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Azerbaijan Report: June 18, 2002


18 June 2002
NEWS BRIEFS
Opposition Succeeds In Staging Protest
The United Opposition Movement succeeded in staging a rally in Baku on 14 June after police prevented three earlier demonstrations from taking place. Several thousand people walked from the 20 Yanvar (20 January) metro station to the Galaba cinema, both of which are outside the center of Baku. Earlier this year the opposition tried to stage protests in two major downtown squares, including the highly symbolic Azadliq (Freedom) Square, and were denied permission.

The demonstrators demanded the "resignation of the president" and "the liberation of Karabakh," among other slogans. They also shouted "down with the Kurdish Workers Party," reflecting recent opposition accusations that some elements in the government secretly support the Kurdish nationalist movement. The government denies the allegation. The protesters also called for the release of Sardar Jalaloglu, the secretary-general of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party, who was arrested after he tried to attend a memorial service for a person killed on 3 June in violence between security forces and residents of the village of Nardaran. (Jalaloglu was freed on 18 June, but other members of his party were arrested during another demonstration the same day).

The police did not block the rally along its two-kilometer route, but when the oppositionists tried to enter Galaba Square the police hindered them, leading to a confrontation between police officers and the organizers of the protest.

A resolution was read at the end of the protest and Arif Hajiyev, the deputy chairman of the opposition Musavat Party, said that the opposition would continue staging protests in the future.

(Natig Zeynalov)

PRESS REVIEW
The governmental newspapers "Azerbaijan" and "Khalg" carry detailed articles on President Heydar Aliev's visit to the exclave of Nakhchivan, which began on 18 June.

In the article "Empty and meaningless things" carried by the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Azer Huseinbala writes that Aliyev is trying to act like a father bringing up the people of Nakhchivan, the people who supported him most of all in the past but are on their knees before the president at present. According to the author, supporting Aliyev is meaningless: He does what he wants no matter who supports him or opposes him. He forces those who support him to their knees, Huseinbala writes. Many people have supported him for the past nine years, but others have stopped backing him and joined the opposition. Some of them have left their motherland, while others have been thrown into prison or died. The author writes that "nine years ago, when Aliyev returned to Baku he used the same words that he does now in Nakhchivan, claiming that he relied on their people." "I want to give the rest of my life to my people too," the president said. But the author argues that Aliyev proved long ago that his words and pledges are meaningless. The president knows best of all how low the living standards of Nakhchivan's people are. Therefore he takes the "clever" step of blaming officials for their alleged lack of attention to Nakhchivan.

In an article in the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet," an author writing only as Orkhan comments on the visible and invisible sides of the president's visit to Nakhchivan. The author claims that people that were forced to go to the airport to welcome the president, and tried but failed to hide the distrust, hatred and anger in their faces. Their smiles and greetings were false. In order to hide the cold reception from the public, Nakhchivan officials stood in the first rows of the crowd. Experts and the local population are interested in the reasons for the cold reception. Some people say that locals distrust the president as a result of their difficult social and economic living conditions, while others claim that the inhabitants and intelligentsia of Nakhchivan do not support Vasif Talibov, the pro-Aliyev head of the National Assembly of Nakhchivan.

Many newspapers comment on the recent meeting between Aliyev and the new French co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is dedicated to resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. There have been widespread reports that the "Paris principles" discussed last year by Aliyev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian include exchanging the Lachin corridor, which connects Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, for the Mehri corridor that links Nakhchivan with Azerbaijan.

The independent newspaper "Zerkalo" writes that some of the president's statements, in particular the proposal to exchange the Lachin corridor for Mehri, caused a strong public reaction. The cochairman of the opposition Azerbaijani Social Democratic Party, Araz Alizade, claims that the president intends to give up Karabakh. According to him, President Aliyev is under pressure from the West to let Armenia have Karabakh. The opposition politician alleges that the president has hidden wealth in the West, so he is forced to make concessions to protect the cash he has in Western banks.

Meanwhile, Yerevan, like Baku, denies the existence of an agreement on any kind of exchange between the sides. Political scientist Eldar Namazov considers it difficult to talk about details at present because the "Paris principles" have not been disclosed completely.

Ikhtiyar Huseynli, in an article entitled "The political crisis sharpens and deepens in Armenia" carried by the "Azerbaijan" newspaper, also discusses the "Paris principles." The author notes that the Azerbaijani government is not the author of the proposals. The plan is based on advice and proposals put forward by French President Jacques Chirac. Huseynli writes that "even a pro-Armenian state such as France" is interested in the fair settlement of the conflict and supports Russian and US efforts in that direction. In another words, he argues, those states are not now trying to solve the problem in favor of Armenia as they did before. The priority issue for Russia, the U.S., and France is the fair resolution of the Azerbaijani-Armenian confrontation. Not only statements issued by those states, but also their policy and, sometimes, pressure on Armenia, show changes in their attitude to the problem. As a result, Armenia faces increased international pressure. The author concludes that the French are putting pressure on Armenia. As for Russia, recent meetings between President Aliyev and Russian President Vladimir Putin, together with changes taking place in Moscow's attitude to the problem, suggest that the Kremlin has made its final choice in the Caucasus: Russia has abandoned Armenia.

Ferhad Mamedov in an article entitled "Heydar Aliyev ready to give Karabakh along with Lachin corridor" carried by the opposition newspaper "Azadlig" writes that President Aliyev was the last participant of the negotiations held in Paris to speak about "Paris principles." Armenian President Robert Kocharian was the first to do so, and he accused President Aliyev of breaching these principles. Although Aliyev proposed compromises that were in Armenia's interests, the Armenian president ignored them, Mamedov writes. He argues that the reason is the strategic importance of the Mehri corridor. Armenia does not want to give the corridor to Azerbaijan because that would cause Yerevan to lose its only border with its ally Iran.

An article published in the newspaper "Zerkalo" says that the Caspian Fish Company demands an apology from the Ministry of National Security, which recently alleged it had embezzled state property totalling $136,000. Otherwise the company will bring legal action against the ministry.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)

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