Weekly political review

Official news

The Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, signed an order on 17 September to award cultural employees with honorary titles for their contribution to the development of Azerbaijani culture.

Roza Jalilova and Zamig Aliyev were awarded with 'Public Artist' title. In addition, 11 people were awarded with 'Honoured Arts Worker of Azerbaijan Republic', 23 people with 'Honoured Artist', and 4 with 'Honoured Culture Worker of Azerbaijan Republic'.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has signed an executive order awarding a presidential grant to a group of students who entered Azerbaijan's higher educational institutions by achieving best results at the entrance exams. 100 students were awarded scholarships

On 17 September, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev , issued an Executive Order conferring the Order of Glory (Shohrat) upon the President of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, Raphael Martinetti, for his contribution to the development of wrestling in Azerbaijan and expanding international relations. Touching upon the conduct of the wrestling championship in Baku, the President highlighted its contribution to the sport in Azerbaijan and the expansion of the international relations in this sphere.

The President spoke of the high rate of development within the sport infrastructure in Azerbaijan and the construction of modern sport complexes in the Country.

Raphael Martinetti said that the championship has been organized at top level and expressed his gratitude to the President for his assistance in organizing the championship. He especially highlighted the attention paid to the sport in Azerbaijan.

Martinetti said that it was an honor for him to receive the award.

Azerbaijani Presidentm, Ilham Aliyev, is attended the foundation laying ceremony of an educational-therapeutic clinic in Baku.

The Emergency Services system of Baku will be improved in the near future, Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, said at the foundation laying ceremony of an educational-therapeutic clinic in Baku on 18 September. According to the President, 150 ambulances will be purchased, and an operative communication system including all the necessary medicals will be provided to the public.

Regarding the construction of a new building, Ilham Aliyev noted that AZN 3mln had been allocated from the President's Reserve Fund for the preliminary construction. The Baku Oncology Centre will open next year, and a new building at the Traumatology Institute will be put into exploitation by the end of the year, he said. Funds for the construction of the Centre for Kidney Transplantation at the Urological Hospital will be allotted and the Urological Hospital building will be reconstructed in the near future.

On 18 September the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Ambassadors Bernard Fassier of France, Matthew Bryza of the USA and Yury Merzlyakov of Russia - as well as Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk of Poland.

They discussed the current peace talks regarding the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev issued a Decree on bestowal of honorary titles upon a group of men of culture, education, and health in the city of Ganja, for their contribution to the development of cultural, educational, and health activity. On 20 September, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan received the delegation of the Italian parliament led by its Chair of its Foreign Affairs Commission, Umberto Ranieri.

The President characterized the Azerbaijan-Italy relations as successfully developing in all fields. He said the annual increasing trade between the two countries is a positive sign.

The Azerbaijani leader pointed out the importance of inter-parliamentary cooperation, expressing confidence that the visit by members of the Italian parliament will contribute to the deepening of the bilateral relations.The head of the Italian delegation called his country a number one trade partner to Azerbaijan. He said there were great opportunities to develop the bilateral cooperation not only in energy but also in economic, cultural, and other areas. Umberto Ranieri highly praised the Azerbaijani President's efforts towards ensuring sustainable democratic development and the noticeable economic growth in the country

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed a decree on establishment of a contemporary center for transplantation of kidney under the Republic Clinic Urology Hospital and provide it with diagnostic equipment.

AZN 6mln will be allocated to the Ministry of Health from the Reserve Fund of the President for the repair work in the hospital.

Financing the concluding stage of the repair work and providing the center with equipment will be carried out through the State budget of the next years.

Parliament

The ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP) has worked out a bill on changes and supplements to the Law on Conscription, MP Siyavish Novruzov, the author of the bill, and NAP deputy executive secretary, told Trend on 17 September.

"This will be discussed at the autumn session of the Milli Majlis," Novruzov stressed.

The law on Conscription was adopted in 1992. The last changes were injected into it at the spring session of Parliament. In accordance with the last changes and supplements, citizens who are caring for 2nd category disabled persons and those who had two children were called up for military service.

Students holding a Batchelor of Science degree and preparing for their Master of Science degree have been absolved from military service.

Novruzov said that the draft law also includes issues relating to the transition of the Azerbaijani Army to NATO standards, and releasing from military service those citizens who have two children.

The Azerbaijan military doctrine has been prepared and will be submitted to the autumn session of Parliament for discussion, Ziyafat Asgarov, the First Deputy Chairman of the Mili Majlis [Azerbaijan Parliament], also head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the NATO PA, reported at a meeting led by Chetin Kazak, Chairman of the Sub-Committee of the NATO PA on Democratic Governance.

According to Asgarov, the military doctrine does not envisage attacks by Azerbaijan on any country, but plans to strengthen Azerbaijan's power. "In addition, this document empowers Azerbaijan to regain its occupied territory," Asgarov stressed. He said that the unsettlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict hinders positive changes.

The visit of the Sub-Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Committee delegation to Azerbaijan began on 19 September during which time they will hold meetings at the Interior Ministry, the Security Ministry and Milli Majis. NATO delegations plan to study and become familiar with the political, economic, military and human rights situation. Results of the visit will be included in a report.

Foreign policy

Georgian Foreign Minster, Gela Bezhuashvili, received Azerbaijani Defence Minister, Safar Abiyev. According to Georgian Foreign Ministry, the meeting was held beyond closed doors.

The parties discussed military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Georgia, as well as regional security, according to Caucasus-Press. The Foreign Ministry did not report on the details of the meeting.

Abiyev met behind closed doors with the Georgian President on 18 September.

The Azerbaijani Defence Minister left for Senaki ( West Georgia) to visit a recently-constructed military base which corresponds with NATO standards.

Last week was remembers as a week rich with events on Gabala radar staion. "Based on our recent bilateral discussions on a missile defense system with Russia in Washington and Paris, we believe that there is possibility to cooperate to prevent the existing and growing threats of ballistic missiles," said the Deputy Director of the US Missile Defense Ministry, Brigadier General, Patrick O'Reilly in a briefing as a result of a visit of US, Russian and Azerbaijani experts to Gabala Radar Station in Azerbaijan.

According to him, the visit is aimed at becoming familiarized with the possibilities of the station in order to fully understand the proposal of the Russian side regarding the joint use of the station. "We will appreciate the possibility provided to us and are optimistic that we can find ways for cooperation on a missile defense system. It is a technical visit and provided an opportunity for our experts to inspect the station and collect information on its potential," the General said adding that official talks were not held during the visit. According to him, the visit aims to collect information. The information will be used during the next meeting of US-Russian experts in October.

"The USA will make close consultations with the Government of Azerbaijan on each progress regarding this proposal," he said.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, said time was necessary for the experts of Russia, the US, and Azerbaijan to come to certain conclusions on the joint use of the Gabala Radar Station. Presently, the parties have obtained more detailed information about the station.

Experts from Russia, the US and Azerbaijan will become familiar with the technical capacity of Gabala Radar Station for joint use.

The decision to hold trilateral consultations was made within the framework of the G-8 summit on 7 June 2007, when the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, offered the US joint-operation of the Gabala Radar Station. He noted the advantages of deployment of an Anti-Missile Defense (AMD) system in Azerbaijan rather than in Poland or the Czech Republic. Mammadyarov noted than negotiations on trilateral use of the Gabala Radar Station will be continued.

Henry Obering, the head of the Agency on Anti-Missile Defense of the US, said that the radar station in Gabala may be used for observation of missiles launched by Iran but is useless when it comes to exact defining of the core of the missile.

Sergei Kislak, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, said the Gabala Radar Station was not to be additional to US AMD . The proposal by Russia should be considered as an alternative to the US's plans on allocation of its Anti-Missile Defense in Poland and Czech Republic.

The Russian Armed Forces use the Daryal Radar Station situated in the territory of Azerbaijan on the basis of an agreement reached between both countries in 25 January 2002. In compliance with the agreement the station is considered Azerbaijani property. The fee for leasing the station is $7mln per year.

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

The Deputy Chairman of the Azerbaijani Parliament does not exclude the closing of the Gabala Radar Station, the first Deputy Chairman of the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament) and Chairman of the Permanent Parliamentary Commission on Security and Defense Issues, Ziyafat Askarov, said on 21 September.

"The future fate of the Gabala Radar Station is undefined. It may be closed or be jointly used by the US and Russia, as well as Azerbaijan may use it in its own interests," Askarov said.

The American and Russian military experts visited the Gabala Radar Station. The experts submitted the documents concerning their visit to the Ministers and Presidents of their countries. Then experts will decide to visit the territory in October or not. The Azerbaijani Deputy Chairman stated that only after the American visit could he comment on the status of the station. The US and Russian Presidents will make a final decision on the issue in October, Askarov said.

"We cannot say anything regarding which steps Russia would take after the expiration of the station's lease," Askarov noted. The future steps of Azerbaijan will depend on the decision of official Moscow.

Political movements

Two candidates, Rauf Gurbanov and Seydaga Muradov, will fight for the post of the Chairman of the Azerbaijan Communist Party (ACP).

Recently the Chairman of the party, Ramiz Ahmadov, who headed the party since 1993, died. After his death, the party divided into two blocs, supporters of Rauf Gurbanov and those backing Rustam Shahsuvarov. According to Shahsuvarov, the majority in the party requires Gurbanov's dismissal from the party. He said that the members of the party want Seydaga Muradov to head the party.

Shahsuvarov and his supporters accuse Gurbanov of efforts to split the group and provoke a conflict within the party. ACP members consider that Gurbanov has tried to illegally obtain the leadership position of the party.

According to Shahsuvarov, Gurbanov lives in Ganja and only his relatives reside in the city that supports him. Shahsuvarov said that Gurbanov presents himself as the first Deputy Chairman, but there is no such post in the party's Charter. However, Gurbanov himself considers that it is exactly the Charter of the party that empowers him to call himself First Deputy Chairman and this status is recognized by international organizations.

According to him, in the case of the Chairman's absence, his authorities transfer to him the authority of First Deputy Chairman. Shahsuvarov and his supporters claim that there is no such position in the party, Gurbanov said. "They are engaged in provocation and try to prevent the authorities from transferring the Chairmanship to me," he stressed. According to him, he is supported not only by his relatives but also by 95% of party members.

Gurbanov said that he will attend the Plenum of the party on 22 September and will fight for the leadership of the party.

A group of members plans to dismiss him from the party during the Plenum.

It is difficult to unite all opposition parties into one organization due to the conflicts that exist amongst them, the Chairman of Taraggi Party, Chingiz Demiroglu, said to Trend on 17 September.

The Social and Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (SDPA), the Party of National Unity of Azerbaijan (PNUA), the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA), the Musavat and the Taraggi are holding meetings as one consultative organization. Other opposition parties are not included.

According to Demiroglu, such a consultative organization was planned to be established in the past. Bloc Azadlig (the Popular Front of Azerbaijan, the Liberal Party, and the Citizenship and Development Party) was invited to join the consultative organization, but they refused.

The reason why other well-known parties, for instance, the Civil Solidarity Party, were not invited to the organization is because of their loyal position with respect to the authorities, Demiroglu said. "At the same time attitudes towards the opposition parties represented in the parliament is different," Demiroglu said. He noted that the Chairman of the Civil Solidarity Party, Sabir Rustamkhanly, is an MP.

Demiroglu believes the unification of opposition parties is impeded by conflicts amongst the parties.

Azadlig bloc has developed a set of proposals on cooperation between Azerbaijan and EU on carrying out obligations undertaken before the organization. The set of proposals to carry out the EU-Azerbaijan activities plan consisted of 10 priority spheres and only two of the concrete measures were proposed.

An agreement on partnership and cooperation was signed between Azerbaijan and EU in November 2006 within the framework of the European neighbourhood policy-EU-Azerbaijan activities plan. The activities plan developed for five years envisages strategic aims of cooperation between Azerbaijan and EU and the obligations on 10 priority spheres.

Azadlig bloc made 13 proposals on the second priority sphere to strengthen democracy in Azerbaijan through a fair and clear election process. The bloc has 26 proposals on the third priority sphere. Azadlig proposed to introduce a mixed election system, a proportional and majority election system, as well as a change in the Election Code.

The bloc has also made proposals concerning the liberation of arrested Azerbaijani journalists, the allocation of headquarters for political parties, financing the parties through the State budget and many others.

The set of proposals will be submitted to the government and EU.

Over 2,000 Azerbaijanis held a protest action in front of the Parliament in Tbilisi due to the abolition of secondary education in their native language on 18 September, members of Georgia is My Motherland Union reported to Trend Agency on 19 September.

About 200 Azerbaijani schools will gradually be closed in Georgia. Despite there being no official order from the Georgian Government to close Azerbaijani schools functioning in the Territory of the country, Georgian Azerbaijanis stated that their children are being oppressed.

About 500,000 Azerbaijanis reside in Georgia, non-official resources reported.

The participants of the rally criticized Georgian policy. Participants agreed to hold the next rally on 18 October.

Teymuraz Shashiashvili, the chairman of the Go ahead Georgia movement, said that different types of rallies would be held in Georgia every ten days.

The Vahdat Party of Azerbaijan will support the candidate of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, Ilham Aliyev, the chairman of the party, Tair Karimli, said.

The main principle of the party is to support the candidacy from the ruling party, the chairman said.

The presidential elections in Azerbaijan will be held in October 2008. The Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev will be the one candidate from the New Azerbaijan party.

The party will hold a meeting and officially disclose its position after announcing the beginning of the elections. The one election centre should be created to support the candidacy of Ilham Aliyev, Karimli said.

Vahdat presently supports the political course of the authorities

The Leader of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party (ANIP), Etibar Mammadov, has a great chance in the upcoming Presidential elections, said the head of party's Press Department, Ali Orujov.

"ANIP understands the elections as a fundamental principle of democracy. All members of the party will vote for Etibar Mammadov's candidature," he said.

The Chairman of the Democratic Reform Party (DRP) of Azerbaijan, MP Asim Mollazadeh, met with the Italian Parliamentary delegation, headed by the Chairman of the Permanent Foreign Commission of the MP Chamber, Umberto Ranieri, on 21 September.

The main issues for discussion were regarding the relations between Azerbaijan and Italy, prospects of cooperation between the parliaments of both countries, as well as issues on integration of Azerbaijan into Euro-Atlantic space.

Mollazadeh also met with the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Democratic Management of the Committee on Civil Security Committee of the UN Parliamentary Assembly, Chatin Kazak.

Later Mollazadeh met with the head of the US State Department on Caucasian and Regional Conflicts, Paul Woolers. The relevant issues of the discussions became the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, and ways to resolve the conflict.

Nagorno-Karabakh

Azerbaijani citizen, Ashraf Mahabbatoglu Jafarov who was arrested by Armenians was released, Trend Agency's regional correspondent reported on 21 September. The prisoner was transported to the Azerbaijan contact line in Tazakand village of Agdam region of Azerbaijan.

Jafarov was taken prisoner on the contact line on 1 July. The Armenians said the Azerbaijani prisoner would be released by efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross's officials, who confirmed the information.

The International Red Cross has rendered assistance to release 662 people during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh since 199

Matthew Bryza, an OSCE Minsk Group co-chair in difference to his counterparts from France and Russia, assures that at this stage the community of Nagorno-Karabakh should not be included in the negotiations. "A change of format of talks should not be mentioned at this stage, because a new political season begins in Armenia and Azerbaijan," Bryza stated in Khankendi as a result of talks held on 16 September with representatives from the so-called " Nagorno-Karabakh Republic".

On 14 September the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs pursuing a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict arrived in the region for their next visit. They are holding discussions with the sides on the settlement of the conflict on the basis of proposals provided by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs at the end of the spring.

The US mediator was all for the need of continuing discussions over the proposals which are on the table of talks, Mediamax reported. As a result of a meeting with Bako Saakian, the leader of the separatist regime of Nagorno-Karabakh, French Ambassador Bernard Fassier said that once we see representatives from Nagorno-Karabakh at the table of talks the sooner it occurs the better. He reminded that such a format existed earlier and noted that the restoration of Nagorno-Karabakh's participation in the talks depends only on mediators. In turn the Russian co-chair supported his French counterpart.

At the same time the co-chairs noted the pithiness and constructivism of talks with the newly elected 'president' of the so-called ' Nagorno-Karabakh Republic' and voiced their readiness to deepen and develop contacts with the leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Saakian said in talks with journalists that the current format of talks is inefficient and the Karabakh side stated this in a meeting with mediators. "We are grateful to Armenia for its efforts, but the Nagorno-Karabakh must participate in talks to lead the talks to their logical end," the head of the 'NKR' said.

Last week the leader of the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh stated in talks with Trend that the two sides had achieved a preliminary agreement on the joining of Azerbaijani and Armenian communities to the negotiations and the international organizations carry out work over this issue. Bahmanov regarded the joining of communities to talks as inevitable.

We do not believe in a settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh after the latest visit of OSCE's Minsk Group's co-chairmen to the region, Nhizami Bahramov, the head of the Public Union 'Azerbaijani Community of Nagorno-Karabakh', said on 19 September.

Azerbaijan will start talks with the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh should Armenia recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and step back, Khezer Ibrahim, press secretary of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, stated at a briefing on 17 September. He was commenting on a statement made by the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian Ambassador Yuriy Merzlyakov and French Ambassador Bernard Fassier, on the need for the participation of the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh in further talks.

According to Ibrahim, Azerbaijan's position remains unchanged - at this stage the Armenian community's participation in negotiations is impossible. Azerbaijan expects the co-chairs to demand from Armenia a more constructive position on the resolution of the conflict. A possibility to hold meetings with the Presidents of the conflicting sides - Azerbaijan and Armenia during the upcoming summit of CIS heads of state in Dushanbe on 5 October will depend on the co-chairs' tour of Azerbaijan on 18 September.

The US Co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Matthew Bryza, said on 18 September in Baku as a result of the meetings with Azerbaijan's President, Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, that if necessary, the next meeting of the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia may be organized.

"Currently we are considering all proposals and if necessary, the meeting of the Presidents will take place," Bryza said. According to him, today's meetings focused on certain processes. "We observed serious progresses with the Azerbaijani side," he said.

He stressed that the positions of the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia is clear and now it needs to make several difficult decisions. "We hope to achieve to do it," he said.

As compared to the previous years, the talks are going on in detail and the situation differs from those in Prague process, said the French Co-chair of the Minsk Group, Bernard Fassier.

The French Co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Bernard Fassier, said on 18 September that the contacts between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh may serve approach in the positions of the sides.

"The meetings which were held several years ago were attended by the representatives of the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh. I would like that such experience to be used more," the French Co-chair said adding that it deals with not direct talks with the representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh.

According to him, the Co-chairs of the Minsk Group do not intend to hold talks with the representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh as a conflicting side. The delegations of the Foreign Ministries of Azerbaijan and Armenia successfully afford the key base principles of the conflict settlement, said the Russian Co-chair of the Minsk Group, Yuri Merzlyakov.

According to him, currently the mediators are coordinating these principles. The necessity to involve the representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh in the peaceful talks will appear when the details of the peaceful agreement regarding the life of the residents in the region will be devised.

The Russian co-chair once again stated that Russia recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is dissatisfied with the attitude of the Council of Europe (CE) towards the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, MP Samed Seyidov, the Chairman of the Permanent Parliamentary Commission on International Relations and Interparliamentary Relations, as well as the head of the Azerbaijani parliamentary delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the CE, said in a meeting led by Chetin Kazak, Chairman of the Sub-committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO on democratic governance.

"The Council of Europe (CE) has not yet condemned Armenia's aggression towards Azerbaijan and has not stated its position. The same can be said about other international organizations along with the NATO PA, Seyidov 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.

Seyidov said that in January 2005, PACE took a resolution on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Furthermore, an Ad Hoc Committee on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict operates within PACE. "The resolution reflects the occupation of the Azerbaijani territory and the danger related with the unsettlement of the conflict," the chairman of the commission said.

In his turn Kazak said that NATO is aware of problems in the South Caucasus region. "Over the past few years the alliance has attached great importance to the resolution of the conflict and problems in the South Caucasus. At the same time NATO's interest in the region has increased," he added

International law requires that Nagorno-Karabakh's status be defined and Azerbaijan is ready to provide for the highest status, which is autonomy within the framework territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, said to Italian journalists in Azerbaijan on 20 September.

"The point is our national minorities have not more than their self-determination," the Minister said.

The day before, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister, Araz Azimov once more confirmed the position of official Baku, which wishes peaceful settlement of the conflict. Azerbaijan is ready to support the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group's mediators and intends to continue the settlement within the framework of the Prague Process, he said. "It would be incorrect to lose the results achieved in the Prague Process," Azimov said.

The conflict between the two countries of the South Caucasus began in 1988 due to territorial claims by Armenia against Azerbaijan. Since 1992, Armenia has occupied 20% of Azerbaijan, including Nagorno-Karabakh and its seven surrounding districts. 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 the US) are currently holding peaceful negotiations.

29 years later: Azerbaijan marks tragic date of Khojaly genocide
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Khojaly genocide - criminal act committed against mankind, against humanity, MP says
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