18 May 2001
NEWS BRIEFSMinsk Group Co-Chairmen Visit Baku
The French, Russian and U.S. co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group visited Baku on May 18 to discuss further steps towards solving the Karabakh conflict. President Heidar Aliyev noted during a meeting with the co-chairmen that "the decisive moment to solve Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict has arrived."
U.S. co-chairman Carey Cavanaugh praised the intensiveness of the work done by mediators, but added that "there is a lot of work ahead to be done." Russian co-chairman Gribkov in turn noted that only Azerbaijan and Armenia are responsible for making decisions on the peace process. "What we are saying now about peace process may create the illusion that progress is very close but that is not the case -- it is still quite far away," Gribkov said.
The OSCE Minsk Group's attempt to place the responsibility for achieving a settlement on the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan was rebuffed by President Aliev, who urged the mediators to work harder and with more intensity to achieve peace in the region.
Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Demands Armenia's Suspension From CIS Collective Security Treaty
Speaking at a one-day meeting of CIS defense ministers in Baku on 18 May, Colonel General Safar Abiev demanded that Armenia unconditionally withdraw from occupied Azerbaijani territories and be suspended from the CIS Collective Security Treaty, RFE/RL's Baku bureau reported.
"Armenia is an aggressor state. This state pursues a policy of terrorism and separatism," Abiev told the meeting. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is chairman of the Council of CIS Defense Ministers, managed to block Abiev's proposal, which he termed "incorrect". According to local observers, Ivanov's quashing of the criticism of Armenia reflects the close ties between Moscow and Yerevan.
Asked by an RFE/RL correspondent whether Russia would join in hostilities in the event of the resumption of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Armenian armed forces commander Aleksei Antonian said that decision would be taken by the political leadership of Russian Federation. Antonian added that Armenia's military leadership supports a peaceful solution to the conflict between two countries, but that if Baku initiates a resumption of hostilities, Armenia will respond accordingly.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, also expressed the hope that the conflict will not deteriorate into a military one.
Isa Gambar: We Will Not Accept Peace Accord Containing Concessions To Armenia
In an interview with RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service on May 18, Musavat Party chairman Isa Gambar, who is on official visit to Turkey, stated that Musavat and all its allies within the Democratic Congress will use all peaceful means to resist any peace accord with Armenia which does not suit the national interests of the Azerbaijani people, and which does not ensure the liberation of all occupied territories. Gambar noted unconfirmed reports that President Heidar Aliyev is trying to link a peace treaty with his desire to ensure that his son Ilham becomes the next president of Azerbaijan. That means Mr. Aliyev is trying to link solution of Karabakh conflict with his son's succession. "We are not going to accept this kind of succession," Gambar stated.
Asked by RFE/RL how his party would react if President Aliyev succeeds in his aim of naming his son to succeed him, Gambar said his party and the parties aligned with it within the Democratic Congress will not accept this form of a solution and will demand that the succession issue be resolved in accordance with the Azerbaijani constitution. In that case, Isa Gambar is confident that his party and its allies will come to power.
Gambar dismissed as "without foundation" press reports of infighting within his party. "Of course we are democrats and there are free discussions going on within the party on the eve of the upcoming congress. Of course some members of the Musavat express their desire to have a new leadership. This is natural for a democratic party. But the Musavat party will keep its present ideology and will maintain its strong position in Azerbaijan," Gambar said.
Survey Shows Dissatisfaction With Economic Situation In Azerbaijan
A survey conducted by SORGU for the Intermedia Research Group in December 2000-January 2001 in Azerbaijan has shown that more and more people are dissatisfied with their standard of living. The survey was conducted among 1,000 people in various parts of Azerbaijan. These are some of its findings.
How satisfied are you with the economic situation in Azerbaijan these days?
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied....20.3%
Not very satisfied..................................31.9%
Not at all satisfied..................................27.9%
How do you view the next 12 months to come: with hope, worry, or uncertainty?
Which of the following do you favor for Azerbaijan?
Mixed economy(market and planned)... 25.4%
Don't know/Not sure...............................14.1%
How satisfied are you with your own standard of living?
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied....17.1%
Not very satisfied..................................32.7%
Not at all satisfied.................................28.0%
On May 18 Jamil Hassanli, a deputy from the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party's "reformist" wing, held a briefing devoted to the trial of those persons arrested during the protests in Sheki last November against the falsification of the parliamentary election results. The trial of 18 participants in those protests began in Mingechevir on May 17. Hassanli said the participants in the Sheki protests are accused of assaulting 67 police officers and damaging official property. The damage caused by broken windows in the Sheki Raion Administration building is estimated at 8 million manats ($1070).
According to Hassanli, holding the trial in Mingachevir creates social difficulties for the families of arrested Sheki residents. He said opposition parliament deputies will continue to monitor the trial. He added that the government will provide lawyers for those of the accused who cannot afford to pay legal fees.
May 17 Marked As Day Of Occupation Of Lachin
On May 17, former residents of the Lachin district and representatives of some political parties and non-government organizations held a meeting at the Shahidlar Khiyabani devoted to the ninth anniversary of the occupation by Armenian forces of the Lachin district, which lies between Upper Karabakh and Armenia.
Former Lachin Raion Administration head Azer Mamedov said he supports the Karabakh peace process. But he added that the Lachin people are ready to liberate their lands by force if the peace negotiations yield no results. Mamedov said Lachin inhabitants consider no special status should be given to Lachin under the peace agreement and that Armenian forces should withdraw from Lachin as from the other occupied territories.
Arif Pashayev, the former commander of the Lachin battalion, said we should not only mark the anniversary of the occupation of Azerbaijani territories but make real efforts to liberate them.
Karabakh Liberation Organization Staged Protest In Baku
On May 17, members of Karabakh Liberation Organization staged a demonstration in front of the OSCE representation in Baku. The Karabakh Liberation Organization is a public entity mainly consisting of former inhabitants of the Karabakh regions now under Armenian occupation.
The organization's deputy chairman, Galabey Agalarov, accused the OSCE Minsk Group of being unable to solve the Karabakh conflict. He said that negotiations conducted under the aegis of international organizations will give no results. Such peace talks are not able to free Azerbaijan territories and solve the problems of refugees, Agalarov said.
Concerning the conference on the theme "Refugees and Displaced Persons in South Caucasus," organized by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which opened in Baku on May 17, Agalarov said he does not think it will improve the situation of the refugees.
'Azerbaijanists' To Start Protests
On May 16, the "Azerbaijanists," who consider all citizens of Azerbaijan as "Azerbaijanis" regardless of their ethnic origin, held a press conference devoted to the Karabakh peace process. Namus party chairman Togrul Ibrahimli said no agreement should be signed until the occupied Azerbaijani territories have been liberated. He noted the Azerbaijanists are going to start rallies to protest any concessions by the Azerbaijani government to Armenia.
Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Demands State Broadcasting Company Become A Public Broadcasting Company
Ali Kerimov, the head of the "reformist" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, told a press-conference on May 18 that his party has prepared a draft law on transforming the State Broadcasting Company into a public broadcaster. Kerimov noted that doing so is one of the recommendations made by the Council of Europe. He pointed out that state television is the only channel that broadcasts throughout the country, and that private channels can be received only in Baku and the surrounding area.
Kerimov accused state television of serving the government and propagandizing President Aliev. Kerimov said his draft bill received a negative reception when submitted to the Milli Mejlis. Nizami Khudiyev, who heads the State Broadcasting Company, said no changes will be made in the work of state television.
Pressure On Journalists Continues
The deputy editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Shahin Jafarli, has been found guilty of insulting and assaulting residents of the village of Mashtaga near Baku who came to the paper's editorial office to protest an article about the hard social conditions in Mashtaga which was published in ''Yeni Musavat" last fall. The court sentenced Jafarli to a one year suspended sentence, but he was released under an amnesty.
Jafarli's lawyer Vidadi Makhmudov said the guilty verdict is unjust, as his client was charged under Articles 220.1 and 221.1 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan but found guilty of different offenses. Makhmudov interpreted that as intimidation of journalists.
PRESS REVIEWThe opposition daily newspaper "Yeni Musavat" comments that visits to Azerbaijan by high-ranking Russian officials are becoming more frequent on the eve of the Geneva negotiations on Karabakh. According to the paper, the active role of the U.S. government in the Karabakh peace process worries Russia, because. Azerbaijan's northern neighbor would like to give the impression that it is Russia which has the key to resolving the Karabakh conflict. Russia is going to use every possibility to restore its influence in the region, the paper predicts. Commenting on Russian Security Council secretary Vladimir Rushailo's visit to Baku earlier this week, the paper does not rule out that Russia promises to help the Azerbaijani government implement its plans in exchange for restoring to Russia control of the Karabakh talks.
The eponymous daily newspaper of the ruling party ''Yeni Azerbaijan" claims that Russia has always had effective ways of influencing the Karabakh peace process. The newspaper cites the fact that it was not the Russian co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group but Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov who represented Russia at the Key West talks as evidence that the Karabakh settlement is of great interest to Russia. The paper adds that the main factor which made the Florida talks so "fruitful" was the cooperation between the U.S. and Russia.
The "Yeni Azerbaijan" commentator suggests that the Russian factor may have been behind the protest demonstrations in Yerevan demanding President Robert Kocharian's resignation.
The independent newspaper "Ekho" does not believe a compromise between the sides will be achieved in the near future. U.S. Minsk Group co-chairman Carey Cavanaugh's optimistic statements will have an "explosive effect." There is mounting evidence that the governments of the two countries are attempting to sign an agreement behind the back of their respective populations. According to the paper, the risk is increasing that the negotiation process will be broken off as a result of political conflicts within both countries. The paper writes that forces in Armenia demanding the independence of Upper Karabakh are becoming more active and the opposition in Azerbaijan is preparing for new protest meetings.
The opposition newspaper "Ulus" suggests that information about intrigues within the government are being leaked to the press by the officials involved. There is a conflict between different groups within the government. The paper notes that when presidential administration head Ramiz Mekhdiyev was charged with arranging the presentation ceremony for the book "From Anarchy to Stability," which reviews President Aliev's activity since 1993, Mekhdiyev was ordered to not to permit Health Minister Ali Insanov, Social Services Minister Ali Nagiyev, former Press and Information Minister Siruz Tabrizli, former Baku mayor Rafael Allakhverdiyev and chairman of Azerbaijan State Broadcasting Company Nizami Khudiyev to speak at that ceremony.
The independent paper "Uch Nogte" comments on Turkish State Minister Abdulkhalik Cay's recent statement about a deterioration in Azerbaijani-Turkish relations. Cay noted Azerbaijan's debts to Turkey and proposed being realistic in relations with Azerbaijan. The downgrading of Azerbaijan-Turkey relations during the activation of the Karabakh peace process does not bode well for Azerbaijan, because Azerbaijan can rely only on Turkey, the newspaper writes. According to the paper, the unexpected visit to Baku on 13 May by the Turkish Foreign Minister's representative Igid Alpogan was related to the Karabakh problem.