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Azerbaijan Report: January 29, 2002

29 January 2002
Georgian Parliament Speaker Visits Azerbaijan
Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burchanadze is visiting Azerbaijan. On 28 January, she met with Azerbaijan's foreign minister Vilayat Guliev, Azerbaijani parliament chairman Murtuz Alasgarov and members of the Georgia-Azerbaijan inter-parliamentary commission. Alasgarov highly evaluated the meeting, noting that the sides expressed an attitude on a number of mutual issues. Burchanadze told the Azerbaijani parliamentarians that Azerbaijan is not only a neighbouring, but also a friendly state for Georgia and there are practically no problems between the two countries.

"The major problems are connected with these countries' territorial integrity and refugees," Burjanadze said, noting that one cannot speak of the normal development of a state and protection of human rights while hundreds of thousands of people are deprived of their ordinary rights.

According to Burjanadze, resolving the Abkhaz and Nagorno Karabakh problems "are key tasks for Georgia and Azerbaijan."

Asked about the problems of Azerbaijanis living in Georgia, Burjanadze said "I am absolutely confident that the problems of the Azerbaijanis living in Georgia are the same as the problems of our other citizens. There is and cannot be any artificial problem for the Azerbaijanis living in Georgia."

Burjanadze said that the social-economic situation in Georgia is difficult now, and Azerbaijanis suffer from these difficulties like all other citizens.

She said Georgia is seriously dissatisfied with the peacekeeping forces which have not contributed to resolving the conflict. Burjanadze said the repatriation of the Meskhetians is a very complicated issue but Georgia is complying with its commitments to the Council of Europe in that respect. The speaker said the necessary legislative basis has been established to return them to Georgia, but it is impossible to accept them all because some 400.000 refugees are currently living in Georgia.

Burjanadze said it is expedient to settle conflicts in parallel with the establishment of economic ties. She said if new approaches are not found, settling political problems will be very difficult. But she said the choice belongs to the Azerbaijani people. Alasgarov said the issue has been discussed several times and Azerbaijan�s position is unequivocal. Until Azerbaijan's occupied lands are liberated, there can be no talks about restoration of economic ties with Azerbaijan.

Burjanadze met on 29 January with Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev, who positively evaluated the presence of six Azerbaijani deputies in the Georgian parliament. Burjanadze suggested that the Azerbaijani parliament should also include representatives of the Georgians living in this country. But the Azerbaijani president argued that the Azerbaijani parliament has only 125 deputies while its Georgian counterpart has over 200. The sides also discussed a number of other issues of mutual concern.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

U.S. President Signed The Waiver Of Section 907
U.S. President George Bush finally signed the waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act which was adopted in October 1992 restricting the U.S. governmental assistance to Azerbaijan. According to the information agency Turan, the U.S. has allocated $50 million for Azerbaijan in 2002 and the fund will be used for strengthening borders, combating terrorism and other goals. According to the U.S. embassy in Azerbaijan, the waiver of Section 907 will pave the way for broader cooperation with Azerbaijan.

Head of the Foreign Relations Department in the Presidential Office Novruz Mammadov says that the section should have been waived long ago. According to Mammadov, the U.S. president's signing the waiver will open a new stage in the Azerbaijan-American ties.

As for the possibility that the section will be restored, Mammadov noted that when the section was imposed, they alleged that Azerbaijan kept Armenia in blockade. But the documents on waiving the section includes nothing about the blockade and reads that it is waived for being not in compliance with the U.S. interests.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Karabakh Liberation Organisation Staged Protest Action
Speaking at a protest action held on 26 January in front of the Galaba cinema, Karabakh Liberation Organisation head Akif Naghi said that until the Azerbaijani people abandon their reliance on the government and international organisations, it will be impossible to get back occupied Azerbaijani lands and the Nagorno Karabakh district. The action was held at the initiative of the Allied Meeting Committee. Refugees Nadir Aghayev and Chingiz Guliev in their remarks to the meeting expressed no-confidence in the government. Guliev said that he had recently buried his father in Khirdalan district of Baku even though he had promised to bury him in his homeland-Lachin district.

Professor Murshud Mammadli spoke on behalf of intellectuals, stressing that ousting Heydar Aliyev from power will be the first main step towards liberating Karabakh. Azerbaijan's National Hero Shahin Taghiyev agreed, saying it will be impossible to achieve anything by gathering in the square for several hours. Taghiyev said that the opposition must return the people to the Azadlig square and express their final say.

The meeting adopted a resolution saying that a solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is connected with the present government and Heydar Aliyev must resign to this end. If he does not resign voluntarily, the public must oust him by force.

(Babek Bekir)

What Do Azerbaijani Experts Think Of The Council Of Europe Resolution?
On 24 January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe met and adopted with minor amendments the draft resolution put forth by PACE rapporteur for Azerbaijan Georges Clerfayt. The names of some five more prisoners were added to the list of 11 political prisoners. A member of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE Gulamhusein Alibeyli told Turan that if the issue is not settled, it can be included in the agenda in PACE spring session. Even though this step of PACE pleases the 16 prisoners and their relatives, the public has an unequivocal attitude to it.

Yeni Azerbaijan Party member Mubariz Gurbanli evaluates negatively the PACE demands regarding the release of the 16 prisoners and thinks that it is pressure on Azerbaijan. According to him, those persons have no connection with politics and the majority of them have committed state crimes.

Head of the Committee for Democracy and Human Rights Chingiz Ganizadeh thinks that Azerbaijan has made the commitments voluntarily but has not carried them out. Consequently, PACE has adopted such a resolution. According to Ganizadeh, if the Azerbaijani president did not persist, released or reviewed the cases of those prisoners, then the organisation would not hold such a position with regard to Azerbaijan.

Head of the Bureau for Human Rights and Legislation Saida Gojamanli says it is the Azerbaijani government's fault that the issue was elevated to that level. She said the Azerbaijani government made a commitment in summer 2000 to review the cases of three political prisoners but did not implement this commitment.

Unlike the two lawyers, Head of the Political Innovation and Technologies Centre Mubariz Ahmadoglu thinks that there are elements of pressure in the Council of Europe's attitude to Azerbaijan.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Azerbaijan Leased Gabala Radar Station To Russia
Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev visited Russia on 24-26 January and signed a number of documents with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The document on the Gabala Radar Station is the most important of those documents. Under that agreement, the Gabala radar station is leased to Russia for 10 years for an annual fee of $7 million. While experts point to the environmental damage inflicted by the radar station and the problems it can bring in future, the government officials refute such claims. On 26 February 2001, President Aliyev issued a decree on establishing a commission to study the environmental impact of the station. The commission declared that the station is not dangerous to the environment. Azerbaijan's non-governmental organisations have referred to the environmental impact of the Gabala radar station more than once, even the local population complains of it.

Even in 1991, Vahdat Party chairman Tahir Kerimli raised in the Azerbaijani parliament the issue of the damage caused by the radar station. In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service, Kerimli said that he had meetings with Russian officials then who made 10 more proposals to the Azerbaijani side. As similar stations were closed in the Baltic States, Azerbaijan also demanded closing Gabala. Kerimli said the government has its own goals and the Ministry of Health says that the station does not damage the environment. Highly evaluating strategic cooperation with Russia, Kerimli said it cannot be done at the expense of the Azerbaijani people and land. Kerimli thinks that the developments do not depend on the Azerbaijani people's will and certain pressure is exerted on Azerbaijan.

What will be the fate of the children born near Gabala in future? If one out of 10 children born in that area now dies and 25 percent are born with defects, then how will the rate be in 10 years? Ecologist Sahib Mammadov says that the results will be more tragic for the next period.

(Almaz Mahmudgizi)

Rasim Bayramov in an article entitled "The myths of the government are destroyed in Europe" carried by the newspaper "Hurriyyet" notes that the tension in relations between the Council of Europe and Azerbaijan seriously damaged the propaganda pursued in the name of Ilham Aliyev through exaggerating his activity in the Council of Europe. Prior to that, the governmental media outlets, particularly Azerbaijan State Television introduced Ilham Aliyev as the invincible diplomat defeating all Azerbaijan's enemies. According to the author, even though Ilham Aliyev took part in the discussions regarding political prisoners in Azerbaijan, the Council of Europe did not change its position. The author thinks that the Council of Europe resolution destroyed the Azerbaijani government's successor propaganda and the myth created in society. According to the author, the Council of Europe can become a serious obstacle for Ilham Aliyev to become president because the vast majority of the population is dissatisfied with the government and oppose the idea of not only Ilham Aliev's but also Heydar Aliev's winning the upcoming presidential elections.

Hikmet Sabiroglu in a commentary "The greatest slyness" writes that dissatisfaction was expressed in the last Karabakh meeting. The participants alleged that the whole Azerbaijani people have forgotten Karabakh except for the organisers of that meeting. The author writes that some 28 organisations took part in the last meeting. But the author claims that there were not many people in front of the Galaba cinema. Referring to the meeting participants' standpoint that Karabakh does not concern the people, the author writes that if there were not 28 but eight normal political structures in Azerbaijan, they could mobilise the people to achieve their goals, then the regime and Armenians would be defeated. The author also notes that there are serious differences among different organisations and even two political leaders' drinking tea together is considered a major event.

According to the newspaper "Azerbaijan," the fourth friendship channel of the Uzbekistan State Television started broadcasting a 20-minute program in Azerbaijani on 27 January. It is pointed out in the article that even though the representatives of other ethnic groups have television programs, there was no program in Azerbaijani before.

Mirgadirov writes in the newspaper "Zerkalo" that Heydar Aliyev is satisfied with the results of his Moscow visit. The author quotes the head of state as saying that the Azerbaijani-Russian relationships have reached the highest level for the past 10 years. The Russian side also expressed satisfaction with Heydar Aliev's visit. According to the author, Russia has more opportunities to influence two problems facing the Azerbaijani government: the Karabakh problem and the fight in the republic's internal policy. Referring to the processes in Azerbaijan's internal policy, the author says it is not a coincidence that the Russian government defended Azerbaijan in PACE discussions regarding political prisoners.

Zahid Safaroglu in an article carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" provides clarification of some aspects of Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev's visit to Moscow. According to the author, Russia has "a military facility," that is "secret eye" in Azerbaijan and the country will not be able to liberate its lands from occupation by force for the next 10 years, because all intelligence materials regarding the Azerbaijani army will be immediately delivered to Armenia. That is the radar station will play the function of preventing a war. According to the author, the West is also interested in the cease-fire and all these processes, secret-open dealings aim at bringing into the agenda the Russian- U.S. joint sanctions, that is the "Paris principles." The author writes that if the Aliyev government does not create obstacles for the successor tactics, one or two foreign forces are indifferent to the neutralisation of political opponents, then the capitulatory peace will be signed. Besides, if Armenian-Turkish ties are regulated, then the internal situation in Armenia will become less tense and Kocharyan will sign the Paris principles without any fear.

Fekhri Kerimli in the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" writes that after the repeal of Section 907, the U.S. is expected to allot $50 million to Azerbaijan in 2002. This figure is more than the last year. According to the author, the repeal of Section 907 carries not only material but also symbolic significance for Azerbaijanis. It constitutes the removal of a burden which was the heritage of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party-Musavat government and which the Azerbaijani people has borne for years. According to the author, the introduction of Section 907 was not the result of the policy of just the government of the time. The U.S.-based Armenian lobby and official Washington's "dual standards" policy also played a role.

Parliament deputy Mubariz Gurbanli, who is deputy executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, in an interview with the newspaper "525" expressed his views regarding Russian-Azerbaijani relations and Moscow's position on resolving the Karabakh problem. Gurbanli said that the Russian president's statement that "the Karabakh problem must be settled without winners or losers" is in Azerbaijan's favour. According to him, by saying that, the Russian president hinted that those who think Yerevan has won the Nagorno Karabakh war are mistaken.

(Complied and translated by Arifa Alieva)