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Azerbaijan Report: March 29, 2002

29 March 2002
American-Azerbaijani Military Cooperation Expanding
The U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Eurasian countries, Mira Rikardel, said at a press conference with U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson on 28 March in Baku declaring that his two-day visit to Azerbaijan is for discussing U.S.-Azerbaijani military cooperation.

Rikardel told journalists that the U.S. attachs great significance to Azerbaijan's national security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. Rikardel noted that the foundation of military cooperation between the two countries was laid on the 10th anniversary of American-Azerbaijani diplomatic relations. She said the U.S. has decided to allot $4.4 million in assistance to Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry for security purposes. During the two-day consultations in Baku, potential areas of military cooperation were determined. Particular attention will be placed on strengthening the security of Azerbaijan's air and water boundaries. Rikardel noted that U.S. military experts are due to visit Azerbaijan within the coming days. (Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

YAP Official Holds Press Conference
Novruz Mammadov, the head of the presidential office's Foreign Relations Department, held a press conference on 29 March in the headquarters of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party. Referring to the situation in the world and the region after the 11 September terror acts, Mammadov spoke about the visit of the co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group to the region. According to Mammadov, even though such visits are regular, the tempo of the peace process is very slow.

Mammadov then referred to the issue of the Caspian's legal status and other related problems. He said Azerbaijan, Russia, and Kazakhstan have already reached remarkable progress towards an agreement on the sea's legal status and added that certain changes are expected in Turkmenistan's position as well.

In response to a question regarding the leasing of the Gabala radar station to Russia, Mammadov said the Azerbaijani authorities have no intention of disclosing to the press all the discussions held with Turkey on this issue. He said Turkey's attitude to the agreement is "normal."

Mammadov termed meaningless the fact that the UN website shows Nagorno-Karabakh as Armenian territory. He noted that the Azerbaijani authorities have not yet determined whether this was intentional. If so, they will lodge an official protest. (Maarif Chingizoglu)

Government Allocates Loans To Media Outlets
Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasizadeh declared that the Azerbaijani government will allot 17 billion manats worth of loans to local media outlets after the government reviews the various loan applications.

Some media representatives are already objecting to the requirement that newspapers must make a deposit in order to obtain a loan. The heads of some newspapers are likewise not satisfied by the amount provided. The editor in chief of the newspaper "Mukhalifet," Rovshan Mahmudov, regards the loan idea positively. Minister for Economic Development Ferhad Aliyev said in an interview that there are many media outlets in Azerbaijan, and the Editors Union or other structures should coordinate the allocation of the loans. Mahmudov noted that some journalistic organizations or the Editors' Union will try to settle the issue fairly. As to whether opposition papers will obtain loans as well, Mahmudov said he thinks they would have to reject any loan that would be offered, as he said the loans are intended to make the press dependent on the government.

The deputy editor in chief of the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Gabil Abbasoglu, also thinks that greater sums of money are going to be needed to resolve the problems that exist within the Azerbaijani press. But 17 billion manats are also better than nothing, and Abbasolgu said that much depends on the actual distribution of this loan. The fact that the newspapers will be required to make property deposits, is disadvantageous for them, said. Abbasoglu suggests that the newspapers leave their trademarks as deposits.

The editor in chief of the newspaper "Monitoring," Elmar Huseynov, says that it will be very hard to fairly distribute loans among the newspapers. If the Editors Union or other structures are charged with distribution of the loans, they will think of their own interests first, as some of the editors in the union are also the heads of media outlets. (Almaz Mahmudgizi)

Azerbaijani OMON Committee Appeals To International Organizations
The Committee for the Protection of OMON (special purpose police detachment) Members' Rights has appealed to international organizations to help pressure the Azerbaijani government to improve conditions for imprisoned OMON members. The committee's chairman, Gabil Rzaev, claims that the committee has compiled a list that it will submit along with their appeal to the embassies of foreign countries in Azerbaijan. The list includes the names of former OMON members who suffer from diseases in different prisons. Rzaev said that the president's last amnesty decree included the names of three OMON members, but some 60 still remain in prison. The current state of 20 of them is of particularly great concern.

Rzaev notes that the committee has raised the issue of these men before the Chief Department of Control on the Implementation of Court Rulings, but said no progress was made. However, some of the prisoners were given treatment after such appeals. According to Rzaev, the prisoners' parents do not have the funds to provide quality treatment for their sons. Rzaev wants international organizations to increase pressure on the Azerbaijani government to provide better treatment for these prisoners. (Babek Bekir)

Neriman Gasimoglu wrote in the newspaper "Azadlig" that the U.S.'s establishment of strategic ties with Azerbaijan and Georgia in the current political climate could neutralize the factors preventing strategic security and development, as well as secure a happy future for the Armenian people who have fallen hostage to an "aggressive and provocative" policy. According to the author, if the U.S. demonstrated a fair position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is the result of Armenia's territorial claims against Azerbaijan, then it would greatly contribute to a deepening of democratic processes in Azerbaijan. The U.S. exerts pressure on the Azerbaijani leadership and they must also make the Armenian leadership give up its nonconstructive position in the Karabakh conflict, Gasimoglu said.

The American co-chair of the OSCE Minsk group, Rudolf Perina, noted in an interview with the newspaper "525" that if the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents really wanted to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, then it would be possible to settle the problem. If the two presidents finally decide that it is time to settle the conflict, Perina said, then there will be many people to help them. Perina stated that the U.S. as well as the international community does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state and the Minsk Group is not responsible for the failure to resolve the conflict. Recently the Minsk Group has issued various proposals to the two sides and has done much work to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, the Minsk Group cannot make a decision -- only the presidents can, the American co-chair noted.

Bilender Najafoglu, in the "Hurriyyet" article "Heidar Aliyev Does Not Want To Settle The Karabakh Problem," analyzes National Security Minister Namig Abbasov's remarks in connection with the 83rd anniversary of the ministry. Referring to the minister's statement that "if I had authority, I would liberate Karabakh," the author writes that the minister's recent activity should not be considered normal. Recent statements by Abbasov give grounds to think that he is preparing for the post-Aliyev period. As in former statements, Abbasov's recent statement apparently is an attempt to curry favor with the public. According to the author, the government the minister represents has not shown any progress in resolving the Karabakh problem over the past 10 years.

Parliament member Gulamhusein Aliev, in an interview with the newspaper "Zerkalo," says that they will raise in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) the issues regarding the Khojaly genocide as well as the 31 March tragedy. The Azerbaijani delegation is already preparing for it. As for the Karabakh Armenians' intention to participate in the PACE spring session, the parliament member said that the Azerbaijani side is trying to settle the conflict within the Council of Europe. He stressed the possibility for Karabakh Armenians and Azerbaijanis to take part in the session.

The media has discussed for some days the Azerbaijani parliamentary debates over the Khojaly genocide and the differences of opinions during the discussions. According to the newspaper "Nedelya," parliament members have thought about the guilty parties in the Khojaly tragedy for 10 years but still have not reached agreement on who is to blame.

The newspapers "Yeni Azerbaijan" and "Khalg" have republished major articles on Azerbaijan that were published in the Russia-based newspaper "Izvestiya." An article titled "Russia Is Our Second Motherland" says that none of the former Soviet republics have as big of a diaspora as Azerbaijan has in Russia. The number of Azerbaijanis living in Russia on either a permanent or temporary basis is estimated to be 1.5-2 million. It is stressed in the article that Azerbaijanis are taking an active part in the revival of the Russian economy.

A number of newspapers, including "Ekho," carry articles about the session of the Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and Illegal Drug Trafficking. It is pointed out in the article that 13,000 drug addicts have been registered in Azerbaijan.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)