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Azerbaijan Report: March 6, 2002

6 March 2002
OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs To Visit The Region
The Minsk Group co-chairs are due to visit the region on 8 March. Unlike the former visits, the co-chairs will reportedly bring new proposals this time. According to available information, even though the proposals have not been disclosed to the public or the press, the presidents of the two countries have been informed separately. According to "Turan," the co-chairs will meet with Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev and visit the refugee camps. Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev confirmed that the co-chairs will bring new proposals regarding the peaceful regulation of the Karabakh conflict.

Political Innovation and Technologies Centre Head Mubariz Ashmadoglu says that the new proposals were based on the Key West talks and the mechanism for their implementation can be added to those proposals.

Caucasian Studies Centre Head Khaleddin Ibrahimli thinks that it is difficult to say anything unequivocal about the proposals as very little is known about them. But it can be stated referring to the developments in the Southern Caucasus that the Western and international organisations through the OSCE Minsk Group are getting ready to take more serious steps to regulate the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Why Are Books No Longer Read In Azerbaijan?
Venerated Azerbaijani social scientist Yusif Vezir Chemenzeminli once remarked that published books are more valuable than money. Regretfully, this expression no longer corresponds to reality. Today, the books that are published do not attract readers, a group of readers cannot find the books they want, and much of society has lost their mission as readers. At the same time, the number of publishing houses in Azerbaijan is rising from day to day.

There are currently 150 publishing houses in Azerbaijan, but the rise in the number of publishing houses does not mean an increase in the number of volumes published. Today, there are almost no books with a large printrun, the average being a print run of 200, 300 or 500. Authors pay the expenses involved in publication and handle sales of their books as well. Each author tries to sell his book to the people closer to his circle. From this standpoint, state officials and university faculty staff can sell their books more easily, while other authors face problems, because on the whole, people's purchasing power is very low.

Some state officials give preference to private publishing houses and allocate the meagre funds allotted by the state to those publishing houses, which are more profitable.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

The newspapers "Azerbaijan" and "Khalg" give extensive coverage to Mstislav Rostropovich's visit to Azerbaijan and his meeting with the Azerbaijani president. Both newspapers carry on their front pages this statement: "Each arrival of the great maestro in Azerbaijan is a remarkable event in the cultural life of our republic."

Zahid Safaroglu in the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" comments on the latest developments in Georgia, noting that Russia is concerned more about its rapidly deccreasing influence in Caucasus than about fighting mythical terrorists. The West led by the U.S. has begun strengthening its economic, political and military footholds in the region. The author argues that Russia will not be able to overthrow the leadership of either Azerbaijan or Georgia in future. According to the author, Russia, which once contributed to establishing the so-called Abkhazian, South Ossetian and Nagorno Karabakh Republics in order to threaten Georgia and Azerbaijan, has now raised the possibility of recognising them. Safaroglu predicts that Moscow is unlikely to recognise these so-called structures, because doing so could expedite the recognition of Chechnya, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan and the Russian Federation could collapse. From this standpoint, it is clear that Moscow is engaging in blackmail.

Rasim Bayramov in a commentary entitled "Iran backs Armenian separatists" carried by the newspaper "Hurriyyet" refers to Iran's interests in the Southern Caucasus and Azerbaijan, noting that Tehran recognises that it will not be able to realise its interests in Azerbaijan in the face of strong Western technology and financial investments. Now, Iran wants to see within the Azerbaijani leadership a person close to it. But Iranian officials are well aware that it is impossible for forces close to it to come to power in Azerbaijan. Because of this, the most effective policy for Iran to adopt regarding Azerbaijan is to promote instability in the country.

The newspaper "Azerbaijan" carries an interview with political scientist Aydin Guliev, who says that if the Armenian community recognised that they are faced by not only 7-8 million Azerbaijanis in Azerbaijan but also the world-wide Azerbaijani community, they would agree to compromise and accept Azerbaijan's demands. Guliev stresses that the newly independent states must be more responsible in protecting their independence in current conditions. He says that Islamic and ethnic solidarity and other unities are often referred to, but could prove harmful to Azerbaijan.

Aziz in a commentary "It is easy to issue statements" carried by the newspaper "Khalg" refers to the opposition's announcement that it will stage a protest action on 23 March. He comments that it is easy to issue statements but difficult to achieve anything of substance, noting that all the opposition's recent meetings have failed. Rank and file members of opposition parties see that the party leaders think exclusively of their own interests, and have also begun fighting for their interests. Because of this, confrontations within the opposition camp have increased.

Hikmet Sabiroglu in an article "To convince society. Then action will also be possible" notes that time is passing and the lost years do not only negatively affect Karabakh, but the rest of the country, which is disintegrating. It is possible to justify Azerbaijani lands' remaining under occupation for years, but the current state of Azerbaijan cannot be justified. According to Sabiroglu, there are no grounds for the leadership to change its methods. Its only chance of survival is to preserve the status quo, and there is no doubt that this is what Heydar Aliyev will do until the very end.

Ten years ago, on 5 March 1992, Azerbaijan's first president Ayaz Mutallibov resigned. The newspaper "Tezadlar" carries a commentary by political scientist Rasim Musabeyov, who worked as a state advisor in 1990-1992. Musabeyov says the Presidium building was almost cordoned off then. Mutallibov could have got out of the blockade if he wanted and kept the presidential post, or he could have used force against those who demanded his resignation. But Musabeyov thinks that Mutallibov had grown tired and his nerves could not stand any more, and for that reason he agreed to step down.

The article "What did Heydar Aliyev promise to Bakhtiyar Javadov?" carried by the newspaper "Tezadlar" clarifies some aspects of the 1995 mutiny by OMON commander Rovshan Javadov.

The newspaper "Zerkalo" carries an interview with parliament deputy Zahid Garalov from the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party. Commenting on the argument that if the government had discussed the problem of political prisoners with lawyers, then the issue would not have reached the level of the Council of Europe, Garalov denied that there are any political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

Elbrus in an article "Will the philarmonia reopen next year?" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" notes that it is planned to complete the reconstruction of the M. Magomayev State Philarmonia by mid-2003. According to the author, this will be possible if the 40 billion manats allotted for the reconstruction of this national architectural monument are used expediently. But if the reconstruction is conducted as it was in1995-96, then the philarmonia will not reopen its doors for spectators.

The newspaper "Yeni Musavat" carries an article entitled "Some 92.5 percent of the Azerbaijani people are poor" and cites statistics proving that this is the case.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)