Weekly political review

Official chronicle

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed a decree to hold State-level events dedicated to the 100th jubilee of the first performance of 'Leyli and Mejnun' opera, popular painter Sattar Bahlulzade, writer Mir Jalal Pashayev and academician Musa Aliyev. The document signed by the President on 31 January says that the 34th session of the USESCO General Conference made a decision to officially mark the 100th jubilee of the first performance of 'Leyli and Mejnun' opera, popular painter Sattar Bahlulzade, writer Mir Jalal Pashayev and academician Musa Aliyev within USESCO program.

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed a decree to hold 125th jubilee of Nakchivan State Music and Dramatic Theatre named after Jalil Mammadguluzade. The Ministry of Tourism and Culture and Higher Assembly of Nakchivan Autonomous Republic are in charge of preparing and realizing measures dedicated to Nakchivan State Music and Dramatic Theatre named after Jalil Mammadguluzade. The Cabinet of Minister is in charge of settling issues arising from the decree.

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed a decree to hold a number of events with regards to the integration of the higher educational institutions of Azerbaijan to the European higher educational institutions. According to the decree, Azerbaijan's Ministry of Education and other educational organizations should by 30 March prepare project of State Program for Reforms in Higher Education System of Azerbaijan for 2008-2012. Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry is in charge of holding relevant events to sign international agreements realizing Bologna system in Azerbaijan to realize the integration of the higher educational institutions of Azerbaijan to the European higher educational institutions. The Cabinet of Ministers is in charge of settling the issue arising from the decree.

On 31 January the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received the delegation headed by the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan. During the meeting, the President of Azerbaijan spoke about large successes reached as a result of construction of new hospitals, as well as full modernization in the health system of the country. He said that larger plans are envisaged in this sphere. Chan highly assessed the reforms in the health system of Azerbaijan, important initiatives in this sphere, using finances of the State Oil Fund to develop health, plans to implement obligatory medical insurance. "Azeri people should be happy that they have such a President who pays large attention to the health," the Director General said.

On 1 February, the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva visited the gala-concert of the winners of the Television Competition Mugam-2007 which took place in the Opera and Ballet Theatre. The competition took over three months and was organized within the framework of the project of the Foundation of the Friends of the Azerbaijani Culture with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. After the concert the President met with the young mugam performers. He congratulated them on the completion of the competition and voiced his hope that the young mugam performers would please the Azerbaijani people with their talents and would develop their professionalism. "During three months the Azerbaijani people watched the competition. Despite the rivalry, you managed to take the leading places. That is a great achievement. I am sure you will please the Azerbaijani people even more in future and will improve your professionalism," the President said.

Parliament

The existing military draft system causes dissatisfaction among population in Azerbaijan. "A lot of complaints were made to the permanent Parliamentary Commission on Security and Defense Issues due to the current military draft," MP Siyavush Novruzov , a member of the Commission, stated to trend on 30 January. The supplements and amendments were injected in the bill on Basis of military draft at the beginning of 2007. Under the changes, people who take care of invalids of second group are drafted to the military service. Moreover, the draft deferment for young boys willing to receive the magistrates was canceled. Novruzov said that the bill on Basis of military draft should be re-considered. The Azerbaijani military draft system should be brought to the NATO standards. The MP from New Azerbaijan party considers that a range of changes are expected to inject in the military service system for 2008. The MP did not detail the information concerning the changes in the military legislation.

The Parliament of Azerbaijan devised a new law draft envisaging raising the quality of the agricultural products in the country. "Poisoning and various diseases result from using ecologically unclear foodstuffs. The main dangerous issue is that people do not understand that consuming ecologically unclear products is harmful for organism," said the Chairman of Azerbaijan Parliament's Permanent Commission for Agrarian Policy, Eldar Ibrahimov, during the discussions over the draft law on ecological agriculture. According to him, the law draft aims ensuring ecologically clean and qualitative products in Azerbaijan. The draft law reflects creating mechanism of producing qualitative agricultural products and preventing production of low-quality products, Ibrahimov said. According to him, the draft law is important for Azerbaijan's entrance to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Commission made a decision to present the draft law to the discussions in the Parliament.

There are PKK-related discontents in the Azerbaijani Parliament. The cause to the MP's discontent was that in the joint declaration signed between the Azerbaijani and Turkish Presidents in Baku on 7 November PKK was not marked as a terror organization. The joint declaration was ratified by the Azerbaijani Parliament on 1 February. "Actually, the joint declaration says nothing about recognition of PKK as a terror organization by Azerbaijan. Why Azerbaijan does not want to recognize PKK as a terror organization?" MP Igbal Agazade asked in the Parliament. "PKK represents a serious threat not only to Turkey, but the entire region including Azerbaijan. No force or people engaged in lobbying PKK can prevent Azerbaijan from recognizing PKK as a terror organization. Even Abdullah Ojalan said during the trial that PKK is supported by Azerbaijan," Agazade said. Agazade and another MP Jamil Hesmenli urged the Parliament to pass a declaration recognizing PKK as a terror organization. An MP from the governing New Azerbaijan Party (NAP) Mubariz Gurbanli said that the Parliament cannot make changes or supplements in the joint declaration undersigned by the Azerbaijani and Turkish Presidents. According to Gurbanli, President Ilham Aliyev stated that Azerbaijan recognizes PKK as a terror organization. NAP even made statements in this connection. "Therefore, the gossips that Azerbaijan does not recognize PKK as a terror organization are false," he said. Despite opposition MPs asked for the floor, they were not allowed to speak. The Speaker put the joint declaration for ratification and the document was ratified. Before the visit of the Turkish President Abdullah Gul to Baku, a special commission has been established under the chairmanship of Vice-Speaker Ziyafat Askarov to develop a declaration on recognition of PKK as a terror organization by Azerbaijan. It was said that he declaration signed by the two Presidents during Gul's visit mentions recognition of PKK as a terror organization by Azerbaijan. Therefore, after Gul's visit it was said that there were no necessity in passing a special declaration. The abovementioned commission stopped its activities.

Foreign policy

On 28 January, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov received the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ali Hasan Ahmad Jaffari, who is carrying out his diplomatic activities in Azerbaijan, the Foreign Ministry reported. According to the Ministry, in terms of international relationships Saudi Arabia has always supported Azerbaijan in issues covering the interests of Azerbaijan. Mammadyarov highly appreciated Saudi Arabia's support for Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The necessity for the further development of cooperation between the two countries in the field of economy, energy and health was noted at the meeting.

Azerbaijan opposes sanctions on Iran by G8. Azerbaijan supports talks in order to improve the situation over the Teheran nuclear program. Six international mediators from the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany agreed the composition of the project of resolution of the UN Security Council on Iran on 22 January. The resolution envisages new sanctions on Iran, heads of the American, French, Russian, Chinese and British Foreign Ministries reported during a press-conference in Berlin. "The key issue is to tackle the matter through dialogue," Khazar Ibrahim, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry press-secretary, commented on the position of Baku. Before, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian religious leader, called on the closure of the Iranian nuclear file at the UN Security Council. Khamenei stated that Iran has proved that its nuclear program is of a peaceful nature, during a meeting with Mohammad El-Baradei, the head of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran expressed its agreement to disclose the remaining disputed nuclear program within a month, after the two day visit of El-Baradei to Iran from 12 to 13 January. Furthermore, Teheran submitted a document on the creation of a centrifuge for uranium enrichment. The UN Security Council has passed a resolution against the Iranian uranium enrichment program twice. The United States insist on imposing new international sanctions on Iran. Washington is afraid that Iran may create nuclear weapons, although Teheran states the peaceful purpose of the program.

The Kosovo model cannot be a precedent for the [Armenian-Azerbaijani] Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Novruz Mammadov, the head of the International Relations Department of the Azerbaijani President's Executive Apparat, said in talks with journalists on 29 January. The head of the Nagorno-Karabakh separatists considers it important to apply the Kosovo model in the resolution of Karabakh problem. Bako Saakian, the separatist leader, is supposed to meet with the Council of Europe (CE) Secretary General. According to Mammadov, the claims by Armenian separatists will not be recognized by any country or international organization. "They put forward and hear the claims themselves. The West in general and the official level states that the Kosovo model cannot be a precedent for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The self-proclaimed ' Nagorno-Karabakh Republic' has never been recognized by anyone. Mammadov said that in raising such an issu, Armenians are trying to strengthen their significance.

The repeal of Jackson-Venik Bill with respect to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, which limits Washington's trade relations with the post-Soviet countries, will depend on the course of the presidential elections in the United States. Richard Lugar, a US Senator, submitted to the Senate, a draft law to revoke the Jackson-Venik bill with respect to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. The document envisages the establishment of normal foreign trade with the two countries. They include draft laws enabling the US President to cancel the Jackson-Venik bill for Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, as well as to apply a non-discriminated regime (normal trade relations) for goods delivered from these countries. The repeal of the Jackson-Venik bill will depend on the course of the presidential elections in the United States, Svante Kornell, the American expert stated. Currently the Democratic Party reigns in the United States, whereas Lugar is a Republican. To adopt this section the Republicans need the Democrats' support," Kornell, the John Hopkins University Director for Central Asia and Caucasus, said in a telephone discussion with Trend on 30 January. The expert admits that Lugar is a respected member of the US Senate and if he succeeds to find a sponsor among the Democrats and undertakes this work together with them, then the draft repeal of the Jackson-Venik bill is fully possible. "It will be an important step with respect to the United States and Azerbaijan, because there is the feeling in Azerbaijan that the United States attaches great importance to problems in the Caucasus region. From this aspect it will be a symbolic step to display interest towards Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan," Kornell said. The Jackson-Venik Bill to the US Law on Trade dated to 1974, blocks any access to official programs on loans allocated to countries which restrict emigration. The list included all former Soviet countries - present CIS member-countries. Georgia and Kyrgyzstan were excluded from the Amendment in 2000. The existence of the Jackson-Venick bill is actually a form of harassment on all post-Soviet countries, says Alexander Rar, a leading German political expert on CIS problems. "Sanctions against the USSR during the cold war were grounded, and the bill was adopted in order to make the Kremlin allow the Soviet Jews wishing to leave the USSR to return to their historical motherland in Israel," Rar, the Director of Program for Russia and CIS countries, told Trend on 30 January. Almost 30 years have passed since the adoption of the restrictions and now some Jews are again returning to the democratic CIS countries for economic reasons. The US Congress did not repeal sanctions to have original additional source of impacting these countries, Rar considers. He is certain that the bill will become ineffective after the entry of CIS countries to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Lugar visited Azerbaijan and several CIS member-countries at the beginning of January and discussed the issue with state officials. The United States has offered Azerbaijan expert support in joining the WTO.

Armenia is the Paraguay of this century, said Normann Stone, assistant to Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of the Great Britain. "During the reign of the dictator Lopes (19th century) in Paraguay, the country conducted numerous crusades against its neighbors (Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina) and each time came off as second-best and lost 90% of its population, similar consequences await Armenia as well," Stone said. According to Stone, the Azerbaijani and Turkish Diasporas should learn how to earn money and spend them in the right way. "Unlike Azerbaijani and Turkish Diasporas, the Armenian Diaspora can distribute its money in an appropriate way and can tell barefaced lies taking advantage of its authority, but it ultimately works to the detriment of their interests," Stone said. According to Stone, many scholars in Great Britain do not recognize the so-called Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century and they know the truth that the genocide did not take place. The US Congress has worked out a draft resolution which says that the Armenians were subjected to the genocide committed by the Turks in the territory of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century. The Armenians claim that the genocide claimed the lives of more than 1.5 million people. The vote on Resolution 106 in the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the US Congress will take place on 10 October. Steny Hoyer, the leader of the majority in the House of Representatives and a congressman announced that Resolution 106 on the so-called Armenian genocide would be adopted by the House of Representatives on Thanksgiving Day, 25 November. Turkey has warned the US several times that should Resolution 106 be adopted, the American-Turkish relations will become worse. The resolution was put into the agenda of the House of Representatives by Congressman Adam Schiff on 30 January 2007. Some 227 congressmen support it at the moment. The US President George Bush has repeatedly opposed the recognition of the so-called Armenian genocide. The US Secretary of State and eight former Secretaries of State also opposed its recognition. Stone called the Book Adrent Tiger by Peter Balakyan 'nonsense' which tells about the reaction of the US to the so-called Armenian genocide committed in 1915- 1923 in the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Euгope House stops its activities in Azerbaijan. Its functions will pass to the European Commission's representative office in Azerbaijan, which will be officially opened in Baku on 4 February, the Ambassador of the European Commission Alan Vadams said to Trend on 31 January. The Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitri Rupel, who is also the EU Chair, the EU Troyka, the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby, as well as the representatives of the Azerbaijani Government, are expected to participate in the opening ceremony. "The European Commission's representative office plans to continue implementation of trade and economic projects," Vadams said. Euгope House has been operating in Azerbaijan since 2002.

Political movements

The Azerbaijani Musavat party rejected the idea of nominating a unified opposition candidate for the presidential elections. "The discussions to define a candidate are leading to a split in the opposition instead of integrating with each other," the head of the party's Central Executive Administration Arif Hajili said to Trend on 28 January. The idea to nominate a unified candidate has been discussed by the opposition parties for several years. However, no agreement has yet been achieved. According to Hajili, the action plan of the party for 2008 was approved at the meeting of Musavat on 27 January. The main part of the plan deals with preparations for the presidential elections. "Instead of the idea of a unified opposition candidate, the unified electorate conception was passed in the action plan. Musavat considers the unification of electors around a candidate is far better than nominating a unified candidate," he said. Establishment of Musavat's election headquarters, its activities were reflected in the plan, he said. The presidential elections will take place in Azerbaijan in October 2008.

An article by Ramiz Mehdiyev, the head of staff at the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan was published in the press recently under the title of "Determining Future Strategy: the Line of Modernization." The current economic and political modernization of the country determines the social and cultural transformation of Azerbaijan, Mehdiyev said, commenting on the administration in Azerbaijan for the last 15 years. "The first conditions are democratization and liberalization and they are followed by economic modernization plus stepwise democratization which results in the forming of a civil society," he said. 2008 is an important period to adopt political decisions and the strong state, the modernized economy and the principles of the independent citizen are the key priorities of the near future, he added. Mehdiyev's article is fundamental in showing the main directions of the development strategy of Azerbaijan and each of these is a strategy which can be realized, Mubariz Gurbanli, the deputy executive secretary of the ruling Eni Azerbaijan party said. By maintaining internal stability Ilham Aliyev developed the country, introduced Azerbaijan amongst powerful states and strengthened the traditions of the modern and democratic government for the last five years of his presidency, Gurbanli said. "We must determine our future. Azerbaijan freed itself from the Soviet system and chose the way to develop a modern future. Heydar Aliyev saved Azerbaijan from chaos, anarchy, civil confrontation and secured the stability in the country. Ilham Aliyev also continues this way and his policy aims at securing the future welfare of Azerbaijan, the maintenance of our country among the strong countries," Gurbanli said. According to Gurbanli, the fact that the people support the political course of Ilham Aliyev is not random. One of the key principles of the country's development is the establishment of an independent society and it is a priority of the Government. According to Gurbanli, the new potential has been established to secure the future development of Azerbaijan and Ilham Aliyev is a leader capable to increase the political, economic and geo-political advantages of the country. However the Azerbaijani opposition sticks to different positions. The last five years saw the fall rather than the development of Azerbaijan, Sardar Jalaloglu, the chairman of the Azerbaijani Democratic Party said. According to him, the restoration of stability by the administration does not mean that there is stability, he said. " Azerbaijan is included in the list of non-independent countries where corruption is rife and violation of human rights exists. The inflation rate in the country reached 30% and Azerbaijan is not expected to develop in the near future," he said. Jalaloglu, however, highly appreciated the cooperation of Azerbaijan with GUAM countries, the balanced policy towards Iran and US, its fight to unite the Turkish language countries and diasporas. "Ilham Aliyev did not give our occupied land to the Armenians which is very important factor," the chairman of the opposition party said. The transnational projects (oil pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, gas pipeline Baku-Arzurum and others) implemented by Azerbaijan put an end to Russia's influence on Azerbaijan, Jalaloglu said. Azerbaijan possesses stability and development, however the situation in the country is not flawless, Rasim Musabayov, the political scientist said. According to him, the fight against the corruption is still talk, it has not been carried out as yet, and there is no independence in the juridical system and the employees lack professionalism. However Azerbaijan can turn into the authoritative and modern state of the world. "There is need in the Azerbaijani administration for a transformation. It is already obvious that the Government has made it its objective. The main issue is how to accomplish these goals," Musabayov said.

Another turnover took place in the Communistic Party of Azerbaijan (CPA) and its chairman was retired. "I became the victim of illegal turnover," Rustam Shahsuvarov, CPA chairman, stated. The party was divided into two parts after death of Ramiz Ahmadov, the founder of the party, in 2007. Supporters of the party divided into supporters of the two deputy chairman, Rauf Gurbanov and Rustam Shahsuvarov. The both sides held meetings on the behalf of CPA separately. The party, headed by Shahsuvarov, removed Gurbanov and his supporters from the party. While, CPA headed by Gurbanov announced Shahsuvarov and his supporters out of the party. The internal contradictions took place within the party headed by Shahsuvarov in January 2008. According to Shahsuvarov, a group of people opposed him and attempted to capture the leadership over the party. "This group of people was headed by Seidaga Muradov, Fikrat Azizov, Alaskar Khalilov and Haji Hajiyev. They fabricated as I offended communists in Moscow, and took the party stamp from me. And I wrote a retire statement on 25 January," Shahsuvarov said. As a retirement statement was not approved, the party held a meeting on26 January and retired him from the chairmanship position. According to Shahsuvarov, the meeting was illegal as only 10 out of 31 members of the Presidium attended in the meeting. This decision was taken without participation of Shahsuvarov. Shahsuvarov added that currently illegal struggle have been conducted for the chairmanship position of the party. "Presently, CPA headed by Gurbanov, is more. I recognize that everything I did against Gurbanov, now turned against me and I became the victim of another turnover. I had to prevent the retirement of Gurbanov, as now I understand that I made mistake by changing the power like that," Shahsuvarov said. Shahsuvarov noted that he may even join Gurbanov's party. We cannot disclose another side's opinion.

The contradictions occurred within the united eighteen opposition parties of Azerbaijan. Our Azerbaijan bloc and Way of Azerbaijan political movement, which is united in the union, oppose creation of the new Democratic elections centre, Hasan Hasanov, the chairman of Free Azerbaijan, which enters Our Azerbaijan bloc, stated to Trend. The meeting of eight Classic Popular Front, Azadlig, National-Democratic, Open Society, Great Establishment, United Popular Front of Azerbaijan, Takamul and Greens parties was held in the headquarters of Classic Popular Front party of Azerbaijan on 30 January. The participants of the meeting took a decision to create a centre of Democratic elections. According to Hasanov, Our Azerbaijan bloc opposed establishment of the centre. "We have not taken a decision on joining political structures. We will take a decision to join to the new structure of eighteen parties during the upcoming meeting on 10 February," Hasanov said. The Way of Azerbaijan political movement also opposes the creation of the new structure.

The election process is the best form of discussions between the Authorities and opposition in Azerbaijan, Ali Ahmadov, the Deputy Chairman and Executive Secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijani Party (NAP), stated. The Azerbaijani opposition Democratic and Musavat parties have called on the Authorities to have discussions. Isa Gambar, Musavat chairman, proposed to the Government to hold negotiations. NAP believes that the struggle for a place in the elections is a real form of discussion between the Authorities and the opposition. The election process is a dialogue. If we began preparations for the elections it means that we begun discussions," NAP deputy chairman stated. Discussions need to be held between the Authorities and opposition. Siyavush Novruzov, the deputy executive secretary, believes that the opposition is not sincere by calling the Authorities to talks. "We do not believe in Gambar's sincerity" Novruzov said.

Nagorno-Karabakh

The Armenian Armed Forces have violated the ceasefire agreement from the dislocated the Javahirli village of Agdam region of Azerbaijan fired at the Azerbaijani National Army at 5:10a.m on 26 January, spokesman for the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, reported. The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported

The USA will not allow the recognition of the 'Armenian genocide' by Turks at the beginning of the last century, said Norman Stone, Assistant to former Prime Minister of Great Britain. "These are political statements. We all know politicians have to say things and then do something different," Stone said in Baku on 28 January. Candidates from the Democratic Party, senator Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama, called upon the Congress to pass Resolution No 106, promising to recognize the 'Armenian genocide' in Ottoman Turkey at the beginning of the last century if they are elected as President of the USA. The resolution was presented to the House of Representatives on 30 January 2007 by Adam Shiff under pressure from the Armenian lobby in the USA. The US President George W Bush has repeatedly protested against recognition of the 'Armenian genocide'. The US Secretary General and eight former Secretaries of State also opposed adoption of this resolution. Turkey, who does not recognize the accusations of the Armenians, has repeatedly warned that if resolution No 106 is adopted, US-Turkish relations may worsen. Last week the Prime Minister of Turkey, Rajab Teyyub Erdogan, condemned Obama and accused him of 'political inexperience'. "Everybody well understands that adopting the Armenian draft law will bring significant harm to relations between Turkey and the United States," the Prime Minister of Turkey said. Ankara suggested Armenia attend a mixed commission which would give free access to the archives of the 1915 events, but Armenia refused. Turkish journalist-commentator and commentator of the Turkish Daily News, Jem Oguz, considers that the candidates for Presidency in the USA have repeatedly made such statements. "There are big differences between the candidates for presidency and president," he said. According to Oguz, the president takes on a responsibility and if it is possible to give up the responsibility, the genocide will be recognized. Oguz considers that if resolution No 106 is passed, the USA will lose its partner in Turkey. "Differences will materialize between the USA and Turkey and results of the confrontation will be in favor of Turkey," he said.

On 30 January, the Armenian Armed Forces violated the ceasefire agreement at the Baganis Ayrim village of the Kazakh region of Azerbaijan from 8:00a.m to 8:15a.m and near the Kokha Nabi village of Tovuz region from 4:45p.m to 4:55p.m. They also fired at the Karakhanbaili and Garvand villages of Fizuli region from 2:50a.m to 3:10a.m on 31 January, the spokesman for the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, reported. The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported

On 1 February, the Armenian Armed Forces have violated the ceasefire agreement from the dislocated Alkhanli village of Fizuli region at 9:45a.m to 4:30p.m, as well as near Tapgaragoyunlu village of Goranboy region at 2:45p.m to 3:00p.m, and, from the positions near Javakhirli village of Agdam region to the posts of the Azerbaijani National Army from 4:00a.m to 4:25a.m on 2 February, a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, reported. The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported

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