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Azerbaijan Report: May 14, 2002

14 May 2002
Azerbaijani Football Controversy Continues
A letter of recommendations from the deputy director-general of UEFA, European football's governing body, has failed to reconcile the opposing sides in the Azerbaijani football conflict. Nine clubs are boycotting the local championship, but the Azerbaijan Football Federations Association (AFFA) is demanding that they play the league's championship matches. The letter said that if the sides do not reach agreement, then the boycotting clubs will be barred from UEFA tournaments and UEFA will cease financial assistance to them. The letter did not rule out the possibility that AFFA, too, would be expelled from UEFA.

As a result of the letter, at least one club's officials met with an AFFA representative, but they could not resolve the conflict. AFFA Secretary-General Chingiz Ismailov said the boycotting clubs set four conditions contrary to AFFA regulations, including a demand that AFFA President Fuad Musayev resign. The clubs also demand recognition of games that have been played outside the auspices of AFFA during the boycott, and that they be allowed into the championship on the basis of those matches. They also insist that the results of games played by Shafa -- the only club defending AFFA -- be cancelled. Ismailov says that the most intolerable fact is that the government has not attempted to resolve the conflict.

Hamlet Isakhanli, rector of Khazar University and president of one of the clubs that does not recognize AFFA, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that he is continuing to push for a positive resolution of the talks. According to Isakhanli, he has prepared an appeal addressed to the AFFA leadership, football community and media representatives. The appeal includes four proposals, not demands, he says. One is that Musayev should be suspended as president until new elections, instead of resigning. Isakhanli says that if this change does not please AFFA, then the federation will carry the full responsibility if sanctions are implemented. According to him, the guilt will be Musayev's.

Chingiz Ismailov told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that Isakhanli's new appeal is merely an ultimatum, like former proposals from the dissenting clubs. Ismailov said the clubs claimed during the talks that they are not afraid of the sanctions awaiting Azerbaijani football. Ismailov says that the nine clubs have chosen to sabotage AFFA and they believe that international structures will have to recognize them in the end.

(Babek Bekir)

Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev met on 14 May with a group of foreign businessmen working in Azerbaijan. The opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" carries an article devoted to the meeting entitled "Thousands of foreign businessmen have problems during their activity." The author of the article, signing himself only as Emin, says that prior to the meeting, he appealed to relevant bodies in order to learn what they did to prepare for the meeting and which foreign businessmen were invited. But he says he could not obtain that information and draws the conclusion that the departments organizing the meeting are not aware of the businessmen's problems. According to Emin, there is no great difference between local entrepreneurs and foreign businessmen; they are almost the same. Simply put, he argues, a pro-investment environment must be created for foreigners, political and economic stability must be achieved, long-term goals must be established to encourage investment, and the Karabakh conflict must be resolved. He says that the lands under occupation are the greatest problem for the economy, and that as long as the conflict continues, Azerbaijan will be considered a risky country for foreign businessmen.

Samir Eyyuboglu in an article in the 14 May issue of the independent newspaper "525" devoted to the development of entrepreneurship writes that unlike local entrepreneurs, foreigners do not have problems with financing or organization. Foreign companies are backed as a rule by the embassies of their countries. Because of this, their problems are mainly due to gaps in legislation, interference by officials, insufficient attempts to combat smuggling and counterfeit goods, corruption, monopolization in some spheres, psychological difficulties, and so on. Foreign entrepreneurs want certain changes to be made to the government's investment policy. According to the author, frequent changes to some laws and regulations also have a negative affect on entrepreneurs' activity. He also says that unlike local entrepreneurs, their foreign counterparts are going to present the president with proposals rather than complaints.

The governmental newspaper "Khalg" says that the healthy establishment of relations between state bodies and foreign investors can create conditions for the stable rise of investment into the country.

According to 14 May issue of the independent newspaper "525," Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev's official visit to Iran will most probably take place on 18 May.

According to the 14 May issue of the pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan," Heydar Aliyev has allotted 192 billion manats ($4.6 million) for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Some 19 new settlements for 3,719 families will be constructed in the southern Bilasuvar district with the funds.

In an interview with 14 May issue of the pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan," former Azerbaijani state advisor Vafa Guluzade comments on the imposition of sanctions on several Armenian companies by the U.S. Washington accuses the Armenian firms of helping Iran acquire weapons of mass destruction. According to Guluzade, Azerbaijan has lost much in the region as a result of Russia's geopolitical and geostrategic interests. Guluzade thinks that the U.S. will soon demand that Russia and Armenia put an end to these games and restore Azerbaijan's territorial integrity by withdrawing Armenian troops from U.N.-recognized occupied Azerbaijani lands.

In a commentary entitled "The ceasing fire, the ceased fire and what the cease-fire has ceased" carried by the 14 May issue of the opposition newspaper "Azadlig," Hikmet Sabiroglu writes that the cease-fire between Azerbaijan and Armenia has lasted for eight years. The author writes that one of the government television stations recently aired a program devoted to the cease-fire. The program described the 1994 cease-fire as one of the honorable pages in Azerbaijani history. The author says that every time we hear such things, there appears an idea that Heydar Aliyev needed the cease-fire not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself. Asserting that there is no "Karabakh problem," which he defines as the problem of returning Karabakh to Azerbaijani control, the author criticizes what he sees as the government's policy of focusing on helping Azerbaijan without Karabakh. According to Sabiroglu, it will be very difficult now to win back all the lands under occupation. The author refers to the 1994 position that it was time for a cease-fire, saying that it is necessary to cease the fire of falsification that destroys the heart of the Azerbaijani nation.

In a commentary entitled "The U.S. pressures Russia's friends" carried by the 14 May issue of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Zahid Safaroglu writes that geopolitical processes in the South Caucasus have entered a new phase. The main characteristics of this phase are that in the wake of America's increasing political-military influence in the region, the Turkish role is exaggerated and the Russian role is weakening in parallel with it. According to the author, the decisive fight between Moscow and Washington will take place in the Caucasus. He says that the most serious regional rivals of the U.S. are in the Caucasus. The author argues that the U.S. wants to destroy the main ties among three countries: Iran, Russia and Armenia. He says Washington's strategic allies assume that neutralizing Yerevan's adventurous course and forcing it onto a pro-Western path will cause the "triangle" to collapse and reduce Russia's influence in the region. It will also strengthen the positions of America's allies and partners, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The famous Azerbaijani geologist Jelal Naghiyev, who has conducted geological work in Nagorno Karabakh and Lachin, told the independent newspaper "Tezadlar" that Azerbaijan's occupied lands contain rich minerals. According to him, there are gold mines in Zod in Kalbajar, Veyneli in Zangilan, and Gizilbulag in Aghdere; wolfram and copper ore in Delidagh and Mehmane; and high-quality marble in Abdal Gulabli. The geologist says there are quicksilver fields in some villages of Lachin and valuable rock that he called goggle-eye in Lachin-Kelbejer. According to him, Armenians have long known about the major marble mines in the Hojaz mountains. The limestone mine there also has major resources. According to Naghiyev, it is possible to earn as much money in the Lachin mountains.

The 14 May issue of the independent newspaper "Zerkalo" carries an interview with Bulend Gurcham, head of the "Azerbaijan House" Cultural Centre established by Azerbaijanis in Belgium. Gurcham says an Azerbaijani diaspora has existed in Belgium since the late 1980s. His organization cooperates with Belgium's Cultural Centre. Gurcham says that he is a member of the Liberal Party in Belgium and he promotes Azerbaijan in the party. He says he conveys the truth about Azerbaijan and the Karabakh problem to the world community.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)