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Azerbaijan Report: May 29, 2001

29 May 2001
Karabakh Peace Talks: Back To Key West?
The peace talks between Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian due to take place in Geneva in June have been indefinitely postponed. This was confirmed in Baku and Yerevan over the weekend. The Azerbaijani media have been discussing for last two weeks the likelihood that the talks would be postponed, pointing out that differences between Heidar Aliyev and Robert Kocharian may negatively influence the prospects for those talks.

But the main reason for the failure to organise such a meeting, according to Azerbaijani media, is twofold: Russia's "complicated" policy toward the Karabakh peace talks and Armenia's refusal to make concessions. Azerbaijani politicians and observers were not articulate enough to explain the meaning of Russia's "complicated game." But they argue that Russia wants to reimpose its supremacy over the entire Caucasus, and therefore Moscow is using the Karabakh peace talks as a tool to achieve this goal.

It is hard to say whether this assessment is serious or not. But as far as the postponement itself is concerned, no one has explained what "indefinetely postponed" means. The OSCE negotiators and an Armenian spokesperson were very simplistic about the reasons for this unexpected decision. Both the OSCE mediators and an Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman argue that "society is not yet ready to compromise and it is hard to say when the meeting will take place."

But Novruz Mamedov, head of the foreign relations department of President Aliev's office, gave a completely different reason for the possible postponoment of the Geneva talks. In his interviews with Azerbaijani media last week, Mamedov said that as long as Armenia is not ready to make concessions, there is no need to convene a further meeting in Geneva between the two presidents. But, strangely enough, Mamedov failed to name a second more important reason: the reaction of the Azerbaijani society to the possible concessions President Aliyev government was reportedly due to make.

President Aliyev in his remarks on Geneva talks on 26 May also referred to "concessions" as the main obstacle to achieving a settlement, but he did put it quite differently.

"I believe that as a result of certain compromises we can achieve a solution to the Karabakh conflict," Aliyev told a gathering in Baku. President Aliev's approach to the postponement of the Geneva talks is much more optimistic than remarks of the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, but the Azerbaijani president failed to mention a second more important reason for the postponement -- the anticipated public reaction. Why? One can only guess why. But the different explanations given in Yerevan and Baku for the postponement of the Geneva talks show the different attitudes of the two governments towards public opinion and towards their own people.

U.S. mediator Carey Cavanaugh told Reuters on 28 May that the two leaders "had so far failed to prepare their people for the concessions both sides will have to make for peace." Mr. Cavanaugh is right. The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan should do more to prepare their people for the concessions needed to make peace. But as long as one of the leaders of conflicting countries continues to neglect public opinion, and refuses to treat his own people as mature enough to influence the decisions made by the president, there will be no hope that the people of Azerbaijan will be ready to accept any concessions on this very sensitive issue. Not just the peaceful solution of the Karabakh issue is at stake, but democratic values too. Both are equally important.

(Mirza Xazar)

OSCE Minsk Group Cochairmen Postponed The Geneva Meeting
The head of the presidential administration for external relations, Novruz Mamedov, commenting in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service on the most recent statement by the OSCE Minsk Group cochairmen, said the Geneva meeting has been postponed because of the absence of a constructive approach in the Armenian position towards the settlement of the Karabakh dispute. It does not mean that the negotiation process is stopped or derailed.

Mamedov said Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev stated in Key West and during his meetings with the OSCE Minsk Group cochairmen that Azerbaijan supports a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict on the basis of mutual compromise. He said if Armenia demonstrates a constructive approach towards the Karabakh issue the Geneva meeting will be held. He suggested that Armenia needs some time to modify its position. When Mamedov was asked by RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service: "How long will be that pause in the Karabakh peace process last?" he said that it depends on Armenia's position.

A representative of the president's office described the activity of the OSCE Minsk Group as "fruitful" and added that the Minsk Group has not exhausted its possibilities for solving the conflict. Novruz Mamedov noted the importance of Russia's role in the Karabakh peace process and said if U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin reach agreement on some principles during their meeting in Slovenia it will contribute to the solution to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

(Samira Gaziyeva)

Musavat Party Congress Opens
On 29 May the Sixth Congress of the Musavat Party began its work in Baku with participation of more than 600 members of party. The head of the Musavat Party, Isa Gambar, in his report criticized the activity of the current government and predicted that Musavat will come to power in Azerbaijan. He said that today not only citizens' political rights are violated but also their economic rights.

Gambar criticized the foreign policy of Heidar Aliev, noting that the countries which were the potential friends of Azerbaijan have been transformed into its enemies. Today Azerbaijan does not have normal relations not only with Iran and Russia but also with Turkey, Gambar said. According to him, only the Musavat Party is capable of solving Azerbaijan's problems, because Musavat is the strongest and most democratic party in the country.

Gambar added that during the past nine years the Musavat Party has taken part in two elections. In 1999, despite the falsification of the municipal elections by the government, Musavat managed to take second place after the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party. According to Gambar, there is no doubt that Musavat won the parliamentary elections last November. He said Musavat Party does not support the seizure of power by force.

On 30 May the Congress of Musavat Party will continue its work and make changes to the party's program and statutes.

(Babek Bakir)

The Milli Mejlis on 29 May condemned the military cooperation between Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Fazail Agamali, the head of the Ana Vatan Party, said that in spite of the ban by international organizations Kyrgyzstan is supplying Armenia with military arms. He proposed that Azerbaijan appeal to international structures to demand that Armenia should be recognized as an aggressor and that Kyrgyzstan stop the military cooperation with Yerevan. Fazail Agamali accused the opposition parties of using the Karabakh issue in their attempts to come to power.

The head of the Jurddash Party, Mais Safarli, pointed out that Azerbaijanis who live in Borchali (Georgia), Iran, and Derbent (Russia) have no possibility of receiving education in their native language. He accused the Azerbaijan government of lacking a policy towards Azerbaijanis living abroad and proposed discussing a draft law on this issue.

Sabir Rustamkhanli, the head of the Civil Solidarity Party, raised the problems of "human trafficking," pointing out that Azerbaijan's criminal code does not provide for the struggle against this type of crime. The Azerbaijan government is unable to control the activity of companies and agencies engaged in human trafficking.

Ali Kerimov, head of the "reformist" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, reported that foreign companies continue to leave Azerbaijan. According to him, 3,744 foreign companies were officially registered in 1999 but only 1,800 in 2000. He noted the decline in foreign investments in Azerbaijan's economy. $1 billion was invested in Azerbaijan's economy in 1997, $1.4 billion in 1998 but only $552 million in 2000, Kerimov said.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Opposition Marked Day of Republic on 28 May
The 28 May 1998 was the most recent occasion when the Azerbaijani opposition demonstrated unity. In 2001, representatives of the different trends within the Azerbaijan opposition marked the 83rd anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic separately.

The "Azerbaijanists" Unit consisting of the left-wing opposition parties staged a demonstration devoted to the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic on 27 May at the village of Novkhani near Baku. Novkhani is where M.Rasulsadeh, the founder of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, was born. The demonstration participants carried portraits of both M.A. Rasulzadeh and ex-President Ayaz Mutallibov, who was forced to resign in March 1992. The Azerbaijanists have adopted a resolution demanding that the anniversary of the Azerbaijan Popular Front be observed at the state level. They also called for the announcement of an amnesty, the holding of democratic parliamentary and presidential elections, creating new jobs, and measures to immortalize the name of M. A. Rasulzadeh.

The two wings of the Democratic Congress marked the 83rd anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic on 28 May at the village of Novkhani at different times. Democratic Congress-1 consists of the parties close to Musavat and the "classic" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, while Democratic Congress-2 consists of parties close to the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party.

Mirmahmud Fattayev, the leader of the "classic" wing of the Popular Front Party, described the present government not as the successor to the 28 May, but as the successor to 28 April -- the date when the Soviet Army marched into Baku in 1920.

Ali Kerimov, leader of the Democratic Congress -2, castigated the government for not erecting a monument to M.A. Rasulzadeh.

(Natig Zeynalov)