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Azerbaijan Report: October 26, 2001

26 October 2001
Are There Political Prisoners In Azerbaijan?
The Council of Europe experts tasked with studying human rights in Azerbaijan and Armenia submitted their reports to the organization on 24 October. The experts consider that there are political prisoners in Azerbaijan, but none in Armenia. Council of Europe Secretary General Walter Schwimmer has already commented on the experts' reports, noting that a Council of Europe member should not have even one political prisoner. He said even though some political prisoners have been released in Azerbaijan, many remain in jail despite the Council of Europe's persistent calls. Schwimmer said Azerbaijan should respect its commitments to the Council of Europe. When Azerbaijan was accepted into the Council of Europe last year, one of the commitments was the re-consideration of the cases of Rahim Gaziev, Isgandar Hamidov and Alikram Humbatov. In an interview with the RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service, Isgandar Hamidov's lawyer said that the documents of none of those prisoners have been taken from the archive for re-consideration. Local experts predict that this failure could create serious problems for Azerbaijan with the Council of Europe.

Lawyer Saida Gojamanli says that Schwimmer was expected to make such an statement because Azerbaijan did nothing to comply with its commitments to the Council of Europe. She predicted that the Council of Europe will stand firm until Azerbaijan fulfills its commitments. As for Azerbaijan's lagging behind Armenia in the protection of human rights, Gojamanli says that the Azerbaijani government should be seriously concerned about this fact because the existence of political prisoners takes Azerbaijan backwards.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Will Section 907 Be Repealed?
The U.S. Senate has granted additional authorities to President Bush regarding Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which bans U.S. governmental assistance to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan's Ambassador to the U.S. Hafiz Pashayev noted that although they have not fully gained their goal, this step must be highly evaluated. A special commission of the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate plans to discuss the repeal of Section 907. In a later development, the relevant decision will be adopted by the Chamber of Representatives and then submitted to the president for signing. The issue was discussed during the night of 25 October in a telephone conversation between the U.S. first deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage and Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev. The U.S. official noted that the administration is intensifying activity for positive settlement of the issue.

The process is carefully observed in Azerbaijan. Musavat leader Isa Gambar said that the provision is contradictory not only to Azerbaijan's but also U.S. national interests. According to Gambar, when the U.S. launched anti-terror strikes, it also concluded that the section contradicted its interests. In any case, Gambar thinks that the initiative must be approved of, but it would be better if the U.S. officials decided to repeal the section unconditionally. The Musavat leader stresses that over the past nine years, the material significance of the section has reduced to a greater extent. He thinks that the repeal of the section still has political and psychological advantages.

According to Ali Karimli, head of the reformist wing of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, the Senate's decision is a significant step for repeal of the section but it would be better if the Congress repealed the section, then there would no longer be a need for additional discussions and initiatives. Karimli said that if the Congress repealed the section they would prove its unfairness, and if the section is now for the president to be repealed then it can carry a temporary character. Moreover, it transpires that not the section but its results will be repealed.

(Babek Bekir)

Azerbaijani Experts Comment On Senate Decision
The U.S. Senate's granting authorities to President Bush for assistance to Azerbaijan has bolstered Azerbaijan's hopes for the full repeal of Section 907. But according to Azerbaijan's political experts, if the Congress which accepted it repealed Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, it would be more in compliance with Azerbaijan's interests. Azerbaijan's former foreign minister Tofig Zulfugarov says that under the U.S. laws, an agreement commission must be established between the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives and the commission's conclusions must be submitted to the president as the Congress decision. Official propaganda in Azerbaijan has always connected Section 907 with the Armenian lobby's pressure on the Congress. Azerbaijani officials stated that although the presidential administration tries to repeal the section, the Congress does not allow it. But according to Zulfugarov, in order to temporarily freeze the Congress decision, the U.S. President has a special right called "waiver." If the president wished, he would have frozen the section at least for one year. According to Zulfugarov, there are major grounds to hope for repeal of the section. He says that if the section remains in force, the Azerbaijani leadership must send an inquiry to the U.S. asking them to reconsider their policy.

Azerbaijan's former state advisor Gabil Huseinli also thinks it would be more expedient if the section was repealed. He said the development of the situation in this direction is also in Azerbaijan's favor and the Congress discussions will certainly result by end-October in the repeal of Section 907.

(Natig Zeynalov)

Azerbaijan Parliament Met In Next Session
The Azerbaijan Parliament has ratified the agreement on the transportation, purchase and sale of Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz gas to Turkey via Georgian territory. Natig Aliev, President of the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), provided detailed information on this project. Aliyev noted that the agreement underscored construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline for transportation of Azerbaijan oil to Turkey and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline. According to him, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline will deliver Azerbaijan gas to Turkey in 2004.

Parliament deputies expressed disapproval of selling Azerbaijani gas to other countries when there is strong demand for gas in Azerbaijan. Aliyev explained that the population and enterprises do not pay for the supplied gas and SOCAR allotted last year some 90 billion manats to Azerenergy stock company for the privatization of the latter. Aliyev added that they buy gas for local consumption from Russia's Itera Company and will continue to do so.

(Zerkhanim Akhmedli)

Some Forces In Azerbaijan Regard Negatively Repeal Of Section 907
The U.S. Senate and Administration's initiatives for repealing Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act carry no significance for Azerbaijan's interests, on the contrary, it is harmful for them, according to the leadership of the Namus party, which is recognized as pro-Russian. The deputy chairman of the party, Sahib Khalilov, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that all the initiatives of the U.S. Senate and president are contradictory to the propaganda the Azerbaijani government pursues in the country for liberation of the occupied lands. The Azerbaijani President says that if Armenia does not liberate our lands we'll restore our right by force, but the U.S. officials do not back this standpoint. According to the Namus leadership, now the U.S. officials bring into the agenda the issue of assistance and want to impose new commitments on Azerbaijan again. Khalilov notes that the U.S. wants to get our guarantee that the allotted assistance will not be used against Armenia. According to Khalilov, Azerbaijan undertook some commitments regarding Armenia when it was accepted to the Council of Europe and the adoption of such a term indirectly means giving up Karabakh. As stated by Khalilov, Namus party has adopted a statement on all these issues, which demands the local community regard the bitter truth steadily.

(Babek Bekir)

Journalists To Meet
The Baku municipal authorities have consented to the meeting of the Committee for Protection of the Freedom of Expression scheduled for 27 October. The meeting will be held in front of the Galaba (Victory) Cinema from 1600-1800 on 27 October. The Committee for Protection of the Freedom of Expression was established after some newspapers were shut down and journalists were arrested and includes the majority of Azerbaijan's opposition and human rights organizations. The committee wanted to hold a meeting on 12 October to demand the release of arrested journalists and an end to the pressure on the press, but the Baku municipal authorities refused permission for it. Three of the arrested journalists have been released in the past two weeks, but two are still in jail.The meeting to be held on 27 October will demand the release of the jailed journalists, rehabilitation of the pardoned journalists, restoration of the activity of newspapers that have been shut down and safeguards of the freedom of expression.

(Natig Zeynalov)

Shevardnadze Proposes Meeting Of Presidents Of Azerbaijan, Georgia And Armenia
During his two-day visit to Georgia, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze proposed that the presidents of the three South Caucasian countries meet and discuss the existing problems between Azerbaijan and Armenia. He said the aim of such a meeting is to study ways out of the situation. The newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes referring to Georgia-based newspaper "Rezonansi" that Russia has already grown concerned about the proposal. Alibala Asgarov, head of the Geyrat people's movement in Georgia, said in an interview with the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" that the proposal was accepted positively by our counterparts living in Georgia, noting that Armenia will not consent to the proposal as it is under pressure from Russia. According to Asgarov, taking into consideration the tension between Russia and Georgia, the Kremlin will not allow Shevardnadze's proposal to be adopted.

Khaleddin Ibrahimli, Head of the Caucasian Researches Center, says that the Georgian president's proposal is not new, noting that Shevardnadze wants to prove by this proposal and his visit to Armenia that the Georgia-Azerbaijan-Turkey cooperation is not directed against that country.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

The newspaper "Azadlig" carries an interview with Rudolf Perina, the newly appointed American co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group who came to Baku from Yerevan for a one-day visit and met with the Azerbaijani President. Commenting on President Aliev's recent warning to the OSCE, Perina said that any unresolved conflict can break out again any time. According to Perina, Aliyev expressed confidence after the meeting that the Karabakh conflict will be settled peacefully. Mr. Perina thinks that Aliev's statement made a day before resulted from disappointment about the lack of success of earlier talks. Perina said that whether they will make new proposals or not will depend on their consultations to be held in Lisbon. According to Perina, he is a historian and knows the situation well but he refrained from naming the sides as he is a diplomat. Referring to the fact that the U.S. has always been against regional conflicts, the OSCE official noted that after the 11 September terrorist acts, his country became assured that global terrorism can be settled by resolving regional conflicts. If the conflict is not settled in this phase, then a new phase will appear and resolution of the conflict will become complicated again. According to Perina, they have always declared that Nagorno Karabakh is an integral part of Azerbaijan. It is the position of the U.S. and all the countries of the world except for Armenia consider Nagorno Karabakh Azerbaijan's territory.

Zahid Safaroglu in an article "Delayed decision" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that the repeal of Section 907 carries as much political significance as its original introduction. The author writes that the Azerbaijani government has not carried out serious work up to now for cancellation of the section. Simply, the U.S. regional strategic interests and a number of issues connected with anti-terror operations make it urgent. The author claims that if the section is fully repealed, the U.S. will obtain more benefits, including the image of superpower in the eyes of the Azerbaijani community. According to Safaroglu, the possibility section 907 will be repealed is great because the U.S. knows it will need Azerbaijan in future.

Azerbaijan's former foreign minister Tofig Zulfugarov in an interview with the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" noted that the repeal of Section 907 will create a qualitative change in interstate ties. Zulfugarov says that the repeal of the section will result in the U.S. regarding Azerbaijan and Armenia in the same way. Besides, there will be a positive change in relations with other countries. The assistance to be allotted for Azerbaijan will positively impact the state budget. The former minister recalls that the U.S. controls the use of the assistance to a certain extent. Zulfugarov notes in conclusion that everything in politics is built on interests. Certainly, but for those interests, repeal of Section 907 would not on the agenda.

Azer Huseinbala in an article "Toasts for Ilham Aliev" carried by the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" writes that Heydar Aliyev wants to privatize his enterprise called Azerbaijan in the name of his son Ilham Aliyev and has launched a serious campaign to this end. Those who once claimed that the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party was established because of historical necessity now consider propaganda on Ilham Aliyev more expedient. The author claims that YAP members are sentenced to pursue this propaganda and sooner or later, the party will be fed up with wise leaders. According to the author, it is still expedient to continue to toast Ilham Aliyev as a great politician or we will be faced with serious problems.

In an interview with the newspaper "525", Azerbaijan's foreign minister Vilayat Guliev said that the US Senate's decision on the repeal of Section 907 is the outcome of Azerbaijan's regular and active foreign policy. According to Guliev, since 1992, Armenia and Georgia have received $1 billion worth of humanitarian assistance because of Section 907. Besides, the US has assisted in strengthening and development of those countries' defence systems. But Azerbaijan has received non-governmental assistance amounting to 25 percent of what Armenia received. According to Guliev, the senate's decision shows Azerbaijan's place and role in the world, its being one of the U.S. allies in combatting terrorism.

The newspaper "Khalg" (People) carried extracts from Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev's remarks at the meeting with the American co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Rudolf Perina. President Aliyev noted that at present, the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict cannot be put on the back burner.Aliyev said that UN, OSCE and its Minsk Group have handled the Nagorno Karabakh conflict but no concrete results have been achieved. Aliyev thinks that the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict was the direct consequence of failure to resolve the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. According to the author, after ending the Cold War, the world's leading countries should have paid attention to local conflicts and made a serious effort to resolve them.

Rauf Mirgadirov writes in the newspaper "Zerkalo" that while the U.S. continues the discussions on the repeal of Section 907, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian is engaged in deceiving his countrymen. The author writes that the information concerning the repeal of Section 907 is represented to the Armenian community as the suspension of Section 907 until the anti-terror strikes are completed. Oskanian notes that the U.S. government understands very well that Azerbaijan has not lifted the blockade against Armenia.In this case, it is impossible to state that Section 907 has been repealed, Oskanian says. The author comments that apparently the 11 September terrorist acts in the U.S. will seriously impact the positions Armenian politicians have held up to now.

Political scientist Eldar Namazov, in an interview with the newspaper "Ekho" noted that it is urgent for Azerbaijan to benefit from the commencement of the anti-terror operations. He says that in the present conditions, Azerbaijan must raise the issue of Azerbaijanis who were killed by Armenian terrorism. Referring to Azerbaijani officials' statements regarding launching anti-terror operations in Karabakh, Namazov said that he approves of the strict statements in this regard but he is concerned about the improper direction of the remarks. According to Namazov, it is necessary to stop issuing military threats and convey to the international community the information about Armenian terrorist acts in Azerbaijan. We must explain to the international community that because of this we intend to win back the 20 percent of our lands which are under Armenian occupation. According to Namazov, only after that we can speak of military operations.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)