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Azerbaijan Report: July 11, 2002


11 July 2002
NEWS BRIEFS
Journalists Protest Actions of Law-Enforcement Bodies
Journalists staged a picket in front of the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Baku on July 9 to protest reprisals by law-enforcement bodies against the media. Specifically, the journalists were angered by the behaviour of Sabail district Police Chief Nazim Nagiev, who they say used undue violence against Turan News Agency photographer Elkhan Kerimov, who was beaten on 22 June during celebrations in Azadlig (Freedom) Square, after the Turkish national soccer team defeated Senegal in the World Cup championship.

Azer Hasret, the chairman of the Journalists' Trade Union, pointed out that they wanted to hold the protest on 2 July, but the Baku municipal authorities forbade it because that was the occasion of the country's national holiday in honor of the police. Hasret said that the prohibition could be overlooked, but the media were angered by the press announcement that President Heydar Aliyev awarded Nagiev with the Order of the State Flag on the occasion of Police Day.

Hasret said he also regretted the fact that, at present, the media must not only protect their rights through their pens, but also by resorting to street actions. He said that the president put on a different face during a meeting with journalists in late 2001. At that time, Aliyev ordered the Attorney General to investigate violence against the media and to take the appropriate measures to improve the situation.

Some of the picketers demanded Nagiev be punished. That demand was included in the resolution adopted at the end of the protest. According to the resolution, should the Attorney General investigate the use of violence against the media, he should make his results public. The resolution was presented to the officials of the Office of Public Prosecutor. Later, Hasret said that if the demands were ignored, journalists would be forced to continue their protests in another ways.

(Babek Bekir)

Azerbaijanian and Armenian Peoples Speak in Support of Peaceful Settlement of Karabakh Conflict
Between 1 January 2001 and1 February 2002, the Baku and Yerevan Press Clubs, with the support of the Open Society Institute, conducted an opinion poll on attitudes to the Karabakh conflict and the optimum approach to resolving it. Arif Aliev, the head of the Baku Press Club presented the results of the poll at a 9 July press conference.

Journalists in Armenia, Azerbaijan and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic questioned 152 displaced persons, 1,155 residents and 64 experts in Azerbaijan, 1,000 residents and 100 experts from Armenia, and 250 Armenian residents and 25 experts from Nagorno-Karabakh.

In Azerbaijan, 49.5 percent of the respondents expressed the hope that the admission of Azerbaijan and Armenia into the Council of Europe would help resolve the Karabakh conflict. But 19.1 percent of displaced persons said they doubt this will prove to be the case. Half of the Azerbaijanis questioned expected positive results from the meeting between the two countries' presidents, while 49.3 percent of refugees do not believe that.

In Armenia, 24.7 percent of respondents support negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, while 8.9 percent prefer bilateral discussions between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and 42.1 percent are in favor of trilateral negotiations between Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

In response to a question on the optimum future status of Karabakh, 56 percent of Azeri respondents want to see the region as a part of Azerbaijan without any autonomous status, 33.7 percent would support granting it autonomous region status within Azerbaijan, 0.8 percent see it as an independent state and 0.1 percent approve of Karabakh becoming part of Armenia but possessing a broad self-governing status.

Answering the same question, 45 percent of the Armenian respondents want to see Karabakh as an independent state while 42.7 percent would want it to become a part of Armenia, and 0.3 percent would agree to leave Karabakh within Azerbaijan.

Of the Armenian respondents from Nagorno-Karabakh, 63.6 percent voted for the region's independence, while 35.2 percent approved of union with Armenia and 0.8 percent would like to enclave to remain a part of Azerbaijan.

Answering a question how the conflict should best be resolved, 56 percent of the Azerbaijani respondents prefer a step-by-step solution, while 21.19 percent favor a package deal. In Armenia, 30.2 percent prefer a phased approach, while 16.5 percent opted for a package solution, and 44.4 percent could not say which approach they considered more effective.

It is interesting to note that Armenian officials in their meeting with the representatives of international organizations have claimed that the Armenian people reject a step-by-step solution, which is the approach supported by Baku. Specifically it entails Armenia first returning districts situated outside Nagorno-Karabakh, and only after that will negotiations focus on the status of Karabakh.

It should be pointed that in Azerbaijan 50 percent of the respondents spoke in support of a peaceful settlement, 32.6 percent would go to war should the negotiation process fails, and 13 percent believe that only a new war can solve the problem. In Armenia, 69.6 percent support a peaceful settlement of the conflict, 23.9 percent are for a war if the negotiations end without any concrete result, and only 1.4 percent see war as the only option.

Asked when they think a settlement could be reached, 52.9 percent of Azeri experts believe that it is possible within two years, while 21.6 percent believe it will take three-to-five years and 11.8 percent five-to-10-years.

The Armenians are more pessimistic: 22 percent expect a solution within two to three years, 26 percent within three-to-five years and 32 percent within five-to-10 years. (Natik Zeinalov) It should be pointed that in Azerbaijan 50 percent of the respondents spoke in support of a peaceful settlement, 32.6 percent would go to war should the negotiation process fails, and 13 percent believe that only a new war can solve the problem. In Armenia, 69.6 percent support a peaceful settlement of the conflict, 23.9 percent are for a war if the negotiations end without any concrete result, and only 1.4 percent see war as the only option.

Asked when they think a settlement could be reached, 52.9 percent of Azeri experts believe that it is possible within two years, while 21.6 percent believe it will take three-to-five years and 11.8 percent five-to-10-years.

The Armenians are more pessimistic: 22 percent expect a solution within two to three years, 26 percent within three-to-five years and 32 percent within five-to-10 years.

(Natik Zeinalov)

PRESS REVIEW
According to the independent newspaper "525, " the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group are to visit the region in September. U.S. co-chair, Rudolph Perina informed Armenian journalists about the upcoming visit.

The opposition newspaper "Azadlig" in an article entitled "Unavoidable facts" comments on what has been taking place within the opposition Azerbaijani Popular Front Party (AXCP). According to the newspaper, problems within the Popular Front during the last two years had their beginnings in 1994-95, when that organization was transformed into a party.

Aynur Jamalgizi, in an article entitled "Eight-year-old Lie" in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that eight years ago, when the present leadership signed the "Contract of the Century" with leading international oil companies, everyone expected positive changes. But nothing has changed except for the birth of hope brought out by the oil contract. But the trouble is that the lie of past eight-nine years does not restrict itself to the "Contract of the Century." The leadership has also tried to placate the people with the 1994 cease-fire with Armenian forces over Nagorno-Karabakh. Jamalgizi writes that the Azeri people will get nothing from the oil contracts. He points out that the authorities will not implement reforms in order to improve people's terrible standard of living. What can be seen today within Azerbaijan indicates that the people no longer believe the fairy tales woven by the government. The author, citing unofficial sources, notes that the wealth of the ruling family amounts to several billion dollars. What will happen if the source of that wealth is revealed? Will the public be shocked to learn where the oil revenues are going?

According to the article, "Russia adds a military factor to the Caspian geopolitical situation," in the independent newspaper "Yeni Zaman," political debates are not enough to determine the status of the Caspian Sea and military power is now becoming a determining factor. The article, citing the Azmedia Analytical Agency, argues that the Caspian, which is now the focus of the world's attention, is becoming a potential threat to the littoral states. Russia's recent decision to hold military exercises on the Caspian speeds up that process.

The article goes on to say that Russia's show of military might is adding the military factor to the issue. The paper recalls that Russia has been providing its Caspian fleet with modern weapons since 1996. Compared to Russia, the fleets of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are weak. Iran also cannot compete with Russia militarily. Therefore the present military exercises on the Caspian should be considered to be the Kremlin's effort to become the main guarantor of security in the sea.

Vugar Bairamov in an article entitled "Iran threatened Russia" in the independent Russian-language newspaper "Zerkalo" quotes observers as predicting that if Russia begins military exercises next month, the differences between Moscow and Tehran will intensify. Iran has nothing to lose regarding the Caspian status issue, and it will do everything it can to prevent the exercises. Once Russia begins its military exercises, Iran will have no chance to claim a greater share more than the 13 percent agreed by Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. The fact that Tehran was unable to get any allies on the Caspian issue is yet another factor complicating Iran's position. Turkmenistan, generally considered to be a tacit supporter of Iran's claims, expressed its readiness at the April presidential summit in Ashgabat to make concessions to Russia on the issue. That statement indicated that Iran was losing its the last ally. The author concludes that while Tehran has called on Baku to cooperate on the Caspian status, it is difficult to say when they will adopt a friendly approach to the issue. Thus it will be difficult for Iran -- without friends -- to prevent the Russian military maneuvers.

Isag Jafarov in an article entitled "Aliyev preparing for a meeting with businessmen" in the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet," writes that since the people are familiar with the political source, character and purposes of Aliev's power, such a meeting should not be considered as an example of the president's care and benevolent attitude toward his people. According to the author, the development of private enterprise would serve as a guarantee of stability, improve the people's social and economic condition, and help in the forming of the middle class. Moreover, a thriving business community has a decisive effect on elections. That factor, more than any other, has forced President Heydar Aliyev to assume the role of "careful father." Jafarov also notes that during his previous meetings with business leaders, the head of state tried to sell them on his "successor plan" by warning them that if the opposition takes power, the business community will face greater problems.

Aziz in an article entitled "Why destructive opposition opposes constitutional changes" in the pro-governmental newspaper "Khalg" writes that one of the issues causing the opposition discontent is the elimination of the proportional election system, which means that deputies can only be elected through winning majorities within his district. But the writer claims that in the scenario of a proportional system, citizens vote not for candidates but for parties. Thus the current system is advantageous for the most of the opposition. Among them there are such people who could not win even a trace number of votes. Therefore it is advantageous for them to hide under the "party umbrella."

The author goes on to say that other comments from the opposition on the proposed changes to the Constitution are baseless. Some opposition activists who are unfamiliar with even the essence of the constitutional amendments do not restrict themselves to their own opinion. It is natural, he writes, that the lives of their opinions are as short as a soap bubble.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)

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