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Azerbaijan Report: January 19, 2002

19 January 2002
Are There Any Prospects That The Nagorno Karabakh Conflict Will Be Settled In Near Future?
On 24 January, the Nagorno Karabakh problem will be discussed in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and a new rapporteur will be appointed for the conflict. Parliament member Mubariz Gurbanli told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that Azerbaijan uses the PACE for propaganda. Azerbaijan sets out the facts regarding Armenian aggression in the Council of Europe and it naturally impacts the European public opinion.

Gurbanli says that naturally, Azerbaijan gives preference to a peaceful regulation of the problem. But if the problem is not settled peacefully and the mediators do not carry out certain work, then Azerbaijan will not regard calmly either the peaceful or the military solution. Then Azerbaijan can adhere to UNO regulations and other international organizations and launch military operations.

Gurbanli refuted the statement issued by the new U.S. Ambassador to Armenia who claimed that there is no possibility for Azerbaijan to launch military operations.

The head of the Caucasian Research Center, Khaleddin Ibrahimli, says that nothing new is expected in the settlement of the Karabakh problem in the next few months.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Gabala Radiolocation Station Leased To Russia
According to the information agency Turan, on 15 January, Azerbaijan�s Prime Minister Artur Rasizadeh and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kasyanov held talks in Moscow and practically settled the issue of the Gabala Radio Location Station (RLS). Russia considers this strategic military facility to be Azerbaijan�s property and obtains the right to lease it for 10 years. Turan obtained the news from an informed source in the Azerbaijani delegation taking part in Moscow talks. The agreement will be included in a bilateral contract to be signed during Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev�s visit to Moscow on 24-27 January.

The Azerbaijani government source told Turan that the agreement envisages bilateral monitoring of the ecological impact of the radar station. In addition, Russia will share with Azerbaijan the information it will receive from the station. He said Russia has taken into consideration Baku's wish regarding the facility. The issue regarding payment for the lease has not yet been settled but will be before Aliyev's visit. Azerbaijan wants $5 million a year for the facility but Russia is not ready to pay that sum.

According to independent political scientist Zafar Shirvanli, Russia is geographically close to Azerbaijan and the latter has got a number of problems to settle with Azerbaija. Shirvanli says that the U.S. has economic interests in the region. But as the region carries a vital significance for Russia, Russia tries to play an important role in all the conflicts ongoing in the region.

Shirvanli sees no obstacle for leasing the radar station to Russia. He said it can become a means to exert pressure on Russia not to arm Armenia.

Eldeniz Yusibov, Head of the Independent Ecological Research Centre, says that the information about an agreement between the two ministers is not true. He said Russia tried to obtain the status of a military facility for Gabala.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Another Karabakh Invalid Died In Azerbaijan
Since the end of last year, some 54 Karabakh invalids have died of lack of medical treatment. According to Rey Kerimoglu, head of Press Service of the Society of Karabakh Invalids, Fizuli Jafarov from Azerbaijan's occupied city of Shusha died two days ago, leaving two children. Kerimoglu says that there are some 150 Karabakh invalids and they can only receive the treatment they need abroad.

Kerimoglu recalls that in 1995, some $320,000 was allocated to treat 21 Karabakh invalids abroad. The treatment was to be distributed through the Ministry for Health but the money was later embezzled and the plan was thwarted. Kerimoglu says there have been no comparable cases anywhere else in the world. He notes that the official suspension of the society has eliminated all the opportunities for its members to receive medical care. The alternative group established under the government auspices exists only in name.

The chairman of the Society of Karabakh Invalids, Etimad Asadov, said that after the cancellation of allowances, cases of suicide and death among former fighters will rise. Kerimoglu stresses that the untimely death of one more Karabakh invalid should be an alarm signal for the government.

(Babek Bekir)

World Bank Allots Grant To Eliminate Poverty In Azerbaijan
Head of the World Bank Michael Mills is visiting Azerbaijan to define the rate of poverty in this country. According to experts, the rate of poverty in Azerbaijan was 60 percent in 1997. But the rate has increased over the last five years and has reached 80-85 percent. Mills met with representatives of the government and non-governmental organisations. He intends to study public opinion. A state commission for the elimination of poverty has been established and a relevant document is ready. The World Bank has allotted $100 million to eliminate poverty in Azerbaijan.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Khaslid Kazimli in an article carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that an abnormal situation regarding political prisoners has arisen. The government, the press and the political circles close to it claim that there are two political and one half-political prisoners in the country. Isgandar Hamidov and Rahim Gaziev constitute the first category, and Alikram Humbatov the second. The government's policy given people the choice either to defend the Council of Europe and demand the freeing of political prisoners or to express its wish to be expelled from the Council. It is the government which de-facto makes the choice every time. Simply, they claim that international organisations implement it. The same process is happening now. State officials accuse the Council of Europe officials in Azerbaijan, the opposition members, lawyers as well as the persons considered political prisoners and their families.

Elvin writes in the newspaper "Hurriyyet" that a new confrontation has appeared in the ruling team, some of whose members are expected to resign. According to the author, the Council of Europe's persistent demands regarding political prisoners have caused anxiety, uncertainty and differences in Aliev's team. A group in the split team thinks that at present, it is not appropriate for Azerbaijan to spoil its relations with Europe. The second group thinks otherwise. The author assumes that the president still supports the radicals and some members of the second group, which wants to demonstrate loyalty, can be forced to resign.

Rauf Mirgadirov in an article carried by the newspaper "Zerkalo" writes that the situation that has arisen in Azerbaijan can be beneficial for Armenia in a certain sense. Armenia has begun making efforts to get out of the blockade with the help of the Council of Europe. The author writes that if Azerbaijan does not take urgent and serious steps regarding human rights then Armenians can win the situation. A Turkish parliament member in his remarks to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recommended that his Azerbaijani counterparts and the Azerbaijani leadership should be careful. Armenians have already issued official information that the majority of the neighbouring states have refused to cooperate with them due to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. If the state of human rights is not regulated in Azerbaijan very soon, then the appeal can be directed against Azerbaijan and give rise to more serious problems.

Elshad Pashasoy in an article carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" refers to the intolerable situation in which Karabakh invalids live. He points out in that 37-year old war veteran Fizuli Mamamdov could not obtain medicines from the Ministry of Health and recently died in his taxi. According to the author, invalids still need serious treatment. But the state commission established last year to determine the list of patients says that they are still continuing the studies. The government tries to reduce the number of the former fighters. On the other hand, the ranks of police officers who used violence against the striking invalids last year have increased. It is an interesting contrast that there are police officers whose ranks are increased on the one hand and invalids who die in cars on the other. It is not understandable why Heydar Aliyev treats police officers so kindly.

The newspaper "Ekho" considers it normal that the Council of Europe accuses only Azerbaijan for political prisoners. According to the newspaper, some political forces led by the Armenians have a political interests in the matter. The newspaper expresses surprise that Council of Europe experts make critical remarks regarding political prisoners in Azerbaijan but state that there is not a single political prisoner in Armenia. It is impossible to believe it. The newspaper has conducted studies and determined the list of 13 political prisoners in Armenia. The list includes the names of Amayak Karapetyan, Vaan Mkroyan, Armen Yegizaryan and some ten more prisoners. Some of them were arrested in 2000, and some in 2001. If one judges by lawyers' standards, then those who committed terrorist acts in the Armenian parliament must be considered political prisoners.

Zahid Safaroglu writes in the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" that many people regard the release of political prisoners as a demonstraion of humanism by the Council of Europe. But it is not in compliance with reality. The West and such countries as the U.S. have certain interests in Azerbaijan. But the Europeans are displeased with the way of government in Azerbaijan and for that reason want to force Azerbaiijan to comply European standards. Therefore those who say Azerbaijan will be expelled from the Council of Europe are mistaken. The Council of Europe will not expel a state, which it is trying to reform.

An article entitled "Musavat's plan was not realised" carried by the newspaper "Khalg" reads that the proposals Musavat makes to join the opposition and the relevant work it carries out will not yield positive results. The events held last December and this January for uniting the opposition also demonstrated that separate opposition members have their own interests. The article also points out that current developments are contrary to Musavat's interests. Musavat wanted to take the developments to such an extent that nobody can prevent Isa Gambar from becoming the single candidate of the opposition. But all those parties which have their own presidential candidates are doing everything possible to hinder implementation of the plan.

The newspaper "525" carries an interview with Zalimkhan Mammadli, head of the chairing office of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party. Mammadli says that Musavat leader Isa Gambar's reelection as chairman of the Democratic Congress can play a certain role in regulating relations among opposition parties. Thus, no problem will appear in future in selecting a single candidate to represent the Democratic Congress. If Isa Gambar is the single candidate, then the APFP will defend him. At present a single team is being formed within the Democratic Congress. Mammadli is confident that they will complete the process successfully.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)