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Azerbaijan Report: May 25, 2001

25 May 2001
Azerbaijani Embassy Protests Isa Gambar's Visit To Turkey
The Azerbaijani Embassy in Ankara has reacted with strong dissatisfaction to a visit by Musavat Party leader Isa Gambar to Turkey. The Embassy sent a written statement to the "Turkish Daily News," and then expressed its views by phone to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to the English-language "Turkish Daily News" and "Hurriyet," the Azerbaijani Embassy was outraged not by the fact that Isa Gambar visited Turkey, but the way he was welcomed in Ankara. "How can he (Gambar) be welcomed with state protocol in cars with flags, as though he were the president of the country?" asked Azerbaijani embassy officials. Mehmet Novruzoglu, the Azerbaijani ambassador to Turkey, phoned senior Turkish Foreign Ministry officials and complained about the protocol for Gambar. Earlier, Isa Gambar predicted in an interview with the "Turkish Daily News" that he will come to power in Azerbaijan soon. In an clear reply to that statement, the ambassador said that the Azerbaijani people have not given Isa Gambar the right to speak on their behalf.

The row over protocol between Ankara and Baku has dealt another blow to the already cool relations between two countries. Those relations began to deteriorate following Suleyman Demirel's retirement from the post of president. Demirel used to call Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev "my dear friend and brother". It seems that brotherhood between two personalities is no longer relevant to relations between the two states.

(Mirza Xazar)

Chechen Leader Shot Dead In Baku
Magomed Koriev, head of the department for fighting organized crime within the Chechen Interior Ministry, was shot dead in his appartment in Baku, the press service of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov told an RFE/RL correspondent. Yashar Aliev, who is deputy head of the Baku Police Department, told RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service that Koriev's murder occurred on 22 May 2001. Koriev was shot eight times from a Makarov hand gun at close range.

"The Azerbaijani government has no information about Koriev's position within the Chechen government. He lived in Baku as a refugee," added Yashar Aliev. The Azerbaijani authorities have started a criminal investigation into the murder.

Maskhadov's press service claimed in an interview with an RFE/RL correspondent that Chechen deputy Interior Minister Movladi Raisov was found dead in Georgia last week. The press service blamed Russian special services for both killings.

(Sabina Alieva)

Trial Of Participants In Sheki Riots Continues
The trial of 27 participants of people arrested during the protest demonstrations in Sheki on November 18 last year began in Mingechevir on May 17. Mirismayil Hadiyev, the lawyer of the deputy chairman of the Musavat Party Sheki branch Anvar Gulusoy, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service the proceedings show this trial is politically motivated. According to him, the trial proved that Anvar Gulusoy did not take part in the Sheki events. Hadjiyev noted there is no concrete evidence against the representatives of political parties. Mirismayil Hadiyev said the investigation has identified 63 police officers as victims of the Sheki events, of whom 15 have given evidence during the trial. He said the police officers' testimony is mutually contradictory.

(Maarif Akbarov )

Karabakh War Invalids Appeal To President
Within the next few days the trial will begin of six members of the Karabakh Invalids Society who took part in a hunger strike to damnd an increase in their allowances. On the eve of the trial, the Karabakh Invalids Society has appealed to President Aliyev for their release.

The Society's chairman, Etimad Asadov, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service the Society members decided to appeal to the president because they do not believe the trial will be just.

Zardusht Alizadeh, who is the chairman of the Protection Committee of the Karabakh War Invalids, similarly does not believe that trial will end with a just sentence because the courts in Azerbaijan are not independent. He called the decision of Justice Ministry to stop the activity of Karabakh War Society illegal and added that the Committee has applied to the Court of Appeal to restore its registration.

(Zhala Mutallimova)

President's Office To Hold World Azerbaijanians Congress
President Aliyev has signed a decree on holding the World Congress of Azerbaijanis on 9-10 November 2001 in Baku. Teymur Alibeyli, a member of the board of the independent World Azerbaijani Congress which has held four meetings during the past four years in different countries, criticised the president's decree in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service and described it as an attempt to hold an alternative congress, and to undermine the role of the independent World Azerbaijani Congress.

Alibeyli does not rule out that the World Azerbaijani Congress will boycott the congress to be held by president's office. According to him the fact that the Congress will be organized by President's Office shows that it has not a public but a political character, and that only people who are close to the government will be invited to attend.

Rustam Mamedov, a representative of the social-political Department of the president's Office, said the congress to be held on the order of President Aliyev is the only structure which is able to unite the Azerbaijanis of the world. President Aliev's decision received mixed reactions among Azerbaijanis living abroad, especially in Europe, United States, Canada, and Turkey.

(Samira Gaziyeva)

Conflict Between Private Broadcasting Company "ABA" And Ministry of Taxes Continues
On May 24 the Jasamal Rayon Court sentenced Shamil Safiyev, the director of the financial department of the Broadcasting company "ABA" who was arrested on May 22, to two months imprisonment. He is accused of falsification of documents for purchasing of equipment and of not paying taxes totalling 650 billion manats ($14,130).

The Editors Unit decided at a session on May 25 to create an independent commission with the participation of representatives of the Broadcasting Company "ABA" and the Ministry of Taxes to investigate the conflict between them. Members of the Editors Unit appealed to Jasamal Rayon Court requesting that Shamil Safiyev be released on bail.

Another problem of the private broadcasting company "ABA" is that the government refuses to give it frequencies for broadcasting. For that reason, ABA is broadcasting on the frequencies of Russian channels for five hours a day. According to the chairman of the Committee for human rights of journalists (Ruh), Aflatun Amashev, that situation has created Information security problems in Azerbaijan. As a result, the channels of Russia, Iran, Armenia and Turkmenistan can be received throughout most of Azerbaijan territory.

(Natig Zeynalov)

Press-Conference In Yeni Azerbaijan Party
The head of the presidential administration for external relations, Novruz Mamedov, told a press-conference on May 25 that the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Karabakh has acquired an international character. Not only Azerbaijan and Armenia but also neighboring countries are pursuing their own interests. He accused the opposition press of distributing information about negotiations which does not reflect the truth.

Mamedov said the Geneva meeting will be held after Azerbaijan reports on its position and Armenia demonstrates a "constructive" approach. He rejected the opinion that Russia is preventing a solution to the conflict. According to Mamedov, Russia is making efforts to settle the conflict. Moscow is interested in preserving stability and security in the South Caucasus. He added that if the conflict is not by solved by peace talks it will be solved by military force.

1(Almaz Nasibova)

Azerbaijani Police Officer Killed On Russian Border
According to the press center of the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry, Azerbaijani police officer Khanlar Balametov was shot dead on the Azerbaijani-Russian border by two Chechens on 24 May. Balametov was shot during the night of 23-24 May after he stopped a car and asked the passengers to show their ID. Two other police officers at the scene managed to retain the passengers' passports. Those passports were issued to Ramazan Dunduev and Suleyman Bagaev.

(Sabina Alieva)

Armenia At The Crossroads Between Peace And War
The odd-sounding title of this commentary is taken from an article by Professor Stephen Blank of the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, which was published in The Analyst on 23 May.

In that article, Professor Blank argued that "Armenia has for long been ruled by an elite whose main concern has been neither the economy of the country nor the well-being of its people, but the annexation of Nagorno Karabakh to Armenia at all cost. This had led to the militarization of Armenia, isolation from the West, and near-complete dependence on Russia." As a result, Professor Blank argues, "Today Armenia stands at a major crossroads between a politics based on war and a politics based on peace." By the former, he apparently means a short-sighted hardline stance on Karabakh, instead of taking a more conciliatory far-sighted position to get economic benefits of peace." He expresses the hope that Armenian President Robert Kocharian will come "to see the issue in a different perspective" and that the Armenian leadership will collectively realize that continued war "prevents economic progress, improved relations with the West and any significant gains from the forthcoming Silk Road and overall integration of the Caucasus with the European economy".

U.S. officials involved in the OSCE's effort to mediate a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia have also repeatedly pointed out that it is Armenia that in the first instance will benefit from peace with Azerbaijan, insofar as it will lead to improvements in the well-being of the Armenian population.

Moreover, Armenia's continued reluctance to agree to a compromise solution of the Karabakh conflict could prevent the other states of the South Caucasus, Azerbaijan and Georgia, from reaping "significant gains" from the Silk Road project and the export of Azerbaijan's oil and gas via Georgia to Turkey, to which the U.S. government attaches considerabl importance.

(Mirza Xazar)

The opposition daily newspaper "Ulus" accuses Russia of violating stability in the South Caucasus. Recent developments show that Russia is using the Karabakh conflict to strengthen its influence in the region. Intensifying the military cooperation with Armenia, Moscow demonstrates that its position towards Karabakh conflict is not impartial. The paper accuses Moscow of sabotagingthe most recent visit by the OSCE Minsk Group cochairmen to the Caucasus.

The opposition daily newspaper "Yeni Musavat" also attacks Russia's policy towards the former Soviet republics. The paper writes that Russia uses such organizations as the CIS and the CIS Collective Security Treaty to further its geopolitical interests. The paper accuses Russia of making efforts to inflame conflicts between the former Soviet republics in order to create an excuse to deploy its military forces on the territories of those countries.

The independent weekly newspaper "Nedelya" does not rule out that the Karabakh separatist regime may take part in the forthcoming negotiations on resolving the Karabakh conflict as a conflict side. The 25 May summit in Yerevan of the signatories of the CIS Collective Security Treaty showed that Russia is attempting to strengthen its pressure upon Azerbaijan. Observers consider that the present situation requires that Azerbaijan clarify its foreign policy priorities towards the former Soviet republics. The paper says the importance of blocks such as GUUAM, which are an alternative to the CIS, is increasing.

The eponymous daily newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan" pointed out that the recent negotiations by Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan with Armenia are directed against Azerbaijan and Turkey. The paper described as a blow to the Turcophone countries the cooperation between Central Asian states and Armenia, the occupier of Azerbaijan territory.

The independent daily newspaper "Zerkalo" writes that the foreign police of the recent Azerbaijan government has failed. The most recent steps by Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and the position of other former Soviet republics show that Azerbaijan does not have real allies in the region. The paper says that Russia is strengthening its pressure on Azerbaijan and predicts that Moscow will force Azerbaijan to its knees as it earlier did with Georgia. According to the paper's commentator, the main reason for Russia's pressure on Baku is connected with the anticipated imminent change of power in Azerbaijan. Secondly, Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to strengthen Russia's position within the CIS. A third reason is that Russia is going to demonstrate its strength on the eve of the meeting between Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush.

The independent newspaper "525 gazeti," commenting on the recent developments in the Karabakh peace process, writes that time is working to the benefit of Azerbaijan. According to the paper, the statements of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen should not be regarded as being of great importance. The paper considers the main issue will be solved during the meeting between the Russian and U.S. presidents in Slovakia. According to the paper, all the games taking place in the region are connected with Caspian oil and the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Not Armenian President Robert Kocharian but Heydar Aliyev has the key to solving these problems.

(Samira Gaziyeva)