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Azerbaijan Report: June 1, 2001

1 June 2001
President Aliev: Without Peace No Economic Relations With Armenia
Azerbaijan's President Heydar Aliyev has apparently contradicted earlier reports in the local and international press concerning his approach to economic ties with Armenia.

" ...They [the OSCE mediators] repeatedly suggested us to start economic cooperation with Armenia. They argue that this will help to solve the Karabakh problem. This is an illusion. Reality shows that this is impossible. I always said that without peace there will be no economic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Armenia," Aliyev told journalists at Baku airport on May 30 before his departure to attend the CIS summit in Minsk.

President Aliev's statement about the controversial postponement of the Geneva talks is also of great interest. Heydar Aliev's statement that the Minsk meeting will determine whether the Geneva talks will take place or not, was very surprising. The decision to postpone Geneva meeting between President Aliyev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian was made public by the OSCE Minsk Group and confirmed officcially by the Armenian president's office. But the statement made by the Azerbaijani president suggests that the fate of Geneva talks is not determined yet.

Responding to accusations by some Armenian leaders that Azerbaijan is using "the language of war," Aliyev said the issue of Karabakh is of great concern in Azerbaijan. "The opposition forces are trying to use this situation to call for the start of a war with Armenia. Most of population also in the mood that if we fail to solve this problem by peaceful means, we have to start a war," he said. But, according to Aliev, the Armenian side has also declared several times that they are ready to fight. "Therefore for me this is meaningless rhetoric. I believe these statements do not affect the overall negotiation process," Aliyev said.

On the other hand, President Aliyev has endorsed an appeal by a group of prominent Azerbaijani intellectuals to solve the Karabakh problem by force. Two different and contradictory positions on one issue may sound puzzling, of course, but it shows the delicacy of the situation in which President Aliyev finds himself: on the one hand, Heydar Aliyev is reluctant to assume the historic responsibility (to make signficant concessions) and sign a peace accord with Armenia, and on the other hand, in an apparent attempt not to displease the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group and to avoid any cconflict with them, he is supporting peace process. This contradictory policy may pay off for President Aliyev morally and publicly, but it will not lead to a swift solution of the Karabakh conflict. The delay in reaching a solution to the conflict may displease the Minsk Group co-chairmen, but it would probably be welcomed by opposition parties and the radical wing of Azerbaijani society, who oppose any significant concessions in Karabakh issue.

(Mirza Xazar)

New U.S. National Energy Plan Under Attack From Rights Groups
According to a Reuters report, Kenneth Roth, the executive Director of Human Rights Watch, in a letter to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, expressed serious concern that the new U.S. energy plan "proposes no strategy to keep necessary oil investment from perpetuating dictatorships or fueling conflicts." It was Dick Cheney who chaired the task force which developed the national energy plan.

Mr. Roth in his letter specifically pointed to Azerbaijan, which was "positively featured" in Cheney's report, despite the fact that Azerbaijan is an "autocracy that is among the five most corrupt nations in the world." Similarly, the report also highlighted Kazakhstan, which is also ruled by an authoritarian leader. Kazakhstan is "a prime example of the connections between energy development, corruption and political repression," Roth said in his letter.

The main concern for Human Rights Watch seems to be not that energy companies should not do business in these countries, but "whether their engagement yields repression or progress for ordinary citizens." Therefore according to Mr. Roth, "at least basic standards of transparency and respect for human rights should be a condition for any financing for energy development that the U.S. government approves of or supports through U.S. Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the World Bank or regional development banks."

Mr. Roth is not alone in this issue. Leading Azerbaijani opposition parties, as well as Human Rights organisations in Azerbaijan, frequently raise the concern that Western oil companies neglect and ignore human rights and corruption and forget the authoritarian nature of the regime in Azerbaijan, paying more attention to profitable business with the regime of President Aliev. Therefore there is no doubt that Mr. Roth's letter to Mr. Cheney and the views expressed in this letter will be welcomed by many human rights activists in both Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

(Mirza Xazar)

Regional Conference On Education
A regional conference devoted to the improvement of the quality of Education and perfection of the Education laws was held at the Crescent Beach Hotel in Baku on May 31 with the participation of delegations from the Education ministries of Armenia and Georgia. Azerbaijan's Education Minister Misir Mardanov reported that 2,000 Azerbaijan students are studying in 26 countries and 1700 students of foreign countries are educated in Azerbaijan institutions.

Eduard Gazaryan, the Education minister of Armenia, said Armenia is going to create connections with Azerbaijan in the sphere of education. He said people who are working in education should not be involved in politics. Misir Mardanov considers the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Armenia will not be possible until the conflict between these countries is resolved. He added that during the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Karabakh, more than 130,000 school children received the status of refugees.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Azerbaijan Citizens To Receive National ID
Azerbaijan is the only former Soviet republic where citizens are still using passports of the former Soviet Union. On 29 May 9 million new national Identity Cards were brought to Baku from Canada. An additional 4 million IDs should be brought to Azerbaijan by the end of this year.

The president signed a law on Identity Cards in 1994. In 1997 the Azerbaijan government ordered the preparation of ID in France and in 1999 in Great Britain. But Azerbaijan Citizens have not received the national ID and the money allocated by the government for this goal has been lost because of mistakes during their printing in both cases. In June 2000 the Azerbaijan government ordered the preparation of national ID by a printing company in Canada.

(Natig Zeynalov)

Amnesty International Report On Azerbaijan Is More 'Liberal"' Than Before
Amnesty International in its annual report said that in spite of some positive moves made by the Azerbaijani government towards improving the human rights situation in the country, and particularly connected with Azerbaijan's acceptance into membership of the Council of Europe, during the period January - December 2000 there were continuing reports of ill treatment, allegations that several people active in the political opposition were detained for short periods, and claims of the existence of possible prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan.

As positive moves AI reports that in March the Supreme Court issued instructions to lower courts specifying, among other things, that the term ''torture'' should be understood in accordance with the definition in the UN Convention against Torture; reminding courts of their obligations to initiate investigations whenever defendants allege torture or ill-treatment; reiterating that evidence obtained in violation of the law is inadmissible; and repeating the 1999 decision of the Constitutional Court that those detained under administrative procedures are entitled to a lawyer. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture visited the country in May at the invitation of the government. In June an agreement was finally concluded allowing access by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to all places of detention and all detainees within its mandate.

But in April there were allegations that police used excessive force in Baku when dispersing opposition party supporters trying to hold an unauthorized demonstration to demand release of political prisoners. According to those reports, a number of journalists were assaulted while covering the events, during which 34 police officers were officially reported to have been injured and a number of leading opposition figures were allegedly ill-treated.

AI considers Rauf Arifoglu, the editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," as a possible prisoner of conscience. Arifoglu was arrested on 22 August 2000 at his home in Baku after police claimed to have found an illegal pistol in his apartment. He was later was charged with other serious offences, including treason. Rauf Arifoglu was released on bail on 5 October after widespread national and international pressure. Charges against him were still pending at the end of the year.

(Rovshan Huseinov)

Press Conference In the U.S. Embassy
U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson told a press conference on May 30 that Steven Mann, the new Senior Advisor for Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy, will head the U.S. delegation to the Eighth International Caspian Oil and Gas Exhibition that opens in Baku on June 5. After Baku, Steven Mann will visit George, Turkey and Kazakhstan. Ross Wilson said the U.S. government attaches a great importance to the Oil and Gas Exhibition. He added on June 5 the US Embassy will host a Caspian Finance Seminar. The Seminar will focus on financing opportunities and market strategies for project development in the region.

Ross Wilson said no country recognizes the self-proclaimed Nagorno Karabakh Republic or has any connection with it. He positively evaluated the military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Pakistan and said Pakistan is able to contribute to strengthening Azerbaijan's military.

Asked by RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service correspondent "Is there any news in the investigation of murder of the representative of International Republican Institute John Elvis last fall in Baku?" Ross Wilson expressed regret that there is no progress in this issue. He said Azerbaijan police and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation continue to investigate the murder.

(Samira Gaziyeva)

Press Conference of Yeni Azerbaijan Party
Parliament deputy speaker Arif Rahimsadeh spoke on 1 June at a press conference devoted to the eighth anniversary of the 1993 June events. He described this event as one of the most tragic in the contemporary history of Azerbaijan and noted that it was because of the failure of the government led by the Azerbaijan Popular Front and the Musavat party that Suret Huseinov could initiate an uprising in Ganja. He said that in June 1993 Azerbaijan was on brink of Civil War and only the efforts made by Heidar Aliev, then chairman of Nakhchivan Supreme Soviet, prevented such a civil war in Azerbaijan.

On June 4 troops head by Surat Huseinov rioted in Ganja, demanding the resignation of then President Abulfaz Elchibey.

(Almaz Nasibova)

Musavat Party Ends Sixth Congress
The head of the Musavat Party, Isa Gambar, held a press conference on June 1 devoted to the Sixth Congress of the Musavat Party which ended the previous day. Gambar gave details of the changes made by Congress to the party's program and statutes. He said the head of party may be elected only for two periods of four years and the chairmen of the branches for two periods of two years. He added that 25 per cent of members of the board of the Musavat party should be women. Isa Gambar stated that the goal of the Musavat Party is to achieve a change of power in Azerbaijan by free elections.

Gambar also reported on the results of his visit to Turkey. He said the settlement of the Karabakh conflict and intensifying cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey were discussed during his meetings with Turkish government members and deputies.

(Natif Zeynalov)

Democratic Party To Stage New Demo
Democratic Party member Hasrat Rustamov told a press conference on June 1 that the Azerbaijan Democratic Party (ADP) will stage a protest demonstration on June 2 to demand the release of political prisoners, the improvement of the social situation and the creation of the conditions for the return of political emigres from exile. The ADP has appealed to the Baku City Council for permission to convene a demo and proposed four venues. But the Baku municipal authorities have rejected all the sites proposed by the Democrat Party for the protest and suggested an alternative - in front of the "Gelebe" cinema. ADP members rejected this variant and brought an action against Baku City Council for violating the law on freedom of Assembly.

Hasrat Rustamov said despite the ban the party will stage a demo in the city center. He does not rule out the participants of demonstration will demand the resignation of President Aliev. He added that the ADP Imishli branch will also stage a protest demonstration on June 2. For this reason, the Imishli police have started to put pressure on local ADP members.

(Zhala Mutallimova)

Karabakh War Invalids Society Plan Rally
Firudin Mammedov, deputy chairman of the Karabakh War Invalids Society, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that the Society and the Protection Committee of the Karabakh War Invalids are planning to stage the protest rallies to demand the release of six members of the Society who took part in a hunger strike early this year. He added that the date of demonstration will depend on the results of trial proceedings.

Firudin Mamedov also reported on the health problems of the deputy chairman of the Society, Gunduz Rahimov, who is being held in Bayil prison.

The chairman of the Protection Committee, Zardusht Alizadeh, noted the importance of protest rallies because the struggle of the Committee to secure the release of the Karabakh War invalids has yielded no results.

(Maarif Akbarov)

In an interview published by "525-gazeti" on 26 May, Liberal Party Chairwoman Lala Shovket Hajieva says that today seven groups within the Azerbaijani leadership are engaged in a serious struggle for power. Each of these seven groups is eager to see its own candidate succeed Heydar Aliyev as president. Hajieva refused to identify the leaders of the seven groups, saying only that they are very powerful and rich people. She suggests they have more chances of coming to power than does the opposition. She also said the seven are already building ties with Russia, Turkey, the USA and other foreign countries. Hajieva told "525-gazeti" newspaper, that President Hejdar Aliyev has already lost control over many ongoing processes.

In a commentary published in the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Zahid Safaroglu similarly reviews the power transition issue in Azerbaijan. He suggests that the rumors of Heydar Aliev's failing health create the impression that a change of political power in Azerbaijan is iminent. He considers the return to Baku of former ambassador to Great Britain Mahmud Mamedguliyev, who is President Aliev's son-in-law, as another sign that the search for a suitable successor to Aliyev is continuing. Safaroglu does not rule out that either Democratic Party of Azerbaijan chairman Rasul Guliev or leader of Azerbaijan National Independence Party chairman Etibar Mamedov may be chosen by the government as the guarantor (regent) of a "smooth" transition of power, adding that the "oppositionist" image which both men have would be an important precondition for their selection.

A later commentary in "525-gaeti" focuses on infighting within President Aliev's inner circle, suggesting that presidential administration head Ramiz Mehdiev might come under pressure. The author of the commentary, Tunzala Rafiggyzy, reviews the recently compiled list of candidates for full membership of the National Academy of Sciences and notes that Corresponding Member of the Academy Fuad Gasimzade will run from the philosophy science list as the only candidate because Mehdiyev, who was previously nominated as an alternate candidate, was removed from the list at the last minute, reportedly on the personal decision of the president. Rafiggyzy suggests that the leadership will totally falsify upcoming vote results.

The independent newspaper "Avropa" examines the reasons for the increase of criminality in Azerbaijan over the last month and disagrees with allegations that the authorities are to blame for undermining stability by initiating the latest series of killings of police officers. The author of the commentary, Fakhry Ugurlu, argues that on the contrary, stability in Azerbaijan is based on the use of force and this is the only way for present regime to survive. Therefore, according to Ugurlu, it would be a very dangerous game for the regime to risk damaging the pillar which holds it up as it could then lose control of the situation.

In an interview published in "Yeni Musavat," the chairman of The National Unity of All-Azerbaijan party, Hajibala Azimov, expressed concern that separatist trends in the southern areas of Azerbaijan are now stronger than in1993, when Colonel Alikram Humbatov declared an independent Talysh-Mugan Republic. Acording to Azimov, the idea of creating a Talysh-Mugan Republic is still alive today. Azimov claims that many of those who seek to break up the struggling state of Azerbaijan are high-ranking officials in southern cities. Those officials received their jobs by paying bribes to the president's office in Baku, he claims.

The independent newspaper "Ekho" pointed out that on one hand, Russia is increasing its mediator mission to solve the Karabakh conflict, but on the other hand, Russia is trying to offload the responsibility for the outcome of the negotiations on to the conflicting sides. The paper predicts that Russia will continue its efforts to exacerbate the Karabakh problem in order to use it as an instrument of pressure on both Azerbaijan and Armenia.

In an interview published in "525-gazeti," former Foreign Minister Tofig Zulgugarov suggested that the planned meeting in Geneva of the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents has been postponed until the autumn, but he insists that this decision has no connection with the upcoming meeting between the U.S. and Russian presidents. The former minister states that the problem could be solved in a very simple way: either Armenia must give up its occupationist intentions, or either the superpowers, or Azerbaijan itself must force the Armenians to abandon these intentions. Tofig Zulfugarov claims that Azerbaijan is now facing a dilemma: "whether we defend peace and lose our lands, or demand our rights and fight."

"It is impossible to expect any results from such meetings as [the CIS] Minsk summit, because their goal is not to find a solution to the Karabakh problem, but to strengthen Moscow's position in the negotiation process," writes the independent newspaper "Zerkalo." The paper claims that the activities of France and the United States aimed at increasing their influence on the Karabakh peace process are the reason for Russia's concern. The paper supposes that Russia has easily brought the peace process back under its control, and that when Russian Minsk Group co-chairman Nikolai Gribkov said in Baku two weeks ago that the Geneva summit could be delayed, he had the actual facts in hand. According to the paper, by taking part in the negotiations Vladimir Putin has outmanoeuvred the Minsk Group co-chairmen. Now Russia has to make concrete steps to solve the Karabakh conflict in order to further strengthen its position.

A commentary in the newspaper "Ulus" expresses similar views. Anar Orudjoglu writes that "Russia is in hurry to restore its influence and become a decisive power in the region." "Russia realizes that if it does not act promptly, Moscow might lose its influence in the Caucasus," Orudjoglu concludes. (Rovshan Huseinov and Elkhan Nasibov)