The National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) reconvened in Dushanbe on January 23 and 26, as the government promised to seriously address the opposition’s complaints against violations of key terms of the June 1997 peace agreements. The opposition had on January 15 withdrawn in protest from the NRC–the joint government-opposition body empowered to supervise the implementation of those agreements.
Yesterday the government announced that it is discontinuing the criminal cases pending since 1993 against United Tajik Opposition (UTO) chairman Saidabdullo Nuri, first vice-chairman Akbar Turajonzoda, and other opposition figures. President Imomali Rahmonov announced his consent to appoint Turajonzoda — currently in Tehran — to the post of first deputy prime minister. Both steps had been stipulated in the 1997 agreements and were overdue. The government has also reportedly promised to act soon on the other issues that had caused the opposition to withdraw from the NRC. UTO leaders, for their part, agreed to speed up the official registration of opposition detachments and their weapons, and to remove checkpoints installed by those detachments on the eastern approaches to Dushanbe during the recent political crisis. (See Monitor, January 12 and 16)
Unresolved issues of foremost concern to the opposition include:
–parallel release of almost 1,600 opposition supporters from government prisons and of almost 300 military prisoners held by the opposition;
–repatriation of UTO fighters stranded in Afghanistan;
— appointment of UTO representatives to 30 percent of government posts in accordance with the 1997 agreement;
–and legalization of political parties and their press, banned since 1993 by the government.
These steps are stipulated in the 1997 agreements, but the government has thus far stonewalled their implementation.
The contact group — made up of Dushanbe ambassadors of some ten guarantor countries and international organizations — has mediated between government and opposition in an effort to relaunch the NRC’s work. UN envoy Gerd-Dietrich Merrem, who led the effort, came out in favor of the principle that the military and the political agreements of 1997 must be implemented in parallel. (Russian and international agencies, IRNA, January 23 through 26) This implicitly supports the stance of the opposition, which argues that the two tracks are equally important. The government wants the military agreements implemented in the first stage, apparently hoping to be able to dictate the terms of the political settlement in the follow-up stage.
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