Weekly political review

Official news

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev received the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, William Ramsey. The meeting focused on global energy projects implemented in the region at Azerbaijan's initiative, some aspects of energy security in the Caspian basin and the role in energy cooperation.

The Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, issued decree to build the therapeutic clinic at the Azerbaijani Medical University on 11 September. Some AZN 2mln was allocated for construction of the clinic. The further financing of the construction will be provided by the funds of the State Budget

On September 12, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev received at the Presidential Palace the delegation of the European Union led by Co-Chair of the organization's Inter-parliamentary Committee on Cooperation with South Caucasus Ms. Marie Anne Isler Beguin, according to Azerbaijani President's Administration.

The President and the members of the delegation exchanged views on the Azerbaijan-European Union relations and various aspects of inter-parliamentary cooperation

On September 12, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev also received at the Presidential Palace the delegation of the Iran-Azerbaijan Friendship Group led by its Chairman Ahad Gazai.

Mr. Gazai noted the Iran-Azerbaijan Friendship Group operating within the Iranian parliament makes a considerable contribution to deepening the two countries' inter-parliamentary cooperation. President Ilham Aliyev characterized the Azerbaijan-Iran relations as developing very successfully. He stressed the importance of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Azerbaijan in terms of further expansion of bilateral relations. The Azerbaijani leader expressed hope that this visit by members of the Iran-Azerbaijan friendship group will serve deepening of the two countries' inter-parliamentary ties.

Azerbaijani Presdent Ilham Aliyev paid an official visit to Lithuania on 13 September. The Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, and Lithuanian President, Valdas Adamkus had a tet-a-tet meeting. Later a large-scale meeting including the representatives of both countries' governments took place. The sides signed a range of agreements.

A business forum to include Azerbaijani and Lithuanian Presidents and the entrepreneurs of the both countries was held on 13 September.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visiting Vilnius appreciated Lithuania's progress in integration to Europe and noted that he saw what Azerbaijan can learn from Lithuania," according to BNS.

"Your country, as well as our country, was a part of a unified state. However, your achievements in NATO and European Union show that we should follow your example," President Aliyev said on 13 September after his meeting with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus.

Oil production in Azerbaijan enables discussion of new projects, including oil pipelines to the regions of the Black and Baltic Seas, Azerbaijani President noted. According to Aliyev, new markets interest Azerbaijan and the opportunities are favourable for new projects.

According to President Adamkus, Lithuania has already achieved the level enabling it to join international energy network

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited Klaipeda on the second day of his official visit to Lithuania. The President visited the State Sea Port and became familiar with its infrastructure and opportunities. Then the President visited an oil-refinery of Klaipedos Nafta.

Official Lithuania repeatedly stated it was considering the possibility of purchasing Azerbaijani oil products for further sale in its own market. Moreover, Lithuania was considering the opportunity of purchasing raw oil and refining it in Azerbaijan's oil refining plants.

The Azerbaijani President's visit to Lithuania will end in the second half of the day. A short briefing between the Azerbaijani and Lithuanian Presidents is expected to take place in Klaipeda before Aliyev departs.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev supported an initiative in the application of schools uniforms in the country. The head of state made this statement in the opening ceremony of secondary school #322 in Azizbayov district of Azerbaijan on 15 September.

"The application of school uniforms is a right step," the President said. It will remove the inequality among school children with consideration of their parents' financial opportunities.

The President said that over the past 4 years public budget expenses for the development of education rose by 3.3 times to approximately AZN 900mln. He noted that over the past 4 years 1,200 new schools have been constructed in the country and it is a historical achievement.

At present 4,500 schools function Azerbaijan and there is necessity for the construction of around 1,000 schools

"Schools will be provided with necessary infrastructure and heating system so that the hild4en could receive education in winter period," Aliyev stressed. All problems related to education will be resolved in 2008-2013. These are the construction of schools, repair, provision of necessary equipment and new quality of education.

Aliyev said Azerbaijan occupies a leading place for the level of education in Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries.

President said that AZN 4mln has been allocated out of his reserve fund for repair of schools in emergency situation. Aliyev said that in 2008 it is planned to increase salaries of teachers, along with state employees.

The President also participated in the opening ceremony of secondary school 218 at Bina village.

Parliament

Discussion regarding the draft concerning additions and supplements in the bill on 'Social board allowances' caused dissatisfaction among MP was held during the meeting of the socio-political commission of the Azerbaijan Parliament.

In compliance with the new bill the children who have rights for social allowances will receive it within three years.

However, in compliance with the current bill children who have right for social allowances will receive it at once.

MP Musa Guliyev, the deputy chairman of the Socio-Political Commission of the Parliament, said that such changes in the bill are a serious violation of human rights.

MPs are against submission of the draft concerning changes for discussions

Azerbaijani permanent parliamentary commission on social policy developed two draft laws to be considered during the autumn session of the parliament, the chairman of the commission, MP Hadi Rajabli, reported.

The commission developed a project envisaging amendments and supplements to the Family and Labour Codes. Amendments and supplements are planned to be made in the Law on Social Insurance and the Law on NGOs, he said.

The permanent parliamentary commission is working over the draft laws on Social Order, on Ceremonies, on Unification of Employers, on Social Protection of Families with Many Children, on Social Mortgage, and on Social Service. They will be put for discussion during the autumn session of the parliament.

The working plan of the autumn session was approved at the meeting of the permanent commission on social policy on 12 September.

Foreign Policy

The election commission began working in the Ukrainian Embassy in Azerbaijan due to the upcoming special elections to the Supreme Rada (Ukrainian Parliament), the Ukrainian Embassy in Azerbaijan reported.

"Ukrainians residing in Azerbaijan may vote in the Ukrainian Embassy in Azerbaijan during the special elections to the Supreme Rada (Ukrainian Parliament).

Voters should submit one of the following documents, passport, foreign passport, diplomatic or service passport and sailor certification.

The Ukrainian Embassy informed that Ukrainians who are not registered in the consular service but wishing to take part at the elections should submit a written letter to include them into the list of voters by 22 September.

Azerbaijan is eager to expand its peacekeeping contingent in Afghanistan through dispatching another division of 22 soldiers of the Azerbaijan National Army, Khazar Ibrahim, the spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, said on 12 September.

This issue was on focus during the talks between Muhammad Kebir Ferahi, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, within the framework of his current working visit to Baku. Ibrahim said that on 13 September he will have a meeting with Khalaf Khalafov, the Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister.

NATO came out with an initiative on expansion of its contingent in Afghanistan. This initiative arose due to necessity of increasing the number of peacekeepers from foreign countries in Afghanistan.

The term of delivery of military is yet to be defined. Ibrahim also noted that Azerbaijani contingent has been in Afghanistan since 2001. Moreover, an Azerbaijani peacekeeping contingent of 150 soldiers and one officer is serving in Iraq. Azerbaijani peacekeepers guard water reservoir Hadifa in Alambar District of Iraq.

Azerbaijan's Gabala radar station (RS) will not become US's missile shield element in case it is agreed to be used jointly by Russia and US, the first deputy head of the Russian Space Forces staff, Major-General Alexander Yakushin, said to journalists on 15 September.

"The core of our proposal is no to become US's missile shield element, but to suspend US's work on placement of its anti-missile defence system in Europe to hold a full-scale and complex estimation of the threats coming from south and to undertake measures on counteraction to possible threats. We intend to use Gabala RS exclusively in international interests," Yakushin said. Russian side understands organization of anti-missile defence by other countries, but does not agree with the actions threatening its national security, RBK quotes.

Russian-US consultations on placement of missile shield elements and on joint use of Gabala RS in Azerbaijan will take place in Baku on 18 September 2007.

Within the framework of the G-8 summit on 7 June 2007, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, offered US joint exploitation of Gabala Radar Station. He noted the advantage of deployment of Anti-Missile Defence (AMD) elements in Azerbaijan rather in Poland and the Czech Republic. Putin indicated that Gabala Radar Station will enable detection and crack down on rival missiles in the first section of boost trajectory. The remains of the missiles will fall not on European cities but into the sea, which is of great importance, Putin stressed. Later Russian Foreign Ministry stressed that Putin's offer did not imply Iran has nuclear weapons.

Gabala Radar Station situated in the north-west of Azerbaijan was built while the USSR as an important element of the USSR AMD. The 10-year agreement on leasing of the station was signed in 2002. Annual rent charges make up $14mln.

Political Movements

The Chairman of the Azerbaijan Liberal-Democratic Party (ALDP), Valeh Ibadov, was released from prison, the Chairman of the committee on Ibadov's rights protection, the Chairman of the Azad Azerbaijan Party, Hasan Hasanov, reported in Baku on 10 September.

Ibadov was arrested on 6 August 2007 for not paying off his debt to MKT enterprise. He had borrowed funds from the enterprise for his small business in Azerbaijan's Bilasuvar region in 1998. He was sentenced to two months imprisonment at Bail Investigation Cell 1. Ibadov was released after paying off part of the debt to MKT, Hasanov said. The committee on protection of Ibadov's rights stopped its activities.

ALDP, a member of the 'Our Azerbaijan' bloc, was established in 1999.

The Karabakh Liberation Organization (KLO) is calling the Azerbaijanis not to allow the Armenian wrestlers to visit Baku.

Azerbaijani coaches, wrestlers and referees should refuse to participate in the championship, the KLO said on 10 September. The Armenian wrestlers will participate in the championship, which will be held in Baku from 17 to 23 September.

"We will make every effort to prevent the Armenians from participating in this championship," the statement said. The KLO related the decision to allow Armenians to visit to Baku as 'dirty plans'. "Azerbaijani sportsmen, especially the wrestlers, should not allow Armenian sportsmen to participate in this championship and this shameful event to appear in the country's sports history," the KLO urged

Azerbaijani National Independent Party (ANIP) appealed to the Baku Executive Administration due to sanction the next rally with socio-economic demands, Ali Orujev, the secretary of the party on agitation and press issues, said to the Trend Agency.

Police hindered the unsanctioned rally by ANIP's members due to increase in prices in front of the Cabinet of Ministers on 7 September.

ANIP appealed to the Baku Executive4 Administration due to sanction the rally, which is planned to hold in the Fizuli avenue on 20 September at 13:00.

The Baku Executive Administration responded that no rallies may be held in about 300 metre from the state facilities.

ANIP was founded in 1992 and was the first party officially received registration in Azerbaijan. Etibar Mammadov was founder of the party and the chairman by 2004. Presently, Mammadov is the deputy chairman of the International Democratic Community.

The Consultative Council uniting 6 Azerbaijani opposition parties will establish the election bloc by the end of 2007, Chingiz Damiroglu, the Chairman of the 'Tereggi' Party, said.

The heads of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani National Independent Party, Musavat, and Social Democratic Party regularly meet up and hold consultations. The aim of the Consultative Council is to participate in the forthcoming presidential elections in Azerbaijan in 2008.

The abovementioned parties are planning to conclude an agreement on cooperation in which the election bloc will be formed. Later the bloc will sign an agreement with the Union for Independence.

"The bloc will be unique. We may nominate one or several candidates for the presidential post. The main issue is unity of purpose amongst the opposition parties," the chairman of Tereggi said.

The Council unites the Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Araz Alizadeh, the Chairman of ANIP, Ayaz Rustamov, the Chairman of Tereggi, Chingiz Damiroglu, the Head of Musavat, Isa Gambar, the Chairman of DPA, Sardar Jalaloglu and the Head of the Forum for Azerbaijan, Eldar Namazov.

Unless the Azerbaijani opposition Parties unite in the forthcoming presidential elections in 2008, it will have nothing to offer to the nation, Ayaz Rustamov, the chairman of the Azerbaijan National Independence (ANIP), said in talks with Trend on 12 September.

Prior to the elections, the heads of ANIP, the Democratic Party, Musavat, Social-Democratic Party, Tereggi and Forum for Azerbaijan have held meetings periodically. During the meeting held on 12 September the Consultative Council of these political parties discussed a range of issues concerning the participation of the 2008 presidential elections. The key objective of the Consultative Council is to participate in the presidential elections and the council is adapted to form an appropriate organization prior to the elections.

The concrete unity of the opposition is the order of the current situation. However, some opposition parties are striving to be alienated. Stating 'I have a bloc' does not resolve any issue," the party chairman said hinting at Azadlyg.

Until the formation of the Consultative Council, a proposal on unification was made to several political parties, including Azadlyg bloc.

The ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP) supports the participation of all opposition leaders in the presidential elections. They are favorable elections for holding free and democratic elections from the political and legislative aspects, Mubariz Gurbanly, the Deputy Executive Secretary of NAP, told Trend.

"Unless a leader from the opposition does not join the elections, it means he does not believe in its success," Gurbanly said.

Ilham Aliyev, the current President of Azerbaijan, is NAP's candidate in the next presidential elections to be held on 15 October 2008.

Some opposition leaders, including member parties of Azadlyg bloc, stated that they will boycott the elections in case the elections atmosphere is not changed. One of the requirements of the bloc is the reformation of the election commission.

Gurbanly said that the opposition leaders are insuring themselves in advance with the supposition of their loss.

Khatai District Court of Baku City did not satisfy the lawsuit of the Azerbaijani Azadlig Party brought against the State Committee on State Property Management of Azerbaijan. The State Committee did not allocate headquarters to the party, Ahmad Oruj, the chairman of the party, said to the Trend Agency.

The opposition party appealed to the State Committee for several times. The party brought an action against the chairman of the party, Karim Hasanov.

The Judge of Khatai District Court, Bahram Shukurov, did not satisfy the lawsuit of the party.

The chairman of the party intends to appeal to the Court Council against the decision of the court.

Nagorno-Karabakh

On 10 and 11 September, the Armenian Armed Forces violated the ceasefire agreement in Kuropatkino of Khojavand District and the unnamed heights of Agdam and Fizuli Districts of Azerbaijan and fired at the Azerbaijani National Army using machine and sub-machine guns

The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported

Armenian Military divisions violated cease fire regime on 11 and 12 September. In 11 September beginning form 20:45 to 21:10 the Armenian Military divisions fired the Azerbaijani Armed Forces from posts dislocated in the north-west part of Garakhanbayli village of Fizuli region of Azerbaijan, as well as from Khojavand region of Azerbaijan on 12 September from 20:30 to 01:18, the press-service of the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry reported.

Fire was silenced in return.

Armenian Armed Forces again committed arsons in the occupied Azerbaijani territories of Aghdam region tonight on 15 September approximately at 02:00.

According to the residents of the bordering villages, the arsons mainly covered dry grass pastures with the area of 100h occupied village of Paradis and Imamdersi village of Fizuli District. The strong wind spread fire to the mountains. Smoke was observed in the region.

The Armenian Armed Forces commenced anew military exercises in the occupied territory of Agdam District of Azerbaijan on 14 September at 10:30am.

The military exercises which lasted two hours were mainly held in the Uzundere place of Agdam District, Trend's regional correspondent reports. Along with light and heavy armored machines, the Armenian military also used their air force.

The Co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group visited the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict region on 14 September. The co-chairmen's visit will be completed by 19 September, The Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh of the Russian Foreign Ministry reported by telephone from Moscow on 13 September.

The co-chairmen's visit will begin from Yerevan. The delegation is planning to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh on 16 September and return to Baku on 18 September.

The delegation includes all the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group, as well as the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Andrzej Kasprzyk

Armenia placed a good part of the unregistered military arsenal in the occupied Azerbaijani territory, Azerbaijani Defence Minister, Colonel-General Safar Abiyev, said at the meeting with the delegation headed by the Co-Chair of the EU Inter-parliamentary Committee on Cooperation with South Caucasus Ms. Marie Anne Isler Beguin on 13 September.

" Armenia continues its aggressive and occupational policy against Azerbaijan and that increases tension in the region. Armenia has violated the requirements stipulated in the Agreement on Conventional Military Forces in Europe and purchased more weapons and ammunition than it was envisaged. International organizations, including the European Union, should openly state their positions with regard to this issue," Abiyev said.

The conflict between the two countries of South Caucasus began in 1988 due to territorial claims by Armenia against Azerbaijan. Armenia has occupied 20% of the Azerbaijani land including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its seven surrounding Districts. Since 1992, these territories have been under the occupation of the Armenian Forces. In 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement at which time the active hostilities ended. The Co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group ( Russia, France and USA) are currently holding peaceful negotiations.

According to the Defence Minister, Azerbaijan could take force measures to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. "We prefer to settle the conflict in a peaceful way but our patience is not eternal. Azerbaijan can guarantee its territorial integrity both politically and military," he said.

Ms Marie Anne Isler Beguin said she had been informed of the relationships between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the threats to Azerbaijan from the neighbouring country .

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