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Azerbaijan Report: November 2, 2001

2 November 2001
What Do Azerbaijani Politicians Think Of The Incidents In Georgia?
According to local experts, Russia has a role in the current developments in Georgia. Is there any truth in the assumption? According to Adalat Party Chairman Ilyas Ismailov, he does not accept the statement about Russia's role in the developments in Georgia. He thinks that the incidents mark the people's protest against the governing regime.

Mirmahmud Fettaev, head of the classical wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front party, Russia has a finger in the incidents in Georgia, but the local press's information that the same variant can be repeated in Azerbaijan is not convincing. According to Fettaev, Russia does not exert pressure on Azerbaijan because President Heidar Aliyev has not yet taken serious steps against its interests. Fettaev says that Aliyev came to power having overthrown the government. According to Fettaev, the Azerbaijani president carries out more work than Russia could. Fettaev says that Russia has been faced with the danger of losing the South Caucasus and Russia will resort to any means in order not to give up the region. According to him, Russia behaves as an official who has been sacked from a high post and it is difficult for this country to recognize that everything is late.

Yurddash Party Chairman Mais Safarly thinks that the internal situation and a number of foreign factors play a certain role in the Georgian developments. According to Safarly, if the Georgian leadership took into consideration the foreign factors and regulated the internal situation, then the situation would not have reached the current level. According to Safarly, the developments in Azerbaijan are not pleasant for Russia as well, and serious problems for Azerbaijan in the future can not be ruled out.

Sulhaddin Akbar, deputy head of the Musavat Party for political issues, thinks that Russia and Iran are seriously concerned about the new policy the U.S. is pursuing in Central Asia and the Caucasus since the 11 September terrorist acts. Because of this, Russia has caused a political crisis in Georgia. According to Akbar, Russia is pushing for developments to get out of the constitutional framework. Akbar does not believe that similar incidents can take place in Azerbaijan in the near future.

Civil Party Chairman Sabir Rustamkhanli also does not believe that such an incident could be repeated in Azerbaijan. According to him, everything depends on the president's will in Azerbaijan and unlike Azerbaijan, the ministers in Georgia are appointed by the parliament.

Democrat Party Secretary-General Serdar Jelaloglu thinks that the current developments in Georgia can be compared with the incidents that took place in Azerbaijan in 1993. According to him, Abulfaz Elchibey's government was overthrown at that time in Azerbaijan after the Russian forces were withdrawn from the city of Ganja in Azerbaijan. Now, Russian forces are withdrawn from Abkhazia and similar incidents are taking place in that country.

(Zhale Mutallimova and Maarif Chingizoglu)

Azerbaijani President's Visits Postponed
The local press again carries information about deterioration in the health of President Heidar Aliev. Even though no official information has been provided in this connection, the postponement of a number of important presidential meetings has strengthened this possibility. According to the news agency Turan, President Aliyev was to take part in the event organized at the Baku Entertainment Center in connection with the day of the Turkish Republic. But it was announced at the last moment that the president would not attend the event. Unofficial sources connected it with the president's health.

President Aliev's visit to Turkey scheduled for the end of October will take place later, the agency "Trend" reported citing information from Turkey-based diplomatic sources. The new date of the visit is not known yet and depends on the Azerbaijani side. Previously, Aliyev received an invitation to pay a working visit to Turkey. There was a planned ceremony devoted to the 81st anniversary of liberation of Gars (a Turkish district). A park named after Heidar Aliyev was to be opened in Gars as part of the event. Aliyev was to visit Ankara, meet with the Turkish leadership, and take part in the opening of Azerbaijan's embassy.

The Azerbaijani president paid his last visit abroad on 9 July to Sochi. Afterwards, all his visits, as well as that to Iran were postponed. A member of the Azerbaijani parliament and deputy executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, Mubariz Gurbanli, refuted the information regarding deterioration in the president's health. Gurbanli says the president works in ordinary regime and explained the postponement of his visit to Turkey with some technical reasons.

(Natig Zeynalov)

Azerbaijani Experts Comment On The Developments In Georgia
Georgia is going through difficult days. Many commentators even think that the country, which has been faced with serious failure in Abkhazia, is on the eve of a new governmental change. Reservist Lieutenant Colonel Isakhan Ashurov thinks that the process should be regarded as the consequence of the Georgian leadership's attempt to make use of the 11 September terrorist acts in the U.S. for resolution of the Abkhaz conflict. According to Ashurov, the Georgian officials thought after the terrorist acts that the new conditions would enable them to resolve the conflict in their favor and the wishes of ordinary Georgian people. Ashurov says that Shevardnadze's failure to achieve this goal caused serious differences in the higher governmental circles. The strain in developments around the Rustavi-2 TV channel also added to the tension. According to Ashurov, the ministries of security and internal affairs were considered to be Shevardnadze's strongholds.

Ashurov says that the Russian factor should not be forgotten in these developments. According to him, Georgia's pro-Western policy for the past five years resulted in serious pressure from Russia. Ashurov does not rule out that similar developments could take place in Azerbaijan in future.

Independent political scientist Zafar Najafly sees no danger for Azerbaijan at present. He says that even though the same discussions were held in Azerbaijan after the 11 September terrorist acts, Aliyev did not take strict steps against the separatist structure in Nagorno-Karabakh. Besides, we should take into consideration that Russia is not so influential in Azerbaijan as it is in Georgia. According to Najafly, until the U.S. takes Caucasus into its full control, Georgia and Azerbaijan will be faced with more danger in future.

(Babek Bekir)

Armenian Journalists Are Again In Baku
Despite Azerbaijani community protests, Armenian journalists are once again in Baku. During their last visit, one of the Armenians declared that they are citizens of the independent republic of Karabakh and the local community reacted seriously. The "Yeni Nasil" (New Generation) Journalists' Union and the Yerevan Press Club, under the financial support of the Open Society Institute, are meeting in Baku to discuss the results of the project they jointly implement. Even though the mutual visits of the Armenian and Azerbaijani journalists are anticipated to affect regulation of the conflict positively, very few people believe this in Azerbaijan and even the implementers of the project think so. The Karabakh Liberation Organization, which protests the visits every time, considers such meetings to be meaningless. The head of the organization, Akif Naghi, says that until the Azerbaijani lands are liberated from Armenian occupation, no ties should be established with this country. According to Naghi, the governing circles in Armenia prepare such projects through the financial support of international organizations and try to ensure that nobody protests conceding occupied Azerbaijani land to Armenia or its being recognized as an independent structure.

Yeni Nasil Journalists' Union head Arif Aliyev says that they have not met a person who would prove their being wrong in these steps. According to Aliev, they have suggested Naghi and his organization meet with the Armenian journalists and convey their position to them, but the latter have not consented to it and still issue only statements.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Afghan Refugees In Azerbaijan
The meeting held between the commander of the Border Troops of the Azerbaijan National Security Ministry and his Iranian counterpart was aimed at preventing illegal migration from Astara, Bilasuvar, and Jebrail-Aslanduz districts as well as organizing the deportation of Afghans who have passed into Azerbaijan's territory in compliance with international legal norms. According to the early agreement reached in the talks, a group of Afghan refugees will be extradited to the Iranian side. The Congress of the World Azerbaijanis met on 31 October and declared historical facts that over half a million Azerbaijanis live in Afghanistan. Parliament member Igbal Aghazade, who is an orientalist, also confirmed this fact. In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Aghazade noted that even during Nadir Shah's rule, a number of Azerbaijanis were deported from Karabakh to Afghanistan. Until the 1930s, there was a Karabakh district in Afghanistan. As it was located near Kabul, it was characterized as a Karabakh district. Azerbaijanis who visited Afghanistan during Soviet rule often visited the district and its residents. According to Aghazadeh, the Azerbaijani government should work out a special plan for working with the Azerbaijani diaspora in the world.

Today, some 100 Afghan families live in Baku and they are very much concerned about the developments in Afghanistan and the fate of the Afghan refugees.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Journalists Continue Actions Of Protest
Even though the pressure on the mass media in Azerbaijan has come to an end, the newspapers are still overcoming the aftermath of the damage brought on them. Consequently, the suspended newspapers have decided to stage actions of protest. According to Shahbaz Khuduoglu, editor in chief of the newspaper "Milletin sesi" (The voice of the nation), the official letter to get permission for staging the action of protest will be submitted to the Baku municipal authorities on 2 November. Khuduoglu says that some 10 media outlets including his newspaper have been suspended on the instruction of state officials. Calling it an injustice, Khuduoglu says that the fight against the pressure on media outlets was not finished. Because of this, nothing positive can be obtained from the struggle. According to Khuduoglu, employees of two newspapers have appealed to the Baku municipal authorities for permission to stage a demonstration. The newspapers are "Milletin sesi" and "Bakinskii bulvar," but it is not known yet whether the remaining newspapers will defend the picket and employees of the suspended newspapers.

Such newspapers as "Femida," "Avropa," "Bakinskii bulvar," "Milletin sesi," and six other newspapers have been suspended. Criminal proceedings have been brought against 10 journalists in a short period of time. Some six of them were arrested but presently the employees of only the newspaper "Ulus" are in jail. The other four journalists were released on instructions from the president. The Supreme Court has to try the employees of the newspaper "Ulus" one of these days.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Zahid Safaroglu, in an article "The U.S. will not give up Baku-Ceyhan" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," writes that the Armenians are doing their best to ensure the main export pipeline for delivery of Caspian oil to world markets passes through Armenian territory. In order to achieve this agreement, it is necessary to get the consent of the oil's owner first and the oil's owner is Azerbaijan. The train has already departed and it is clear that the U.S. will not give up Baku-Ceyhan. A considerable sum of funds has been expended on realization of this project. On the other hand, the oil companies involved in the project are fairly independent and their interests are their priority. Their interests are measured not only by money but also political and security guarantees. It is not expected that all this will be declined for Armenia's interests.

A former member of the Azerbaijani parliament and former chairman of the parliamentary commission on foreign and inter-parliamentary ties, Rza Ibadov, who was once recognized as close to Azerbaijani President Aliev, gave an interview to the newspaper "Yeni Musavat". He said that those in the presidential team who fear that they may lose their posts in the government discredit others in the eyes of the president. Ibadov says that officials who feared that he might become speaker of the parliament or the prime minister reached their goal. According to him, he did not react to them at first, but it was too late when he understood everything. Ibadov claims that they did not even allow him to meet with President Aliyev and explain everything. Noting that he had not been a politician with pretensions, Ibadov said that the press extremely exaggerated his opportunities in introducing him as a even a center of power. Because of this, government officials began to grow concerned about Rza Ibadov's progress in society.

Nazim Mustafa writes in the newspaper "Khalg" that the turning point in the Azerbaijani army began after Heidar Aliyev appealed to the Azerbaijani people in 1993. The author claims that the military units which now exist have not been politicized and the Azerbaijani Popular Front party and Musavat Party have an undeniable role in the occupation of some 20 percent of Azerbaijan's lands. The author writes that the great achievements of the Azerbaijani army took place after President Aliyev appealed to the nation. As a result of these victories, the cease-fire was signed in Bishkek in 1994.

The newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that Armenian-Georgian ties remain at their former level. Even the Georgian president's visit to Armenia did not warm relationships. According to the newspaper, Russia plays a great role in the rapprochement between these two Caucasian countries. On Russia's unofficial proposal, Armenia makes territorial claims against Georgia. According to the author, the rapprochement of Georgia and Armenia is in compliance with U.S. interests as well. The Georgian president visiting Armenia immediately after the U.S. attacks proves this as well. The U.S. has long tried to take Armenia out of Russia's influence, but the efforts made up to now have been without success.

Ulker Ismailgizi, in an article carried by the newspaper "Azadlig," describes the life of a famous businessman, Marat Manafov, who disappeared in uncertain circumstances in Bratislava, Slovakia. According to the author, it is not by chance that Manafov disappeared after the interview he gave to the newspaper "Azadlig." The author quotes from the interview, which carried accusations against the Azerbaijani government, President Aliev, and his son Ilham. The article includes quotes from former parliament Chairman Rasul Guliev's book "Diktatorla uz-uza" (Facing the Dictator): "In the event devoted to the fifth anniversary of the Contract of the Century, Heidar Aliyev accused me and Marat Manafov of bribery. But I must say that Heidar Aliyev himself had suggested Marat's involvement in oil contracts." Guliev claims that Manafov organized holidays for the Azerbaijani president's daughter and granddaughters in Slovakia and Aliyev wanted to pay his debts by involving him in oil contracts. "Heidar Aliyev lies in saying that I took bribes from foreign countries through Manafov. The figures given by Marat also show that it is a matter concerning Heidar Aliyev not Rasul Guliev."

The newspaper "Zerkalo" carried an article entitled "Armenian terrorists in Baku." It points out in the article that a group of Armenian journalists led by Armenian press club head Boris Navasardian visited Baku. The newspaper claims that three members of the 10-member delegation are members of Armenian terrorist organizations. Ashot Melikyan has been a member of the organization "Chegakron" since 1999. Melikyan is also a journalist who has published a great number of articles trying to prove that Azerbaijan's occupied territories belong to Armenia. Khraer Ovetisian is an expert who obtains information of an intelligence character. His uncle Zhirak Ovetisian works in President Robert Kocharian's security service. Benyamen Garakhanian is an assistant to the Armenian foreign minister. He is engaged in gathering and systemizing the information about Azerbaijan's energy and oil resources. Garakhanian is also a member to the radical "Vayk" group. His uncle Baghdasar leads the terrorist organization "Haydad" in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the newspaper, it is not convinced that such a delegation includes real journalists. In this case, it is urgent to think whether goodwill visits are necessary or not. The newspaper claims that all the visits from Armenia to Baku and back must be postponed. The proposal may not please many people who must take into consideration that the local people do not like such visits.

The newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that Heidar Aliyev ranks first among the South Caucasian politicians. NISA Consulting Fund held a kind of poll in the CIS in order to determine leaders of public opinion. Some 247 experts and 1,321 readers of Gazeta on the Internet took part in the poll. The list of the Caucasian political leaders includes the names of Shevardnadze, Aliev, and Kocharian. The newspaper writes that Heidar Aliyev came in first place and Eduard Shevardnadze in second. Naturally, the Armenian president should take third. Oddly enough, Azerbaijan's ex-President Abulfaz Echibey came in third place. The chairman of the Supreme Assembly of the Ajariya Autonomous Republic is in fourth, the Armenian president in fifth, and Abkhaz leader of Ardzinda in sixth place.

Bakhtiyar Tunjay writes in the newspaper "525" that a new opposition will be established in the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party. The processes in YAP also prove that little has remained till that day. The author claims that one of the key reasons is that the people loyal to the party leadership are used for a certain period but then they are fully removed from the processes. The author anticipates that Ilham Aliyev may take over leadership of the opposition in YAP in order to suppress the tension. Then Heidar Aliyev will voluntarily crown his son for the post of the party chairman.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)