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Azerbaijan Report: April 21, 2003

21 April 2003
Officials, Analysts, Evaluate Effects of PACE Rapporteur's Visit
Last week's visit by Terry Davis, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's special investigator for the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, brought hope that Europe will add more push to resolving the 15-year-long conflict. But local political analysts note that the Council of Europe is very limited in its powers.

"The fact that the Council of Europe pays attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is a positive point," said former foreign affairs adviser Vafa Guluzade. "But the Council of Europe will not succeed in solving the Karabakh problem, and it will not even attempt to do so." The Council of Europe has no powers or capabilities to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Guluzade stressed. "At best, the council could acknowledge Armenia as an aggressor and thus provide moral support to Azerbaijan," he said. "It is not worth expecting anything special from Davis's recent visit."

Mubariz Gurbanli, deputy executive secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP), assessed the inclusion of the Karabakh issue in the Council of Europe's agenda as a positive development. But former Foreign Minister Tofig Zulfugarov pointed out that the Council of Europe is not engaged in settlement of conflicts. This organization does not participate in organizing negotiation processes or imposing sanctions. It has no means of exerting pressure. In this context Davis's report on the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict simply creates certain opportunities for propaganda. And Armenian could also benefit from this propaganda, Zulfugarov said.

(Shahnaz Beilergizi)

FIFA Relegates Local Football Organization to Sidelines
The Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan's (AFFA) problems with local clubs and the government has reached a new stage, with the international football body FIFA suspending it on 14 April. This means that Azerbaijan football is stuck on the sidelines of all international matches, indefinitely.

FIFA's suspension letter states that "the clubs and representative teams of Azerbaijan are no longer permitted to take part in international matches, whether friendly or competitive." It adds that AFFA has no voice in any meetings held by international football bodies. The suspension will be in place until local organizations and bodies fulfill the commitments they agreed to at a summit in Zurich last year, which brought together AFFA leaders, local clubs as well as officials from Azerbaijan�s Ministry of Youth, Sports, Tourism.

Hamlet Isakhanli, president of the Khezer Universiteti football club said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that none of the conflicting sides could deny culpability. All sides are responsible for the existing situation in one form or another. Isakhanli denied the allegation that the government had ordered him to escalate the situation. "If all sides can come together and show good judgment, it will be possible to lift the sanctions in the near future," he said. "Otherwise, Azerbaijani football will wind up in a huge mess."

AFFA press secretary Letif Novruzov pointed out that in order to reach a turning point in this issue, the government's attitude toward the association must change for the better. Until some government officials end their attempt to establish a monopoly over Azerbaijani football, all efforts to find a compromise are doomed to fail.

(Babek Bekir)

Azerbaijani newspapers gave wide coverage to the imbroglio surrounding Azerbaijani football. Under the headline "If Azerbaijani football is saved from Fuad Musaev, there will be no football in general," the governmental newspaper "Azerbaycan" writes that most public representatives and organizations support this idea.

According to the independent newspaper "525," the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents are expected to meet in Saint Petersburg at the end of May to hold the next round of negotiations on a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Azerbaijani newspapers also ran articles about Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Memmedguliev's participation in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers on 18 April in Yerevan.

Under the headline "70 percent of truck-roads have become useless," the independent newspaper "Ayna" writes that some 800 billion manats ($163 million) is required to maintain the country's highways.

Elbrus Jeferli in the article entitled "The U.S. will raise its investment opportunities in Azerbaijan" in the pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan" writes that at a time when experts are discussing the prospects of getting Iraqi oil resources back to the world market, there are allegations that some energy projects could end up in the shadow. In this respect experts' opinion on the implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) main export pipeline are of interest. Jeferli recalls U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson's statement that the United States is interested in realizing this energy project, and it will lend the support necessary for completing the project. Economist Khosrov Kerimov in an interview with the newspaper also ruled out the possibility that Iraqi oil will have any serious impact for the BTC All issues regarding the pipeline have already been solved. "The BTC is not only a pipeline realizing the Azerbaijani interests. The world's leading companies have joined in this project. Great Britain and the United States, which have a direct attitude toward the Iraq problem, occupy leading positions in Azerbaijan�s oil industry," Kerimov said.

Political scientist Jumshud Nuriev in an interview with the independent newspaper "Khalg Jebhesi" commented on the opposition's activities regarding the upcoming presidential elections and the participation of former president Ayaz Mutallibov and former speaker Rasul Guliev. Nuriev said that if Mutallibov and Guliev join the ballot, the oppositions would face serious problems. Because Mutallibov's participation will split the opposition's social base, while Guliev�s participation will do the same with the government�s one. "Therefore I do not believe that these persons will allowed back into Azerbaijan until after the elections. Their likely participation in the ballot is at zero." Asked hasn't a democratic opposition formed during the past 10 years, Nuriev pointed out that while investigating the chronicles of events occurring during the last 15 years, it becomes clear that unlike the opposition "President Aliyev has risen to the tenth floor by counting stairs and walking up each floor. But our opposition took a lift on the ground floor and thus easily rose to the tenth floor. It saw only the ground and the tenth floors.� Nuriev noted that "if the opposition wants to achieve success, it first must be frank and second give up collecting incriminating evidence. It must also go to Allahshukur Pashazade and make a sacred vow. Perhaps only then the opposition will produce something. Otherwise, it will be washed away. The people will not support such an opposition," Nuriev concluded.

Mahir Nebili in the article "Who is protecting Fuad Musaev?" in the government newspaper "Khalg" writes that such expressions as "Azerbaijani football is in crisis" or "the crisis in our football continues" are ironic. "Azerbaijani football no longer exists. The main indicator of the existence of football is a national championship. But the Azerbaijani championship has not been held for a year and a half. But what's the main reason?" Nebili says that the chief cause is AFFA and its president Fuad Musaev's negative activities. AFFA has been strangling Azerbaijani football for 10 years thanks to the "phenomenal" efforts of Musaev and a group of football "businessmen" gathered around him.

Khalig Bahadir in the newspaper "Azadlig" notes that in compliance with the new climate President Heydar Aliyev will "annihilate" those he considers as rivals to his government in other ways. "Aliyev has wittingly formed a corrupted government and state. This government and the state work as a total anti-opposition mechanism. People are crushed and become disabled one by one before this rabid mechanism. This mechanism 'annihilates' the people by driving them to begging."

An author writing only as Farid in the article "Azerbaijan's economic strategy" in the independent newspaper "Uch Nogta" points out that such spheres as social policy and elimination of poverty as chief priorities of the Azerbaijani economy are the urgent questions of the day. Although the authorities have long denied the existence of such a problem, such efforts have proved futile. As a result, the government has had to prepare special plans with international institutions aimed at eliminating poverty. Farid notes that "the government's program on eliminating the poverty for 2003-2005" is a policy calculated for the current realities. But this program is long overdue. Considering the period since 1995 it becomes clear that the population's living standards fell during this period. Thus although the government has been late in eliminating poverty, it must preserve the systematic character of the policy it pursues. Otherwise, this program will similarly prove ineffective like the others.

An author writing only as Gabil in an article entitled "Heydar Aliev's Armenian card" in the opposition "Hurriyyet" notes that Mahmud Memmedguliev, deputy foreign minister and President Aliev's son-in-law, has gone to Yerevan. The purpose of this visit to participate in an 18 April meeting of foreign ministers of the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation. Gabil writes that although Memmedguliev's departure for Armenia is considered to be a simple visit at first sight, some experts assess it as a bargain with Armenians. Moreover, the local media run articles on holding secret negotiations regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and even drawing up secret plans. The essence of all meetings between the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents has not been revealed to the public. But the government, which has not make a step toward resolving the problem, presents itself to foreign countries as "peace loving," charges the opposition with calling the people for a war and thus attempts to raise its rating. But it forgets that the opposition accepts a war as a last resort. Despite that fact Aliev's government continues to benefit from this tactic.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)