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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 45, Part I, 6 March 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 45, Part I, 6 March 1998

A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia,
the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty.

This is Part I, a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and
Central Asia. Part II covers Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe and
is distributed simultaneously as a second document.  Back issues of RFE/RL
NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline

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RFE/RL CAUCASUS REPORT: A WEEKLY REVIEW OF POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE
NORTH CAUCASUS AND TRANSCAUCASIA FROM RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY
This new email weekly covers Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia's
North Caucasus. To subscribe, send an email message to
caucasus-report-request@list.rferl.org with the word "subscribe" in the subject
line or body of the message. The first issue (March 3, 1998) and all future
issues will be online at the RFE/RL Web site.
http://www.rferl.org/caucasus-report/

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Headlines, Part I

* RUSSIA WANTS DEPUTY CHAIRMAN ON UN INSPECTION COMMITTEE

* CHERNOMYRDIN ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT 'PRIVATIZERS'

* ALIEV APPOINTS KARABAKH NEGOTIATOR AS FOREIGN MINISTER

* End Note: ALIEV'S VISIT TO TURKEY

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RUSSIA

RUSSIA WANTS DEPUTY CHAIRMAN ON UN INSPECTION COMMITTEE. Russian Ambassador
to the UN Sergei Lavrov has handed over a letter from his government to UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan requesting that a Russian deputy chairman be
appointed to the UN Special Commission on weapons inspections in Iraq,
Reuters and AFP reported on 5 March. Chairman Richard Butler, an Australian
citizen, currently has one deputy, Charles Dueffler from the U.S. The 1991
UN Security Council resolution setting up the commission provided for only
one deputy chairman. BP

CHERNOMYRDIN ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT 'PRIVATIZERS.' Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin praised the efforts of Russia's "privatizers" at a 5 March
cabinet session reviewing the State Property Ministry's performance in 1997
and plans for this year, Russian news agencies reported. A report prepared
by the ministry showed that its efforts brought in 18.65 trillion old
rubles ($3.1 billion) in budget revenues last year, including 18.1 trillion
rubles in proceeds from privatization sales and 576 billion rubles in
income from federal property. The 1997 budget called for 6.5 trillion
rubles in privatization revenues, but sales of state property were
accelerated to help compensate for poor tax collection. Chernomyrdin called
on the State Property Ministry to exceed 1998 budget targets of 9.4 billion
new rubles ($1.5 billion) in privatization revenues. While acknowledging
that privatization "has not been ideal," the premier predicted that Russia
will eventually "put up monuments" to some of its privatizers. LB

CHUBAIS SLAMS CAMPAIGN AGAINST HIMSELF. In an interview published in
"Moskovskii komsomolets" on 5 March, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii
Chubais lashed out against powerful businessmen who oppose him. He alleged
that "enormous resources" are being devoted to digging up compromising
information on him, even dating back to his childhood, through phone
tapping and offering bribes to family friends. However, Chubais claimed the
media campaign to "destroy" him has failed and has instead undermined the
political standing of Boris Berezovskii. In an interview published the same
day in "Kommersant-Daily," Chubais accused his opponents of supporting
"crony capitalism" and warned that if they succeed, Russia could suffer an
economic collapse worse than the recent crisis in South Korea. Chubais's
opponents, especially Berezovskii, have accused the first deputy premier of
favoring Vladimir Potanin's Oneksimbank over its business rivals. LB

AUTHORITIES STILL INVESTIGATING 'BOOK SCANDAL.' An official from the
Prosecutor-General's Office told ITAR-TASS on 4 March that the office is
continuing its investigation into last November's "book scandal" involving
Chubais. That investigation was scheduled to be completed in February.
Chubais and several associates have admitted accepting a $90,000 honorarium
each from a book publisher linked to Oneksimbank, but they have denied the
payments were bribes. President Boris Yeltsin took the finance portfolio
away from Chubais at the height of the scandal. LB

MEDIA CRITICISM OF URINSON CONTINUES. Deputy Prime Minister and Economics
Minister Yakov Urinson remains under fire from some Russian media outlets,
RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 4 March. The popular daily "Moskovskii
komsomolets" ran an advertisement calling attention to an article in the
latest edition of "Delovye lyudi," which accuses Urinson of helping the
Strategiya Bank become involved in lucrative arms export transactions. That
bank is managed by Urinson's brother (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February
1998). Urinson is on vacation and has not responded to the charges, but
government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov on 3 March criticized what he
called a "campaign to discredit" the economics minister, Russian news
agencies reported. Shabdurasulov said examinations of Urinson's work have
revealed "no financial improprieties." LB

LUZHKOV SATISFIED WITH BUDGET. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov on 5 March said
the draft 1998 budget recently approved by the State Duma "suits" the city
of Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. He noted that the budget calls for spending
2 billion rubles ($330 million) to compensate Moscow for the cost of
maintaining federal facilities in the capital. Last fall, the government
sought to do away with compensation payments for Moscow, and Luzhkov was a
vocal critic of the draft budget (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 20 October
1997). Other regional leaders also gained concessions during negotiations
to revise the budget. The government originally planned to reduce spending
on federal "transfer" payments to regional governments by two percentage
points, from 15 percent to 13 percent of total revenues, but eventually
agreed to a cut of only one percentage point. LB

YELTSIN SIGNS LAW ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROCEDURE. Yeltsin on 4 March
signed a law stipulating  that constitutional amendments can be adopted
with the approval of two-thirds of State Duma deputies, three-quarters of
Federation Council deputies, and legislatures in two-thirds of Russia's 89
regions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 February 1998). However, Yeltsin has
already asked the parliament to amend certain passages of that law,
"Russkii telegraf" reported on 5 March. For instance, the president
criticized the law for not providing a specific definition of a
constitutional amendment. Article 135 of the Constitution prohibits changes
to Chapters 1, 2, and 9 (which cover Russia's basic constitutional
structure, individual rights and freedoms, and constitutional amendment
procedures) without convening a Constitutional Assembly. LB

KORZHAKOV AGAINST ANOTHER YELTSIN RE-ELECTION BID. Duma deputy Aleksandr
Korzhakov, Yeltsin's longtime bodyguard, has called on the president to
show the "courage" to abide by the constitution and not to seek another
term. The Constitutional Court is to consider whether Yeltsin is legally
entitled to run for president again. In an article published in
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 March, Korzhakov warned that in 2000 it will not
be possible to achieve the same election results as in 1996. He added that
Yeltsin's health is poor and that running for president in violation of the
constitution would set a bad example. During the 1996 presidential
campaign, Korzhakov caused a stir by suggesting that the election might be
postponed. Yeltsin fired Korzhakov shortly after the first round of that
election. Last summer, Korzhakov published memoirs containing unflattering
portrayals of Yeltsin and some of his close associates. LB

ZYUGANOV TO COOPERATE WITH RADICAL COMMUNISTS. Communist Party leader
Gennadii Zyuganov and Viktor Tyulkin, the leader of the more radical
Russian Communist Workers' Party, have signed an agreement to cooperate in
organizing three nationwide protests in April and May, Russian news
agencies reported on 5 March . Last month, Zyuganov and Duma Defense
Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin, leader of the Movement to Support the Army,
signed a cooperation agreement. On 4 March, the same day that 52 Communist
Duma deputies voted for the 1998 budget, Zyuganov warned that the Communist
faction may soon call for a vote of no confidence in the government.
Zyuganov's statements, along with Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor
Ilyukhin's recent criticism of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, suggest
that the Communists are trying to address critics who have accused them of
"appeasing" the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January and 26
February 1998). LB

PREMIER WANTS SECURITY SERVICE TO STEP UP ANTI-TERRORIST ACTIVITIES.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the Federal Security Service's 80th
anniversary on 4 March, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin praised the "courage of
FSB officers" but said the service needs to intensify its activities
against terrorism. "It is enough to remember Pyatigorsk and Buinaksk," he
said. FSB Director Nikolai Kovalev said that in 1997 alone, the service had
"exposed more than 400 agents of foreign intelligence services and arrested
eight spies working for the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, and other
countries." He also noted that more attention needed to be paid to economic
crime in order to protect foreign investors from "bandits." BP

HAVE THERE BEEN ARRESTS IN LISTEV CASE? Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir
Kolesnikov told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 4 March that "certain people"
have been arrested in connection with the March 1995 murder of television
journalist Vladislav Listev. He added that the results of the investigation
"can be expected very soon." Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov on 2 March
told journalists that is too early to talk about "specific suspects" in the
murder, which, he said, is unlikely to be solved soon (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 2 and 3 March 1998). Petr Triboi, who is leading the Listev
investigation for the Prosecutor-General's Office, neither confirmed nor
denied Kolesnikov's remarks but expressed regret that reports on the
alleged arrests have appeared in the media, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on
5 March. LB

STEPASHIN CALLS FOR ABOLITION OF DEATH PENALTY. Justice Minister Sergei
Stepashin on 5 March called on the parliament to pass a law banning the
death penalty, Interfax reported. Abolishing capital punishment is a
condition of membership in the Council of Europe, which Russia joined in
February 1996. In March 1997, the Duma rejected a bill introducing a
moratorium on capital punishment. Last month, deputies ratified the
European Convention on Human Rights but refused to ratify a protocol on
banning the death penalty (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 and 23  February
1998). Meanwhile, in a 4 March interview with "Komsomolskaya pravda,"
Deputy Interior Minister Kolesnikov confirmed that he opposes efforts to
abolish the death penalty. LB

DUMA ADOPTS APPEAL TO TURKISH PARLIAMENT OVER KURDS. The Duma on 4 March
adopted an appeal to the Turkish parliament on the settlement of the
"Kurdish problem," ITAR-TASS reported. The appeal calls for a halt to
Turkish military activity against the country's Kurdish population and for
the Kurdish-populated regions of Turkey to be granted a special political
status. LF

CAUCASUS CONFEDERATION EXPELS RADUEV. The Caucasus Confederation, a body
established in September 1992 to promote talks among various groups in that
region, fired former Chechen field commander Salman Raduev as
secretary-general of the organization and expelled him from the group,
Interfax reported on 5 March. The leadership of the confederation said that
Raduev's recent actions and statements were provocative and "incompatible"
with his duties as secretary-general.  PG

YELTSIN ASKS RYBKIN TO CONTINUE TALKS WITH CHECHENS. Russian President
Yeltsin has asked Ivan Rybkin to continue to head talks with Grozny,
despite his 2 March shift from secretary of the Russian Security Council to
deputy prime minister responsible for relations with CIS countries,
ITAR-TASS reported on 5 March. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry
spokesman Gennadii Tarasov said the same day that Moscow has no objections
to the upcoming visit of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to London.
Tarasov said Maskhadov was traveling on a Russian Federation passport and
would not be received officially. PG


REGIONAL AFFAIRS

RUSSIA, LATVIA SPAR OVER RIGA POLICE ACTION. Russian presidential spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembskii on 5 March said Boris Yeltsin agrees with Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov's assessment that Latvian police violated the
human rights of Russian-speaking pensioners when they broke up a recent
demonstration in Riga (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 5 March 1998).
Yastrzhembskii ruled out even preliminary talks on organizing a meeting
between Yeltsin and Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, Russian news agencies
reported. Also on 5 March, the Russian Foreign Ministry called on the
international community to take action against Latvia. Meanwhile, the
Latvian Foreign Ministry called on Russian officials to stop making
"biased" comments about the unsanctioned demonstration, and Latvian Prime
Minister Guntars Krasts said Russia may have helped stage the pensioners'
rally, BNS reported. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 6 March
condemned Krasts's remarks, saying "there can be no justification" for
violating human rights. LB

BELARUS ALSO CONDEMNS RIGA EVENTS. Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan
Antonovich said on 5 March that it shares Moscow's view that the use of
force against a demonstration of ethnic Russian pensioners earlier this
week was "unacceptable," ITAR-TASS reported. Antonovich recommended that
the issue  be resolved by the governments of Latvia and other Baltic States
within the framework of recommendations made by the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe. Russian presidential spokesman
Yastrzhembskii said that "one can imagine the European Union's reaction if
this happened in Minsk." PB

DUMA OFFICIALS DISAGREE ON RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN TREATY. Russian State Duma
Deputy Speaker Svetlana Goryacheva on 5 March criticized the behavior of
Duma CIS Affairs Committee Chairman Georgii Tikhonov and suggested that he
be replaced, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. During 3 March hearings on
ratification of the Russian-Ukrainian friendship treaty, Tikhonov handed a
Ukrainian parliamentary delegation a proposal on holding a referendum to
reunite the two countries. When a Ukrainian deputy denounced that proposal
as a "provocation," Tikhonov tried to force him to leave the Duma chamber.
Tikhonov predicted on 5 March that no more than 50-60 Duma deputies are
likely to support ratification of the treaty (226 votes are needed for a
majority). Supervision within the Duma of  CIS issues was recently
transferred from Sergei Baburin--like Tikhonov, a member of the Popular
Power faction--to Goryacheva, a Communist who supports the treaty with
Ukraine. LB

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ALIEV APPOINTS KARABAKH NEGOTIATOR AS FOREIGN MINISTER. Azerbaijani
President Heidar Aliev on 5 March appointed Tofiq Zulfiganov as foreign
minister, ITAR-TASS and local agencies reported. A  Middle East specialist
by education, Zulfiganov was deputy foreign minister responsible for
negotiations with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's
Minsk Group on the Karabakh question. The post of foreign minister had been
vacant for the last month following the sacking of Hasan Hasanov over his
involvement in a financial scandal. PG

BAKU REPORTS ANOTHER ARMENIAN ATTACK. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry on 5
March said gunfire from Armenia's Indezhavanskiy Raion had been directed at
Azerbaijani positions, ITAR-TASS  reported. According to officials in Baku,
this is the ninth such attack by Armenian forces on Azerbaijani positions
in the last month, but there has been neither confirmation nor comment by
Armenia.  PG

SOUTH OSSETIA WARNS TBILISI OVER ARMED INCURSION.  Sixteen Georgian
soldiers from a military intelligence training center in the west Georgian
town of Gori carried out an armed raid on a village in Georgia's breakaway
Republic of South Ossetia, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 5 March. The
attackers, who used armored vehicles, were driven back by an armored
detachment from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's
peacekeeping force. The South Ossetian leadership has condemned the
incident as a "blatant provocation aimed at...sabotaging the
Georgian-Ossetian peace process. " It warned that South Ossetia will take
"adequate measures to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity" in
the event of further such incursions. LF

GEORGIA TO OPPOSE CIS PLANS BUT SHEVARDNADZE TO  ATTEND SUMMIT.  Georgian
State Minister Niko Lekishvili told ITAR-TASS on 5 March that the Georgian
government will object to many of the proposals for tighter integration
within the CIS that are to be discussed at a Moscow meeting of prime
ministers of CIS countries on 6 March. But Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli
Menagarishvili announced the same day that President Eduard Shevardnadze
will attend the CIS summit on 19-20 March. Following last month's failed
assassination attempt against him, Shevardnadze has been under intense
domestic pressure not to go to that meeting.  PG

GEORGIA PREPARES TO TAKE OVER GUARDING ITS BORDER. Rezo Adamia, the
chairman of the Georgian parliamentary Commission for Defense and Security,
told journalists on 4 March that Georgia is to set up an International
Council for Security, which will include U.S., German, and Swiss
representatives, Caucasus Press reported. One of the council's first
priorities will be to establish an exclusively Georgian border force along
Georgia's frontiers. Under a 1992 agreement, those frontiers are  jointly
guarded by Georgian and Russian border troops. LF

ANOTHER DEMONSTRATION IN BISHKEK. Between 800 and 1,000 people, mostly
pensioners, demonstrated outside the government building in Bishkek on 5
March, RFE/RL correspondents reported. They were demanding that pensions be
standardized. Currently, those who retired before 1994 receive only 40
percent of the sum given to those who retired after that date. A small
group of demonstrators were invited to talk with the chairwoman of the
National Social Fund and the head of the department on social issue. They
were told that Prime Minister Apas Jumagulov signed a draft law on
standardizing pensions that day and submitted it to the parliament. This
was the third such demonstration during the past six weeks. BP

PROTEST OVER NIYAZOV'S U.S. VISIT.  A U.S.-based human rights organization
has sent a letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton protesting the scheduled
23 April visit of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov to the White House.
Human Rights Watch criticized Niyazov for establishing "one of the most
repressive and abusive governments in the world." It said Turkmenistan
"denies virtually every civil and political right" to its citizens. The
organization pointed to the detention dissidents in psychiatric hospitals,
illegal elections, the lack of freedom of assembly, the beating of
dissenters and journalists, and the death of some dissidents while in
custody. BP

KAZAKH OPPOSITION LEADER LOCATED IN ALMATY JAIL. Madel Ismailov, the leader
of Almaty City Workers Movement, has been located in a central Almaty jail,
RFE/RL correspondents reported on 5 March.. The leaders of another
opposition group, Azamat, had been searching for Ismailov since he
disappeared  on 27 February, following the founding conference of  the
opposition People's Front movement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 March 1998).
Officials at the prison said that Ismailov's name had been misspelled in
their records and that, for this reason, they had wrongly claimed he was
not being held there. Ismailov's wife briefly visited him on 5 March and
said he seemed to have been beaten. BP

UZBEK AUTHORITIES CLARIFY CHARGES AGAINST IMAMS. Deputy Interior Minister
Kutbuddin Burhanov told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that the two imams wanted
for questioning are accused of promoting Wahhabism  with the goal of
overthrowing the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March 1998). The
government blamed Wahhabis for unrest in the eastern city of Namangan last
December. BP

END NOTE

ALIEV'S VISIT TO TURKEY

by Lowell Bezanis

        Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev's recent visit to Turkey
highlighted the tempestuous between those two countries. But contrary to
conventional wisdom, it is not so much  past betrayals and current
suspicions that threaten to sabotage that relationship as the diverging
national interests of the two countries.
        The latest low in Azerbaijani-Turkish relations was precipitated by
the publication of lengthy extracts from an investigation commissioned by
Turkish Premier Mesut Yilmaz into a security scandal.  The so-called
Susurluk report--which shed some light on the links between Turkey's
ultra-nationalists, the state security apparatus, and drug king-pins--upset
Aliev because it revealed that the web of corruption involved Azerbaijan
(as well as Turkmenistan).
        The Susurluk revelations, including that of the sizable gambling
debts Aliev's son has amassed in Turkey, are not new, however. For several
years, it has been an open secret that some of  Turkey's big-time heroin
traffickers have set up money-laundering operations on each side of the
Caspian Sea.  As for Turkish involvement in the March 1995 coup attempt
against Aliev, the Azerbaijani president himself had publicly identified
one of the Turkish plotters at the time.
        The Susurluk report did, however, provide an excuse for Aliev to
sack his foreign minister, Hasan Hasanov, for his alleged involvement in
transforming a Turkish-funded diplomatic guest house into the Hotel Avrupa,
which was furnished with a casino. That Aliev did not simultaneously fire
others believed to have been involved in the Avrupa scandal suggests
Hasanov was a scapegoat.
        Piqued by the Susurluk revelations, Aliev threatened to cancel his
planned visit to Turkey, but  President Suleyman Demirel  reportedly
persuaded him not to do so. In the event, Aliev accomplished several
important objectives.
        First, he delivered a stern warning to the Turks that anything
harmful to the reputation of Azerbaijan--not to mention its president and
his immediate family members--is totally unacceptable. Even before Aliev
arrived in Istanbul, Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz had sought to
effect damage control, asserting that the Susurluk allegations about
Aliev's family were based on unreliable sources. While Aliev had reportedly
vented his anger on Yilmaz, his warm interaction with Demirel  reinforced
the perception of a special relationship between the two presidents.
        Second, in posing as an aggrieved ally, Aliev dashed any hopes his
domestic opposition may have had about finding support in Turkey in the
runup to the October presidential elections. Aliev made it clear he will
not tolerate Turkish meddling on his turf. Although Aliev will almost
certainly be re-elected, he still effectively guaranteed  that Turkey's
ultra-nationalists, some Turkish Azerbaijanis active in Ankara and
Istanbul, Azerbaijani "traitors" allegedly hiding in Turkey, and other
supporters of ousted President Abulfaz Elchibey and former Parliamentary
Speaker Rasul Guliev will be encouraged to be on their best behavior. In
practice, this suggests the Turkish printing presses that ran off
Elchibey's election posters back in 1992 will remain silent in the coming
months.
        Beyond doubly underscoring the notion that complete fealty is the
price of good relations with Azerbaijan, Aliev parlayed the visit into a
reminder to Ankara that the tables are turned. His message was that it is
now Turkey that is in the role of supplicant, not Azerbaijan.
        This reversal of roles is tied to one issue: pipelines. Long before
the geopolitical environment was ripe for such a maneuver or oil volumes
necessitated it, Ankara declared its determination to see the construction
of a main export pipeline to carry Caspian crude  from Baku across Turkey
to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. That Baku-Ceyhan pipeline remains, in
the minds of both Turkish citizens and politicians, a barometer of Turkey's
status as a player in the region.
        But whereas Turkey wants a pipeline, Baku first and foremost wants
to sell its oil on the international market. Detailed discussions about the
comparative merits of various export routes, the crude oil volumes
necessary for making them commercially viable, tariff rates and so forth
are only now beginning. But those talks must include  not only possible
transit countries but also those companies involved in so-called
exploration plays in various sectors of the Caspian Sea, as well as on
shore in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
        All the players, including Ankara and Baku, are trying to drum up
support for options offering maximum economic and political dividends.  One
small part of that effort was Aliev's recent visit to Istanbul to remind
the Turks of their obligations and to extract from them the concessions he
needs to get his oil to Western markets.

The author is a Washington-based specialist in Turkish and Central Asian
affairs.

CORRECTION: The second sentence of the third paragraph of the "End Note" in
"RFE/RL Newsline," Vol. 2, No. 36, 26 February 1998, should have read as
follows: "In all fairness, it should be noted that Armenia has tried,
albeit unsuccessfully, to persuade the Minsk Group to upgrade Karabakh's
status to a full party to the peace talks for the entire duration of the
negotiating process."

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