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Azerbaijan Report: August 7, 2001


7 August 2001
NEWS BRIEFS
Local Observers On Iran-Azerbaijan Tensions
The intimidation campaign by Iranian authorities against Azerbaijan is increasing. Despite Iran's previous statement about its desire to solve the problem in the Caspian region by peaceful means, the latest statement of the Iranian Foreign Ministry has generated great concern in Azerbaijan. A report printed in the local newspaper "Ekho" on 7 August is also of great interest. According to the newspaper, the head of the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Hamid Reza Assefi said at a press conference in Tehran that Iran is ready to defend its Caspian sector. He also said that Iran will have to take measures against foreign companies which decide to continue activities in the sector claimed by Iran.

One local observer, Khaleddin Ibrahimly, considers that there are some states that are interested in cool relations between Iran and neighboring countries. He said Russia has its own interests in worsening relations between Iran and Azerbaijan.

Rustam Mamedov from the the president's office thinks that Azerbaijan must direct the western capital to its oilfields in the Caspian sectors. In this case the foreign investors will feel liable to defend the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian sea.

(RFE/RL Baku buro)

Malaria Reported Among Refugees
"525-ji qazet" has reported an outbreak of malaria in Saatly refugee camps. In the Saatly Refugee camp #1 more than 50 families are ill with the disease. This situation is connected with very hot weather and the absence of elementary medicial equipment and drugs. According to the newspaper, despite promises by a group of doctors from Baku to send aid to refugees, no necessary medications have been sent to the refugee camp so far.

Karabakh War Veterans Versus Official Newspaper
On August 4 the official state newspaper "Azerbaijan" published an appeal by detained Karabakh invalids to President Heidar Aliev. In their appeal the invalids state that they do not recognise the chairman of the Karabakh Invalids' Union, Etimad Asadov. According to the appeal, some leaders of the Union used the situation for their own interests. The invalids said they have been decieved and asked the president to forgive them.

"Azerbaijan" has also published an appeal by invalids' parents on the same subject. The group of invalids, who were detained earlier this year when they staged a hunger strike to demand an increase in their pensions, were sentenced to between 2 and 6 years in prison by the Republican Criminal Court last month. None of them pleaded guilty during the trial.

The chairman of the Karabakh Invalids' Union, Etimad Asadov, says that after the trial the judge, Nushaba Agaeva, met the parents of those invalids and with participation of the judge they have prepared the appeal published in "Azerbaijan." But none of the detained invalids actually signed this document. Etimad Asadov informed that only three of nine detained former soldiers who signed it are true invalids of the Karabakh war. According to him, the prisoners who are now in the Bail Prison, informed him that they do not know anything about the appeal to the president.

According to Asadov, the authorities want to start a criminal case against him. The chairman of the Committee for the Defense of Karabakh Invalids' Rights, Zardusht Alizadeh, told an RFE/RL correspondent that the Defense Committee is in the process of submitting an appeal to the Court of Appeal, but not an appeal on forgiveness. But, he said, if the parents of those invalids and honorable persons prefer a request for parole, the Defense Committee will not oppose this action.

(Natig Zeynalov)

(Reports from Baku translated by Nigar Muradkhanova)

COMMENTARY
Iranian-Azerbaijani Tensions Persist
Relations between Azerbaijan and the Islamic Republic of Iran have become even more tense in recent days. According to the local press, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi has postponed his planned visit to Baku. At the same time, the press service of the Iranian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement reiterating Iranian claims on the status of Caspian Sea, as well as Iranian claims on parts of the sea regarded by official Baku as Azerbaijani territory.

At the same time, the press service has warned Western oil companies to stay away from disputed oilfields till the conflict is resolved. The issue was discussed at the CIS summit in Sochi last week. President Heidar Aliyev met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to seek Russian support. According to initial reports, the Russian president proposed convening a meeting of four Caspian Sea states (Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan) to draw up a common policy on the status of Caspian Sea. But this report has proved to be unreal. In fact, Turkmenistan immediately reacted by saying that all five Caspian states should meet and decide on legal status of the Caspian Sea.

Moreover, Iranian National Security Council secretary Hassan Rouhani met with the new Russian ambassador to Iran, Aleksandr Maryasov, in Tehran on 6 August and made clear that Iran is not going to give up its initial position in this issue. "Any legal status of the Caspian Sea should be unanimously formulated by the five coastal states," said Rouhani during the meeting. The Russian diplomat in his turn pointed out that his country considers the 1921 and 1940 treaties signed by Iran and the Soviet Union as still valid.

There was no word if the two officials discussed the latest Iranian military actions in the Caspian sea. But from the Azerbaijani point of view the statements made during the meeting in Tehran have not clarified the situation, but rather complicated it. A report printed in the local newspaper "Ekho"on 7 August is also of great interest. According to the newspaper, the head of the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Hamid Reza Assefi, said at a press conference in Tehran that Iran is ready to defend its sector of the Caspian. He also said that Iran will have to take measures against foreign companies which decide to continue activities in the sector claimed by Iran.

It is obvious from the statements made in Baku and from the commentaries published in the local press that the Azerbaijani government is trying at least to win Russia's support for Baku's position. And it is obvious that President Aliev's desire to have Russia support Azerbaijan in its conflict with Iran has failed. Moreover, President Aliev's overture toward Moscow may mean first, that President Aliyev is desperate to find outside support for his cause against Iran, and second, it also may mean that Western oil companies and the Western governments behind these companies are reluctant to show support for either side of the conflict, prefering to remain neutral and wait for the states involved to solve the issue.

A report in "The Turkish Daily News" of 8 August suggests that so far, only the Turkish government, or Turkish public is eager to help Baku in its conlifct with Iran. "The Turkish Daily News" printed an CNN-Turk interview with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In response to a question about a possible partnership between Turkey, Israel and Azerbaijan against Iran, Russia and Armenia, Sharon stated that he would raise the issue of cooperating with Baku during his visit to Turkey. "I will say in Ankara that we are willing to enhance relations with Azerbaijan. But, I repeat that this relationship is not against any third country," Sharon said.

It is not clear if the idea of a partnership between Turkey, Israel and Azerbaijan against Iran, Russia and Armenia is purely a journalistic hypothesis or official policcy in Ankara. But as far as it concerns Azerbaijan, this idea has been raised in the local press many times. Whether this idea reflects reality or not is another question.

(Mirza Xazar)

PRESS REVIEW
The newspaper "Alternativ," which has close ties to the president's office, is concerned about plans being drawn up in Moscow by ex-president Ayaz Mutallibov and the former chief of Azerbaijani KGB, Vagif Huseinov, to unite all anti-Aliyev forces and prepared for a change of power in Baku. "The Kremlin's desire to dictate its will to Baku is becoming real," the paper claims. The paper suggests that today former KGB chief Huseinov is a very important person for Moscow. "Some officials from Baku have met with Ayaz Mutallibov and Vagif Huseinov in Moscow and discussed present political situation in Azerbaijan," the paper writes.

The opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" commented on the flow of capital from Baku to foreign banks. The paper claim that members of ruling "tribe" continue to transfer illegally earned money to foreign banks. The paper points to a very interesting nuance. According to "Yeni Musavat," since there is a lack of experience in Azerbaijan in international bank transactions, the money is being flown out of country in cash in suitcases. The main countries where this illegal money is being laundered, according to the paper, are Turkey and the Turkish part of Cyprus.

The paper "Milletin Sesi" (The Voice of The Nation) suggests that tensions in Iranian-Azerbaijani relations could lead to a second Kuwait crisis. "Azerbaijan at war with Armenia, therefore our country is not able to fight on two fronts," the paper writes.

(Compiled by Mirza Xazar)

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