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Azerbaijan Report: June 19, 2001

19 June 2001
Karabakh War Invalids' Protection Committee Staged Demo
A protest demonstration to demand the release of arrested members of the Karabakh War Invalids Society staged by the Committee for the Protection of the Karabakh War Invalids on 16 June ended without any clashes with police and 40 minutes before the time permitted by the Baku City Council. Although the Protection Committee appealed to all political parties to join the rally, only a few members of the Musavat, National Independence, Civic Solidarity, Adalat, and Civic Unity parties took part in the demonstration. Among the leaders of the main parties joining the Karabakh War Invalids was Ali Kerimov, head of the "reformists" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party.

The head of the press service of the Karabakh War Invalids Society, Rey Kerimoglu, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that according to estimates by society members, the majority of the total 1,000 participants were Karabakh War Invalids.

"The number of participants is of no importance. The most important is the fact that we have managed to stage a demonstration," Rey Kerimoglu said.

Karabakh War Invalids Society Chairman Etimad Asadov said that the weak participation by opposition parties in the demonstration shows that they are not interested in securing the release of the arrested Karabakh War invalids.

(Babek Bakir, Natig Zeynalov)

Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization Parliamentary Assembly Opens
On 19 June the 17th session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization opened in Baku. Azerbaijani Milli Mejlis Speaker Murtuz Aleskerov said that during the session laws on economic migration and cooperation in the ecological sphere will be discussed. An Armenian delegation led by Victor Dallakyan, who is the head of an Armenian parliament commission, is taking part in the session.

The secretary-general of the Assembly, George Petricu, said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that he is expecting a great deal from the session. The Parliamentary Assembly is trying to strengthen the legislative base for the legal state and democratization process in the countries which are members of the Organization.

Petricu noted that it is the first time that the Assembly is discussing migration problems and preparing a law on this issue. He added that economic difficulties compel the citizens of these countries to emigrate, and the social rights of these people are not protected in the countries where they go to work. Petricu also expressed concern about the pollution of the Black Sea.

The Parliamentary Assembly will continue its work on 21 June at the Gulustan Palace.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Former Education Minister Died In Jail
On 19 June Rafiga Feyzullayeva, the sister of former Education Minister Rafig Feyzullayev who died in Shuvelan prison on 17 June, and Feyzullaev's lawyer Vagif Samedov told a press conference that Feyzullayev did not die of natural causes. Rafiga Feyzullyeva said her brother had never complained about his health and signs of violence were discovered on his body after his death. She accused high-ranking officials of killing her brother. She said she believes the chief of the Legal Department of the President's Office, Fuad Aleskerov, and the chief of Humanitarian Policy Department of the President's Office, Fatma Abdullazadeh, are implicated in this crime.

Justice Ministry official Niyazi Mamedov said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that he cannot express an opinion about the incident until he receives the results of the forensic medical examination.

Rafig Feyzullayev is known as a supporter of ex-President Ayaz Mutallibov. His lawyer Vagif Samodov does not rule out a link between this fact and Feyzullaev's death. He that added Feyzullayev died one day before the Court of Appeal was due to hear his appeal against the 12-year sentence handed down on him in February on charges of swindling and misappropriation of funds totalling $100,000.

(Jala Mutallimova)

Musavat Party Discussed Corruption and Shadow Economy
On 19 June, at the initiative of the Karabakh Liberation Organization, Musavat Party Economic Commission head Gubad Ibadoglu gave a report on "The Role of Economic Factors in Resolving the Karabakh Conflict." He said that strengthening Azerbaijan's military forces depends on the situation of the state budget. Corruption and the shadow economy are preventing an increase in budget revenues. The shadow economy is mainly shown when goods imported from foreign counties are not declared to customs and oil is illegally exported.

As a result of the shadow economy, the Azerbaijani budget has lost about $300 million in trade with Turkey for the last three years. Each year oil and oil products worth $1 billion are illegally exported. This does not only negatively influence the budget but also raises the domestic price for oil, Ibadoglu said.

(Babek Bakir)

(Compiled and Translated by Samira Gaziyeva)

Azerbaijan, Russia Signed Agreement On Health Cooperation
On 19 June the 12th two-day meeting of the CIS health ministers' Cooperation Council under the chairmanship of the Russian Health Ministry ended in Baku. Azerbaijani and Russian health ministers Ali Insanov and Yuri Shevchenko signed a health cooperation agreement between the two countries. The agreement will provide for an information exchange in the health sphere.

Ali Insanov told a press conference on 18 June that this agreement will benefit Azerbaijan more than Russia because it will give Azerbaijan citizens the chance to receive treatment in major Moscow clinics. He added that today the main problems of CIS countries are tuberculosis, AIDS, and malaria, and that the CIS health ministers took a decision to unite their efforts to prevent the spread of those diseases. The health ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova did not take part in the meeting. Armenia was represented by Deputy Health Minister Vladimir Davidyants.

(Samira Gaziyeva)

Swiss Banks: Kazakh Model Not Suitable For Azerbaijan?
The newspaper "Alternativ" was very prompt in its reaction to the law adapted in Astana by the Kazakhstan parliament that went into effect last week (see "RFE/RL Azerbaijan Report," 15 June 2001). The Kazakh parliament has ruled that individuals have 20 days to bring money kept in foreign bank accounts into the country unquestioned and untaxed. "Alternativ," which has links to the president's office, reacted in an unusual manner to this decision in its issue of 19 June. This unusual manner may prompt unusual analysis, and prompt unusual questions.

The paper doubts the Azerbaijani parliament will follow the example of the Kazakh legislature and adapt a similar law to allow citizens of Azerbaijan to bring money from their secret accounts in some Western countries back to Azerbaijan. Why? The reason given by "Alternativ" is of great interest, since the paper's explanation makes the issue more complicated than before. According to the paper, the main reason why Kazakhstan's parliament declared an amnesty for secret account holders was that President Nursultan Nazarbaev and his family members have about $100 million in Swiss bank accounts. These accounts have been frozen since last July, when Swiss authorities said the accounts had been financed by Western oil companies and might have been intended as bribes. Therefore, "Alternativ" notes, it must have been President Nazarbayev who initiated the law. But what about Azerbaijan? Why can Azerbaijan not follow suit?

The paper's response to this question is somehow intriguing and amusing. "Alternativ" writes: "Naturally, no one can say that the president of Azerbaijan or his family members have bank accounts in foreign countries. Maybe this is the reason why the Azerbaijani leadership has no intention of declaring an amnesty for 'dirty money.'" But what will the Azerbaijani leadership do with illegal bank accounts in foreign countries? The paper predicts that Heidar Aliyev will deal with "the owners of secret bank accounts more decisively than President Nazarbaev." Moreover, the paper has disclosed for the first time the names of the foreign banks where the money from sale of oil, cotton, and tabacco products are deposited. The paper mentioned Morgan Greenfield of London, Banque De Paris of France, and Societe General of Chicago.

This information is not confirmed by independent sources, but the disclosure made by "Alternativ" is striking. Nevertheless the purpose of publishing this information is not clear. It is not clear whether the forces behind the newspaper intend to start a real campaign against corruption and those high-ranking officials who own illegal bank accounts in foreign countries, or whether the publication of this information is another sign of infighting between financial "magnates" among high-ranking officials in Azerbaijan.

It is interesting enough that the paper has printed the numbers of two secret banks accounts in Lichtenstein holding altogether $6.7 billion, but failed to provide the name of the owner of these accounts. The paper only hinted that these bank accounts belong to a "high-ranking official" who by the way owns a villa in Antalia, Turkey, worth $400,000.

The paper is confident that President Heidar Aliyev will punish the owners of secret bank accounts and will fight against them. When that will happen the paper does not disclose. Is it a sincere intention or an attempt to scare high-ranking officials who really have secret accounts in foreign banks? Maybe one, maybe the other. It is possible that the recent publications about foreign bank accounts are another sign of the ongoing struggle between financially powerful groups intrested in succeeding Aliyev as president. If this is true, then there is a fundamental difference between the situation in Astana and Baku. Therefore, it is certain that Azerbaijan will not follow the Kazakh model. One can assume that the flow of cash out of Azerbaijan will continue until the Azerbaijani leadership decides to take decisive actions to stop it, or until the succession issue in Azerbaijan is resolved.

(Mirza Xazar)

Commenting on the state of the Karabakh mediation process, Shahbaz Shamyoglu writes in "Uch Nogta" that the Karabakh question seems to be acquring a similarity to the story of how Mullah Nasreddin built his house. As all the neighbors offer various projects, everybody wants the "doors" to be oriented in the direction of his choice. Shamyoglu suggests that we are sliding into self-deception, noting that although they too are internationally moderated, neither the Mideast Peace talks nor those aimed at resolving the Indian-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir have ended successfully. However we believe in this self-deception so much that we criticize everyone who holds a different opinion.

Rustam Garakhanli in "Yeni Azerbaijan" once again discusses the creation of new societies unifying western Azerbaijanis. He writes that those societies are calling not only for preserving those territories and the rights of western Azerbaijanis, but also for giving those regions autonomy or creating a government in exile. Garakhanli writes that probably 90 percent of those involved have no idea what is at stake but are seeking to secure their position at the expense of someone else.

"Hurriyyet" again comments on the internal struggle within the leadership. A commentary by Teymur Turan entitled "Will Ali Insanov replace Ramiz Mehdiyev in his office?" claims that the reason the struggle is intensifying is that power changes in Azerbaijan are imminent. He writes that it is clear that at present the only candidates to succeed Heidar Aliyev as president are his son Ilham Aliyev and presidential administration head Ramiz Mehdiyev. Aliyev himself wants to speed up the process, as he is aware of Mehdiyev's moves. Aliyev therefore plans to neutralize Ramiz Mehdiyev by naming him president of the Academy of Sciences and to replace him with a new nominee who is to bring Ilham Aliyev to power. Health Minister Ali Insanov will reportedly replace Ramiz Mehdiev and then with the help of Mahmud Mamedguliev (the president's son-in-law, who is currently a deputy foreign minister), and with the support of other oligarchs, Insanov will move to bring Ilham Aliyev to power.

The president of the Caspian Consulting Group, Robert Bruce Ware, commenting in the "Christian Science Monitor" on the current struggle among multinational corporations and global powers for control of the oil and gas fields of the Caspian region, suggests that extraction of Caspian oil and gas resources may end up depending less on competitive tactics than on new strategies for political cooperation and local economic development. Ware writes that those who view the Caspian as a zero-sum game overlook the possibility that everyone might lose. The global powers are building military alliances with local governments, supplying military aid, and engaging in exercises with local troops, but this approach only causes further local political instability, diminishes regional security, heightens the risk for investments and therefore reduces opportunities for extraction of Caspian resources.

Ware points that the "Great Game" metaphor has become a misleading, possibly dangerous, anachronism, because it invites participants to forget that most parts of the region either are currently scenes of conflict or only a few steps away from ignition. Heightened international competition will certainly produce sparks, and further conflagrations will be costly for everyone. Ware states that an alternative to the "Great Game" would emphasize the preservation of local stability and culminate in international cooperation aimed at broad-based economic development and stabilization of the region. He says that in approaching the extraction of the Caspian resources, it is possible that no one will win the game unless everyone wins.

(Samira Gaziyeva and Rovshan Huseinov)