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Azerbaijan Report: December 3, 2002

3 December 2002
Russian Energy Minister: Azerbaijani Oil Companies Should Expand Abroad
Azerbaijan should work to realize joint projects with Iran, Iraq, and other countries in the region, Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov said at a meeting with President Heidar Aliyev on 29 November.

While in Baku, Yusufov and the Azerbaijani president discussed possibilities for energy cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan, which included increasing oil transport through the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline.

Yusufov said that Russia would like to benefit from the potential of Azerbaijani oil companies in these projects, in particular the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR). Aliev, for his part, called the Russian minister's suggestion "interesting."

Former SOCAR President Senan Alizade said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that it was an old dream to see Azerbaijani companies working abroad but added that they are still in no position to do so. Alizade said that although Azerbaijan possesses many experienced oil specialists, it does not participate in oil projects in foreign countries. Alizade recalled that during the Soviet period Azerbaijan was a close partner in the exploration of oil fields in Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Russia, and Azerbaijan must resume ties with these countries. "However, Azerbaijan should show some initiative on this and not wait for a suggestion from the other sides," he said.

Touching on reasons why the Russian minister might suggest such cooperation among Azerbaijan and its regional partners, Alizade said that there was nothing unusual about it and pointed to the number of experienced specialists in Azerbaijan. However, when asked about any cooperation in the short term, Alizade emphasized that at present it is difficult to make any predictions. But he added that if it is carried out, wide-reaching opportunities will open up for Azerbaijan.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Statistics Chairman Announces Positive Economic Outlook for 2002
Azerbaijan's economic outlook is improving, according to statistics announced by the chairman of the Azerbaijani Statistics Committee.

Gross domestic product in Azerbaijan increased by 10.3 percent in the first 10 months of 2002, said Arif VAliyev at a press conference held at the headquarters of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP). The figures are better than most of the CIS, VAliyev said, including Russia, which increased by 7 percent. The highest growth in GDP was observed in Armenia, with 12 percent. But VAliyev cast doubt on this figure, adding that in methodological accounts Armenia had not presented true figures on economic growth.

VAliyev noted that during the first 10 months the output of the food, petroleum-refining, and petrochemical industries had expanded. The production of spirits and cigarettes had also increased. In comparison with the same period of 2001, growth was also observed in other sectors, such as banking, equities, construction, transport, communications, and other markets.

Despite the heavy rains that hit the country in late spring, Azerbaijan achieved a record wheat harvest of 2.2 million tons and thus had no need for imports this year. More fruits and vegetables were produced and the number of livestock has also increased. But cotton production for 2002 was only 80,000 tons, 3,000 tons less than over the same period last year. Tobacco production also fell.

VAliyev pointed out that at present agricultural entrepreneurs do not face difficulties with production. However, opportunities for sales are limited. "Sometimes real sale prices are below cost; therefore, the government should offer some assistance to farmers," VAliyev said.

During the first 10 months of 2002 the volume of foreign investment also increased by $139 million to $1.23 billion. The volume of foreign investment is expected to reach $1.7 billion by the end of the year.

The report suggests that the volume of real income within the population has increased 10.1 percent. Salaries increased 21 percent in the first 10 months of the year, while inflation was 2.6 percent. Unemployment increased by 5 percent.

VAliyev also noted that there are numerous violations of the law where registration of foreign manpower is concerned. Although to date some 300 foreigners have been registered, most have not registered, allowing them to remain free from taxation.

GDP increases for the rest of the CIS are as follows: Belarus (4.1 percent), Kazakhstan (9.4 percent), Kyrgyzstan (9.7 percent), Moldova (6.4 percent), Tajikistan (10 percent), and Ukraine (4.1 percent).

(Almaz Nasibova)

Russian Migration Law Could Have Severe Repercussions for Unregistered Azerbaijanis
Russian law-enforcement bodies have begun to deport foreigners, including Azerbaijanis, thanks to a new law on migration. The first group of Azerbaijani nationals to be deported arrived home on 29 November, according to unofficial information. However, the deportations have reportedly been postponed for an indefinite period.

The problem of Azerbaijani nationals in Russia was also discussed during Moscow regional governor Boris Gromov's visit to Baku in late November. Gromov said then that as long as their documents were in order foreigners -- including Azerbaijanis -- would not be deported.

Metin Mirze, the spokesman for Azerbaijan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that the ministry maintains regular close contact with the Azerbaijani Embassy in Moscow and the embassy now has a firm grip on the activity of Azerbaijanis in Russia. "We must determine whether Azerbaijanis are committing unlawful acts," as this is the reason most often given by the Russian authorities for deportation. "But thus far, serious violations of law [by Azerbaijani nationals] have not been observed," Mirze said. Sometimes the embassy's officials also visit areas where Azerbaijanis work. But deportation of unregistered Azerbaijanis can take place at any time, he added.

Mirze also noted that "the main problem is due to Azerbaijanis who had left for Russia before the law on migration came into effect. For the present, both Russia and Azerbaijan are in full control of the situation. Therefore, it is important for Russian Azerbaijanis to receive new migration cards in a timely way."

Mirze called the introduction of migration cards "natural," adding that Russia simply wants to keep the situation under control and accurately determine the number of foreign citizens on its territory. He noted that Armenians are also among those deported.

But Mubariz Ahmedoglu, head of the Center for Political Innovation and Technologies, told RFE/RL that if Russia continues the deportation process of unregistered foreigners, Azerbaijan will face serious difficulties. Moreover, Ahmedoglu said that the Azerbaijani government is also responsible for the current situation.

Ahmedoglu pointed out that most families survive thanks to money sent from Russia. If Azerbaijani citizens are deported, it will lead to serious social -- and later political -- consequences. Therefore, Azerbaijani officials must be in earnest about the issue, he concluded.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Political scientist Rasim Musabekov in an interview with the independent newspaper "525" talked about the problems surrounding the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) main export pipeline. Musabekov said that Georgia wants the maximum benefit from the project. He also noted that ecologists would not raise the green issue without the consent of the Georgian government.

The opposition newspaper "Azadlig" writes, citing Britain's "The Guardian," that the campaign against the BTC pipeline is intensifying. Even the BP oil giant exposes its image to danger by participating in the project.

The independent Russian-language newspaper "Zerkalo" writes that although BP and Georgia have come to an agreement on the BTC pipeline, it is still early to speak about a solution of the problem.

December 3 marked the sixth anniversary of the OSCE Lisbon summit devoted to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Kamran Bedelov in the article "Lisbon summit: demonstration of Heydar Aliev's resolve" in the government newspaper "Khalg" writes that one result of the great and iron determination of Heydar Aliyev during the summit is that Azerbaijan enlisted international support in the Karabakh problem. First of all, writes Bedelov, 53 states at the summit backed the just cause of the Azerbaijani people and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Armenia was the only state that opposed the OSCE statement and thus proved itself to be a destructive factor in the resolution process. Moreover, the Azerbaijani president's veto threat directed international attention to the Karabakh problem. Azerbaijan got a political card in the future peaceful negotiations. It is not accidental, that foreign diplomats emphasize the necessity of the solution of the conflict on the basis of the OSCE and UN resolutions.

Rahib Kazimli in the article "Historical victory at the Lisbon summit" in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" notes that although the government presented the results of the summit as a "great success," it was, in fact, a "black day" for Azerbaijani diplomacy. The reason was that Armenia's veto succeeded in excluding the name of Nagorno-Karabakh from the summit's final resolution. Kazimli writes that six years have passed since the summit, but the government continues to take the people for fools.

An author writing only as Garakhanli in an article entitled "There is no political leader capable of extracting Azerbaijan from crisis" in the governmental newspaper "Azerbaycan" comments on the upcoming presidential elections in Armenia. At present the opponents of President Robert Kocharian are Vazgen Manukian, leader of the National Democratic Union, Stepan Demirchian, head of the People�s Party, Paruir Hayrikian, head of the National Self-Determination Political Union and political scientist Aram Karapetian. Garakhanli noted all the candidates advocate a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on Armenia's national interests. None of the candidates promise to provide the people with bread. However, for the population this issue is now more important than the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The government is in no position to ensure normal living standards in Armenia. The author compares the economic situation in Armenia and Azerbaijan and points out that the latter is making progress.

Under the headline "Kocharian has began to benefit from the Sedarak meeting" in the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet," Rasim Bairamov points out that the rating of President Robert Kocharian remains the highest, although he failed in both domestic and foreign policies. Some political observers link it with the effective work of the official propaganda machine during the election campaign. But other experts explain the high rating with his face-to-face meetings with the Azerbaijani president. Bairamov recalls that according to unofficial reports, during the last meetings the presidents discussed the upcoming presidential elections in their countries and agreed to help each other. And discussions on this theme have begun since the Sedarak meeting this summer, the author concludes.

An author writing only as Memmedov in an article entitled "Irshad Aliyev told a lie" in the independent newspaper "Tezadlar" talks about problems in the sphere of wheat farming. Memmedov notes that the production of wheat increased in 2002. But the increase is thanks to private entrepreneurship, not the government. The author points out that local farmers cannot sell their wheat because some "businessmen" were able to buy wheat at lower prices from Russia and Kazakhstan without paying import tariffs. Meanwhile, farmers continue to complain about the government's indifference to their problems.

Shamil Suleimanov in the article "The Intelligentsia's Burden" in the independent newspaper "Yeni Zaman" writes that the president does his best to involve the intelligentsia in the propaganda campaign. And some intellectuals, instead of telling the truth, prefer to cooperate. The author notes that it would better if intellectuals turn down their pensions and instead give them to refugees and the poor. But most of them receive these pensions with great inspiration.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)