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Azerbaijan Report: June 14, 2002


14 June 2002
NEWS BRIEFS
United Opposition Movement To Stage Protest
The Baku municipal authorities will allow the United Opposition Movement, a collection of the country's opposition parties, to stage a protest in Baku on 14 June. The movement proposed a number of routes, but the authorities selected the shortest one, which is fartherst from the city center. The UOM met on 13 June and agreed with the government's proposal. According to Arif Hajiyev, deputy head of the Musavat Party, they will call for -- as in the past -- the president's resignation, demand the holding of pre-term presidential elections, protest the Nardaran incidents and call for the liberation of Karabakh. UOM has attempted twice before to stage protests in Azadlig Square. Although they agreed to stage the rally along the route chosen by city authorities, they declared that they have not given up the idea of staging another protest on Azadlig Square at some time in the future.

(Natig Zeynalov)

Head of Caucasian Moslems Visits Russia
The head of the Caucasian Moslem Board, Sheikh Allahshukur Pashazade, visited Moscow on 6-13 June. This visit was significant for several reasons. First of all, Pashazade met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Second, his visit came at the same time as the opening of the Moscow representative office of Caucasian Moslem Board, which was a grand ceremony. Azerbaijani media, both public and private, displayed a certain amount of irony in their coverage, leading some observers to conclude that it was because of jealousy.

An expert on political affairs, Ilham Ismail, says it was an expected reaction. According to him, it is significant that Russia paid so much attention to Pashazadeh's visit, as did (through the media) the Azerbaijani officials -- in their own way. Ismail pointed out that politics in Azerbaijan has always included Islamic elements.

Pashazadeh has taken part in politics over the past 10 years but has managed to avoid conflicts. The eternal allies -- Moscow and Tehran -- have always taken special care of him. Ismail claims that in the past Moscow offered to help Pashazade seize power, something he has also admitted. Because of the religious leader's close relationship with Moscow, the government's reaction -- as witnessed through the government-controlled media -- is understandable, say observers.

Ismail noted that the split between the government and the Moslem Board began several years ago. It led to the immediate creation of the Committee on Religious Affairs, which was not an unusual thing to happen, he said.

Last year, the Caravan Company was created to take pilgrims to Mecca, in direct competition with the Moslem Board. Ismail pointed out that this company is protected by the Ministry for Youth and Tourism. The main goal here was to break the Moslem Board's monopoly in this sphere. Pashazade was also aware of the political games being played out around him, Ismail says, adding that if these contradictions deepen, Azerbaijan could face a greater tragedy. RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service made numerous attempts to contact the Caucasian Moslem Board on this issue. It was told that no one was available to comment.

(Babek Bekir) Iranian, Azerbaijani Experts Discussed Legal Status of Caspian The head of Iran's expert group on determining the legal status of the Caspian Sea, Mehdi Safari, has recently visited Azerbaijan. He met with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev, his assistant Khalaf Khalafov and the head of State Oil Company Natig Aliev. The parties exchanged views on current problems including the disputed oil fields.

Foreign MinisterGuliyev said the visit was a continuation of Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev's visit to Iran and the productive dialogue that had begun with Tehran. He expressed the hope that the Caspian's legal status will be determined on the basis of mutual confidence. Mehdi Safari said he believes that, soon, all the problems regarding the Caspian's legal status would find a positive solution.

According to media reports, during that meeting the Azerbaijani government suggested the joint exploitation of disputed oil fields with Iran and discussed a compromise variant of the determination of sea borders between the two countries. Iran opposes bilateral agreements signed between Caspian littoral states.

Safari said that the unilateral steps of some states and the bilateral agreements signed between Caspian littoral states are illegal. According to him, it prevents the reaching of a unanimous and final opinion. Thus it has become clear why the signing of an agreement between Russia and Azerbaijan during President Heydar Aliev�s visit to Moscow was delayed for "technical reasons." Maybe Azerbaijan merely does not to irritate Iran.

(Shahnaz Baylargizi)

PRESS REVIEW
Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev took part in the 70th jubilee celebrations of the Azerbaijan State Economics University on 13 June. The 14 June issues of the Azerbaijani newspapers have given broad coverage to this event.

The 14 June issues of the Azerbaijani newspapers carry articles about the National Salvation Day. The government newspapers "Azerbaijan" and "Khalg" and the pro-governmental "Yeni Azerbaijan" evaluate Heydar Aliev's election to the Azerbaijani Parliament in 1993 as Azerbaijan's salvation, while independent and opposition newspapers criticize that day.

In an interview in the 14 June issue of the pro-government "Yeni Azerbaijan," Araz Alizadeh, co-chair of the Azerbaijan Social Democratic Party, said that there had been danger of civil war in Azerbaijan until 15 June 1993. According to Alizade, foreign forces played a certain role in the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party-Musavat's coming to power in 1992 and those forces did not want that "couple" to leave. Alizade also noted that the people appealed to Heydar Aliyev in a tense situation. According to Alizade, Heydar Aliyev is a powerful personality for the Azerbaijani people, in the same way that Ataturk is for Turkey.

In an interview with the 14 June issue of the independent newspaper "Yeni Zaman," Azerbaijan's former ambassador to China, Tamerlan Garayev, says that Heydar Aliyev became the president because Abulfaz Elchibey declined his post and went to the Nakhchivan village of Keleki.

In a commentary entitled, "They were saved but the nation was not," carried in the 14 June issue of the opposition newspaper "Azadlig," Azer Hesret writes that the tribal government celebrated 15 June as its own holiday. According to the author, the state TV company AzTV is under the government's control as always. This TV station continues to praise Heydar Aliyev as the greatest personality, and it still criticizes his opponents. The author says he has no doubt that 15 June is the National Salvation day, but it is not the salvation day for 1 million refugees whose lands are under Armenian occupation. The author claims that it is the salvation day of a group of people and of the tribe that seized power.

The 14 June issues of the Azerbaijani newspapers carry articles, commentaries and information about the protest plans, for the same day, of the United Opposition Movement to demand the president's resignation. The opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" writes that thousands of people protesting the intolerable situation in the country will stage a rally and yell "Resignation!"

Tension persists in Nardaran and media outlets continue giving broad coverage to these developments. The 14 June issue of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" carries an article entitled "The regime's Nardaran concern." According to the author of the article, Azer Aykhan, Heydar Aliyev intends to prevent the worst development resulting from the Nardaran incidents. He expressed such a position when responding to journalists' questions at the airport en route to St. Petersbourg. According to the author, the situation could be saved from bloodshed and casualties. The author claims that Aliev's active interference in the issue is attempting to neutralize the forces interested in the "Nardaran factor." According to Aykhan, the president has no interest in giving his opponents a major opportunity to speak against him. Thus he doesn't care if popular opinion is that "Heydar Aliyev retreated before the Nardaran residents." The author says Aliyev is as skillful in defense as in attack.

The 14 June issue of the independent newspaper "525" carries an article entitled "The U.S. Congress gave a dinner in a Karabakh separatist's honor" reporting that Naira Melkoumian, foreign minister of the so-called "Nagorno Karabakh Republic" is visiting the U.S. and meeting with the pro-Armenian forces there. At the meeting they discussed the Nagorno Karabakh problem and U.S. humanitarian assistance to the separatists. The article also pointed out that Armenian sources claim the Armenian official's visit to the U.S. was very successful. But it is not known yet whether it is another invention of Armenian propaganda or the truth.

The 14 June issue of the independent newspaper "525" carries an article entitled "There are many unseen sides of Liparitian's visit" claiming that the recent visit to Baku by Zhirair Liparityan, adviser to Armenia's former president Levon Ter-Petrosyan, aimed to get support from Azerbaijan in order to return Ter-Petrosyan to power.

According to the 14 June issue of the independent newspaper "Ekho," Uzbekistan has left GUUAM. The newspaper reports that Uzbekistan's president made the statement when the Armenian Foreign Minister was in Tashkent.

Nikolay Gribkov, Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, gave an interview to the 14 June issue of the independent newspaper "Ekho." He said the co-chairs will set a new proposal claiming that a resolution of the Karabakh conflict depends on Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The 14 June issue of the independent newspaper "Zerkalo" carries an interview with Rafig Aliev, chairman of the State Committee on Religious Affairs, who points out the possibility that mullah will need to take a certification exam. The Caucasian Moslems Board has already begun to enact this. According to him, it is wish of the people that mullahs pass such an exam in order to check their knowledge.

The 14 June issue of the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet" carries an article entitled "Is it necessary to become a member to the World Trade Organization?" The author signing himself as Araz writes that over the past two years, talks have resumed about Azerbaijan's being accepted to the World Trade organization. According to the author, the organization has special regulations and conditions that Azerbaijan must adhere to be accepted into the WTO. The most important condition is that member countries must make their boundaries transparent. The author says that some factors must be taken into consideration in order to be accepted to this organization. One of the issues is globalization: as a result of this, less-developed countries are obliged to reduce their customs tariffs in comparison with the developed ones in order to become WTO members. Second, there is evidence showing that former Soviet countries are not ready to become members of this organization. Kyrgyzstan, which was accepted to the WTO in 1998, is regressing from year to year. The last factor, the author says, are the WTO members -- leading countries of the world establish different obstacles in different directions. Simply, we should know one thing: that "juniors" are not allowed into the game played by the elders. Thus, being accepted to this organization offers nothing positive yet.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Kazimova and Etibar Rasulov)

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