbier proposed that the counting be done by a bi-partisan commission with international observers present. Earlier, CTK quoted him as saying that he "believes that signs of the weakening of the regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic have appeared in the country and especially in the media, accompanied by the growing optimism of the opposition." PM
 GREECE, FRANCE, RUSSIA PLANNING YUGOSLAV VOTE RECOUNTGovernment spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters in Athens on 2 October that Foreign Minister George Papandreou is in telephone contact with his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, and Russia's Igor Ivanov about "sending observers [to Belgrade] to recount the ballots," dpa reported. Reppas added that he hopes that the plan can break the impasse between the Serbian authorities and the opposition. France currently holds the rotating EU chair. Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis added: "We are in contact with the government in Belgrade and with members of the opposition party, because the sending of fact finders presupposes the agreement" of both sides in Serbia, AP reported. Beglitis added that the request for the internationally supervised recount came from Kostunica. PM
 MILOSEVIC'S HOLD ON SERBIAN MEDIA WEAKENINGBroadcasters at the formerly pro-Milosevic Duga Television in Pozarevac called on citizens to join the general strike, AP reported on 2 October. Pozarevac is Milosevic's hometown and power base. In Belgrade, staffers at the state-run Tanjug news agency, Radio Belgrade, "Politika," and "Vecernje Novosti" circulated petitions calling on management to stop serving the interests of the regime and to report news objectively. PM
 NO SHAKEUP IN SERBIAN POLICE?Officials at the Yugoslav embassy in Skopje said that Zoran Janackovic remains ambassador, "Danas" reported on 3 October. The officials denied Montenegrin press reports that he has been given a top Interior Ministry post in Belgrade (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). PM
 POLITICAL REALIGNMENT IN MONTENEGRO?Kostunica said that when he becomes Yugoslav president, he will ask Predrag Bulatovic of Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (SNP) to form a government, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Belgrade on 2 October. Elsewhere, current Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, who also is a leader of the SNP, said that a second round of voting must take place. He added, however, that "Kostunica has gained the great trust of the citizens of Yugoslavia. The will of the citizens must come first... No one has the right to make the mistake of not respecting the will of the people out of the conviction that he knows the people's interests better than the people themselves," Reuters reported from Podgorica. Bulatovic added, however, that Kostunica remains "our political opponent." The SNP, unlike Milosevic, has not condemned the general strike. The party said in a statement that "protests are the right of any political party and the right of any free citizen. We urge that protests be peaceful." PM
 MESIC, STOYANOV HAIL SERBIAN OPPOSITION VICTORYVisiting Croatian President Stipe Mesic and his Bulgarian counterpart, Petar Stoyanov, on 2 October issued a joint statement in Sofia welcoming "the victory" of Kostunica in the recent elections and calling on Milosevic to concede defeat, Reuters reported. Mesic told journalists that he does not believe civil war will break out in Yugoslavia because "Montenegro has [already] started on the road to democracy [and] forces have also emerged in Serbia that can make it democratic." Stoyanov said all of Yugoslavia's neighbors, including Romania, Albania, and Macedonia, are in "regular contact" and want "to believe that common sense will win in Yugoslavia...[turning it into] the neighbor we would all like to have." Mesic has argued that Kostunica is a nationalist but nonetheless a considerable improvement over Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September 2000). MS
 FIVE SERBS INJURED IN KOSOVAAn unknown assailant injured five Serbs with a hand grenade and gunfire in a drive-by assault in Pasjane in eastern Kosova on 2 October. The five were treated for injuries and then released, AP reported. In Viti, two Serbian homes were destroyed in separate explosions. PM
 EARLY RESULTS IN ALBANIAN ELECTIONSSocialist Party spokesman Gramoz Ruci said in Tirana on 2 October that his party won 27 out of 65 mayors' races in the 1 October elections in what he called preliminary official results, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). He added that the opposition Democrats won only nine positions. The remaining seats will be decided in a second round on 15 October. Of the 409 seats in local councils nationwide, the Socialists won 110, the Democrats 33, and smaller parties three, Ruci said. The Democrats, however, refuse to accept the results. Party official Vili Minarrolli charged that "it was a totally manipulated [electoral] process. There were zero chances for a free and fair process." PM
 ROMANIAN EXTREMIST PARTY CALLS FOR CEAUSESCU'S REHABILITATIONGreater Romania Party Senator Florea Preda on 2 October called on the Senate to pass a resolution "reconsidering the activities" of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed on 25 December 1989, Mediafax reported. Preda praised Ceausescu as a "patriot" and "a good diplomat." He said Ceausescu had displayed "courage" and that his "natural intelligence" had transformed him into "one of the world's great statesmen" and Romania into a mediator between such great powers as the U.S. and China. Ceausescu had been executed in order to undermine his efforts to "consolidate Romania's independence," Preda argued. While the former president was accused at his trial of genocide, Preda continued, "the real genocide against the Romanian people took place after 1989." In support of this argument, Preda pointed to the fact that last year alone, no fewer than 3, 500 cases of suicides were registered in the country. MS
 ROMANIA 'INDIGNANT' OVER VORONIN REMARKSThe Foreign Ministry on 2 October released a statement expressing "indignation" over recent remarks by Party of Moldovan Communist leader Vladimir Voronin, who had called Romania's flag during World War II "a fascist banner," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 2000). The ministry said the "gravity of the insult is exacerbated by the fact that it comes from the leader of an important political party in Moldova". While calling on "competent authorities" in Moldova to examine Voronin's remarks, the ministry also expressed confidence that "such declarations can today no longer be a relevant obstacle on the road to consolidation of brotherly ties between the two banks of the River Prut." MS
 U.S. DENIES EXISTENCE OF 'SECRET PLAN' FOR TRANSDNIESTER SETTLEMENTThe U.S. Embassy in Chisinau on 2 October denied the existence of a "secret plan" for the settlement of the Transdniester conflict, Infotag reported. On 23 September, the Russian daily "Izvestiya" reported that a U.S. plan envisages incorporating Bessarabia into Romania and the Transdniester into Ukraine. The embassy said that the U.S, government's efforts to solve the Transdniester problem "are channeled primarily through the OSCE, although the U.S. is also consulting with the governments of the Russian Federation and Ukraine, in their capacity as mediators in the conflict." It said there "is no secret U.S. government 'plan' to solve the conflict in terms other than the above," Infotag reported, citing the embassy's press release. MS
 MOLDOVAN FASCIST MOVEMENT INVOLVED IN INCITING STUDENTS?Colonel Vladimir Koval, deputy chief of Chisinau police, told a municipal council meeting on 2 October that the Moldovan Fascist Movement is inciting students to join a protest rally planned by pensioners for 3 October, Infotag reported. Koval said the "fascists" are distributing among students "packages with nails and instructions on manufacturing weapons" to be used against police. No Moldovan Fascist Movement has been officially registered with the authorities, but there have been reports from both Moldova and Romania that the revived Legion of Archangel Michael has set up so-called "nests" not only in Romania but also in Chisinau. Infotag said police have detained one young person distributing leaflets issued by the Moldovan Fascist Movement. MS
 BULGARIAN-TURKISH TIES TENSE AFTER RECALL OF TURKISH CONSULThe Turkish Foreign Ministry is "evaluating the situation" after recalling Consul-General Beyza Untuna from Burgas, the BBC reported on 29 September, citing the official Anatolia state agency. The ministry recalled the consul- general after she allegedly became involved in disputes between two ethnic Turkish parties; her involvement triggered "Bulgarian protests." The ministry also said Turkey "might retaliate" against Bulgaria. Meanwhile, Bulgarian Television on 2 October inaugurated broadcasts in the Turkish language aimed at its own Turkish minority. MS
[C] END NOTE
 THE OFFER THEY CAN'T REFUSE?By Patrick Moore
The current crisis in Belgrade may provide Moscow with a golden opportunity to expand its influence in Serbia. The decision on whether it will do so lies with Yugoslavia's leading politicians.
Since the 24 September Serbian and Yugoslav elections, Russian officials have carefully hedged their bets in choosing between the camp headed by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and that of opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica. Moscow has not openly declared one side or the other the winner but has stressed only that the elections were a "victory for democracy." Over the weekend, President Vladimir Putin offered to send Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to mediate, and two senior Russian diplomats arrived in Belgrade.
Then came what may prove to be the proverbial "offer they can't refuse." As he was departing for a four-day visit to India on 2 October, Putin issued an invitation to Milosevic and Kostunica to come to Moscow and let him personally mediate. Given Kostunica's anti-NATO and pro-Russia rhetoric during the election campaign, the opposition leader is likely to welcome the offer. Milosevic is similarly Russophile in his public statements and will also be hard pressed to refuse lest he lose credibility with the public at large.
But either man could still choose a way out of what could prove to be an uncomfortable situation. Kostunica could simply declare that he won outright and that there is nothing to discuss in Moscow or anywhere else. He would thereby preempt any pressure by Putin to force him into a second round of voting. Milosevic, for his part, could also declare that the matter is closed, since the Election Commission has already decided in favor of a second round. He could argue that the run-off must be held since Serbia is a state based on the rule of law.
Russia, in any event, appears to be playing its cards well. According to London's "The Observer" of 1 October, Moscow has placed its good offices at the disposal of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in his reported effort to persuade Milosevic to step down in return for not being prosecuted for war crimes. Putin has also spoken to U.S. President Clinton on the telephone about current Balkan developments.
This underscores the role that Serbia and the rest of the Balkans has always played for Russian diplomacy: a means to enhance its international position. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow never abandoned its claim to great-power status in the Balkans.
One of the most persistent myths in media reporting on the region is that Russia is concerned about Serbia because of traditional Eastern Orthodox ties. But as the late historian Barbara Jelavich pointed out, Russian (and Soviet) policy in the Balkans was always motivated by calculated national interests and not by sentimentality (the writings of some publicists and politicians notwithstanding). After all, Russia shifted its support back and forth between rival claims of Orthodox Serbia and Orthodox Bulgaria after 1878, depending on Russian policy makers' perceptions of their own country's interests. Russia could not please both, although Russophiles in both countries doggedly adhere to the myth that Russia is their own special friend.
The current developments in Serbia nonetheless provide Russia with an important opportunity in Serbia. First of all, Russia can shore up its own position of influence in Belgrade by helping ease Milosevic out. This is not just because Kostunica and many of those around him are Russophile. The main reason is that they are happy to have a strong Russian--and EU-- presence in Serbia to offset what they see as the overwhelming power of the U.S. in the region and the world.
Similarly, by making good offices available in the current crisis, Putin can build up political capital in Berlin, Brussels, and Washington by helping solve the Milosevic problem. In particular, there are those in Western Europe--and not just in France--who would be more than pleased to see an enhanced Russian role in the region to counterbalance that of the U.S. The politicians in Belgrade will largely determine whether this comes to pass.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty