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Azerbaijan Report: December 4, 2001

4 December 2001
Presidents Of Azerbaijan And Armenia Met In Moscow
Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian met on 30 November in Moscow; Russian President Vladimir Putin was also present. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service stated that unlike the meeting between the presidents of Russia and the three South Caucasus states, he and his Armenian counterpart did not attend this meeting. Guliev said prior to that, the Karabakh conflict was discussed in the meeting of the four countries of the Caucasus. The key issue discussed in the meeting was combatting terrorism, on which Guliev said some forces in Azerbaijan hold incorrect views. He said that Armenia has launched not terror but war against Azerbaijan. Guliev said they reiterated Azerbaijan's position on the Karabakh conflict, which is that the lands under Armenian ocupation should be liberated. Guliev referred to increasing Turkey's role in the issue. He also expressed regret that Turkey is not one of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.

(Babek Bekir)

Editors In Chief Of Azerbaijani Newspapers Release Joint Statement
The editors of the newspapers "Azadlig," "Yeni Musavat" and "Hurriyyet" are seriously concerned about the criticism of them expressed at the second congress of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party. The heads of the three newspapers issued a joint statement on 30 November claiming that the government has increased pressure on them by different means. The statement says the opinions expressed at the congress damage their image and their staff. They demand that pressure on press should be stopped, normal conditions should be created for press and freedom of speech should be guaranteed.

Aydin Guliev, editor in chief of the newspaper "Hurriyyet," says that different pressure, including by police officials, is exerted on people who are engaged in selling this newspaper.

The editor of the newspaper "Azadlig," Rovshan Hajiyev, says that they have not been faced with concrete pressure but they have signed a statement in order to prevent possible pressure on them in the light of earlier pressure.

The editor in chief of the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," Rauf Arifoglu, says that the inclusion of the names of three newspapers in the resolution adopted at the YAP congress signals possible future pressure on them. Arifoglu claims that the newspaper "Yeni Musavat" has been prohibited in state structures. He said all three newspapers are nearing collapse.

Unlike the authors of the statement, the editor in chief of the newspaper "Khalg" ("People") says that there is no incident of pressure. He does not believe that any pressure will be exerted on newspapers in future and hinted that the three editors are seeking publicity by suggesting they are under threat.

(Maarif Chingizoglu)

Azerbaijani Newspapers Are Ready To Ask Foreign Countries For Political Asylum
The criticism of the three newspapers expressed by Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev at the second congress of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party has led some to believe that a pressure campaign against leading newspapers will soon begin. But official circles as well as YAP members think that those opposition papers are trying to profit from Aliev's criticism. Mahal Ismailoglu, editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Khalg" which is an organ of the presidential office, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service that the newspapers are using the president's words for self-advertisement. Even the official press organs accuse the independent press of undermining the attempt to build an Azerbaijani state. But the Law on Grants is in force in Azerbaijan and the law does not prohibit newspapers' from receiving grants under different programs.

Aliyev criticized the newspapers "Azadlig", "Yeni Musavat" and "Hurriyyet". The editors of those newspapers say that they will appeal to foreign countries for political asylum, if necessary. They have been invited to the U.S. Embassy on 5 December.

Rauf Arifoglu, editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," said that unlike the ruling party, the editors will act within the country's laws. The journalists will stage a protest action on 12 December. Arifoglu says that despite the existence of a one-year contract, the publishing house of the newspaper "Express" has refused to publish "Yeni Musavat," which is published by different publishing houses. Moreover, people who sell the newspaper are threatened with police violence. Police officials even advise readers that they should not read those newspapers. In addition, a "Yeni Musavat" correspondent who wanted to attend YAP's first press conference after the second congress was not admitted. Taking all this into consideration, the newspaper leaders have taken YAP to court.

Mubariz Ahmadoglu, head of the political innovation and technologies center, says that as the opposition is passive in Azerbaijan, the independent press fights with the government, that is the newspapers have taken over the opposition's function in Azerbaijan.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Will Azerbaijan Try Political Prisoners Again?
The Azerbaijan Republic will celebrate the firstanniversary of its acceptance into full membership of the Council of Europe in January 2002, and must submit reports to that organization at that time, including one on political prisoners in Azerbaijan. The Council of Europe has demanded that Azerbaijan reconsider the cases of former Interior Minister Isgandar Hamidov, former Defense Minister Rahim Gaziev, and of Alikram Humbatov, who in 1993 declared the independent Talysh Mughan Republic. Despite the work carried out by OSCE and the Council of Europe as well as local and international legal organizations, the Azerbaijani government has expressed no attitude on the issue. But Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev recently told visiting OSCE officials that there is no problem in re-trying those prisoners.

Alikram Humbatov has requested political asylum in the Netherlands, where his wife was granted political asylum several years ago. As for Isgandar Hamidov, his lawyer Yaver Husein says that Hamidov's case will be re-considered before 25 January. The newspaper "Ekho" also confirmed that information. According to Husein, the Council of Europe has studied the information on Hamidov's case and unequivocally declared him a political prisoner. Because of that, government officials have softened their attitude towards Hamidov.

(Zhale Mutallimova)

Galib Arif in an article entitled "The opposition's next show" carried by the newspaper "Khalg" (People) writes that the government has embraked on a new game with the press. Even though Heydar Aliyev called some newspapers not to libel the government, it does not mean that those newspapers will be objects of pressure. But the opposition members have seized on the president's statements and opposition journalists are predicting attacks on newspapers, although no csuch attack has yet occurred. The author claims that there has been no pressure on the press under the present leadership in contrast with the period when the Azerbaijan Popular Front party and Musavat Party were in power.

The deputy head of the Musavat party, Arif Hajiyev, in an interview with the newspaper "Mukhalifet" notes that the present government in Azerbaijan is not woorthy of the Azerbaijani people. Hajiyev says that but for the opposition and pressure from the people, the government would have settled the Nagorno Karabakh conflict in compliance with Armenians' interests and presented Azerbaijani lands to the Armenians in order to safeguard plans for Heidar Aliev's son Ilham to succeed him as president. Hajiyev says that the people and the opposition who have prevented Karabakh from being given to Armenians will never allow Ilham Aliyev to become president. Referring to the tension in the inter-party relationships in the opposition camp, Hajiyev noted that the Musavat party has played an active role in this process. But his party wants to make the opposition abstain from acting in accordance with the government's interests.

Sabina in an article carried by the newspaper "Ulus" refers to the possibility of the reunification of the Azerbaijan Popular Front Party (APFP) which split into two factions after Abulfaz Elchibey's death. The author writes that unification of APFP would benefit the party itself but would harm its allies. For instance, the leaders of the Azerbaijan National Liberation Party who have signed a contract on cooperation with the reformers wing of the APFP know that they have gained the support of the Democratic Congress led by Ali Kerimli. ANLP chairman Ertibar Husenli is confident that this group will defend his candidacy. As for Musavat, this party has gathered great social support as a result of the split in the APFP. As for the possibility of the APFP reuniting, it is unreal, because mutual relations have deteriorated and all the bridges back have been destroyed.

Namig writes in the newspaper "Azadlig" that even though over one year has elapsed since the Democratic Congress split, the real reasons why it broke up have not been admitted yet. The author recalls that the key reason for the fragmentation was diverging attitudes to Abulfaz Elchibey.

Hikmet Sabiroglu in an article entitled "How to lose one's head" carried by the newspaper "Azadlig" writes that Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev told a journalist last week that he has lost his head with the numerous proposals regarding the Karabakh problem. The unfortunate case is that the man who pronounced these words is not a politician but the supreme commander of an army which is faced with the enemy army. But regarding the Karabakh problem from inside, it is possible to understand Heydar Aliev's situation. The author does not think it true that Azerbaijan did not progress since Heydar Aliyev became the country's leader. Azerbaijan developed as a state under Aliev. But Azerbaijan is not yet strong enough to force the enemy, its allies, and the world's leading countries and international organizations to reckon with it. The author writes that the people leading this country should not think of withdrawal.

Farhad Mammadov writes in the newspaper "Azadlig" that even though talks on Nagorno Karabkh were recently held in Moscow, no results have been achieved. This shows that the Minsk Group co-chairs' recent visit to the region has not been able to promote the peaceful regulation of the conflict and to take the process out of the dead end. However the co-chairs said that they brought new ideas. The author writes that international organizations' goals are to pressure Azerbaijan, whose position is weak. If Armenia has not changed its position contradicting international norms, and the Azerbaijani side has lost its head for the proposals regarding settlement of the conflict, then the Armenians' position carries more weight. There is no point in holding talks in such conditions, but the time does not work in Azerbaijan's favor.

The attacks on the independent press is the main topic of today's newspapers. Dunya Sakit writes in "Yeni Musavat" that the government exaggerates the fact that some newspapers' receive grants from foreign organizations and tries to discredit some newspapers. The author recalls that grants are not prohibited in the Law on Grants adopted by the Azerbaijani parliament, and because of this, newspapers should not be criticized simpy because they receive such grants. Government structures also get grants in Azerbaijan and Heydar Aliyev should also interrogate his officials about this.

Azerbaijan's former president Ayaz Mutallibov in an interview with the newspaper "Zerkalo" notes that if the opposition holds a joint action of protest, his party will also participate in order to demonstrate solidarity with society. According to Mutallibov, the past years' experience has shown that the opposition will not be able to fight against the government until it unites. Referring to Musavat leader Isa Gambar's recent talks for the opposition's unification, Mutallibov said that Gambar suggested conducting long-term work to hold protest actions in order to influence major political processes. The former president says that if inter-opposition relationships are not regulated, it will be difficult to embark on such broad cooperation.

Rasim Bayramov writes in the newspaper "Hurriyyet" that a new danger has appeared for the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline and Russia is behind this danger, which became clear during the Russian Prime Minister Khristenko's visit to Baku. A while ago, Russian major oil company Lukoil's leadership declared after meeting the Russian president that the company will not join funding the Baki-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Before meeting Putin, the company had different position. The author writes that the Novorossiisk route carries great significance for Russia from an economic and political standpoint.

(Compiled and translated by Arifa Alieva)