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Azerbaijan Report: April 13, 2001

13 April 2001
Azerbaijani President Heidar To Return Home On 14 April
President Heidar Aliyev will arrive in Baku on April 14, his son Ilham, who is chairman of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Baku on 12 April. During his visit to the United States, President Aliyev held peace talks with his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian in Key West and spent some time at the Cleveland Cardiovascular Diseases Centre (Ohio) for a medical examination. He underwent heart surgery at that hospital two years ago.

ITAR-TASS reported on April 12 that Aliyev decided that day to postpone for a while his departure from the United States. But Elin Suleymanov, the Press Secretary of the Azerbaijani Embassy in Washington, told that agency that Aliyev would return home shortly.

In the view of local observers, Aliev's return to Azerbaijan will lead to renewed activity in political life in Azerbaijan. Almost all political parties, as well as the public, want the president to disclose at least some details of his talks with Kocharian. Aliyev and his close aides have been reluctant so far to give any details of the Key West talks. Since the Karabakh issue remains the most emotional problem in Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani leadership's silence about the outcome of the Key West talks has created a certain unrest among the public.

By contrast, the Armenian leadership has been more talkative, according to observers. The unusual openness on the Armenian side also increased frustration and doubts in Azerbaijan about the results of the Key West talks. Armenian President Robert Kocharian's recent statement that last week's peace talks in Florida "were constructive and had cleared the way for a new peace plan" was received with mixed feelings by political parties, politicians and public in Azerbaijan. The public in Azerbaijan remain uncertain and expects more explanations from the leadership. Heidar Aliev's return to Baku may either help to solve the puzzle, or may further complicate it. It depends of course on the president's decision. Western analysts are unanimous in affirming that only one person makes (or can make) decisions in Azerbaijan. That person is Heidar Aliev.

(Mirza Xazar)

President Aliev's Son Comments On Key West Talks
In an interview with an RFE/RL correspondent on April 14, Ilham Aliev, asked about possible concessions made by the Azerbaijani leadership in Key West during peace talks with Armenian President Kocharian, said that he has no information about any such "concessions" because the talks were confidential. "But I don't believe Azerbaijan will agree to unilateral concessions," he said. Ilham Aliyev answered a question concerning Azerbaijan's position on the optimum status for Karabakh. "Azerbaijan is ready to grant the highest degree of authonomy to Karabakh, and even the status equal to Tatarstan's status within Russia", Ilham Aliyev noted.

Ilham Aliyev praised Russia's latest more active role in the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan. At the same time he expressed his reservations about suggestions that Azerbaijan should host foreign (Western) military bases. According to Ilham Aliev, "the idea that foreign military bases on Azerbaijani soil will help us to withstand Armenian agression is erroneous."

(Sabina Alieva)

Reactions To Karabakh Peace Process
The Defense Ministry began military exercises by the Azerbaijan armed forces on April 9. Vagif Dargakhli, a representative of the Defense Ministry press-service, told RFE/RL' s Azerbaijan Service in an interview that the military exercises were planned in advance and have no bearing on the recent Karabakh negotiations in Key West. He rejected mass media claims of mobilization and preparations for war. Dargakhli said the military exercises will continue until April 15.

Observers do not, however, rule out a link between the Karabakh peace process and the Azerbaijani military exercises. Politologist Rasim Musabekov, recalling the military exercises by Armenian armed forces on the border with Nakhchivan at the time of the Key-West talks, said the two sets of maneuvers could be assessed as a toughing of their respective positions by both sides.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Rustam Mamedov, who is a representative of the Social-Political Department of the president's office, characterized as "a bluff" the optimistic statements by the Armenian side about the Key West talks. According to Mamedov, there was strong pressure on the Armenian president during the Key West talks.

(Samira Gaziyeva)

Economic Developments
Heydar Babayev, chairman of the State Committee on Securities, said during a press conference on 13 April that the market of securities has begun to take shape since President Aliev's July 1999 decree to establish the committee. The main goal of the State Committee on Securities is to create the infrastructure for the securities market. Babayev pointed out the first stock exchange in Azerbaijan was created at the initiative of the Committee. The most important result of its activity is that Azerbaijan has received a positive B- credit rating from the British Fitch IBCA Rating Agency. This rating will have a great role in attracting foreign investments into Azerbaijan. (Samira Gaziyeva)

At a session held at the office of the newspaper "Aina-Zerkalo" on 13 April, opposition economists criticized the government's privatization policy. Gubad Ibadoglu, chairman of the Musavat Party's Economic Policy Commission, noted the goal of the second stage of the privatization program is to take in hand the strategic sectors of economy. There is a danger of forming dynastic property in the Azerbaijan economy as in policy, Gubad Ibadoglu said. He proposed the creation of a council to monitor the privatization process.

(Natig Zeynalov)

New Karabakh Movement Created
The Fedains of the Motherland organisation was created in Azerbaijan on April 13. Its goal is to end regionalism in Azerbaijan. Supporters of both the government and opposition parties may join the Organization, whose chairman, Mukafat Guliyev, told a press conference that although its members are civilians there will be strong military discipline in the organization.

According to Guliyev, the members of Organization support President Aliev's peace policy. At the same time we should be ready to release the occupied territories by military force, Guliyev said.

(Maarif Akberov)

Former state adviser Vafa Guluzadeh writes in the independent newspaper "525" that it is expected a "package settlement" proposal to solve the Karabakh conflict will be discussed during the meeting between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Geneva in June, because the Armenian side does not accept the "phased peace plan" to resolve the conflict. Guluzadeh does not believe the old proposals will again be presented for discussion in Geneva. Guluzade said he is against the idea of a territorial swap.

Azerbaijan's ex-president Ayaz Mutalibov, in an interview with the independent newspaper "Uch Nogte," said he does not expect any positive results for Azerbaijan from the recent Key West peace talks. According to Mutalibov, talks about "mutual concessions" would not be to the benefit of Azerbaijan because any concession by Azerbaijan will damage the country's national interests. Ayaz Mutalibov believes the solution to the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Karabakh depends on Russia. Attempts in the past to weaken Russia's mediator role in resolving the Karabakh conflict caused the current difficult situation in the settlement process, Mutalibov said.

"Yeni Azerbaijan," the daily newspaper controlled by the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party, notes some new elements in the Karabakh peace process. One of them is the suggestion by the co-chairmen of OSCE Minsk Group to draw Iran into the Karabakh peace process. The paper is pessimistic and suspicious about Iran's ability to play a mediating role in this process, since according to the commentary, Iran is constantly trying to maintain tension in the region.

The opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," commenting on Iran's possible role in resolving the Karabakh conflict, points out that the part of Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenia has a border with Iran. This and the normal relations between Iran and Armenia do not rule out Iran's influence on Armenia. The paper does not rule out that Iran could play a positive role in solving Karabakh conflict.

(Samira Gaziyeva)

Compiled by Samira Gaziyeva in Baku and Mirza Xazar in Prague