Weekly political review

OFFICIAL NEWS

On 1 October he President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received the ambassadors of the foreign Muslim countries to Azerbaijan on the eve of the forthcoming Ramadhan holiday.

Head of the Azerbaijani State extended congratulations to the ambassadors on the sacred holiday of Ramadan requesting to convey his greetings to the heads of state and governments of their countries as well. Noting that Azerbaijan, as an independent state, has intensive ties with the Islamic countries, the President said these ties are successful at the international organizations as well.

Azerbaijan is an active member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and always keeps this tendency in focus of its foreign policy, he said.

President Aliyev reminded Islamic solidarity, expressing confidence that Azerbaijan's friendly and fraternal relations with the Islamic countries will enhance in the years ahead. Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Azerbaijan, the doyen of diplomatic missions Ali Hasan Ahmad Jaafar on behalf of the ambassadors expressed gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev. Ambassador of Egypt Yusef Ahmad Ebrahim Al-Sharkawi read out the Joint Statement on behalf of the ambassadors. President of Azerbaijan wished the ambassadors success and good sacred holiday of Ramadhan.

Azerbaijani and Croatian Presidents, Ilham Aliyev and Stjpe Mesic, signed a joint statement on 2 October within the framework of the Croatian President's first official visit to Baku. The document contains the issues on political and bilateral cooperation between Azerbaijan and Croatia, also within the framework of international organizations. The resolution reflected Azerbaijan's integration to Euro-Atlantic organizations, to which a great attention is paid in Croatia, President Aliyev reported at a press conference after the negotiations with Croatian President. The document also included the issue on settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It says the conflict should be settled within the framework of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and inviolability of its borders, President Aliyev said. Agreements were also signed between the Chambers of Trade & Commerce and diplomatic officials of the both countries. A memorandum on cooperation, intergovernmental agreement on investments for mutual aid was signed between the Economic Development Ministries.

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, said on 2 October in Baku at the joint press-conference with the President of Croatia, Stjepan Mesic, that the countries of the Adriatic Sea may join the active energy dialogue which takes place between the countries of Black and Caspian Seas.

Azerbaijan is interested in this co-operation, Aliyev said. According to Stipe Mesich, Azerbaijan assumes an interest for Croatia as a country with the highest levels of economic growth. In addition, there are several fields in Croatia which is assumed as a field of interest for Azerbaijan. "We consider that the development of the economic ties should be the main issue of co-operations between Azerbaijan and Croatia," he said.

According to the President of Croatia, currently the economic co-operations between the two countries are not satisfactory and the bilateral agreements signed today will crease a legal base for the development of the relations.

On October 2 the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received the President of the Union of Confederations of Entrepreneurs of Black and Caspian Regions and Union of Turkish Industrialists and Business People, Arzukhan Dogan, Chairman of Marmara Foundation, Akkan Suvera and Director of Ata Holding, Ahmed Erentok in the Presidential Palace

The President of Azerbaijan highlighted the significance of the international conference 'Direct Regional Investments to Regions of the Black and Caspian Seas'. According to the President of Azerbaijan, such conferences make significant contribution to the develop the regional co-operation. Arzukhan Dogan said that he highly assesses this conference. The conference is important from the regional point of view and for the development of the Azerbaijani-Turkish relations.

The official site of the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, has been improved - http://www.president.az/ .

The site offers text, photos and video information about Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani citizens can write to the President on the site.

Press releases from the President's press service, as well as news on the working schedule and the activities of the President will be published on the site for the media. Journalists will be also able to apply to the President's press service via the site.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan received a delegation headed by the Co-Chair of the Azerbaijan-Moscow Inter-Governmental Economic Commission, the First Deputy Mayor of Moscow Lyudmila Shevtsova, on October 3.

The Head of the Azerbaijan State stressed the importance of the Moscow Culture days as well as of conducting the meeting of the Azerbaijan-Moscow Inter-Governmental Economic Commission, noting these events will strengthen the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia.

Lyudmila Shevtsova extended greetings from Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov to President Aliyev, reminding him of the existence of the agreement on cooperation between Azerbaijan and Moscow since 1997, noting that they attach great importance to the development of their relations with Azerbaijan.

On 4 October the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received a group of journalists representing European Union countries at the Presidential Palace. The journalists are in Baku to participate in a seminar on the European neighborhood policy organized by the European Journalism Centre.The Azerbaijani leader gave detailed answers to questions covering Azerbaijan-EU cooperation, the global energy projects initiated and being realized by Azerbaijan, the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan's position in the international arena, regional cooperation, and other issues.

FOREIGN POLICY

The Swiss Government intends to expand cooperation with Azerbaijan in energy and transport sectors. The prospects of cooperation will be discussed in Baku at the beginning of October during a visit of the head of the Federal Department of the Swiss Government Lewenberger, Elchin Amirbeyov, the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Switzerland, said over the telephone from Geneva on 1 October.

Azerbaijani gas transportation to Europe and the participation of Swiss companies in the project will be a special topic for future talks, the Ambassador said.

"Currently the Swiss energy company Elektrizitats-Gesellschaft Laufenburg AG (EGL) is working on the project on construction of a gas pipeline between Albania and Italy. The gas for the pipeline will mainly be produced in Azerbaijan and Iran. The project is supported by the Swiss Government. The country will head the work of the future corridor for import of natural gas into Europe, which will provide an opportunity to diversify energy supplies," said the Swiss Energy Minister, Walter Stamen.

According to Amirbeyov, as a result of upcoming talks with the Azerbaijani side in Baku there are plans to sign several agreements on development of cooperation in the energy sector. Moreover, an agreement on transport deliveries is also ready for signing, the diplomat said.

Azerbaijan is an interesting and strategically important country for Israel," the Israeli President Shimon Peres, said during the meeting with the representatives of the Congress of the Middle East Azerbaijanis. Pereves appreciated the Azerbaijani-Israeli relations positively.

The Azerbaijani ex-President Heydar Aliyev made his best in improving the Azerbaijani-Israeli relations. "I want to note that Israeli people remember and revere Heydar Aliyev's memory," Peres said.

Congress of the Middle East Azerbaijanis president Alex Shapiro-Suliman informed participants about the history and future plans of the Congress. The Congress makes its best to become powerful and influential organization to protect its interests in cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan.

"We should do our best for Azerbaijan and Jewish people," Shapiro-Suliman said.

Alex Shapiro-Suliman congratulated Israel on behalf of the Congress and granted the Azerbaijani carpet and map to Shimon Peres.

The meeting was held on the day of the Israeli holiday Sukkot.

All the details of the upcoming visit of the members of the subcommittee on Nagorno-Karabakh of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to Nagorno-Karabakh were discussed in Strasburg.

"Any visit to Nagorno-Karabakh must be implemented only via Azerbaijan. The world recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan," Samad Seyyidov, the head of the Azerbaijani Parliamentary Delegation to PACE, said in Strasburg.

Lord Russell-Johnston, the chairman of the PACE subcommittee on Nagorno-Karabakh met with the heads of Azerbaijani and Armenian MP groups to PACE, Samad Seyyidov and David Arutunan.

In 2005 PACE adopted the 1416 resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The document confirms that Armenia occupies Azerbaijani territories. A delay in the settlement of the conflict causes serious danger to the region. The PACE subcommittee on Nagorno-Karabakh was established for the settlement of the conflict. The members of the committee headed by the MP from Great Britain, Lord Russell-Johnston, are expected to visit the region.

Seyyidov informed the chairman of the committee Azerbaijan's position regarding the visit to the region. Seyyidov said representatives of the Azerbaijani delegation visited Nagorno-Karabakh via Azerbaijan without hindrance. The chairman of the subcommittee of Nagorno-Karabakh said that he would inform the PACE bureau about the visit and express its position to Azerbaijani and Armenian officials in writing.

The autumn session of PACE started on 1 October. Azerbaijan has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1 January 2001.

No obvious progress is observed in the issue related to freedom of word, prosecution of journalists and political prisoners in Azerbaijan, Andreas Herkel, a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) co-rapporteur on Azerbaijan, said in a telephone talk from Strasbourg on 2 October.

"Unfortunately, no progress is observed in the activities of the working group on political prisoners and I am going to raise this issue at a meeting with Speaker Oktay Asadov," Herkel said.

The PACE Monitoring Committee mainly discusses freedom of word, prosecution of journalists and political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

"There is an idea on appointment of a rapporteur on political prisoners not only on Azerbaijan, but other countries as well," Herkel added.

The previous session focused on the same issues, as well as changes to the Elections Code of Azerbaijan.

The member of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), MP Ganira Pashayeva, sent a request to the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers with regards to the permanent break of the ceasefire regime by the Armenian Armed Forces, Pashayeva reported to Trend from Strasburg.

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.

In 2005 the PACE passed Resolution No 1416 regarding Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Resolution highlights the fact of occupation of the Azerbaijani lands by Armenia. The Resolution says that non-settlement of the conflict presents serious threats. The control on implementation of the PACE Resolution is made by the PACE Ad Hoc Committee for Nagorno-Karabakh. The members of the Committee headed by British parliamentarian Lord Russell Johnston are expected to visit the region.

Pashayeva's inquire will be spread in PACE on 3 October. The Azerbaijani Parliamentarian especially notes that the ceasefire regime reached in 1994 is often broke by the Armed Forces of Armenia over the recent period. She said that the death of the peaceful Azerbaijani population is a crime. Pashayeva requires that the Committee of Ministers should take a severe position. By the end of 2007, the ceasefire regime was violated 785 more as compared to 2006.

In her inquire, the parliamentarian requires that the Committee should make a political and legal assessment for non-implementation of PACE Resolution No 1416 on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The death of the peaceful people is contrary to the human rights.

In addition, Pashayeva sent inquire to the Patriarchy of Moscow and whole Russia Alex II. Hundreds of thousands of representatives of various religious and cultural communities and the tolerance has widely spread in the Country. "The representatives of various religions and national groups residing in Russia incur pressure and they are murdered. We ask these questions: What do religious figures do in this sphere? How the Patriarchy and his church approach the following of the tolerance and what do you plan to do to increase the tolerance?" mentioned by the statement.

Turkey supports the peaceful settlement of the on-going conflicts in the South Caucasus within the framework of the territorial integrity of the countries. "We support the peaceful settlement of the conflicts. And when saying peaceful settlement we mean settlement of the conflicts within the framework of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan and Georgia," Turkish President Abdullah Gul said at the session of EU Parliamentary Assembly on 3 October.

"The South Caucasus is another critical region burdened with persisting unresolved conflicts. Its frozen conflicts continue to represent a serious threat to the peace and stability in the region. These conflicts provide a major impediment to region-wide cooperation initiatives," Gul said. It is first time he is visiting Strasburg as President.

Lord Russel Johnston, the chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Ad Hoc Commitee, said in an interview with Azerbaijani journalists on the implementation of PACE Resolution 1416 that he was intending at least to write to both President Aliyev and President Kocharian. " Posibly to see them both, to visit them both. And if so happens that I am may be in Baku on 9 November, but that is not yet confirmed," That might be an occasion on which that might turn to reality depending of course on the president's schedule. I said to speaker Asadov that I regretted the fact that the visits that have been planed both by my committee and the cultural committee had been cancelled at a short notice. But I hope that the situation could be reasonably resolved. said before I do not regard my committee as being concerned to mediate on Nagorno Karabakh. The idea was that we would try and improve contact and dialog particularly in the first place between Azeri and Armenian parliamentarians; possibly to hold seminars in Baku and Yerevan. And try to improve the relationship, but not, I mean ... The Nagorno Karabakh conflict will only solve between Kocharian and Aliyev in the end.

The Summit of the State Heads of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will begin on 5 October in Dushanbe. The agenda of the meeting includes nineteen issues, including the Future Development Conception of the CIS and Plan of Measures on its implementation, proposals on coordinated immigration policy of the CIS participating countries, etc.

Presidents of the CIS countries will sign the Agreement on Education of the Council of Heads of Migration Organizations of the CIS Member-Countries, the Protocol approving the Regulation on Interaction of the Border and other Organizations of the CIS Countries, the Agreement on Fighting against Legalization (laundering) of Criminal Revenues and Financing of Terrorism, the Program of Cooperation in Fighting against Criminality and Terrorism, the Agreement on Cooperation of the CIS Countries in Fighting against Misappropriation of the Cultural Values and Ensuring their Returning, etc.

Azerbaijan will be represented at the Summit in a high level capacity, with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, attending the meeting of the Council of the CIS State Heads. Aliyev plans to hold a number of meetings with his counterparts of the other CIS countries.

The United States intends seriously approach and consider Russia's proposals on joint exploitation of Gabala radar station. "The United States seriously accepts Russia's proposal on Gabala RS. So, our experts visited Azerbaijan and now we have enough information," Anna Derse, the US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, said in talks with journalists.

Russia approaches with suspicions the US plans on placing anti-missile defense elements along the border of Poland and Czech Republic. The Russian President offered the United States to refuse the AMD system in Poland and Czech Republic in exchange for utilizing the Gabala Radar Station located in Azerbaijan. The proposal was made in June 2007. Though the United States did not alter its plans regarding Eastern Europe, the US experts met in Azerbaijan on 18 September to discuss the issue.

Results of the meeting will be submitted to the upcoming consultations in 2+2 format with defense ministers and foreign ministers of Russia and the United States in Moscow on 12 October.

The ambassador said that a meeting 2+2 will make a decision on the way of joint exploitation of the Gabala RS.

Derse said that the United States always regarded the Gabala RS as Azerbaijan's property and it will be taken into consideration in all decision.

Russia leases Gabal Radar in Azerbaijan. The Gabala Radar Station situated in the north-west of Azerbaijan was built during the Soviet regime as an important element of USSR Anti-Missile Defense AMD. A ten-year agreement for leasing the station was signed in 2002.

Parliament

"The bill on 'Education' has been developed and will be adopted at the autumn session of the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament). The bill will be discussed by the parliamentary commission on science and education issues and then considered by MPs," Oktay Asadov, the Speaker of Parliament, said during the open autumn session of Parliament on 1 October.

The bill on 'Education' was considered and agreed by all Ministries and Departments.

The bill will open wide the possibilities for world standards in the education system of Azerbaijan, Asadov said.

The bill on Education was adopted in Azerbaijan in 1992. The new bill was developed in 1995 and although submitted to Parliament for discussion, MPs did not adopt it. In 2005 the bill was re-developed.

Some 18 meetings were held and 141 bills were adopted during the spring session of Parliament. There are plans to adopt new bills on economy, culture and legal spheres during the autumn session.

Hijab-banned educational and business units in Azerbaijan, raised different arguments in Milli Majlis, the Azerbaijani Parliament.

Students wearing hijab were not allowed in to the classes the Institute of pedagogical studies.

According to MP Fazil Gazanfaroglu, the chairman of the Great Establishment Party, electorates of the party complained about not taking the veiled women to work.

"Nobody can offend the religious believes of people," MP said.

While religious studies are banned on the Azerbaijani TV channels, Panah Huseyn, an MP from the Musavat opposition Party said: religious studies are prohibited on TV, which is unacceptable as we are in the middle of Ramadhan which is a religiously respected month.

Gudrat Hasanguliyev, the chairman of the opposition Popular Front of Unified Party of Azerbaijan said: Azerbaijan is a secular country and we should support such actions by the medical centre which bans women to work while wearing hijab.

Hijab is a religious recommendation .

The Deputy Chairman of the Azerbaijani Parliament, Valeh Aleskerov, said on 3 October in Baku at a meeting of the Culture, Education and Science Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is, in no way, linked to national, ethnic or religious discriminations. According to him, national, ethnic and religious discriminations have never been in existence in Azerbaijan.

" Azerbaijan has always been tolerant towards various nations, religions and ethnic peoples. It is observed today as well," Aleskerov said.

The conflict between the two countries of South Caucasus started in 1988 due to territorial claims by Armenia against Azerbaijan. Armenia has occupied 20% of 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 active hostilities ended. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group ( Russia, France and USA) are currently holding peaceful negotiations.

According to Aleskerov, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was committed by separate political groups who come to power and do not want to give it up. Currently these political forces present obstacles to the conflict settlement in order to stay in power.

The representative from Armenia, parliamentarian Stephan Safaryan, also arrived in Baku to attend the meeting.

Evasion from social insurance should be prevented through tough measures, so that overcomes such facts in the future. This statement sounded during the discussion of the law on Rules of individual registration in the state social insurance system at the permanent parliamentary commission on the social policy.

Under the project of the State Social Security Fund Physical persons and heads of collective funds, insurers as juridical persons who do not register insurers, will be fined.

There are 1.5mln social insurance payers in Azerbaijan. A total of 1.264mln people registered in the individual registration system and issued a certificate on social insurance.

Those who evade from the payment of their social insurance, should be responisble, MP Hadi Rajabli, the chairman of the Parliament commission on social policy, said. It should be followed by financial sanctions.

It was decided to discuss this issue with the State Social Security Fund. Discussion of the bill at the parliament was postponed.

A range of names of Azerbaijani regions may be changed, MP Arif Rahimzadeh, the chairman of the permanent parliamentary commission on region issues, said.

"The issue concerning changes of names of some Azerbaijani regions has not been discussed, but may be included into the agenda," the chairman said.

The names of Ali Bayramli, Khanlar regions, as well as Narimanov and Azizbayov districts of Baku City may be changed.

There are bills on 'Territorial divisions' and 'Geographic names' in Azerbaijan.

It is necessary to appeal to the Toponymy commission of the Azerbaijani Parliament. Once the commission approves the change of the name of region the issue discusses by the permanent parliamentary commission on region issues. Later the issue discussed during the meeting of the Parliament.

Change of geographical names needs great funds, Rahimzadeh said.

The control and care of cemeteries in Azerbaijan will be passed to municipalities. At a meeting on this issue, the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament) Permanent Parliamentary Commission on Regional Issues decided to introduce changes to the law on the status of municipalities and their financial resources.

Presently, local executive bodies carry out control and care of cemeteries. MP Arif Rahimzade, the Chairman of the Permanent Parliamentary Commission on Regional Issues, said that following the changes, additional funds for this work will be allocated from municipalities' budgets.

MP Fazil Ibrahimli said that for the first time in Azerbaijan a concrete sphere has been given over to the authority of municipalities. "So far, municipalities were engaged only in the sale of land areas, but now they will be engaged in concrete work," he said.

Changes were introduced to the law on the status of members of municipalities at the meeting of the commission. In the case that bribery is revealed, administrative penalties will be applied with respect to an employee of the municipality.

Political movements

'Our Azerbaijan' political bloc protested against the proposals of Azadlyg bloc on formation of the election commissions, the Chairman of the 'Our Azerbaijan' bloc, Vugar Beyturan, said to Trend on October 1.

Azadlyg bloc who brings together three opposition parties proposes that the election commissions should be formed from the parties which have received more than 1% of the votes during 2005 parliamentary elections. It means that the election commissions should be formed by the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, Azerbaijan Popular Front Party, National Unity Party, Liberal Party, Social Democratic Party and Musavat Party. The proposals of the Azadlyg have been submitted to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and will be discussed at the meeting between the Venice Commission and the Government of Azerbaijan in Baku.

According to Beyturan, other political forces have not been taken into consideration. He said that the proposals prevent the appearance of the new political forces.

"The international organizations work with the parties which function on base of their tasks and invite the same parties to their meetings. Other part of the opposition camp stays aside ," Beyturan said.

There will be a round table on this topic On October 5.

Azerbaijan's Musavat party will nominate the chairman of the party ,Isa Gambar, for the 2008

presidential elections, the chairman of Musavat's Assembly, Sulhaddin Akbar, said to Trend on 1 October.

He continued : the party will take its official decision regarding the elections during the meeting of the Assembly on 12 October.

"At the meeting of the Assembly it will be decided whether Musavat will take part in the presidential elections. In the case of a positive decision, Isa Gambar will be nominated. Musavat will not nominate anybody else," he said.

He mentioned : everybody in the administration of the party agrees with his candidacy.

Opposition Musavat party was founded at the beginning of 1992. Its leader, Isa Gambar, was the speaker of Azerbaijani Parliament from 1992 to1993. In 2003, he was a candidate for presidency as well. Musavat Party has 5 representative in the parliament.

Azerbaijani Azadlig opposition bloc explained its decision to boycott the presidential election of 2008. The reasons were explained in the report on human rights issues and the political situation in the country, the chairman of the bloc, Ali Aliyev, said to Trend on October 1st .

The document meant to analyze the political situation in Azerbaijan a year before the presidential election and to draw the attention of the international community to it. The report includes opinions of the Azadlig bloc and other political forces.

"In this document we explained our intention of boycotting the election, substantiated why Azadlig considers taking part in the election to be meaningless unless changes are made to the Election Code," Aliyev said.

First Public discussions will be held and then it will be submitted to the international organizations, he said.

Azadlig includes three opposition parties - the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, the Liberal party, and the Citizens and Development Party.

Depending on the situation several Azerbaijani opposition parties may join to the upcoming presidential elections in Azerbaijan 2008, MP Panah Huseyn, the member of the MP group of the Musavat Party, said to the Trend Agency on 2 October.

"Participation of opposition with a single candidate in the elections is wonderful but it is impossible," MP said.

The presidential elections in Azerbaijan will be held in October 2008. Azerbaijani opposition parties developed their own preliminary positions due to the upcoming elections. Musavat will take part at the elections. The Azadlig bloc will boycott the elections if no changes to be injected in elections commissions.

Joint election company should hold the activities of candidates from opposition parties. The leading opposition parties should hold joint cooperation in current situation, Huseyn considers.

The Governmental dependence of several parties who work as opposition, but do not implement the mission of the opposition will appear on the eve of the 2008 Presidential elections in Azerbaijan, the Chairman of opposition Azerbaijan National Democracy Party, Iskandar Hamidov, reported to Trend on 3n October.

According to him, the combination of the opposition parties in the upcoming Presidential elections is impossible. "Several opposition parties function by Governmental finance and other parts through foreign funds. The material dependence decreases their political freedom," Hamidov said.

According to him, the Government tries to break and weaken the opposition through foreign funds. Therefore, as a result, parties functioning through foreign funds serve the interests of the Government, he added. According to Hamidov, the foreign political forces have their own interests in Azerbaijan. "International practice shows that strong and rich countries try to influence weak countries with their funds. The opposition parties of Azerbaijan financed by foreign funds are also under their influence," Hamidov said.

The State should provide a monthly allowance to each new-born baby. This allowance will help to prevent a reduction in the population, according to the Deputy Executive Secretary of the governing New Azerbaijan Party (NAP), a member of the Azerbaijani Parliament's Permanent Commission on Security and Defence, Siyavish Novruzov.

"$3,000 should be paid for one baby and $10,000 for two babies," he said.

Allowances for newborns are not currently paid in Azerbaijan since targeted social aid was established in Azerbaijan in 2005. Previously the bonus allotted for each baby was AZM 9,000 (AZN 1.8). But the cost of living has increased and countries need to provide stronger incentive in order to maintain population levels. For instance, in the Ukraine and Russia newborns receive $15,000-20,000.

According Novruzov, funds may be paid not to the parents but be transferred to the children's bank accounts. Monthly incomes from the sum may be spent by the parents on the children. After the children reach maturity they may use the remainder of the money.

" Azerbaijan has opportunity to secure the future of the children by transferring money to their accounts," Novruzov said. According to the MP, thus the children after reaching maturity will have some money in their accounts. That will promote development of the future generations, he said.

Previously, an average statistical family had six or seven members, and now it is down to only three or four people, Novruzov said. "In order to prevent a reduction of Azerbaijan's population, definite measures should be taken. The profits Azerbaijan receives should be used for development of its human resources," he said.

The proposals developed by the Musavat Party concerning changes into the Azerbaijani Election Code coincide with positions of many parties, Isa Gambar, the leader of the party, said to the Trend New Agency on 4 October.

Musavat has submitted its proposals to the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament). The party proposes to form new composition for election commissions on parity bases, as well as to restore proportional election system.

Union for Democracy holds negotiations and meetings to define common position for all opposition parties.

Azadlig bloc unites three opposition parties has now its own position on election legislation.

Isa Gambar said his party's proposal was supported by many opposition parties. I believe most parties represented and non-represented in the Consultative Council would support Musavat proposal, Gambar said.

The Consultative Council uniting six opposition parties also developing its proposal on the issue.

Opposition party "Musavat" was founded in 1992. Isa Gembar, the present Chairman of the Party was the Ex-Speaker of the Azerbaijani Parliament (Milli Majlis) in 1992-1993 and the candidate nominated to the Presidential elections held in the country in 2003. Four MPs represents the Party in the Parliament of the Country.

Azerbaijani opposition parties consider that the ruling New Azerbaijan Party is not interested in carrying out reforms in the elections legislation, said the representatives of the opposition parties at a meeting with the political parties organized by the Council of Europe and IFES Baku Office, the Azerbaijan National Independence Party's Secretary for Elections and Work with Municipalities, Elshan Mustafayev, informed Trend.

Organized by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, the OSCE Office for Human Rights, and the Democratic Institutes and Government of Azerbaijan, on 9 November a meeting will take place to discuss the amendments to the Electoral Code. The meeting will also be attended by the leaders of the political parties.

Today's meeting was the first preparation stage for these discussions.

Irrespective of the invitation, the ruling and pro-governmental parties did not participate in the meeting. The representatives of the opposition parties stated that if the ruling party was interested in improving the elections legislation, its representatives had to attend these discussions.

The ruling party's Press Secretary, Huseyn Pashayev, said that they did not receive an invitation to the meeting.

According to the information by the Council of Europe's Baku Office, IFES sent an invitation to the New Azerbaijan Party. The Press Secretary of the Baku Office, Ilgar Ibrahimoglu, said that the absence of the New Azerbaijan Party is a misunderstanding because the Council of Europe sent an invitation to them. He said that the format of the 9 November meeting has not yet been confirmed.

The Civil Solidarity Party (CSP) suggested forming an election committee of eight parties, the deputy chairman of the party, Akif Ismayilbeyli, told Trend.

The Election Code of Azerbaijan is being discussed by the Government and the CE Venice Commission. The Code will be discussed in detail in Baku on 9 November. The first preparatory meeting including representatives of political parties took place on 5 October.

The CSP does not agree with the suggestion of other opposition parties forming election committees, Ismayilbeyli said. For instance, the Azadlig bloc suggested election committees include parties that received over 1% in the recent parliamentary elections. The CSP is not among those parties.

The Musavat, Umid parties, the Azerbaijan Democratic Party and other parties suggest that election committees include the authorities of opposition members on an equal basis.

The CSP considers the suggestions of the aforementioned parties to be unrealistic and unjust. The CSP suggests political organizations involved in parliamentary elections - the governing New Azerbaijan Party (NAP), pro-governmental Ana Vatan party, opposition Musavat party, Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, Civil Solidarity Party, Democratic Party, Umid and Adalat parties. According to Ismayilbeyli, half of the Central Election Committee including (CEC) 18 members should consist of NAP, Ana Vatan and non-party members, and the other half should involve the above-listed opposition parties.

According to the CSP, non-party-members of the CEC support the authorities, so they should be included in that half of the commission as well as the governing party.

Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenian Armed Forces' subdivisions ordered the positions of the Azerbaijani National Army to retaliate fire on 2 October from their positions located in Azerbaijani Khojavand region's Kuropatkino village (from 18:20p.m. to 19:05p.m. and from 22:00p.m. to 22:35p.m.), and on 3 October from their positions located near Javahirli village of Azerbaijan's district of Agdam (from 01:05a.m. to 01:15a.m.), Azerbaijan Defense Ministry reported on 3 October.

The Azerbaijani army retaliated to the fire, resulting in ceasefire. There were no casualties.

The search for solutions to the ongoing conflicts in Georgia and the Caucasus is vitally important for the security of the entire Euro-Atlantic space, NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said in Tbilisi on 4 October.

According to Mediamax news agency, while speaking at the Tbilisi National University on 4 October, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said NATO had made repeated statements regarding its backing the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Georgia and its other partner countries in the Caucasus.

"However, the mandate for settlement of conflicts in the region is for the OSCE and the UN, not NATO, and the alliance has no intention to be more involved," the Secretary General said.

Azerbaijan, Baku / corr Trend K.Ramazaova / The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict remains the most serious challenge to the security of the region, Elmar Mammadyarov, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, stated in during his speech during the 62nd UN general Assembly.

The negotiations on the conflict resolution carried out in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group have not yielded results so far.

As a result of the conflict almost 20% of Azerbaijani territory is still under the Armenian occupation. Azerbaijan hosts more than one million refugees and IDPs, who were ethically cleansed and brutally expelled from their homes in Armenia and in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.

Mammadyarov said that Armenia does not implement the resolution of the UN Security Council, destroys all in the occupied territory, which is associated with the heritage of Azerbaijan and carried out their illegal activities. "UN should not allow it," the minister stressed.

He stressed that the resolution of he Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict should be based on the international law and four UN Security Council resolutions, which envisages the restoration of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

"From this high podium I would like to address the Armenian nation to realize how dangerous is their policy of breaching peace and security in the region as well as being counterproductive and disastrous implications to the long-term perspectives of the development of Armenia. I am confident that Azerbaijan will restore its sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is only a question of time," Mammadyarov said.

The Azerbaijani minister also spoke about the country's efforts in provision of full transparency and accountability in the extractive industry and his country's contribution in ensuring global energy security. He spoke about economic reforms in Azerbaijan, poverty reduction, increase of welfare of the nation and stressed that it turned to reality not only through the oil and gas revenues, but also the Government's policy and its loyalty to protect the investor's rights.

European Parliament's special representative on the South Caucasus issues, Isler Beguin, suggests replacing France with EU in the OSCE Minsk Group. He made the suggestion during the hearings on the South Caucasus at the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Relations.

"EU needs to play a more active role in the settlement of the conflicts in South Caucasus, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict included," Beguin said.

The conflict between the two countries of the South Caucasus began in 1988 as a result of territorial claims by Armenia against Azerbaijan. Since 1992, Armenian Armed Forces have occupied 20% of Azerbaijani land including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its seven neighbouring regions. In 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement when the active hostilities ended.

The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group ( Russia, France, and the US) are currently holding peaceful negotiations.

"I am French, but I think France's mandate in the OSCE Minsk Group should be transferred to the EU," he said. In his opinion, thus EU will be able to regulate the conflict on a high level.

The EU representative mentioned that the Turkish-Armenian border is closed and this intensifies the problem.

Azerbaijan is playing an excusive role in Europe's energy security, Piter Semneby, EU's special representative on South Caucasus, said at the hearings. He clarified the activities of the EU regarding Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. According to him, EU is working in accordance with the action plan dedicated mainly to restoration of relationships between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities.

European Parliament's special representative on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Lydia Polfer, expressed her concern about two issues. " Armenia is not involved into Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and other region projects. That can make the country instable for a long time. Moreover, Azerbaijan's expanding its military budget will complicate the situation in the region," she said.

Any conflict is specific and requires an individual approach, the deputy chairman of the European Parliament on South Caucasus, Slovakian MP Duka Zolyomi said. According to him, Russia in many cases plays the role of a force destabilizing situation in the region. He also noted that Kosovo cannot serve a precedent for other conflicts and Russia's position can destabilize the situation in the region.

Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and its nearby regions in 1992-94, the MP of the European Parliament from German Socialistic Party, Vural Oger, said. He urged EU should take an unambiguous position. Azerbaijan is important for Europe's energy policy and not only with its energy resources, Oger said.

Armenian Foreign Minister, Vardan Oskanyan, will speak at the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Relations on 9 October.

Armenian Armed Forces' subdivisions ordered the positions of the Azerbaijani National Army to retaliate fire on 5 October from their positions located near Azerbaijani Fizuli region's Ashagi Veysally village (from 21:25p.m. to 22:00p.), as well as on 6 October from their positions located near Javahirli village of Azerbaijan's district of Agdam (from 02:00a.m. to 02:20a.m.) and from their positions located near Shikhlar village of Agdam (from 06:15a.m. to 06:25a.m.), Azerbaijan Defense Ministry reported on 6 October.

The Azerbaijani army retaliated to the fire, resulting in ceasefire. There were no casualties.

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