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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 168 Part I, 1 September 1998
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 2, No. 168 Part I, 1 September 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 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * DUMA TO RECONSIDER CHERNOMYRDIN NEXT WEEK * CLINTON ARRIVES IN MOSCOW WITH FULL AGENDA * TURKMEN, CHINESE PRESIDENTS SIGN AGREEMENTS End Note: DEMIREL'S OVERTURE: OLIVE BRANCH OR CHALLENGE? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA DUMA TO RECONSIDER CHERNOMYRDIN NEXT WEEK. According to Interfax on 1 September, the State Duma will vote on the candidacy of acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for a second time on 7 September. After the Duma voted 251 to 94 not to confirm Chernomyrdin on 31 August, Russian President Yeltsin immediately resubmitted his name. Communist Pary leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhironovsky have declared their intention to reject the nomination, while Duma chairman Gennadii Seleznev told reporters that Chernomyrdin has "no chance" to win Duma acceptance on the second try. According to the Russian Constitution, if the Duma rejects Chernomyrdin a third time, Yeltsin will have to dissolve the legislature and hold new elections within four months. JAC CLINTON ARRIVES IN MOSCOW WITH FULL AGENDA. U.S. President Bill Clinton arrived in Moscow on 1 September with a number of foreign policy, arms control, and trade issues to discuss with his Russian counterpart. Russian presidential foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko told Interfax that Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Clinton will discuss the G-8, Russian-NATO cooperation, particularly in Albania, Afghanistan, and Iraq, implementation of START-I, ratification of START-II, and preparation of START-III. President Yeltsin will also raise the issue of non-citizens living in Latvia and Estonia. In the area of economic relations, the presidents will discuss most-favored-nation trade status for Russia, while joint space exploration and peaceful uses of nuclear energy are also on the agenda. JAC PLUTONIUM ACCORD SLATED FOR SIGNATURE. Clinton and Yeltsin are expected to sign an agreement on reducing each nation's stock of weapon-grade plutonium by 50 tons through reprocessing and disposal. According to ITAR-TASS, U.S. experts estimate that the U.S. has 100 tons and Russia 160 tons. Both sides would use the plutonium to produce fuel and in power-generating nuclear reactors. Several other joint statements are also slated to be signed during Clinton's visit, including on handling common security challenges during the next century, exchanging missile-attack early warning information, and banning biological weapons. JAC CLINTON TO MEET LEBED, ZYUGANOV. President Clinton on 2 September will meet with Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed, a likely Russian presidential candidate in 2000, and Communist Pary leader Zyuganov. According to ITAR-TASS on 31 August, Lebed said he does not know what Clinton wants to discuss with him but that he will raise the issue of establishing a trans-Arctic airline route from North America to Southeast Asia over Krasnoyarsk territory. Lebed hopes that the route would enable Krasnoyarsk to earn substantial revenue and create thousands of new jobs. Meanwhile, Lebed continues to express his lukewarm support for acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. In an interview with the French newspaper "Le Figaro" on 31 August, he said: "Chernomyrdin has only a minute chance of slowing down the collapse, but at least he has one. Others do not. It is in everybody's interest to support him--otherwise we will drown." He refused to say whether he will run for president. "I have not yet announced my decision.... The problem is money and nerves," he noted. JAC GORBACHEV APPROVES CLINTON VISIT. Former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev said that President Clinton's trip to Moscow is well timed, since dialogue is even more important under crisis conditions. He also said that U.S.-Russian relations at present "are not very saturated with content," according to Interfax. Gorbachev suggested that the U.S. is trying to deal with Russia "from the position of a stronger country," but he added that even when weakened, "Russia has an important say in international affairs." JAC REGIONAL LEADERS REACT TO CRISIS. Governors in various Russian regions appear to back Chernomyrdin if only out of a sense that continued delay in installing a government will risk exacerbating the economic crisis. According to ITAR- TASS, Arkhangelsk Governor Anatolii Yefremov told reporters on 31 August that he thinks Yeltsin will keep proposing Chernomyrdin and will go as far as dismissing the government, which, he stressed, "is more important than any other state structure." He added that "if the deputies' ambitions exceed their reason, the process of confirming the prime minister will drag on and every extra day means rising prices and instability." Samara Governor Konstantin Titov recommended that Chernomyrdin be approved "before full-scale chaos develops in the Russian economy." Lipetsk Governor Oleg Korolev said that the history of other countries suggests that paths other than compromise and consensus- building inevitably lead to failure. JAC LEFTISTS FLOAT ALTERNATE CANDIDATES. Interfax reported on 31 August that leftist opposition groups want to offer their own candidates for the position of prime minister. These would include Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev, and Industry and Trade Minister Yurii Maslyukov. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Zhironovsky has offered himself as candidate. "Moskovskii Komsomolets" reported on 1 September that Luzhkov met with Yeltsin, Stroev, and Chernomyrdin the previous day and agreed to support Chernomyrdin's candidacy. However, that was before Zyuganov had proposed Luzhkov as a potential candidate for the post of premier. The newspaper speculates that now Luzhkov may be reconsidering that decision in light of his new career prospects. JAC ALL QUIET ON STOCK MARKET. Political uncertainty in Moscow continues to have a deadening effect on the Russian stock market. According to Interfax on 1 September, there was little trading activity, and quotations for leading stock fell 15 percent to 30 percent. JAC RHETORIC HEATS UP... In their statements to the press and in public speeches, Duma members and administration officials have adopted more inflammatory rhetoric than usual. After it was clear that the leftist opposition parties would not support Chernomyrdin, presidential representative to the Duma Aleksander Kotenkov warned the opposition that if the crisis continues, both the Communists and the administration will be swept away through "a popular uprising, merciless and senseless." In his speech to Duma, Chernomyrdin warned that "Russia is on the verge of political and economic collapse," while Communist Party leader Zyuganov said "if we fail to reach an agreement here, everything will spill out to the streets." On 1 September, he declared that Yeltsin's decision to renominate Chernomyrdin will push the country to "a civil war and strong confrontation." JAC ...WHILE CITIZENS CALL HOT LINE. Meanwhile, the tone of Russians calling the White House's three telephone hot lines have been more anxious and despairing than angry and combative, according to "Krasnaya Zvezda" on 28 August. One operator servicing the hot line said that most callers are concerned about what will happen to their bank deposits. Others question why the state has not done enough to defend the ruble against the dollar. The newspaper reports that Chernomyrdin closely studies data on the phone calls collated by a special working group that determines which subjects are of most concern to Russian citizens. Its links Chernomyrdin's attention to the calls with his other efforts to resolve problems in Russia's regions, such as preparation for winter, gathering the harvest, and helping victims of natural disasters. JAC NEW CALLS FOR RESIGNATION OF DAGESTANI LEADER. The Union of Muslims of Dagestan called on 29 August for the resignation of State Council Chairman Magomedali Magomedov, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 1 September. The union also demanded that the republic's constitution be amended to provide for republic-wide elections for the head of state. At present, the State Council chairman is elected by the members of that body. The constitution was amended in March 1998,to allow for Magomedov's re-election for a second term, but Magomedov agreed to hold a referendum on further amendments to the constitution to introduce the post of elected president. LF TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA TURKMEN, CHINESE PRESIDENTS SIGN AGREEMENTS. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, who is on a six-day visit to China, met with his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, in Beijing on 31 August, ITAR-TASS reported. Their talks focused on regional security, including the situations in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Taiwan, and the fight against separatism. They also discussed the construction of a 6,700 kilometer gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China, which eventually may also provide gas to Japan. The Japanese company Mitsubishi and U.S. company Exxon are participating in that project. The two presidents signed a declaration on strengthening bilateral ties. Jiang emphasized "the extreme importance of selecting this or that path of socio-economic development in accordance with the realistic conditions in one's own country while preserving internal stability." Agreements were also signed on air links, education, scientific and technical cooperation, and tourism. BP ALL OPPOSITION FIGHTERS IN TAJIKISTAN TAKE OATH. ITAR-TASS reported on 1 September that all fighters from the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) who are currently in Tajikistan have taken the oath of allegiance to the government. The total number of those who have sworn allegiance is 5,200; only 200 UTO fighters in northern Afghanistan have not yet done so. The UN will assist in returning those fighters to Tajikistan after the Tajik government and UTO hand over those suspected of killing four UN employees in late July. The arrival of those suspects in Dushanbe has again been delayed owing to "technical reasons." UN special envoy to Tajikistan Jan Kubis met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov on 31 August. Kubis said later that he is satisfied that the suspects have been detained. However, Kubis has recently said the UN will not help repatriate the UTO fighters in Afghanistan until the suspects arrive in Dushanbe. BP KAZAKH OFFICIALS DISMISSED. Chairman of the National Security Committee Alnur Musayev has been demoted to deputy chairman of the same committee, RFE/RL correspondents reported on 1 September. No reason was given for his demotion. Musayev has made several statements in the media recently about the fight against corruption, but a recent article in the Kazakh independent newspaper "DAT" questioned how Musayev's daughter was able to study abroad at a university where tuition costs are $40,000 per year. Presidential adviser Nurtay Abikayev replaces Musayev. Also dismissed was Akhmetzhan Yesimov, the head of the president's administration. Yesimov is being transferred to another post and is replaced by Alikhan Baymenov, deputy head of the presidential administration. BP COUNCIL OF EUROPE DELEGATION IN TRANSCAUCASUS. A Council of Europe delegation headed by Secretary-General Daniel Tarschys visited Baku, Tbilisi, and Yerevan on 29-31 August to assess the chances of the three Transcaucasus states of being granted full membership in the council. Currently, those states have "special guest" status. Tarschys discussed with both Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian the prospects for a settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Progress toward reaching such a settlement is a precondition for Azerbaijan and Armenia to receive full membership in the council. In an indication that the council has revised its previous intention that the three Transcaucasus states be granted full membership at the same time, Tarschys said in Yerevan on 31 August that simultaneous accession would be "a coincidence," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. LF ARMENIA'S PRESENT, EX-PREMIERS ASSESS RUSSIAN ECONOMIC CRISIS. Prime Minister Armen Darpinian told Noyan Tapan on 29 August that he is confident the Russian financial crisis will not adversely affect Armenia, where there is an absence of those conditions that brought on the crisis. Darpinian said that in Armenia the correlation between budget revenue and expenditure is "realistic" and that there is no threat of an unanticipated deficit. But former Premier Hrant Bagratian disagreed, pointing out that one-quarter of Armenia's foreign trade is with Russia and that the fall in the value of the ruble will curtail Armenian exports. A correspondent for RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau noted that proposed investments in Armenia's industrial sector by leading Russian banks may be in jeopardy and that those Armenians who depend on money transfers from relatives working in the Russian Federation will now receive less in dollar terms. The ruble exchange rate fell last week from 64 to 52 Armenian drams to one ruble. LF END NOTE DEMIREL'S OVERTURE: OLIVE BRANCH OR CHALLENGE? by Liz Fuller Armenian presidential adviser for public relations Gassia Apkarian told journalists in Yerevan on 26 August that Turkish President Suleyman Demirel has invited his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, to participate in the celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey. Kocharian has accepted that invitation and will announce shortly who will represent Armenia at the ceremonies in Ankara and Istanbul on 29-30 October. Demirel's overture and Kocharian's acceptance are the most concrete manifestations to date of Ankara's and Yerevan's desire, expressed by both after Kocharian's election as president in March, to improve bilateral relations. Although in late 1991 Turkey recognized the independence of Armenia, along with that of the other former Soviet republics, it has never established formal diplomatic relations with Armenia. And despite flourishing informal business contacts, Ankara has refused to reopen the border crossing with Armenia that was closed at the time of an Armenian offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1993. The Turkish government insists that reopening the border and establishing formal diplomatic relations are contingent on the withdrawal of Armenian forces from six districts of Azerbaijan adjacent to the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Yerevan's recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over the disputed Armenian-populated enclave. Turkey is keenly interested in promoting a lasting political solution to the Karabakh conflict, fearing that continued instability in the Transcaucasus may adversely affect the prospects and timetable for construction of the proposed Main Export Pipeline, which will transport Azerbaijan's Caspian oil from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean terminal at Ceyhan. The realization of that project will not only benefit Turkey financially; it is considered symbolic of Turkey's aspirations to be recognized as a regional power. From the Armenian perspective, the primary obstacle to improved relations with Turkey is one of moral principle, namely the refusal of successive Turkish governments to acknowledge that the killings of up to 1.5 million ethnic Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 constituted a deliberate policy of genocide. The new Armenian leadership has pledged that securing international recognition and condemnation of the killings will be a key tenet of its foreign policy. But Armenian officials stress that the motivation for achieving that aim is not because Yerevan aims to force a confrontation with Turkey but because failure to discuss that legacy "poisons" bilateral relations and precludes increased cooperation. In this context, the timing of Demirel's proffered olive branch may be intended to highlight the distinction between Ottoman Turkey and the Republic of Turkey and thus underscore Ankara's argument that the latter should not be held morally responsible for the crimes committed by the former. In addition, the Turkish leadership may hope that by adopting a more conciliatory attitude toward Armenia, there is less likelihood that other countries will follow the example of France in formally condemning the Armenian genocide. Turkey reacted with shock and anger when the French National Assembly (the lower chamber of the parliament) adopted such a resolution in July. There is also a second foreign-policy dimension to Demirel's overture insofar as it raises the possibility of Ankara's reconsidering its position of linking the establishment of diplomatic relations with Armenia to concessions by Yerevan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Such a "de- linkage" would constitute a retreat from Turkey's hitherto unwavering support of Azerbaijan's position on resolving the Karabakh conflict. In the same vein, Demirel's invitation to Kocharian may be intended to convey the message to Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev that Ankara expects him to deliver on his professed commitment to implementing the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project. It is equally possible that the Turkish leadership is counting on Kocharian's decision not to travel to Turkey for the October anniversary celebration but to send instead a lower-level delegation. Last month, Kocharian declined an invitation to attend an EU-sponsored conference on the TRACECA project in Baku. Kocharian's foreign policy adviser, Aram Sarkisian, explained that Kocharian's participation would have given an overtly political dimension to what is first and foremost an economic forum. "Anti-Armenian hysteria in the Azerbaijani press" would have turned Kocharian's presence at the conference into "a political show," he argued. Another reason why President Kocharian may not attend is the possible adverse public reaction in Turkey to such a visit--especially in the light of his key role in coordinating the Karabakh Armenians' military victory over Azerbaijan. Similarly, Armenian public opinion and several of the political parties that currently support Kocharian may argue that if he were to accept Demirel's invitation, he would be presenting the Turkish president with a public relations victory, without a guarantee of receiving anything in return. The Armenian president thus has to weigh the possibility of a domestic political backlash against the opportunity to drive a wedge between Turkey and Azerbaijan and simultaneously to demonstrate to the international community that he is not the hard-liner he is frequently portrayed as. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1998 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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