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Azerbaijan Report: August 28, 2001

28 August 2001
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Visits Baku
Ali Ahani met today with Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliyev and Minister for Economic Development Farhad Aliyev.

Ahani stated at the meetings that interesting processes are ongoing between his country and Azerbaijan. According to him, although there are differences in some issues, it is necessary to join efforts for settling them.

Ahani also noted that the existing differences regarding use of the Caspian Sea resources cannot be defined as hostilities in bilateral relations. The significant matter is that both sides are interested in clarifying disputed issues.

Ahani's visit to Baku coincided with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones's meetings with officials and opposition groups in Azerbaijan. Before leaving Baku, Mrs. Jones made a statement on the recent tensions in the Caspian, calling Iran's latest actions in the Caspian a "provocation." She expressed the U.S. government's concern about the incident when Iranian planes violated Azerbaijani air space in the Caspian.

Hamid Assefi, head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry press service, accused Washington of trying to worsen relations between Tehran and Baku. Assefi concluded from Mrs. Jones's statements that the U.S. wants to draw a line between Iran and Azerbaijan. But Assefi also said that Elizabeth Jones's statement cannot affect Baku-Tehran talks.

On 27 August the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Jones also met with opposition leaders Etibar Mammadov, chairman of the National Independence Party; Isa Gambar, head of the Musavat Party; and Ali Karimov, head of the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party. The issues discussed at the meeting were U.S.-Azerbaijan ties, the Karabakh conflict, and Iranian-Azerbaijani relations.

Iranian Pressure On Azerbaijan
Iran, which says that no country must exert pressure on the Caspian Sea status issue, continues to exert pressure on Azerbaijan by all means available. This time, Nasir Mehirdadi, head of the Environmental Protection Department of Mazandaran district, has accused Azerbaijan of polluting the Caspian. Iran issued such accusations last year as well, which the Azerbaijani government refuted.

Iran's aim is to hinder Azerbaijan's activity in the Caspian under the agreements it has signed with foreign oil companies. According to Azerbaijani political scientists, Iran's concern is groundless, since the Caspian currently has an international status.

As stated today by Mubariz Ahmadoghlu, head of the Political Innovations and Technologies Center, Tehran has put itself into a very complicated position. Iran makes efforts to take sharp steps without taking into consideration Russia's ties with the West. Russia is considered to be Iran's ally in the region. According to local observers Iran must recognize that Russia's and the U.S.'s positions in the Caspian Sea are coming closer to each other. Both states agree that the oil fields in the Caspian must be developed, as this suits the needs not only of the West, but Russia as well.

(Zerkhanim Ahmedli)

Members Of Karabakh Liberation Organization Arrested
Some 8 members of the Karabakh Liberation Organization (KLO) were arrested during a rally held in connection with the 8 th anniversary of the occupation of Azerbaijan's Fizuli and Jabrail districts by Armenian forces. KLO Chairman Akif Naghi, some 6 members of the organization, and Boyukkishi Heidarly, editor of the "Yeni Musavat" newspaper, were imprisoned from 5 to 15 days and taken to Gara Shahar prison. KLO Deputy Chairman Seyid Jamal, who was arrested together with them, was fined 111,000 manats and set free.

Lawyer Isakhan Ashurov criticized the police actions against peaceful demonstrators. According to him, under the Law on Police, the police must ensure security for all citizens irrelevant of race, sex, and political affiliation. But the police take the way of violence against the members and supporters of one political group and it proves the exhaustion of the government's power.

(Maarif Akberov)

President Aliyev Meets With Turkish General
President of Azerbaijan Heidar Aliyev met with General Husein Kivrikoglu, chief of the General Staff of the Turkish armed forces, on 25 August. The two sides discussed a number of issues of mutual concern. President Aliyev pointed out the particular role of the Turkish armed forces in the formation of the Azerbaijani army.

Referring to the flights of Turkish airplanes over Baku, Aliyev said the flights of the "Turkish Stars" squadron conducted on 23 and 24 August had aroused the deep interest and respect of over 1 million Baku residents. In his remarks, General Kivrikoglu expressed Turkey's readiness to render all assistance to Azerbaijan.

Later, Aliyev spoke in the capital Baku at the graduation ceremony of 640 Azerbaijani officers who underwent training in a four-year NATO program assisted by friendly Turkey. General Kivrikoglu also attended the ceremony. Speaking about the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, Aliyev said Azerbaijan "has been and shall be trying to solve the question in a peaceful way. Our basic mutually beneficial cooperation, we have no plans to wage a war against anyone, we don't have any territorial claims on anybody.... But the army of Azerbaijan and each one of its fighters must know that the territorial integrity must be restored at any cost," Aliyev said.

(RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service)

Sabir, in his article "Can Safar Abiev control the army?" carried in the newspaper "Hurriyyet," comments that recent cases of the death of soldiers in the army is a sign of Defense Minister Safar Abiev's inability to fully control the army. The conflicts among the high-ranking officers in the army also has an impact on the mood in the army.

Bekhtiyar Tunjay comments in the newspaper "525" on the next presidential elections to be held in the year 2003 in Azerbaijan. He points out that under the present conditions, Heidar Aliyev seems to be the only candidate without a rival. According to the author, the opposition has been deluding itself with the idea that President Aliyev will soon leave office and open the way for democratic elections. Therefore, the opposition's strategy and tactics are built on this absurd idea. The author stresses that it does not matter who will run for the presidency in 2003, because the government is more ready for future elections and there is no doubt that its candidate will win the elections. But the paper suggests that there are still some 2 years till the elections and everything can change during that time.

The newspaper "Ulus" continues to comment on the same subject. Abdinova in her commentary "There won't be Aliyev after Aliev" in the paper suggests that Heidar Aliyev knows his heir (his son Ilham) is not able to govern in the unhealthy and chaotic conditions created by Heidar Aliyev himself. Without Heidar Aliev, nobody will obey Junior Aliev, the paper writes. Therefore, Heidar Aliyev must not only bring his son to power but also create the basis for him to remain in power. The author thinks that Ilham Aliyev will be held acccountable for his father's deeds. But Ilham Aliyev does not know and does not want to know how to turn the people into silent masses, how to keep the masses in slavery, and how to make the slavery be known as independence.

The author of the commentary "Cease-fire" carried by the newspaper "Tezadlar" writes that after the Bishkek protocol was signed in 1994, great conditions were established for Armenians. The paper claims that "if Armenians have been engaged during these years in plundering our wealth in the occupied territories, some Azerbaijani officials have plundered our national wealth and collected a considerable volume of wealth." The author asks, "What shall we do now?" and notes that Armenians during the last seven years strengthened their army by buying more weapons, established the so called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, but we in our turn decorated villas in Baku and constructed markets and supermarkets during the same seven years.

The newspaper "Alternativ" in an article "The danger of separatism in the North" comments on the situation in northern Azerbaijan, where minorities such as the Avars are living. The paper notes that the reactions of state officials to the latest interethnic clashes between Avars and the police in the northern district are self-contradictory. For instance, the statement of the head of the Zagatala Executive Authority on the existence of some subversive forces in the region and their active work against the Azerbaijani state has caused the head of the Presidential Executive Office Ramiz Mehdiyev's dissatisfaction. Mehdiyev said he had even called the head of the Executive Authority at President Aliev's instruction and reprimanded him.