|Saturday, 27 February 2021|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 46, 01-03-07
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 46, 7 March 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER DOWNPLAYS THREAT OF NEW KARABAKH WARIn an interview published on 6 March in the independent daily "Golos Armenii," Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian shrugged off the growing support in Azerbaijan for a new war to bring the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic back under Baku's control, saying such statements "are not new." "If the Azeri army had the ability to solve the problem by use of force it would have done so a long time ago. Today we are even more prepared [to fight]," the minister said. Sarkisian added that he anticipates new peace proposals from the international community that will be even more favorable to Armenia than those made earlier. LF
 AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT PESSIMISTIC AFTER PARIS KARABAKH TALKS...On his return to Baku on 6 March, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev told journalists his 4-5 March talks in Paris with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and French President Jacques Chirac on resolving the Karabakh conflict were "difficult and tense," ITAR-TASS reported. Chirac had said the previous day they had proceeded "in a warm and friendly atmosphere" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2001). Aliev added that the talks yielded "no concrete results," and that he does not believe the OSCE Minsk Group is preparing a new draft peace proposal, according to Reuters. He claimed that Armenia will not consider any alternative to independence for the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. But he added that Azerbaijan "has no choice" but to continue the Minsk Group talks. LF
 ... AS HIS FORMER ADVISORS UNVEIL STRATEGY FOR RESOLVING CONFLICT...Former presidential advisor Eldar Namazov and former Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov on 6 March unveiled their "platform" for resolving the Karabakh conflict, Turan reported. They argue that international mediators base their proposals on an assessment of what they consider Azerbaijan will accept, ignoring the need to preserve Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. They argue, as Zulfugarov did in several articles published in "Zerkalo" last year, that Azerbaijan should concentrate on building up its economic and military potential in order to be able to negotiate from a position of strength. They say that the Azerbaijani leadership and opposition should cooperate closely in their efforts to achieve a settlement of the conflict. They envisage such a settlement comprising autonomy for Nagorno-Karabakh and the preservation of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. They discount the possibility, mentioned in the Azerbaijani parliament resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh adopted late last month, that the international community would condemn military action to restore Azerbaijani control over the disputed enclave. LF
 ... AND INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SEEKS TO RAISE FUNDS FOR RECONSTRUCTIONU.S. ambassador Bill Taylor, who headed the U.S. delegation to this week's session of the U.S.-Armenian joint task force, told RFE/RL in Yerevan on 6 March that the session had discussed raising the funds that would be required for post-conflict rehabilitation in the event of a final Karabakh peace agreement. He said the World Bank is preparing a team of international experts who would travel to the region to estimate what funds would be needed. That assessment would serve as a basis for a Donors' conference to raise the necessary funds. LF
 TURKEY REASSURES AZERBAIJAN OVER DELAYED GAS DEALTurkey's Fuel and Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer told a private Turkish TV station on 6 March that Ankara plans to finalize agreements with Azerbaijan both on buying natural gas from the Shah Deniz field and on construction of a pipeline to transport that gas to Turkey, AP reported. The agreements will be signed during President Aliev's visit to Turkey next week, Ersumer said. On 5 March, President Aliev's son Ilham had expressed concern at what he termed Ankara's apparent reluctance to make a firm commitment to buy gas from Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2001). LF
 COUNCIL OF EUROPE CALLS ON ABKHAZIA TO CANCEL LOCAL ELECTIONSCouncil of Europe Ministers' Council chairman Indulis Berzins, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe President Lord Russell Johnston and PACE Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer on 7 March appealed to the leadership of Georgia's breakaway Republic of Abkhazia to cancel the local elections scheduled for 10 March, Caucasus Press reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2001). They said those elections "cannot be considered legitimate," adding that "it is not in the interest of the Abkhaz side to be seen as confronting the international community and undermining efforts to achieve an early and comprehensive settlement of the conflict by peaceful political means." It is not clear whether the three officials also condemned the Georgian guerrillas who recently stepped up their mine warfare against the CIS peacekeeping force in Abkhazia for similarly "confronting the international community" and urged them too to seek to resolve the conflict by "peaceful political means." LF
 PARIS CLUB GRANTS GEORGIA MORATORIUM ON DEBT REPAYMENTMeeting on 6 March, the Paris Club group of creditor countries agreed to reschedule payment of Georgian debts totaling $921.9 million, Caucasus Press reported. Repayment will now begin in three years' time and will extend over a period of 15 years, according to "Dilis gazeti" on 7 March. The moratorium reportedly extends to Georgia's $393.6 million debt for gas supplies from Turkmenistan, even though the latter is not a Paris Club member. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN'S PARLIAMENT BEGINS DEBATE ON CAPITAL AMNESTYThe Mazhilis, the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's bicameral legislature, on 5 and 6 March debated the possibility of allowing persons who illegally exported capital from Kazakhstan to return that money to Kazakh banks without incurring any punishment, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Deputies and banking officials who addressed the session failed to agree on the sums involved and whether the repatriation of those monies would improve the financial situation in Kazakhstan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March 2001). LF
 PACE DELEGATION VISITS KAZAKHSTANA delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is currently in Kazakhstan to assess the political situation there prior to a decision on whether to grant Kazakhstan observer status in that organization, Interfax reported. The delegation, headed by Tadeusz Ilinski, chairman of the PACE Committee for Migration and Refugees, held talks in Almaty on 5 March with representatives of both pro-government and opposition political parties, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. On 6 March, the delegation traveled to Astana to attend a parliamentary session and meet with Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev, who assured them that "the democratic processes in Kazakhstan have become irreversible." Mazhilis speaker Zharmakhan Tuyaqbaev told Ilinski in response to the latter's expression of concern over restrictions on opposition political parties that the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan does not face any pressure from the Kazakh authorities, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. LF
 KYRGYZ COURT POSTPONES HEARING IMPRISONED POLITICIAN'S APPEALKyrgyzstan's Supreme Court has postponed from 6 to 13 March hearing an appeal by opposition politician Topchubek Turgunaliev against his conviction last summer on charges of plotting to assassinate President Askar Akaev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September 2000). The postponement was requested by Turgunaliev's lawyer. The Bishkek City Court reduced Turgunaliev's sentence in November from 16 to six years' imprisonment, but Turgunaliev is seeking his acquittal. LF
 KAZAKH GOVERNMENT DELEGATION DISCUSSES WATER RESOURCES IN KYRGYZSTAN...Kazakh and Kyrgyz government delegations headed by Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Vladimir Shkolnik and First Deputy Premier Nikolai Tanaev respectively met in Bishkek on 6 March to discuss sharing water resources and hydroelectricity, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kazakhstan has asked Kyrgyzstan to supply 750 million cubic meters of water this year in return for supplies of coal and heating oil. A corresponding agreement is to be signed by the end of this month. Kyrgyzenergo Director General Bakirdin Sartkaziev told the meeting that the inter-governmental agreement on water resources signed by Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in December 2000 needs to be amended. He explained that due to Uzbekistan's cutoff of natural gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan in January, Kyrgyzstan has used large amounts of water from its reservoirs to generate hydro-electricity. As a result, Kyrgyzstan will be able to supply Uzbekistan with only 750 million cubic meters of water this year rather than the 2.3 billion cubic meters envisaged in the December 2000 agreement. That reduction could result in water shortages in Uzbekistan this summer. LF
 ... AND TAJIKISTANShkolnik also attended a session in Dushanbe on 6 March of the Kazakh-Tajik inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation together with Tajikistan's First Deputy Prime Minister Hodja Akbar Turajonzoda, Asia Plus- Blitz reported. The two sides signed an agreement on the shared use of water resources from the Naryn-Syrdarya reservoirs in 2001. During subsequent talks between the Kazakh delegation and Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov, the two sides agreed to prepare a quadripartite agreement with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and to form a commission to rule on the rational use of water from the Syrdarya river during the seasons of the year when the water-level is at its lowest. LF
 TURKMENISTAN SEEN AS KEY TO TRANS-CASPIAN PIPELINEU.S. presidential advisor for Caspian energy issues Elizabeth Jones said in Tbilisi on 6 March that whether the planned Trans-Caspian gas pipeline to export Turkmen gas to Turkey via Azerbaijan and Georgia is built will depend on the willingness of Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov to continue negotiations on that project, Interfax reported. She said that the Trans-Caspian pipeline and the proposed pipeline to export to Turkey gas from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz Caspian field (see above) are not mutually exclusive in the light of the growing demand in Europe for natural gas. Nor, she said, can the Blue Stream pipeline to bring Russian gas to Turkey supply all of that country's gas needs. Caucasus Press on 6 March reported that Jones has been scheduled to travel from Tbilisi to Baku that day, but failed to do so. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 RENEWED FIGHTING ALONG MACEDONIAN BORDER WITH KOSOVA...Fresh fighting was reported on 6 March between Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian insurgents in Macedonia near the border with Kosova, AFP reported. A Macedonian Defense Ministry official said Macedonian forces "are only responding to provocations by Albanian extremists." He added that no casualties were reported. Macedonian Premier Ljubco Georgievski told the government that the area around the rebel stronghold of Tanusevci is mined, the daily "Dnevnik" reported. He said because of that, "any armed intervention in the Tanusevci region would carry major risks." The Defense Ministry said it expects "provocations" by the insurgents will occur "in other places on the northern border." PB
 ... AS U.S. SOLDIERS GET INVOLVED IN GUN BATTLETwo U.S. soldiers, part of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosova, wounded two men in an exchange of fire on 7 March in the Serbian province near the border with Macedonia, AP reported. The incident took place near the village of Mijak and involved the KFOR troops and a group of five or six armed men. One of the injured men escaped with the others into Macedonia, while one man was detained. PB
 MACEDONIAN PRESIDENT PROMISES TOUGH ACTION AGAINST 'TERRORISM'Boris Trajkovski said on 6 March in Skopje that his country will not surrender "a single foot to terrorism," AP reported. Speaking to parliament, President Trajkovski said "terrorism and extremism must be militarily and politically defeated and kicked out of Macedonia." He said if the ethnic Albanian extremists are not stopped, then "we will face a new wave of violence in the region." Trajkovski warned the international community of the seriousness of the conflict, saying that if the insurgents destabilize Macedonia, it will mark the "beginning of the end of regional peace and stability." PB
 NATO CONSIDERING USE OF YUGOSLAV TROOPS TO KEEP ETHNIC ALBANIANS OUT OF MACEDONIANATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said on 6 March that the alliance is discussing the possibility of allowing Yugoslav forces to help patrol a portion of the border with Macedonia, AP reported. Robertson said a decision will be made this week on whether to let Yugoslav troops return to a small stretch of territory along the joint border of Yugoslavia, Macedonia, and the Serbian province of Kosova that is currently under NATO and UN control. The corridor is believed to be used by ethnic Albanians to smuggle weapons into southern Serbia. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Washington on the same day that "we are examining how we can begin to transfer the ground safety zone back to Yugoslav authorities over time -- not all at once, but perhaps beginning with the most difficult area in the south." Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Zivkovic said in Belgrade that allowing the Yugoslav troops to patrol the border area would allow the "best protection" for Macedonia and for southern Serbia. PB
 YUGOSLAV OFFICIAL SAYS MILOSEVIC TO BE ARRESTED BEFORE APRILMilan Protic, the Yugoslav ambassador to the U.S., said on 6 March in Washington that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic will be arrested by 31 March, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported. Protic, speaking at a hearing of the U.S. Congress's Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, said "no one... will be very enthusiastic about [assuming the job]... of putting Milosevic under arrest, because he's got his private guard, which could be pretty dangerous... . But we are ready to do it, and we are doing everything to prepare that move. And it's going to be done before March 31, I can assure you about that, too." PB
 YUGOSLAV SECURITY CHIEF DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN ALLEGED ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTRade Markovic, the former head of Yugoslavia's state security, denied that he had anything to do with a fatal car crash in which opposition leader Vuk Draskovic survived, AP reported on 6 March. Investigative judge Dragoslav Rakic said that Markovic replied that "I have nothing to do with this," when asked about his involvement in the accident (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 October 1999). Rakic said "he can defend himself with silence, or with lies. The penal code says he can defend himself in any way he knows how," but added, "if we did not have firm evidence, we would not hold these people in detention." Rakic said that 23 people have thus far been questioned in the investigation, and suggested that charges against Markovic could be filed soon. PB
 CROAT, U.S. OFFICIALS IN TALKS ON BOSNIAThe U.S. ambassadors to Croatia and Bosnia met with Croatian officials, including Foreign Minister Tonino Picula, in Zagreb on 6 March in attempts to defuse the crisis over Bosnian Croat threats to enact self-rule in Croat- majority areas of Bosnia, Reuters reported. "We came here for an exchange of views and advice, and I got some very good advice," said Thomas Miller, the ambassador to Bosnia. A diplomat close to the talks said that the HDZ, which issued the threats, had acted more out of desperation than strength, and was not prepared to go into opposition. "If it weren't electoral rules, it would have been something else. They would have seized any pretext." DW
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN GERMANYForeign Minister Mircea Geoana on 6 March met in Berlin with his German counterpart Joschka Fischer and other officials to discuss bilateral relations, Romania's quest to join the EU and NATO, and the prospects of increasing German investments in Romania. Geoana told journalists that it would be "premature" to say that Germany has decided to "firmly engage in backing Romania's joining of NATO in 2002" but that he could "sense a clear inclination in favor of EU expansion if our country fulfills the EU criteria." He also said German investors are interested in Romania "provided certain conditions are met" and later explained that his government is "doing its best" to remove the numerous bureaucratic hurdles hindering foreign investment and to pass clear legislation to encourage it. In his capacity as rotating OSCE chairman, Geoana also discussed with Fischer the evolution of events in Macedonia, Moldova, the south Caucasus, Russia, and Ukraine. MS
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SLAMS ALBANIAN VIOLENCE IN MACEDONIAThe Foreign Ministry on 6 March said in a press release that Romania "firmly condemns the escalation of violence" on the Macedonian border with "the Serbian province of Kosovo." The ministry said Bucharest "backs the effort of authorities in Skopje and of the international community to fight terrorist acts and to find the right instruments leading to a peaceful solution of the present conflict," including "the use of OSCE instruments." MS
 ROMANIAN MINISTER WANTS TO ACCELERATE EU NEGOTIATIONSEuropean Integration Minister Hildegard Puwak told journalists on 6 March that Romania has closed the lowest number of chapters (six) in negotiations with the EU from among all accession candidates, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. She said the government intends to accelerate negotiations and hopes to have closed negotiations on at least 20 chapters of the aquis communautaire by the end of this year. MS
 BESIEGED ROMANIAN LEADER WANTS COLLEAGUES TO 'RETURN HOME'Democratic Party Chairman Petre Roman, who will face the challenge of Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu for the party leadership in May, on 6 March appealed to former prominent party figures to return to the fold of the Democratic Party. Among the names mentioned by Roman were those of Adrian Severin, Victor Babiuc, George Serban and Cazimir Ionescu, all of whom left or were expelled from the party after conflicts with Roman himself. Serban and Ionescu, who like Babiuc are now members of the National Liberal Party, rejected the appeal while Severin, currently a member of the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, has thus far not reacted. MS
 ROMANIAN PARTIES SEAL MERGER AGREEMENTThe National Peasant Party Christian Democratic (PNTCD) and the Christian Democratic National Alliance (ANCD) on 6 March finalized an agreement stipulating that the ANCD will return to the fold of the PNTCD, which it left in 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February 2001). Under the agreement, ANCD leader Victor Ciorbea will become chairman of the PNTCD's National Steering Board and two ANCD members will be appointed deputy chairmen of that board, while three members will become deputy PNTCD secretary- generals. Neither of the two formations managed to gain seats in the parliament elected in November 2000. Andrei Marga, who in January 2001 became PNTCD chairman, said the new Christian Democratic formation will be "strong and capable of balancing the situation on Romania's political spectrum." MS
 MOLDOVAN COMMUNISTS DENY BEING 'ANTI-ROMANIAN'Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) Deputy Chairman Victor Stepaniuc, in an interview with the BBC on 6 March, denied that PCM has an anti-Romanian position, as claimed by Romanian Premier Adrian Nastase the previous day (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March 2001). Stepaniuc said that "Moldova perceives Romania as being a sister-country, sharing the same historic and ethnic origins," Mediafax reported. However, "unlike the Romanian premier, who speaks of 'two Romanian states,' PCM strives for the consolidation of Moldovan state identity," he remarked. There are also differences between the foreign policies pursued by the two countries, Stepaniuc added, because "Moldova remains a neutral state." Romania, on the other hand, intends to join NATO. MS
 BRAGHIS SAYS HE WAS NOT OFFERED MOLDOVAN PREMIERSHIPOutgoing Premier Dumitru Braghis on 6 March told journalists that PCM leader Vladimir Voronin has not proposed that Braghis continue as prime minister at the head of the new cabinet, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Braghis said that at their 3 March meeting, Voronin discussed with him only "matters pertaining to the structure of the new parliament." He also said he believes the next cabinet will be formed "within one month." MS
 TIRASPOL AWAITING VORONIN'S PROPOSALSValerii Litskay, who holds the "foreign minister" portfolio in the Tiraspol leadership, on 6 March said the breakaway authorities are "waiting for the [new Moldovan leadership] proposals for a solution of the conflict" but will "insist that all agreements previously concluded be implemented," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Litskay said on Russia's RTR television that many of the points previously expressed by the PCM "coincide" with the views of his "government" and mentioned in this connection the quest to join the Russia-Belarus Union, CIS "full integration," and opposition to NATO's eastward "expansion." He added that he is, however, "skeptical" that either Russia or Belarus can afford financing the "huge costs of Moldova's reorientation from the West to the East." MS
 IMF DELEGATION TO VISIT MOLDOVAThe IMF congratulated Voronin on his party's electoral victory and expressed the hope to further cooperate with Moldova, ITAR-TASS and Infotag reported on 6 March. An IMF delegation will arrive in Moldova on 25 April for a two-day "fact-finding mission." MS
 BULGARIA URGES 'FIRM STAND' AGAINST ALBANIAN SEPARATISTSPresident Petar Stoyanov on 6 March said at NATO headquarters in Brussels that ethnic Albanian guerrillas trying to test the will of Balkan governments are a "politically isolated group that must be stopped in its tracks," Reuters reported. Stoyanov said these people must "receive the clear and categorical message" that Balkan governments and the international community will not stand for a new round of ethnic violence and are "ready to go to any length" to prevent it. He added that the entire region is encouraged by the "unequivocal condemnation" of these actions by Albanian and Kosova Albanian leaders alike. Clarifying an earlier statement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 2001), Stoyanov said it would be "inconceivable" for Bulgaria to send troops to Macedonia unilaterally. Such a step must be taken "through international organizations of which we are members," he said. MS
 WORLD BANK APPROVES BULGARIAN CHILD WELFARE LOANThe World Bank has approved an $8 million loan aimed at improving child welfare in Bulgaria, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on 7 March. The loan will be used for activities promoting community-based welfare, such as placing abandoned children in homes instead of institutions. The loan matures in 20 years. MS
[C] END NOTE
 CROATIAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES BELGRADE-BANJA LUKA ACCORDBy Ron Synovitz
Speaking at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague on 6 March, Croatian President Stipe Mesic said the cooperation treaty signed in Banja Luka the previous day by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic shows that the post-Milosevic Yugoslav leadership has not abandoned the former president's dream of creating a Greater Serbia. Mesic said that cooperation treaty will contribute to the further destabilization of Bosnia.
"Both Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should have their relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina as a whole," Mesic said. "We should not encourage the entities within Bosnia to get the impression that they are states. To be fair, it should be mentioned that Croatia also has an agreement on special relations with the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. But it's just a framework [accord]. Without any amendments and annexes to this framework, this agreement cannot be implemented. That's why I insist that our relations with Bosnia should be like relations with any other country -- [that is,] relations with the country as a whole, not particular parts of that country. The idea behind [both] these agreements is to connect Croat parts of Bosnia with Croatia and Serb parts of Bosnia with Serbia in order to encourage the continuation of the division of Bosnia."
Mesic also criticized radical Bosnian Croats in the Croatian Democratic Union who have threatened to create their own mini-state out of the parts of Bosnia where Croats are in the majority. The Croatian president said similar moves by Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs would mean the end of the Bosnian state.
"It is our duty to support the role of the individuals among Croats in Bosnia who are not for the division of the country [that is, Bosnia- Herzegovina], to support their political stands and to strengthen them. The Croatian Democratic Union has no legal right to pretend to be the only and exclusive representative of [the] political interests of Bosnian Croats, especially when this policy is disastrous," Mesic said
Mesic said that he has been encouraged by the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic's regime in Yugoslavia. But he said the people of Serbia must face up to the crimes committed by their former leadership before relations between Zagreb and Belgrade can be completely normalized. "The departure of Milosevic is not enough. His policies have to go as well, and all those who were supporting his policy, who were creators of this policy, they have to be held responsible for their actions, and ultimately, to face the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague. Unless this happens, unless Serbia goes through a complete change and faces its history of the last 10 years, we are only going to be able to make small steps to improve our relations."
Mesic said he does not think the Macedonian leadership will need foreign intervention to help contain a conflict with ethnic Albanians guerillas on the Macedonian border with Kosova. But the Croatian president also urged the United Nations to move ahead with elections in Kosova as soon as possible.
"With regard to Kosovo, I think it would be good to hold elections as soon as possible because they will provide official and legitimate partners in negotiations with the government in Belgrade with regard to the future status of Kosovo. Extremists on both sides should be suppressed and the presence of the international community should be reinforced and needed for a few more years," Mesic said.
Ron Synovitz is a Prague-based senior editor with RFE/RL.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty