Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 35

The fifth round of UN-mediated inter-Tajik negotiations in Ashgabat was suspended February 17, apparently indefinitely, despite the imminent expiration February 26 of the provisional cease-fire agreement. During the last phase of the talks, the government delegation demanded a six-month extension of the cease-fire based on the front lines that existed prior to the recent opposition gains. The government delegation also offered to allow opposition leaders to address the Dushanbe parliament next month; agreed to the formation of a powerless "congress of the peoples of Tajikistan" to discuss the country’s problems; and consented to permit activities of political parties. The opposition agreed to a three-month extension of the cease-fire based on the new front lines in existence since late January, reflecting its advances in Tavildara; demanded an exchange of prisoners; agreed in principle to the parliamentary address and the calling of the symbolic congress of peoples; but demanded the formation of a national conciliation council endowed with real legislative and executive powers to prepare new free elections.

Held on and off since late November, the fifth round was supposed to be the last round of inter-Tajik talks before an agreement was reached. However, the talks stumbled against Dushanbe’s familiar refusal to share power with the opposition. In January, two developments converged which were expected to soften Dushanbe’s stand: first, the CIS summit resolution that conditioned a renewal of Russian "peacekeeping" troops’ mandate on some concessions by Dushanbe in the negotiations with the opposition; and second, the rebellions by the Tajik regime’s Uzbek allies, who also demanded concessions. In the ensuing crunch, Moscow supported the government. Dushanbe’s new foreign minister and chief negotiator in Ashgabat, Talbak Nazarov, presumed to be a moderate, followed his "intransigent" predecessor in insisting that Tajikistan’s existing constitution and parliament are the sole acceptable framework for any political settlement. (9)