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Azerbaijan Report: November 1, 2002

1 November 2002
Baku Chechens Appeal to President Aliev
The widow of Johar Dudaev, the first president of the self-declared Republic of Ichkeria, on 28 October called on Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev to mediate between the Kremlin and the Chechen leadership.

Alla Dudaeva, ambassador on special assignment to Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, appealed to President Aliyev and asked him to mediate between the Kremlin and the Ichkerian government. "I believe in the diplomacy of Heidar Aliev. If he wants, he can help us," she said at a press conference in Baku.

She touched on the hostage incident at the Moscow theater, where from the evening of 23 October to the morning of 26 October a group of Chechen militants held some 750 actors and spectators hostage, calling it a unique action, which demonstrated the sufferings of the Chechen people to the international community.

Dudaeva noted that the Ichkerian officials have repeatedly offered Russia to begin negotiations. But the Russian government has been unresponsive to their overtures of peace.

Dudaeva suggested holding roundtable discussions in Baku, with the participation of human rights organizations. There Russian and Chechen representatives could discuss ways of resuming peaceful negotiations.

Mairbek Taramov, the director of the Chechen Human Rights Center, also present at the Baku press conference, said that the Chechen hostage takers must not be considered as terrorists. He also protested against the closing of the unofficial Chechen representative office in Baku.

During the hostage crisis in Moscow Ali Asaev, the head of the representative office, organized a telephone conversation between a group of Azerbaijani journalists and the Chechen hostage takers. After this incident, the Azerbaijani government ordered the office closed, reportedly in response to a note of protest from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Taramov said that the closing of the representative office was a serious blow to Chechen refugees in Baku, who live under difficult social conditions. He recalled the personal efforts of Asaev in the release of the four Azerbaijanis, one of whom was the wife of the president of Azerbaijani Airlines, and called the closing of the office a sign of "ingratitude" to the assistance provided. I hope that it is a temporary measure, Taramov said.

(Natig Zeinalli)

Guluzade: Azerbaijan Walks Cautiously With Russia
Some observers suggest that the Moscow hostage crisis will lead Russia to reconsider its Caucasus foreign policy.

Although Moscow has yet to make any significant changes to this policy, it has begun making strong demands against neighboring states.

After the hostage-taking incident Moscow demanded that Azerbaijan close the unofficial Chechen representative office in Baku, which was mostly engaged in the distribution of humanitarian aid to Chechen refugees. The Azerbaijani government was quick to fulfill this demand.

But the closing of the office has also stirred up debates regarding the Moscow representative office of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. According to unofficial information, despite negotiations with Russian officials, the office has still not been closed.

Vafa Guluzade, a former state adviser on foreign affairs, said that the Azerbaijani government's quick response to Moscow's request indicates that it attaches great importance to its relations with the Russian Federation and is cautious in its polices regarding Russia.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Guluzade said that Azerbaijan should make some demands on Russia. "There is sufficient evidence that Russia arms Armenia with modern weapons and takes great pains to hinder any solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," he said. Because of this, he added, it should not be difficult for Azerbaijan to convince the world of its just cause.

Metin Mirze, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told RFE/RL that the ministry has placed high priority on this issue. He noted that the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh representative office was located within the building of the Armenian Embassy in Moscow and has a staff of one. That man does not participate in official meetings or discussions, he said. Meanwhile, Baku has appealed to Moscow once again to close the office. Mirze also pointed out that former Russian Prime Minister and State Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin pledged to promote the closing of the office.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Russian Politician Says Azerbaijan Has Put Forth New Proposal On Karabakh
Russian State Audit Chamber Chairman Stepashin visited Azerbaijan at the beginning of the week. In an interview with the independent newspaper "Zerkalo" he said that the Azerbaijani government has proposed a "third way" -- a compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Journalists have frequently written that there are only two variants for a solution to the conflict: war or peace. However Stepashin refused to unveil the details of the Azerbaijani proposal. "I do not want to hinder the process," he said.

Independent experts in Baku told RFE/RL that Stepashin's statement was a surprise to them.

Elkhan Mehdiev, the head of the nongovernmental Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution, said that he recently met with Armenian experts in Istanbul and Tbilisi, but they were also unaware of any new plan.

Mehdiev also noted that at present it was unrealistic to expect new proposals from the Minsk Group and other organizations that are participating in the peace negotiations for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Partly because contacts between the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents and other officials have recently intensified, the larger powers as well as international organizations no longer consider the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to be a serious problem.

Vafa Guluzade for his part reacted strongly to Stepashin's statement. He said that, in general, Azerbaijan has nothing to compromise, and that the only real solution is war.

(Natig Zeinalli)

The independent newspaper "525" wrote about the meeting of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway with Allahshukur Pashazade, the head of the Religious Board of the Caucasian Muslims. Ordway suggested that Pashazade visit Armenia and invite Catholicos of the Armenian Church Garegin II to Azerbaijan. Pashazade reportedly turned down the U.S. ambassador's proposal.

Official and pro-governmental newspapers comment on the "congratulatory letter" of 46 U.S. congressmen sent to Arkadi Gukasian, the president of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

A commentary headlined "Those who congratulate Gukasian in fact support terrorism," in the pro-governmental newspaper "Yeni Azerbaycan" criticized the letter and pointed out that expressing confidence in terrorists is nothing more than promoting mass assassinations.

An author writing only as Rustam in the article "Who determines the U.S. foreign policy?" in the official government newspaper "Azerbaycan" noted that neither the government nor the Azerbaijani public have expressed their attitude to the 24 October letter to Gukasian. Such a letter should be looked upon as a scandal. As a rule, when the so-called draft law on the "Armenian genocide" is presented for discussion in Congress, pro-Armenian members attempt to show themselves. But, in fact, such actions do not affect the foreign policy of the United States.

Opposition activist Arif Hajiev said in an interview with the independent Russian-language newspaper "Zerkalo" that the opposition will demand that the government allow them new routes for future protests.

Ogtai Gulaliev, in an article entitled "Collapse" in the opposition newspaper "Hurriyyet," writes about the similarities between the "Mercury-2" vessel that sank on 22 October in the Caspian and Heidar Aliev's regime. GulAliyev noted that the incompetence of the Azerbaijani government and its indifference to human lives during the incident with the ship indicates that such a government has no right to rule the Azerbaijani people. There are interesting similarities and differences between the ship and Aliev's regime. The analogous feature is that the present regime, like the vessel, is collapsing, and it is no longer possible to save it. However, unlike the ship that sank thanks to indifference and carelessness, the regime is a victim of the thieving and extorting businesses of the government. President Aliyev wants to drown Azerbaijan as he did with the "Mercury-2" ferry, GulAliyev concludes.

Ferhad Memmedov in the article "Sensational Czech businessman pursues the Alievs" in the opposition newspaper "Azadlig" writes that several American companies have brought a legal action against the Alievs and a number of other officials in New York's Southern District Court. These companies were involved in dealings with Czech businessman Victor Kozeny, who lost the funds of the U.S. companies. Memmedov recalls that in the past Kozeny also brought similar legal actions against Azerbaijani officials in courts in Great Britain and the Bahamas. During a legal proceeding in Great Britain, he went so far as to say that he had paid a bribe to the Alievs of $80 million. But neither Kozeny, who has a bad reputation among business circles, nor the American investors who claim they invested $100 million in the privatization process in Azerbaijan, could to date prove that the Azerbaijani government had deceived them. The author does not believe that the trial has any merit. First, because there is no doubt that Kozeny has insufficient evidence that he bribed the Alievs. Memmedov says that Kozeny, who accumulated his great wealth by making false promises in a number of countries, seems to have lost the upper hand in Azerbaijan. Perhaps, he forgot that there are more "gifted" people in Azerbaijan, the author concludes.

Genimet Zahidov writes in the newspaper "Azadlig" that the investigation of the business of the president by a foreign court is a great disgrace for Azerbaijan.

Ainur Jamalgizi in an article entitled "Hirelings" in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that the successful integration of the opposition is bearing fruit. The "resignations" demanded by the opposition sound more majestic and inspires fear in the government. The government and pro-governmental parties do their best to sway public opinion and to discredit the opposition's protest movements and affect. They claim that most of the participants of the previous opposition protests were "hirelings." In other words, the opposition paid each participant 10,000-20,000 manats ($2-$4). But Jamalgizi notes that it is the government, not the opposition, which resorts to the services of hirelings.

(Compiled and translated by Etibar Rasulov)