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Will the arrested minister become new leader of opposition? Azerbaijani press digest

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The parliamentary elections are over, over are the articles and reports on them, but what Azerbaijan is not over with is surely its orientation political-sexual. On the one hand are still those “domineering,” on the other the huge “harem of those passive,” says Zerkalo commenting on the post-electoral political situation in Azerbaijan.

“The parliamentary elections have been a flop again a real cropper. The point is even not the scale of the fraud.

The opposition in its present format was fully exhausted both physically and morally as long as three years ago. So, last year too the history was written by the victors. And so, good has won. Like always since 1993 They often say the opposition has not found itself yet. But, pardon, how long can one look for oneself? One cannot find oneself one can only make oneself. That's exactly what they in opposition cannot.

No problem either. The problem is that the voters have long put up with this. It is all the same for them. They will take anything any fraud, any extremes. Just anything! People have long turned numb to anything.

”A new political party may shortly be formed in Azerbaijan, to be, noteworthily, led by the presently arrested ex economic development minister Farhad Aliyev," reports Day.az. But Farhad Aliyev is reported to have not yet said a firm yes to his leadership of the party. The party is forecast to be far from radicalism and to be in constructive opposition to the present authorities. “The age of radicalism is over, now is the age of pragmatism and constructiveness. The new political party, if Farhad Aliyev agrees to lead it, will become the strongest opposition in the country, with its basis being European democracy,” says Day.az.

The international committee for the protection of the rights of Farhad Aliyev has urged the world community to support justice in the case of the ex economic development minister, arrested Oct 19 2005. But what TURAN received turned out to be a strongly political urge, with the key stress being on the fact that Aliyev was arrested on “a framed-up charge of complicity in the plotting of a coup d'etat.” Then the committee dwells on the services of the ex minister. As it turns out, it was due to Aliyev's activity, pragmatism and insight as economic development minister that the Azeri economy has revived and the GDP has begun to grow 20% a year.

Aliyev is reported to have played a leading role in the fulfillment of the economic strategy, a document drafted with the involvement of World Bank, IMF, EBRD, Asian Development Bank and UNDP. Aliyev has greatly contributed to the improvement of the business climate, the growth of investments, some 300,000 jobs have been created, poverty has been reduced, the oil sector has begun to develop. The committee, but, in fact, Aliyev himself, especially notes his warm relations with the international financial structures, primarily, those in the West.

Then Aliyev comes in with his view of the internal political situation to openly say, for the first time, that he has nothing to do with the president's policy. He makes it clear that the arrest of the leading reformer of the Azeri government before the parliamentary elections had a hidden political motive. It turns out that his ministerial activities posed a threat to corruption and clan system in the economy. The anti-monopoly campaign launched by the Economic Development Ministry with the help of the world's leading financial institutions dealt a blow on the positions of certain groups in the political and business leadership of the country. Aliyev stood seriously out from among his colleagues for his commitment to the liberal and democratic values, which gained him authority in Azerbaijan and abroad, first of all, in Europe and the US.

Meanwhile, the pro-Russian conservative elements in the Azeri government have always defied liberal-democratic reforms and feared pro-Western voices close to the president. Those forces might well have had a very direct role in Aliyev's arrest. No doubt, he has become a victim to pre-electoral political intrigues. Aliyev opines that the political situation in Azerbaijan remains very complicated, the authorities use force against their opponents and strongly restrict the freedom of speech and assembly.

Zerkalo says: A new party or, perhaps, a political movement may well be formed on the basis of the existing committee defending the rights of the Aliyev brothers. The above address has, in fact, promulgated the program goals of the future party: fight with corruption, clans, monopolies in both economy and politics, and also with the pro-Russian policy, especially as there are almost no openly pro-Western or pro-American bright figures in the president's entourage. That is, there will be a need in a figure like Farhad Aliyev. There is only one problem. Will the ex minister have enough charisma to stand in the vanguard of the opposition?

If need be, Turkey will follow the international peacekeeping mandate and send its peacekeepers to Nagorno Karabakh, says Turkish Ambassador to Azerbaijan Turan Morali. He says that it is not known yet under the mandate of what international organization they will act. The relevant work will take quite a while, says Morali. (525th Daily)

Morali also speaks about the construction of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. He says that the laying of the Turkish section is being delayed, but no fines will be imposed on the contractor company. Morali says that the official opening of the Turkish section is scheduled for late Mar early Apr 2006. (525th Daily)

“Relations with Russia ‘have always been a key foreign political priority’ for Azerbaijan. I would call them strategic partnership,” Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov says in an interview to Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Russia). “We have much in common common history and traditions, cultural and human commonality, let alone economic and security cooperation,” says Mamedyarov. He notes that “our relations with Russia could be qualified differently at different stages of our common post-Soviet development we have had certain difficulties, which we overcome by joint efforts, but I would never call them formal.” Mamedyarov notes that “the meetings of the presidents in Feb, May, June and Aug show that Azeri-Russian relations are developing progressively. The presidents are kind of setting the pace for us to keep.”

The state frontier service of Azerbaijan does not comment on what harm the US-deployed mobile radar stations in Xizi and Astara may have to human health, says Mediaforum. The director of the Independent Center for Ecological Studies Eldaniz Yusibov has urged Azeri citizens to prevent the activities of the US stations in Azerbaijan. He says that the stations are of no special importance for Azerbaijan, but are simply to serve the economic interests of America. “In exchange, people in the regions are facing an ecological disaster.”

To prove his words Yusibov reports the growing incidence of cancer (9 times), nervous problems (14), endocrine problems (17), kidney problems (13), cardio-vascular problems (6.7) in Gabala and nearby Agdash, Goychay, Ujar, Ismaili, Zardab and Kurdamir as a result of the Gabala Radar Station, installed in the Soviet times to operate to date. The number of children with congenital defects has grown 16-19 times.

Yusibov says that in the areas under Gabala's direct impact mortality is very high, birth rate is low, sterility is growing in fact, the local population is suffering from an ecological genocide. Noting the station's hazard for the flora and fauna and the agriculture of the region, Yusibov says that the US stations are no less hazardous. The stations in Xizi and Astara can lose Azerbaijan several regions as healthy zones, concludes Yusibov.

Leyla Aliyev, the elder daughter of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, will shortly get engaged to Emin Agalarov, the son of the big Moscow businessman Araz Agalarov, reports TURAN, with reference to a reliable source. 25-year-old Emin Agalarov is the commercial director of his father company “Crocus International.” He has got his education in Switzerland and the US and is known in Moscow as an habitue of high society parties and presentations. Araz Agalarov has no serious business in Azerbaijan, but he has already said that he would want to open a world-class recreation zone on the Caspian coast. This idea may now well get an additional impulse. As regards Emin Agalarov, let's hope that the marriage to the daughter of the Azeri president will not be the biggest accomplishment in his life, says TURAN.

Azerbaijan-Armenia. Karabakh problem

Jan 10 French President Jacques Chirac delivered a New Year speech to the foreign ambassadors in France. He said that Paris will do its best for 2006 to become “a year of peace” in the Caucasus. “France is friend to Armenia, just like it is friend to Azerbaijan,” says Chirac. He believes that “today the Karabakh conflict settlement is very close.” (Novoye Vremya)

PACE Ad Hoc Commission on Karabakh met in Strasbourg Jan 9. The chairman of the committee Lord Russell-Johnston reported on the OSCE Minsk Group's activities to settle the Karabakh conflict in 2005, reports 525th Daily.

The head of the Azeri delegation to PACE Samed Seidov says that Russell-Johnston's report reflected issues that are important for Azerbaijan, including “all the key provisions reflected in PACE Resolution on Nagorno Karabakh: the occupation of Azeri territories, ethnic cleansing, the problems of refugees and illegal settlements.” “This is certainly important for us,” says Seidov. The report also searches for ways to resolve the Karabakh conflict by peace, with an emphasis on the analysis of the positive experience of world autonomies."

“This proves that PACE is considering only scenarios that comply with the international law,” says Seidov. He says that the Azeri side is satisfied with the report. He notes that the Armenian delegates tried to make changes to it, especially to the paragraphs on possible settlement scenarios." “They insisted that the report should also consider a scenario based on the self-determination principle, but the committee was deaf and mute to their emotional outburst,” says Seidov. He notes that Russell-Johnston's reports will be included in the CE Progress Report.

The Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group Yuri Merzlyakov says that “it is early yet to speak about peacekeeping in Karabakh.” He says that “the sides have not yet agreed on the key principles of the settlement, and so, it is early to speak about peacekeeping.” (525th Daily)

The Karabakh conflict can be resolved by the provision of the highest possible autonomy to the Armenian and Azeri communities of the region, says the head of the Azeri delegation to PACE Samed Seidov. Commenting on the last meeting of PACE Ad Hoc Committee on Karabakh, he says that the autonomy can be given only if Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is preserved. Such is the stance of the Azeri delegation at the committee. (Trend)

“A principled agreement on the Karabakh conflict settlement may be reached during the Feb meeting of the Azeri and Armenian presidents, to be implemented later, within a year,” says OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Belgian FM Karel de Gucht. Radio Liberty reports him as noting that “for the first time in many years there are signs that Armenia and Azerbaijan may settle the Karabakh conflict.” De Gucht sees a “window” of opportunity in the issue now that Azerbaijan is over with parliamentary elections and Armenia with constitutional referendum. “In the politics such windows of opportunities are important and we have got signals from several capitals that there might be a chance for resolving the problem,” says De Gucht.

Meanwhile, the head of the foreign relations department of the Azeri presidential administration Novruz Mamedov says in an interview to ATV that the deployment of peacekeeping forces in the zone of the Armenian-Azeri conflict is possible only after the conclusion of an agreement on the key principles of the conflict settlement. The peacekeepers should be deployed on the Armenian-Azeri borders mostly, but they may also be stationed between Armenian and Azeri villages in Karabakh to prevent possible conflicts.

UK Foreign Ministry is informed of Azerbaijan's position on the reportedly destroyed Armenian monuments in Nakhichevan, says the head of the press and information policy department of the Azeri FM Tair Tagizade. Azeri Press reports him as saying that the FM is in constant touch with the UK Embassy to Azerbaijan. To remind, the “pro-Armenian” member of the UK House of Lords, Baroness Caroline Cox has requested the House to express its stance on the alleged destruction of Armenian historical monuments in Nakhichevan. The UK Embassy in Azerbaijan reports Ambassador Laurie Bristow to say that the House will not discuss the request of Baroness Cox, of which she will be informed by relevant FM executives. Bristow also says that though being in the House, Baroness Cox does not represent the Government and “her thoughts are of personal nature.”

Azeri Ambassador to the US Khafiz Pashayev has given a written response to the malevolence of the co-chairs of the US Congress Armenian Caucus Joe Knollenberg and Frank Pallone towards Azerbaijan, reports AzerTag. In Dec 2005 the congressmen spread a letter alleging that the Azeri government was destroying grave-stones (khachqars) at a medieval Armenian cemetery in Julfa, Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan. They referred to some videos made by Armenians. Pashayev regrets that the congressmen referred to the sources without checking them up. He says that the videos show some unknown people destroying some mid-size stones. No crosses are seen on the stones, and it is not clear of what nationality those people are.

“With such true videos on hand one can charge anyone,” says Pashayev. He notes that the Azeri Defense Ministry has officially denied the charges. He says that Azerbaijan is a society based on a rich historical legacy. “Some 30,000 Armenians live in Azerbaijan at present. Our country gives high importance to the protection of thousands of historical, cultural and architectural monuments, while Armenia has made it a state policy to destroy the historical and cultural monuments in the occupied Azeri territories. The OSCE mission inquiring into the illegal settlement of Armenians in the Azeri lands has also confirmed this,” says Pashayev.

He says that it is not the first time the Armenian side is making groundless charges in an attempt to turn attention from the bloodshed over the “occupied” territories of Azerbaijan. Pashayev says that he shares the concern of the congressmen for the protection of historical and cultural legacy and hopes that the facts of “destructive barbarianism of the Armenians” he is sending to the Congress will interest them. Pashayev specifies some of the facts.

The Armenians' continuous policy to destroy Azeri historical and cultural monuments has led to the destruction of 1,587 mosques and 23 medreses, 830 mosques and 1.394 medreses in Zangezur and Echmiadzin regions, over 500 Azeri cemeteries in Armenia have been destroyed or turned into depots or basements. The history museum of Kelbajar (an Azeri region “occupied” by Armenian armed forces) and all its pieces, the history museums of Shushi and Agdam, the museum of stone monuments in Zangezur all has been destroyed. As a result of “the Armenian atrocities” in Khojali, destroyed was a historical monument of the Bronze Age, valuable books and manuscripts have been stolen. 969 libraries, 85 childrens music schools, 4 theaters, 4 art galleries, 2 concert halls, 1,852 centers of culture and arts have been destroyed, Pashayev says and is waiting for the congressmen to respond.

Jane's Information Group experts say that the Azeri authorities have given final approval to the idea to hold a referendum in Karabakh to determine its final status, while Armenia is tending to agree to the phased settlement scenario, envisaging withdrawal of troops from the territories around Karabakh. As far as the experts know, until recently Baku has been against referendum in Karabakh. They say that international peacekeepers will be deployed in the conflict zone to ensure the safety of the civil population. The experts stress that the peace agreement will require big concessions, and the two governments will have not only to overcome their own doubts, but also to shape the public opinion into “a focus on gains rather than losses.”

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