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Azerbaijan Report: February 1, 2002

1 February 2002
Are There Perspectives For The Karabakh Conflict To Be Settled?
On 30 January, Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev left for the U.S. to participate in the World Economic Forum. Prior to his departure, President Aliyev answered reporters' questions at Bina airport. The Azerbaijani president stressed that the rumours about the U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan have been exaggerated and that military assistance is implemented within certain programs. The president said that talks will be held with some U.S. companies which want to inves in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani community expects that the Nagorno Karabakh conflict will be discussed in the president's meeting with heads of leading countries of the world. According to the Azerbaijani president, the U.S. visit is connected with purely economic issues but the Karabakh conflict will also be discussed.

Head of the Political Innovation and Technologies Centre Mubariz Ahmadoglu also confirmed that people considering making investments in Azerbaijan are interested in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Certainly, a number of influential world leaders will take part in the World Economic Forum and Heydar Aliyev will discuss the Karabakh conflict in the meetings with them. Most probably, the American co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group will participate in the forum.

The American co-chair of the Minsk Group stated a while ago that favourable conditions for regulation of the conflict have been formed. Azerbaijani government officials and some political scientists even positively accepted the Russian president's statement that "The Karabakh conflict must be settled without winners or losers." Ahmadoglu thinks that really normal conditions have appeared for resolving the conflict and if no positive steps are taken, the consequences will be grave.

An expert of the agency Turan, Hasan Guliev, thinks that diplomats express optimistic opinions early every year. But they state mid-year that the problem has been frozen. Guliev does not expect anything positive in near future in the light of the 11 September terrorist acts.

(Almaz Mahmudgizi)

Gurban Mammadov Went On Hunger Strike
Gurban Mammadov, the founder of the newspaper "Hurriyyet" and a member of the Azerbaijan Democrat Party Supreme Assembly, launched a hunger strike in the prison where he is kept. The reason for the hunger is his being cast into the punishment cell for five days. Gurban Mammadov was imprisoned in 1997 for 5 years on the grounds of giving false evidence. Namig Ahadzadeh, Chairman of the Committee for the Protection of Gurban Mammadov's Rights, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that the former founder of the newspaper "Hurriyyet" could be released earlier. But the fact that his arrest is political order makes it impossible. The government does everything possible not to release Gurban Mammadov. Ahadzade says that Aydin Gasimov, Head of the Ministry of Justice Chief Office for Execution of Court Rulings is more active in the pressure exerted on Gurban Mammadov. According to Ahadzade, the key reason for the pressure on Mammadov is that he could convey to the press through his fellow prisoner Vagif Mikayilov information about another fellow prisoner killed in the prison.

As stated by Ahadzade, the committee for protection of Gurban Mammadov's rights together with the Council of Europe Human Rights Committee appealed to a number of international organisations. According to Ahadzadeh, it is expected that all the prisoners whose names are on the list of the Council of Europe will be moved in the near future to Gobustan closed prison. The information was also given by Gurban Mammadov. But Niyazi Mammadov, Head of the Ministry of Justice Chief Office on Court rulings says that the information is not accurate. According to him, Gurban Mammadov violated internal discipline in the prison and has been placed in a punishment cell.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Zahid Safaroglu in the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" refers to the issue of Southern Azerbaijan in the U.S. Iranian policy and writes that the U.S. position regarding Azerbaijan's Southern neighbour is very important for Azerbaijan, where 30 million Azeris live. The author asks whether America's hardening approach to the Tehran regime will contribute to Iranian Azeris' fight for their national rights. European structures' attention to Mahmudeli Chohragani, leader of the Southern Azerbaijan National Liberation Movement, causes interest in this context. According to the author, the West has decided to rely on the factors in Iran in order to weaken the Tehran regime.

Anar Hasanli in the newspaper "Hurriyyet" comments on the Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev's visit to the U.S. The author thinks that the president's visit does not aim at only taking part in the Davos forum. Other state officials, for instance, the Prime Minister could participate in the event. The fact that Heydar Aliyev went to the U.S. immediately after his meeting with Elizabeth Jones, advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State for the Eurasian issues and the possibility for him to meet with President Bush provide grounds to think that some aspects of Aliev's visit to Russia will be discussed. According to the author, Heydar Aliev's recent inclination to Russia and his becoming disloyal to the West in some respects will cause serious questions for the Azerbaijani president during the visit.

Ex-speaker Rasul Guliev in an interview with the newspaper "Zerkalo" comments on the government's highly evaluating Heydar Aliev's visit to Russia. According to the ex-speaker, in early1994, Aliyev paid a number of visits to foreign countries. It was stated that they were not simple talks and Azerbaijan's interests and future were settled here. All this is a tradition of Aliev's team. Guliev also notes that Aliyev is in New York now. Perhaps, upon his return home, it will be declared that Aliyev has settled all the economic problems of the world. It is not possible certainly. The ex-speaker says that these visits do not damage the Azerbaijani people and Heydar Aliyev has never set the state interests as goals for him.

Sheykhulislam Allahshukur Pashazadeh, Head of the Caucasian Moslems' Board in an interview with the newspaper "525" notes that nobody should pin hopes in his possible resignation. According to him, there are some people who think differently about him. In response to the question "Do you have aspirations to enter politics?" Pashazadeh said that he was born as a religious man and lived as a believer during his whole life. According to Pashazadeh, he wants to change his world under this name and he will never become a politician or statesman. Pashazadeh noted that he was nominated in 1990 to lead Azerbaijan but he preferred praying to God to everything else.

Haji Rafig in an article in the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" refers to the rumours that Sheykhulislam Allhashukur Pashazadeh will resign and notes that the Aliyev government has grown seriously concerned about Pashazadeh's increasing prestige in the country and the international community. The issue has become aggravated of recent. The matter has reached such level that some people say he will resign for his health. The author writes that Pashazadeh came to the post in 1980. The next session was held in 1989 and Pashazadeh was elected to the post for a permanent term. Thus, nobody except for the members of the Sheykhulislam's office can remove him from this post. As for his resigning from this post voluntarily, it does not seem likely.

Khalig Bahadur in an article entitled "Problem-makers" carried by the newspaper "Azadlig" notes that the Azerbaijani president has instructed executive structures to study the problems of the Nardaran village and settle them. According to the author, to study the village's problems is a purely political matter. The author says that the problems of the Baku villages are the problems of all of Azerbaijan. On the whole, the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party and Heydar Aliev's clan causes these problems. The author continues that the problems of Nardaran and other villages of Baku are the same as the problems of Ganja, the second cultural centre of the country. These problems exist in Ganja, Gazakh, Shamakhi, Sheki and other districts.

According to the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan", the mechanism for returning credits to Turkish Eximbank will be determined. The Azerbaijani-Turkish inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation will consider the mechanisms and term for the Azerbaijani side to repay credits to Turkish Eximbank. It is pointed out in the article that Azerbaijan recognizes its debt to Eximbank and the Turkish side does not insist on returning the debt soon. Azerbaijan's Deputy Prime Minister Abid Sharifov gave the information to the newspaper. The Azerbaijani government borrowed the commercial credit of $61.100 from Eximbank in April 1993 and the investment credit of $13.000 in January 1994.

Araz Alizadeh, co-chair of the Azerbaijan Social Democrat Party in response to the question of the newspaper "Nedelya" "Does the state take care of the youth?" stated that the present youth have no opportunities to get higher education, these youth live in poverty and moral desperation. There is no well-thought program for youth. Universities have become hotbeds of corruption. The level of knowledge drops from to day. Referring to the abolition of concessions, Araz Alizadeh says that some deputies think of only themselves. When the allowances were substituted by compensations, the amount of the compensation considered for the youth was increased from 15.000 (approximately $3) to 90.000 manats (approximately $20). But the deputies raised their own compensation to 210.000 manats (approximately $50).

Veli Ilyasov in an article entitled "Mutual accusations in the pro-Musavat Democratic congress" carried by the newspaper "Azerbaijan" writes that after the term of chairmanship of Isa Gambar ended in the Democratic Congress, the classical wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party led by Mirmahmud Fettayev was to chair the organisation. Then it was proposed that the bloc should nominate a single candidate to the presidential elections to be held in 2003. According to the author, the real scandal began afterwards. Musavat members tried to hinder it by all means. The author says that Isa Gambar's violating the turn and his seizing the chairmanship in the organisation intensified the dissatisfaction in APFP and other parties against Musavat.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)