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Azerbaijan Report: July 31, 2001

31 July 2001
Iran Violates Azerbaijan's Air Space
On 29 July an Iranian reconnaissance aircraft plane entered Azerbaijan's airspace and conducted a reconnaissance flight lasting about four hours. It did not meet with resistance from the Azerbaijan side. This incident was registered by the Azerbaijan Air Navigation Department. The head of the Defense Ministry press-service, Ramiz Melikov, said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that he will not express his position concerning this incident because he heard about it from ANS TV and the Ministry has not registered the incident.

The head of the Reserve Officers Union, Isa Sadigov, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service that Azerbaijan should have taken the necessary measures and forced the Iranian warplane to land or shot it down. If the Azerbaijani side did not take these steps, the Azerbaijani government should express its decisive position on this issue and appeal to international organizations to give a formal assessment. Sadigov recalled the incident last year when Russia dropped a bomb on the district of Zakatala, and earlier violations of Azerbaijan frontiers by Iran, and said that the government of Azerbaijan has not yet expressed its position with regard to those incidents.

Former Defense Minister Tadjaddin Mekhdiyev thinks that by violating the air and water frontiers of Azerbaijan Iran is defying not only Baku but also the U.S. and other western countries. He thinks that Iran could not violate Azerbaijan frontiers alone and other countries stand behind the Iranian moves.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Shooting Incident On Azerbaijan Border with Iran
The chairman of the Yardimli branch of the "classic" wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, Hadji Dadashev, told RFE/Rl's Azerbaijan Service that two inhabitants of the village of Shafagli, the brothers Sakit and Jamal Bagirov, were shot dead on 28 July when they tried to cross the Azerbaijan-Iranian frontier. "The [Azerbaijani] border guards beat them before killing them," Dadashev said.

Dadashev pointed out that the hard social conditions in the district have led to a deterioration in the criminal situation. Border guards create various obstacles for people who go to Iran legally to earn a living. Only people who are close to government groups may bring their loads through the frontier without any problems. This has led to an increase of number of people engaged in smuggling.

According to the press-service of the National Security Ministry and the Military Prosecutor, the shooting incident occurred when border guards tried to prevent a group of people from crossing the frontier.

(Zhala Mutallimova)

Observers Do Not Expect Positive Decision From CIS Summit
On 1 July the presidents of most CIS countries will attend a non-official meeting in Sochi. According to the press-service of the Presidential Office, Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev will hold bilateral meetings with other CIS presidents within the framework of the summit. Observers in Azerbaijan consider the CIS ineffective and do not expect any positive outcome from the forthcoming summit.

Political analyst Mubariz Akhmedoglu thinks that the goal of such meetings is to try to find any model to strengthen the CIS. He recalled that more than 600 declarations have been adopted by the CIS but none of them works. Only Russia is interested in activity of the CIS, Akhmadoglu said.

Concerning the negotiation between the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents over Karabakh dispute, Akhmedoglu suggests that the meeting in Sochi may be the last dialogue between Kocharyan and Aliev. If Heidar Aliyev does not manage to receive from Armenia and Russia what he wants, Azerbaijan will be forced to take more radical steps. Akhmedoglu does not believe that the Sochi summit will help to solve the recent dispute between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

Turan Information Agency expert Hassan Guliev thinks that the recent developments do not allow Azerbaijan to expect positive decisions from the CIS summit. "This summit will not differ from others and no problem within CIS will be solved in this framework," Guliev predicted.

(Almaz Nasibova)

Mehdi writes in "Yeni Musavat" that the rumors about President Heidar Aliyev's health are increasing. According to information provided by a reliable source close to the government, since last week the president has been forced to shorten his working day. The author says that the president may not attend the non-official meeting of presidents of CIS countries in Sochi on 1-3 August because of his failing health. If so, the Prime Minister Arthur Rasizadeh will represent the country in Sochi.

Zahid Safaroglu comments in "Yeni Musavat" on the postponement of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's visit to Azerbaijan, which was scheduled for 27 July. One of the versions for the postponement was President Aliev's health. The author says that it was planned to sign an agreement on the export of Azerbaijani gas via Georgia during Shevardnadze's visit. Apart from this, it is impossible to overlook Georgia's attempt to obtain the concessions in connection with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan main export pipeline. Probably Georgia again is pinning its hopes on the "soft heart" of Azerbaijani government.

The author also writes that an "invisible hand" has recently tried to stir up new conflicts both in Georgia and in the north of Azerbaijan. The activity of Armenians in the Djavakhetia during the Georgian president's also attracts attention.

Commenting on Iran's claims against Azerbaijan, the newspaper "Echo" newspaper writes that result of the last presidential election shows that the supporters of the Islamic regime in Iran are losing their popularity and the leaders of these supporters know that their influence on society is waning. The newspaper also writes that the interests of the U.S. and Iran collide in the Caspian Sea as they do in Iranian Gulf. Apart from that, after the administration of Republican George Bush came to power in the U.S, Washington's influence on political and economic processes in the region has increased. According to the newspaper, the illegal violation of Azerbaijan's state borders by the Iranian army recently is usual. It seems that Iran still doesn't want to abandon its claims.

In his interview published in "Tazadlar," the brother of the former OMON chairman, Mahir Djavadov, comments on Iran's claims against Azerbaijan and says that the Iranian officials are trying to exclude the influence of foreign countries to the region, which is against Azerbaijan's strategic interests. But the Azerbaijani government lets countries as U.S, Great Britain, and Israel as well as NATO extend influence in the region easily. It is normal that they don't come here for economic interests. This is a potential dangerous center for Iran. According to Djavadov, the oil reserves in the Caspian are not so huge that the U.S and England are interested. Djavadov says that these countries have their geopolitic and strategic interests. There could be one more danger for China, Russia and Iran in future if U.S and NATO deploys its armed forces in the Caspian.

Faiq Novruzov in his article in "Hurriyyat" entitled "The Benefit of the Harmful Iranian Lesson," says that with its recent claims to become one of the mediators in the Nagorno Karabakh problem, Iran has come to the end of its efforts. Iran also damaged itself by losing the opportunity to exert its influence in the region. The author also writes that the recent Caspian incident should serve to expedite the process of dividing the Caspian and Azerbaijan should try to esnure that this problem is resolved soon. There is a beneficial situation for Azerbaijan to assure Turkmenistan and Iran that delaying the process of dividing the Caspian Sea would be harmful for them. The myth that "the West will protect Azerbaijan's interests in the solving of the Nagorno Karabakh problem because of the presence of western oil companies in Azerbaijan" has evaporated after the most recent incident in the Caspian Sea.