YELTSIN, RYBKIN DISCUSS CHECHNYA
Russian President Boris Yeltsin has instructed Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin to "speed up" the drafting of documents on Russian-Chechen relations to be signed by the Russian and Chechen presidents, Russian agencies reported yesterday Yeltsin will specify the date and venue of the signing once the documents are ready, according to ITAR-TASS, citing Yeltsin's press secretary, Sergei Yastrzhembskii. Yeltsin also approved the creation of a Russian-Chechen commission to investigate last month's bomb attacks in Armavir and Pyatigorsk. In addition, he ordered all government and state structures to coordinate their actions and statements on Chechnya with Rybkin, Nezavisimaya gazeta reports today.
BEREZOVSKII DETAILS RUSSIAN-CHECHEN AGREEMENTS
Security Council Deputy Secretary Boris Berezovskii told NTV yesterday that the most important document to be signed assesses the history of Russian- Chechen relations and lays down the principles determining relations between Grozny and Moscow. Other documents govern relations between the federal center and the Chechen government. All these agreements will be ratified by the Russian and Chechen parliaments, he said. Agreements on banking and oil are also to be signed, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. The Boston Globe today said Rybkin was considering offering Grozny a share of tariffs from oil exports via Chechnya.
WARRANT ISSUED FOR RADUEV'S DETENTION
Ruslan Kutaev, an aide to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, told journalists in Moscow yesterday that Vice President Vakha Arsanov has signed a warrant to search for and detain maverick field commander Salman Raduev. Kutaev cast doubts on Raduev's claims to have ordered the bomb attacks last month in Armavir and Pyatigorsk but said that his detention is necessary "to put an end to irresponsible statements that discredit Chechen government." Meanwhile in Grozny, First Deputy Prosecutor-General Ibragim Khamidov told Interfax that Raduev is "mentally unbalanced" and that his possible role in the bombings is being investigated. Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev said that he had not received orders to arrest Raduev.
GOVERNMENT SUBMITS BUDGET CUTS TO DUMA
The government has submitted to the State Duma a plan to cut 108 trillion rubles ($19 billion) from the 1997 budget, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported yesterday. That figure is equivalent to about one-fifth of total expenditures. The government proposes a 30% cut in military orders and coal subsidies as well as fuel deliveries to remote northern regions. It wants a 55% reduction in spending for agriculture, health, and culture. No reductions are proposed in spending for wages, pensions, stipends, debt servicing, replenishing Russia's precious metals reserves, or dealing with emergencies such as natural disasters. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will discuss the budget proposals during the Duma's 21 May session. The law on the budget requires the government to propose a "sequester" if revenues fall below 90% of targets in a single quarter. During the first three months of 1997, the government collected only 57% of budgeted revenues.
DUMA DEPUTY SEES PROBLEMS WITH SEQUESTER PROPOSAL
Government officials say the proposed sequester would bring the 1997 budget in line with reality, but Duma Budget Committee Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov told RFE/RL yesterday that there are several problems with the plan. Zhukov, a member of the Russian Regions faction, said the law on the budget requires uniform cuts in all "unprotected" programs if a sequester is needed. Instead, he said, the government has proposed leaving some unprotected programs fully funded and cutting others by 30% or 55%. In addition, the government is proposing large cuts in some areas that are currently "protected" such as health and agriculture. Zhukov noted that the government cannot unilaterally change the list of protected budget articles. A law is needed to remove items from the list and the Duma is unlikely to pass a law that would envisage such large cuts for agricultural subsidies in particular, he added.
CHERNOMYRDIN SIGNS 1997 ECONOMIC PROGRAM
The prime minister has signed a joint statement by the government and Central Bank outlining Russia's economic policies for 1997, Russian news agencies reported yesterday. The economic program was coordinated with the IMF and will be considered by the fund's board later this month. If the board approves the program, disbursements of a three-year loan worth $10 billion will be resumed in quarterly tranches of some $700 million.
PRIMAKOV SAYS TALKS WITH SOLANA WILL BE DECISIVE
Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov says today's talks with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana will determine whether a charter between Russia and NATO can be signed on 27 May, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. Today's meeting in Luxembourg will be the fifth round of talks between Solana and Primakov. An unnamed source in the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax yesterday that further progress on the charter will "depend entirely on NATO." Western officials have said they have no plans to deploy nuclear weapons in new NATO member states, but the Foreign Ministry official said Russia still insists on a legally binding document on military issues. The official argued that Western leaders had sought to assuage fears about German reunification by promising former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand. "Nobody recalls [those assertions] now," he added.
OPPOSITION CONTINUES PROTESTS AGAINST NATO EXPANSION
The Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia, a communist-led opposition alliance, sent groups of some 30 protesters to demonstrate outside the U.S., French, Italian, German and British embassies in Moscow yesterday, Russian news agencies reported. The protesters carried signs saying "No to NATO Expansion" and "Hands Off Russia." Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov told Pravda yesterday that his party's representatives in the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly have launched a Europe-wide "No to NATO" campaign. He claimed that socialists and social-democrats from many European countries have misgivings about NATO expansion. The Duma has called on Russians to stage a "day of protest against NATO expansion" on 9 May, the Russian holiday marking the World War II victory in Europe.
PRIMAKOV DENIES SENDING MESSAGE TO VELAYATI
Foreign Minister Primakov has denied sending a message to his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Velayati, saying Russia's relations with Iran will not be affected by the German court verdict implicating Iranian leaders in the 1992 Berlin killings of four Kurdish dissidents (see RFE/RL Newsline, 5 May 1997), Reuters reported yesterday. Primakov was addressing journalists in Strasbourg yesterday.
OFFICIAL ON CHINESE IMMIGRANTS IN FAR EAST
In an interview with today's Rossiskie vesti, Emil Pain, a presidential adviser on Chinese immigration in the Far East, says recent claims that illegal Chinese immigrants in that region's southern territories total 2 million are wrong, since such a large number would be "highly noticeable" among a population of some 4.8 million. But he noted that while there were only 50,00-80,000 immigrants in 1992- 1993, that figure is now just short of 200,000. He also admitted that, after finding accommodation, legal Chinese immigrants often send for their relatives, who then live with them illegally. Pain noted that while crime has increased in the area, it has risen to comparable levels in regions elsewhere in Russia that have few Chinese immigrants.
MINERS PROTEST IN PRIMORE, VORKUTA
Primorskii Krai is facing power outages for several hours a day because unpaid coal miners are refusing to resume coal shipments to power stations, RFE/RL's correspondent in Vladivostok reported yesterday. The miners, who have not been paid for four to five months, stopped the coal shipments on 1 May. The krai commission for emergency situations claimed two days later to have averted a crisis, since a few pits in Primore and Amur Oblast are still shipping coal to power plants. However, two power lines to Primore remain down following last week's fire at an arms depot in Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Meanwhile, unpaid miners at the largest coal mine in Vorkuta (Komi Republic) stopped working yesterday, ITAR-TASS reported. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais, who also heads the government's interdepartmental commission on the coal industry, is to visit Vorkuta next week.
DUMA DEPUTY PROTESTS PENSION ARREARS IN VORONEZH
Communist Duma deputy Ruslan Gostev is staging a hunger strike to protest widespread pension arrears in his native Voronezh Oblast, Interfax reported yesterday. Gostev said he began the hunger strike on 2 May and will fast for 10-15 days. Only 51% of pensioners in Voronezh have received their February payments.
MEETING OF MINSK GROUP CO-CHAIRMEN POSTPONED
The meeting between the U.S., Russian, and French co- chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group scheduled to begin today in Washington has been postponed, RFE/RL reported, citing a U.S. State Department spokesman. The French and Russian co-chairmen met last week in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In Baku on 4 May, Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev told Mikhail Krotov, the secretary of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly Council, that he would welcome greater efforts by the CIS to mediate a settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Nezavisimaya gazeta today quotes Iranian Ambassador in Baku Ali Reza Bigdeli as saying that Iran is "resolutely raising" with Armenia the question of liberating occupied Azerbaijani territory.
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT IN TURKEY
Heidar Aliyev and his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Demirel, met in Ankara yesterday and signed a declaration on strategic cooperation, Western media reported. Seven intergovernmental agreements on trade and economic cooperation were also signed. Reuters quoted Demirel as saying before his meeting with Aliyev that they would discuss "new ideas for cooperation with regional countries to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem." The two leaders were expected also to discuss the prospects for an oil pipeline through eastern Anatolia to transport Azerbaijan's Caspian oil to Turkey's Ceyhan terminal. Turkey is to announce a tender for a feasibility study for the pipeline, but the vice president of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company was quoted by Segodnya on 30 April as saying no decision on an export pipeline will be taken this year.
IMF PRAISES UZBEK PROGRESS BUT HOLDS OFF WITH LOAN
IMF First Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer says the balance of a 1995 loan worth $185 million will remain suspended, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported. He was speaking after discussions at the weekend with Uzbek officials, including President Islam Karimov. Uzbekistan drew about $92 million of the loan before the introduction last year of severe restrictions on foreign exchange, which prompted the IMF to withhold the remainder. Fischer said there has been "substantial progress" in structural reforms, including price liberalization and privatization. He also expressed satisfaction that the budget deficit has been kept below 3% of GDP so far this year.
GAS DEBTS TO TURKMENISTAN
Russia owes $71 million for gas supplies in the first three months of 1997, ITAR- TASS reported yesterday. Ukraine's debt for the same period is $302.5 million and Georgia's $22.2 million. Those two countries now owe $780.6 million and $442.7 million, respectively. Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov told the government yesterday that the debts are creating "difficulties for the country's social and economic development." He also asked the ministers to work with the Russian government to secure the return of $107.2 million currently frozen in Russia's Vneshkombank.
UKRAINE SIGNS PROTOCOL ON ABOLISHING DEATH PENALTY
Ukraine has signed the Council of Europe's protocol abolishing the death penalty, RFE/RL's Strasbourg correspondent reported yesterday. It also signed the organization's convention for the prevention of torture and inhumane treatment. The signature of those two documents means that a committee of independent experts will now be able to visit Ukrainian prisons, police stations, and detention centers. Four months ago, Ukraine's government proposed a draft law on abolishing the death penalty but the parliament has yet to pass the legislation.
NUCLEAR REACTOR IN UKRAINE SHUT DOWN FOR REPAIRS
A reactor at the Khmelnitsky nuclear power station was taken off line yesterday, Ukrainian media reported. The reactor is to be closed for more than two months to allow repairs to be carried out. Three other reactors in Ukraine are currently undergoing repairs. Ukrainian officials warned last month that because of growing debts, Ukraine's five nuclear power plants will be unable to afford annual overhauling, which is normally carried out in spring and summer.
LATVIAN PRESIDENT WANTS FUNDS DOUBLED FOR NATO COOPERATION
Guntis Ulmanis has said that budgetary allocations for NATO cooperation must be doubled next year, BNS reported yesterday. Ulmanis was addressing foreign diplomats in Riga at a 3 May ceremony marking the seventh anniversary of Latvian independence. He praised Baltic security initiatives proposed by such NATO member states as France, Denmark, Norway, Germany, and the U.S. He also said it is necessary to better inform the Latvian public about the EU. Recent opinion polls suggest that Latvians are not very optimistic about the country's accession to the union.
IMF URGES LITHUANIA TO SPEED UP PRIVATIZATION
The IMF has urged Lithuania to push forward with privatization, AFP reported. Julian Berengaut, the head of the IMF mission in Vilnius, made the appeal in a meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius. The government plans this month to launch a privatization program that includes auctioning off the telecommunications network, a shipping company, the Baltia shipyards, a refinery, an oil terminal, and the national airline. The IMF has delayed releasing a $30 million tranche of a 1994 loan worth $186 million because of concerns about the lack of progress toward privatization in Lithuania.
FRANCE SUPPORTS POLAND'S EFFORTS TO JOIN EU, NATO
French President Jacques Chirac yesterday reiterated his country's support for Poland's bid to join the EU in the year 2000 and its efforts to enter NATO. Chirac spoke at a press conference at the close of Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski's two-day visit to France. Referring to the French parliamentary elections later this month, he said "nothing will happen to change" France's position on Poland. He also proposed setting up a working group of officials from the two countries' presidential offices and foreign affairs and defense ministries to follow up on EU talks about its eastward expansion. Meanwhile in Warsaw, Polish and Greek Defense Ministers Stanislaw Dobrzanski and Akis Tsohatzopoulos agreed to strengthen military cooperation. Tsohatzopoulos reaffirmed support for Poland's bid to join NATO.
TWELVE DIE IN POLISH TRAIN ACCIDENT
Twelve people were killed and 30 injured yesterday when several cars of a passenger train separated from the locomotive and crashed into a stationary freight train on a parallel track, Polish media reported. The accident took place near the train station at Reptowo, close to the port city of Szczecin. The cause of the accident is unknown. The train is reported to have been traveling at 120 kilometers per hour when the accident took place.
CZECH PREMIER IN AUSTRIA
Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima says Austria will support the Czech Republic's bid to join the EU. Speaking to journalists in Vienna after a meeting with his Czech counterpart, Vaclav Klaus, Klima said the Czech Republic was "one of the countries most prepared for [EU] entry." In his opinion, talks with Prague should start six months after the close of the current intergovernmental conference on EU expansion. Klaus and Klima agreed to prevent long delays at the Czech-Austrian border by creating special channels to be used only by Czech and Austrian citizens.
SLOVAK AGRICULTURE MINISTER CRITICIZES EU POLICIES TOWARD ASSOCIATE MEMBERS
Peter Baco has sharply criticized the EU for its agricultural trade policy toward associate member states. Baco told journalists in Bratislava yesterday that the situation is "shameful." He noted that "Slovakia exports to EU countries half as much produce as it did before 1990, while it imports twice as much as it did before 1990." He added that the situation in the Czech Republic and other EU associate member states was similar and reflected the "real commercial interests" of EU countries. "Our foolishness lies in the rapid decrease in subsidies to Slovak agriculture, which are currently a quarter of those in EU countries," Baco remarked.
PORTUGUESE FOREIGN MINISTER IN BRATISLAVA
Jaime Gama says Portugal is in favor of EU and NATO expansion including Central European countries. Gama was speaking to journalists in Bratislava yesterday following his meeting with Slovak Foreign Minister Pavol Hamzik. He denied that Lisbon was opposed to EU expansion for fear of losing European subsidies and remarked that joining the EU and NATO enabled Portugal to stabilize its economic and political situation. But he pointed out that all applicants for EU and NATO membership must first meet certain criteria related to a political democracy and market economy.
HUNGARY'S DEPUTIES DECLARE ASSETS
Some 350 out of the country's 384 deputies have submitted statements declaring assets held by themselves and their immediate family members, Hungarian dailies report. As of today, deputies who fail to submit declarations of their assets are not allowed to vote in the legislature or draw their salaries as deputies. Socialist deputies Lajos Varga and Laszlo Pal, who is chairman of the board of the state oil and gas company MOL Rt., are the only members of the parliament who have so far decided to give up their seats in favor of business interests. The Constitutional Court last week interpreted the law on conflict of interests to include politicians who took up business positions before 1994. Under the earlier interpretation of the law, deputies who held business positions before the last elections were allowed to keep both posts.
HUNGARIAN PREMIER RESPONDS TO PARTY DISSENTERS
Gyula Horn says that as long as he is prime minister, he will "not support any changes in the government's and the Socialist Party's policies," Hungarian Radio and Budapest dailies report today. Horn was responding to the Socialist Democratic Group, a faction of the Socialist Party, which last week demanded his replacement as chairman of the party (see RFE/RL Newsline, 29 April 1997). He said the dissenting members of the group differ from Smallholders' Party leader Joszef Torgyan "only in style." Ivan Vitanyi, one of the group's leaders, reiterated yesterday that the party's chances in the next elections will improve only if it carries out personnel changes, including at the top.
ITALY DEPORTS "UNDESIRABLE" ALBANIANS
Military spokesmen said in Bari yesterday that 180 Albanians were deported soon after their arrival on an overcrowded Montenegrin tanker on 4 May. The spokesmen added that an additional 300 "undesirable" Albanians from the same ship will be sent home today. Meanwhile in Tirana, Lt.-Gen. Luciano Forlani, the commander of the international force, said foreign troops have calmed the situation in Albania but are powerless to stop the exodus of refugees.
ALBANIAN POLITICIANS STILL DEADLOCKED
Leaders of the Democratic and Socialist Parties have again failed to agree on terms for holding early elections in June, the official ATA news agency reported yesterday. The Socialists want the Democrats to endorse a new election law as a precondition, while the Democrats want the Socialists first to disband the rebel committees in the south. The Socialists say they do not control the committees. Over the weekend, leading independent and opposition Tirana dailies praised U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's invitation to Prime Minister Bashkim Fino to visit Washington. The papers agreed that the invitation is a message to President Sali Berisha not to make trouble for Fino.
VOTER REGISTRATION STARTS IN BOSNIA
Some 420 OSCE offices opened in Bosnia-Herzegovina yesterday to allow citizens to register for the 13-14 September local elections. Carl Bildt, the international community's High Representative, said in the disputed town of Brcko that registration offices will open there in a few days, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Sarajevo. The state- run media in federal Yugoslavia report that refugees can sign up for the Bosnian elections in various location in Serbia and Montenegro. Refugees living outside Bosnia have until 7 June to register either in person or by mail. The vote is seen as a last opportunity to reverse "ethnic cleansing" because refugees can cast ballots that will be counted in their former home towns.
SERBIAN HOMES TORCHED IN CROAT-HELD AREA
The UN police and Bildt's office announced in Sarajevo yesterday that 25 empty Serbian houses were burned in Drvar over the weekend, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Bosnian capital. Bildt's spokesman added that unidentified persons had also prepared an additional 25 Serbian dwellings for torching. The UN police say they will conduct their own investigation because they are dissatisfied with work of the local Croatian police in such matters. Local Croatian authorities had earlier agreed that the Serbs could return in keeping with the Dayton agreement. Drvar was a mainly Serbian town before the Croatian-Muslim offensive in 1995. Local Croatian nationalists want to consolidate their hold on the area, which is near the Herzegovinian Croat heartland and Croatia proper.
GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS BOSNIAN RECONSTRUCTION AID DEPENDS ON GOOD BEHAVIOR
Klaus Kinkel said in Bonn yesterday that "by making reconstruction help strictly conditional, the international community disposes of an effective means of fixing bounds for the fomenters of ethnic tensions. Misguided fanatics must not be allowed to endanger what has been achieved." Kinkel spoke in response to the torchings in Drvar, which he called "alarming." Germany remains the most important foreign economic influence throughout the former Yugoslavia.
CROATIAN POLITICAL UPDATE
The pro-government daily Vjesnik reports today that presidential elections will take place on 15 June and that the authorities will confirm the date within a week. Candidates will then have 12 days to register. Most observers expect President Franjo Tudjman to be re-elected. Yesterday, he set 12 May as the date for the opening session of the upper house elected last month. Meanwhile, the Zagreb county court pardoned seven ethnic Serbs charged with spying for the federal Yugoslav army at the start of the war in 1991, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from the Croatian capital. Two of the men will still have to face conspiracy charges.
POWER MEETING IN BELGRADE
Federal Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic, Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic, Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic, and several other top officials met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade yesterday, Nasa Borba reports. No details of the meeting were given. Observers expect Milosevic to announce soon whether he will seek the federal presidency or try to run for a third term, despite the constitutional provision that the holder of that office may serve for only two terms. Also in Belgrade, Politika reported yesterday a growth in the murder rate. Some 40 murders took place this year, compared with 55 for all of 1996. Most such crimes involved an unregistered firearm and half remain unsolved.
ITALIAN PREMIER BACKS ROMANIA'S BID TO JOIN NATO, EU
Romano Prodi says his country "irrevocably supports" Romania's bid to join NATO and the EU, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Prodi, who was in the Romanian capital yesterday to meet with his counterpart Victor Ciorbea, expressed his country's gratitude for Romania's participation in the international force in Albania. He also held talks with the chairmen of the two houses of parliament and was received by President Emil Constantinescu. Prodi is the first Italian prime minister to visit Romania in 20 years. Italy is Romania's second largest investor.
ROMANIAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER TO BECOME NEW INTELLIGENCE CHIEF?
Dudu Ionescu says in an interview with the independent news agency Mediafax that he has been asked to become the new chief of the Intelligence Service (SRI). He did not say who made the offer but noted he would "have to accept" if it came from "those authorized" to make it. Under Romanian law, the president appoints the SRI chief. Sources within the major governmental party, the National Peasant Party--Christian Democratic, say Ionescu has the support of party chairman Ion Diaconescu. But Mediafax says that President Emil Constantinescu favors Costin Georgescu, a deputy for the National Liberal Party and former financial manager of Constantinescu's presidential campaign.
ROMANIAN COAL MINERS LEADER SAYS HIS TRIAL IS POLITICAL
Miron Cozma, the leader of the coal miners who rampaged through Bucharest on several occasions in 1990 and 1991, says the accusations against him are "politically motivated," Romanian media reported on 5-6 May. Cozma is charged with "undermining state authority" by playing a leading role in the demonstrations, which triggered the dismissal of Petre Roman's government in September 1991. He is also charged with the illegal possession of firearms and other offenses. Cozma said the miners were manipulated in 1991 by people who knew they would react violently to wage arrears and who wanted to bring about changes in the government but did not want to force Roman out of office. His trial began yesterday in Bucharest and is expected to last several months.
BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER DENIES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT
Bogumil Bonev says there is no evidence that the bomb found near Sofia airport last week was planted there to assassinate the presidents of Bulgaria and Romania (see RFE/RL Newsline, 5 May 1997). An RFE/RL Sofia bureau correspondent quoted the caretaker interior minister as saying an investigation is under way to establish who planted the explosive device and why.
Putting Pipelines Into Play
by Paul Goble
Yerevan's rejection of an Azerbaijani proposal to build an oil pipeline across Armenia in exchange for recognition of Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh highlights the pitfalls of using pipelines to make peace. But even if this latest exchange between the two governments does not lead to peace, both the Azerbaijani proposal and Armenia's response and subsequent action indicate that the two countries may be reconsidering their approaches to each other. If that proves the case, there may be some significant movement not only on the long-running Karabakh dispute but also on relations among the three countries of the southern Caucasus as well as between those states and the rest of the world.
The current flurry of activity began on 1 May, when Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev said his country would be prepared to consider the construction of a pipeline across Armenia if Yerevan would withdrawn its forces in, and its claims to, Karabakh. Routing Azerbaijani and Central Asian oil across Armenia would not only bypass many of the difficulties posed by the alternative routes across Georgia and Russia but would bring Armenia significant transit fees.
But the next day, Armenian presidential spokesman Levon Zurabyan rejected any suggestion that Yerevan might be willing to consider such a trade-off. While Armenia would welcome a pipeline across its territory and believes that it would be "profitable for all," it does "not see any relation between the pipeline's route and the settlement of the Karabakh conflict," Zurabyan concluded.
Similar proposals and rejections have been floated at various times in the past, and Zurabyan's rejection gave no reason to believe that the current exchange would lead to anything else. But the same day, the Armenian Foreign Ministry publicly denounced the Armenian parliament's decision to ratify a treaty allowing Moscow to have military bases in Armenia for 25 years. Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparyan said that his ministry had urged the parliament to postpone ratification of the pact because of growing concerns about its implications for the country's national security. The Foreign Ministry reportedly noted that the treaty--which has since been ratified--would force Yerevan to give up to Russia some of the tanks and armored vehicles that Armenia is allowed under the CFE treaty. That could leave Armenia weaker than Azerbaijan and even more dependent on Russia, Gasparyan said.
Both Azerbaijan and Georgia have expressed fears in Vienna at the recent CFE talks that Moscow will be able to pressure some of its neighbors into yielding their quotas to Russia and thus allow it to put pressure on others. The two Transcaucasian states clearly had Armenia in mind when they made those remarks. At least some members of the Armenian cabinet appear to be focusing on the dangers inherent in this game. Azerbaijani President Aliyev's proposal may have provided them with an opening, since it suggests that Armenia has more choices about its future than simply relying on Russia.
Among those in Yerevan now thinking about such new alternatives may be some close associates of recently named Armenian Prime Minister Robert Kocharyan. As former president of the breakaway region of Karabakh, he is generally thought to have a freer hand than anyone else in Yerevan in negotiating a settlement. If this interpretation proves correct--and many will seek to sabotage any agreement between Baku and Yerevan--there could be movement on the Karabakh issue for the first time in many months. Any such movement would almost certainly lead to better relations among the southern Caucaucasian countries while contributing to a new skepticism about Russian designs in the region as a whole.
Consequently, Baku and Yerevan may have altered the political landscape of this part of the world by putting pipeline issues into play once again--even if the routes of those pipelines do not change.