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Azerbaijan Report: June 15, 2001

15 June 2001
Karabakh War Invalids' Protection Committee To Stage Demo
The Protection Committee of the Karabakh War Invalids will stage a protest demonstration in front of the "Gelebe" cinema on 16 June to demand the release of arrested members of the Karabakh War Invalids Society. Protection Committee Chairman Zardusht Alizadeh in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service said that the Committee has appealed to all political parties and NGOs to join the demonstration. The Baku City Council permitted the Protection Committee to convene a demonstration, Alizadeh said.

Karabakh War Invalids Society Chairman Etimad Asadov told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service their main goal is to pressure the government to release the arrested invalids. Although the Invalids' Protection Committee has proposed demanding that the Karabakh War Invalids Society be reregistered, invalids rejected this proposal because it will exacerbate their relations with the government.

The trial of six members of the Karabakh War Invalids Society who took part in a hunger strike to demand an increase in their allowances in February began in Baku on 13 June.

(Babek Bakir)

Iran Wants To Take Part In Karabakh Peace Process
Supporters of both government and opposition parties consider that Iran cannot act as mediator in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Karabakh. They recalled the Khojali tragedy and capitulation of Shusha and Lachin in 1992, which occurred after Iranian officials took part in the settlement of the Karabakh problem, and argued that the earlier participation of Iran in the Karabakh mediation ended tragically for Azerbaijan.

Commenting on the most recent statements by Iranian officials about Teheran's intention to take an active part in resolving the Karabakh conflict, the deputy executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, Mubariz Gurbanli, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that it is very naive to expect that Iran is able to achieve any progress in resolving the conflict when such countries as the U.S, Russia, and France, which are members of the OSCE Minsk Group and of the UN Security Council, have not reached any serious results yet. Secondly, there are no concrete proposals behind Iran's wish. Political analyst Rasim Musabekov considers that the participation of Iran in Karabakh peace process is not realistic because Tehran is not a member of OSCE Minsk Group. An agreement on the Karabakh conflict will be reached only if the superpowers achieve a common position on this issue. Not only the U.S. but also Russia is against Iranian participation in mediating a solution to the Karabakh conflict. The co-chairman of the Social Democrat Party, Zardusht Alizadeh, thinks the proposal of U.S. co-chairman Carey Cavanaugh to involve Iran in the negotiation process is connected with the fact that idea of a territorial swap was discussed during the Key West talks. Concerning Tehran's participation in Karabakh issue, Alizadeh does not agree with the opinion that Iran's participation in Karabakh process ended tragically for Azerbaijan. According to him, there were both positive and negative moments for Azerbaijan when Iran took part in the Karabakh mediation process in 1992.

(Samira Gaziyeva)

Human Rights Report On Azerbaijan
In its recently released annual Human Rights Report 2001, the New York-based Human Rights Watch organization reviews the role of the international community, regarding human rights developments in Azerbaijan, as follows:

UN: Committee against torture reviewed Azerbaijan's initial report in November 1999, UN special rapporteur on torture Sir Nigel Rodley conducted fact-finding mission in Azerbaijan, as the committee expressed concern that "torture was not expressly criminalized and about reports on torture and lack of accountability for it."

The OSCE officially opened an office in Baku in July, made several efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, under auspices of the Minsk Group. The OSCE also issued several statements regarding the electoral process in Azerbaijan, noting among other things serious shortcomings in the new election law and expressing deep concern that seven political parties were denied registration by CEC, although the seven were later registered due to president's personal pressure.

Council of Europe: The PACE decision on June 28 2000 to recommend to the Committee of Ministers that Azerbaijan be admitted to the Council of Europe severely undermined the council's leverage with the government of Azerbaijan to prompt reforms necessary to improve human rights record of the country. Despite PACE's controversial recommendations favoring Azerbaijan's membership, the lengthy list of requirements which the country had to meet after its accession shows that the "government has made very little progress" regarding these reforms, adoption of a laws on the media, ethnic minorities, lawyers' associations, and other measures recommended by PACE, included the release of political prisoners, prosecution of officials responsible for torture, and improved access of humanitarian organizations to prisons.

EU: In October the EU, conducting its second annual Cooperation Council meeting with Azerbaijan, addressed human rights issues in the bilateral relationship and public statements made by EU after the meeting were more guarded, or less enthusiastic, about the relationship than after the 1999 council meeting, definitely reflecting the lack of progress over the past year.

U.S.: The U.S. State Department issued many statements criticizing the government's campaign conduct before parliamentary elections. The State Department condemned the parliament's decision to allow the CEC to function without opposition members present, as well as the government for preventing certain political parties from participating in elections by not registering them. The State Department described the election law, as "seriously flawed," but nevertheless supported Azerbaijan's accession to the Council of Europe.

(Rovshan Huseinov)

Opposition Parties Criticize Government's Activity
The Taraggi (Progress) Party held a roundtable discussion on 15 June devoted to the eight-year activity of the present government with the participation of the leaders of some opposition parties. Participants discussed the recent political situation in the country and criticized the activity of the government.

Chairman of the Azerbaijan National Unity Party Hajibaba Azimov said that during last eight years Azerbaijan has lost more than it has achieved. According to him, a change of power in Azerbaijan is the only way to solve the problems which Azerbaijan now faces.

Secretary on ideological issues of the Democrat Party Aydin Guliyev pointed out that the opposition should strengthen the protest demonstrations against government. Ali Kerimov, who is a parliament deputy and the head of the "reformist wing" of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, said the recent regime will exist until the opposition parties unite.

Taraggi Party head Chingis Sadikhov noted that during the last eight years the government has only attempted to strengthen its position efforts.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Democratic Congress Discusses Government's Foreign Policy
Democratic Congress consisting of the parties close to Musavat and the "classic" wing of the Azerbaijan Public Front Party held a roundtable discussion on 14 June on the theme "Azerbaijani Diplomacy Today".

Secretary on political issues of the Musavat Party Sulkhaddin Akbar said that shortcomings of recent Azerbaijani diplomacy are connected to the fact that the Azerbaijani state is still young and achieved independence only 10 years ago. The occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia has increased the foreign political problems of Azerbaijan. The recent tense relations between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan demonstrates the level of recent Azerbaijani diplomacy. He added that today Azerbaijan not only does not have normal relations with Russia, but also with Turkey, Akbar said.

Former Foreign Minister Tofig Zulfugarov, who also took part in the roundtable discussion, expressed his protest against the discussion of foreign policy issues with the participation of the press.

APFP member Fazil Gazanfaroglu criticized the foreign policy of the government and demanded that representatives of Azerbaijani embassies in foreign countries report to the community on their activity. He accused the government of propagandizing the foreign policy of the country as the success of one person.

(Maarif Akbarov)

Pressure on ADP members continues
Chairman of the Democrat Party Imishli branch Mahbub Zulfugarli, who was arrested during the ADP demonstration in Imishli on 2 June and detained for 15 days, held a press conference on 14 June. He accused the police of insulting and putting pressure on him. Zulfugarli also said that the Imishli Police Department chief proposed he cooperate unofficially and provide the authorities with information about the party's activity. After he rejected this proposal, relations with the police department chief deteriorated, Zulfugarli said.

(Zhala Mutalimova)

(Compiled & Translated by Samira Gaziyeva)

Swiss Bank Accounts: Kazakh Model Of 'Purification'
According to the decision taken by Kazakhstan's parliament, starting on 14 June, "individuals, but not companies, have 20 days to bring money into the country unquestioned and untaxed," writes "The New York Times" on 14 June under the title "Kazakhs Given Tax Amnesty in Move to Bring Money Home." A very unusual, interesting, and maybe a wise move on behalf of the Kazakh government. The new law adopted in Astana could have implications for other former Soviet republics, including Azerbaijan.

According to the Baku newspaper "Alternativ," "there are proposals being voiced to find and bring back illegal money kept in secret bank accounts in Switzerland." The paper reported, quoting unnamed sources, that a list of all government officials who own secret bank accounts in Switzerland will be prepared and submitted to President Heidar Aliev. It is not clear if President Aliyev will follow the Kazakh model, but the move in Astana has some positive implications for economic growth and of course for preventing capital flow out of Kazakhstan in future. The government hopes $500 million will come back as citizens seize an opportunity to clear their "consciences without penalty." How much money left Kazakhstan and ended up in Swiss banks, no one knows exactly. Mr. Marchenko, the chairman of the National Bank of Kazakhstan, told "The New York Times" that "no more than $300 million to be repatriated under the program, because the law was aimed at owners of medium-size businesses who made fortunes in the early 1990's by selling commodities.... The dealings were legal, but the taxes on them went unpaid." Kazakhstan only began "tracking its balance of payments in 1995, so no one knows how much money left the country before then," said Mr. Marchenko of the National Bank, "some say a few hundred million dollars, some optimists say $7 billion to $10 billion."

The exact amount of money that left Azerbaijan during 10 years of independence is also not known. According to "Alternativ," Rahim Huseinov, former prime minister of Azerbaijan, claims that only prior to 1994 more than 100 Azerbaijani officials had about $3 billion in Swiss banks. This figure is not confirmed by independent sources, but the paper argues that amount of money that left Azerbaijan and landed in Swiss bank accounts could be counted in billions of dollars. As for Kazakhstan, the Astana government started to deal with the illegal flow of capital out of country. Theoretically the move has several aims: to free citizens who transferred their money to foreign banks from legal hardship, and to use this money to boost economic reforms in Kazakhstan, which will ultimately help to create new jobs.

But opponents of the amnesty law say the law was actually intended to let senior officials launder ill-gotten "wealth through the Kazakh banking system, and some have suggested that the president and his intimates will be among the biggest beneficiaries," "The New York Times" writes.

According to the paper, a group of bank accounts in Switzerland containing tens of millions of dollars have remained frozen since last July, when the Swiss authorities said the accounts had been financed by Western oil companies and might have been intended as bribes for President Nursultan Nazarbaev, his family and other officials. Nazarbaev and his government denied any impropriety and sued to regain access to the accounts, the paper added. This is of course another matter. The question of how the newly returned, newly legalized money will be used in Kazakhstan is also another matter and to be seen. But the latest move by the Astana government is a first (and a real) step to stop capital flow and this model will, hopefully, have influence on other former Soviet Republics, including Azerbaijan.

(Mirza Xazar)

Local newspapers devoted many different comments to the Liberation Day celebrations, the day when Heidar Aliyev returned to power in June 1993. The newspaper "Yeni Azerbaijan," published by the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party, in its commentary claims that "the Azerbaijan of the 1970s and 1980s should be named 'Heidar Aliev's Azerbaijan.'" The paper claims that the forces who led Azerbaijan in those years proved to be inexperienced and unqualified to rule the country. Therefore according to the paper, when the failure of these forces became obvious, everybody realized that Azerbaijan is "Heidar Aliev's Azerbaijan," only Heidar Aliyev can rule the country.

The opposition paper "Muhalifet" expressed a different view on the so-called Liberation Day celebrations and Heidar Aliev's role in this "Liberation." "Heidar Aliyev failed to solve the main problem facing the nation. To the contrary, by widening the scope of the occupation he [Aliev] made more complicated the solution of the (Karabakh) problem," Rovshan Kabirli writes. Today it is obvious that the regime of Heidar Aliyev will not be able to solve this problem completely. "Eight years after the 'Liberation Day,' the nation could not free itself from extreme poverty as a result of the economic crisis," the author concluded.

Liberal Party leader Lala Shovket Hadjieva in her interview with the newspaper "Ulus" thinks that there are only five leaders who might be considered as real contenders for power. "There can be 100-200 contenders for the presidency, but only five people have a real, stable constituency. Since these leaders have different opinions, different ideas, different qualities, only voters can make a choice between them," said Lala Shovket.

Nasib Nasibli, member of the ruling council of the opposition Musavat party, in his interview with "Yeni Musavat," expressed critical views of the opposition parties. "For last 5-6 years, the opposition parties based their activities on the notion of so-called 'X' day, the departure of Heidar Aliyev from the power," said Nasib Nasibli in his interview, "but this is a wrong tactic and strategy." The opposition should be ready to assume the burden of power when the departure occurs, said Nasibli, because there is a real possibility that political turmoil will rule in Azerbaijan for a certain period of time when Heidar Aliyev departs. "Heidar Aliyev has not solved any essential problems, and he is not able to solve them. These problems are growing, therefore one single party will not be able to restore and maintain stability in Azerbaijan," said Nasibli.

Rauf Mirgadirov, commenting in the independent newspaper "Zerkalo" on Tehran's intention to mediate Karabakh peace talks, as expressed in statements by an Iranian Foreign Ministry official and the former Iranian Ambassador in Azerbaijan Begdeli, writes that this proposal could be assumed as a move to shape public opinion in Azerbaijan. This proposal aims to convince Azerbaijani society that unlike the OSCE and other U.S.-controlled international organizations, Iran really is ready to help in solving the Karabakh conflict solely in accordance with Azerbaijan's interests, but is rejected by the leadership and pro-Western opposition in Azerbaijan.

Mirgadirov states that the presence of pro-Iranian political organizations in Azerbaijan is not a secret, as well as Mahir Javadov, former (special police unit) OMON officer, who once found asylum in Iran, proclaiming that together with his supporters he is ready to take part in the liberation of occupied Azerbaijani territories. Meanwhile, there are much speculation about possible power changes inside and outside of Azerbaijan.

Miragdirov writes that in a strange coincidence, Iran makes these statements just on the eve of possible power changes in Azerbaijan, and one can assume these statements are an attempt to seize more public support for pro-Iranian forces in the country.

Zahid Safaroglu in his commentary in "Yeni Musavat" on the same issue, express serious doubts on any positive prospect for Iran's latest proposal. He suggests that no superpower currently involved in OSCE mediation efforts to solve the Karabakh conflict (Russia or the U.S.) would favor such an (Iranian) intervention and recalls that in 1992 Russia's jealousy, not only blocked Iran's mediation attempt, but also triggered military operations, which led to another loss of Azerbaijani territory. Moreover, Safaroglu believes that uneasy U.S.-Iranian relations, and warm Iran-Armenian cooperation, characterize the proposal as very doubtful.

"Creation of a Karabakh faction in parliament is a product of the order of authority," considers "Hurriyyet" newspaper. The main reason and goal is to make the creation of a democratic faction from the opposition deputies difficult, says the paper. The creation of a new faction with Igbal Agazade, the parliament member dissatisfied with the government, pursues the goal of removing Ali Kerimov, one of the opposition leaders in the parliament, suggests the paper and adds that the government does not want to use the Ali Kermiov card, because Kerimov is already publicly perceived as "a man of the regime." The government, who ordered the founding of the new Karabakh faction, want to use this faction in solving the Karabakh problem in its own interests, the paper says.

The Independent newspaper "Zerkalo" examines the opportunities of opposition leaders who seek the presidency. "As a result of government policy there is not a universally recognized leader in Azerbaijan," says the paper. The acceptance of these leaders by the public depends on regional factors, the paper writes, and adds that regional and political coalitions are necessary for the restoration of national unity. The paper considers Isa Gambar, leader of the Musavat party, and Etibar Mamedov, leader of National Independence Party, as the main persons among opposition forces and suggests that a coalition between these leaders could be better for national interests. "But the experience of recent years shows that the probability of such a coalition is very small," concludes the paper.

(Samira Gaziyeva, Elkhan Nasibov & Rovshan Huseinov)