Weekly political review

Official chronicle

On 4 February the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received the delegation of the European Union's 'Troika', headed by the Foreign Minister of Slovenia, Dimitry Rupel. The 'Troika' also includes EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, Benita Ferrero Waldner. Aliyev voiced his confidence that the visit of 'Troika' to the region will open new opportunities for the development of the co-operation. During the meeting, the sides exchanged views on the prospects of co-operation in various spheres between Azerbaijan and the European Union, as well as in the process of settling Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

On 5 February Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev received participants to the third Congress of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Azerbaijan. The head of state said that trades unions unite over 1.5 million of the country's 8.6mln people. "This is a tremendous force and the trade unions play a significant role in the protection of labor rights and social needs of workers," Aliyev stressed. According to the president, amid the establishment of market relations and the national economy, the employer-employee relationship should be regulated to allow for the protection of employee rights. The Government's role is to provide recommendations to this process though appropriate decision-making. Aliyev said that during the last few years the Government has directed tremendous funds at resolving social problems and that the salaries and minimum wage have been increased numerous times. "Following the improvement of the economic situation in the country, the Government will pay more attention to these issues," he said.

A group of companies ANS and the Chingiz Mustafayev Foundation presented the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev with the 'Man of the Year' award on 5 February. The local television channel ANS reported that the head of state was awarded this title for his patriotic qualities and activities directed towards the development of Azerbaijan. Ilham Aliyev was awarded "Man of the Year' for his numerous merits, ANS reported referring to the foundation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway without any assistance from other countries; the delivery of Azerbaijani gas to the European market which has consolidated the country's place in the international energy security system; protraction of Azerbaijan from possible danger as a result of a balanced policy pursued by the President amid tense relations between Iran and the United States, the successful implementation of infrastructure projects in the country and capital, promoting the opening of new jobs and measures taken to eradicate refugee camps in Azerbaijan. The President was also awarded the title for opening a war industry complex and acquisition of first military products, for increasing the financial allocation to bring the Azerbaijani Armed Forces in line with advanced standards, the rehabilitation of broadcasting of ANS, the first independent television and radio company in Azerbaijan and for his role in extending the company's license; as well as releasing the arrested journalists. The title 'Man of the Year' has been awarded to outstanding figures over many years. The title was awarded former late Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev, Toshiyuki Fujiwara, the former Japanese Ambassador to Azerbaijan, MP Mehriban Aliyeva, the President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and Sheik-Islam Haji, the Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims Board.

The strong economy, its strong army and the military potential of Azerbaijan will settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in favor of Azerbaijan, said the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, on 5 February during the ceremony for the diploma 'Man of the Year' which was awarded to him by the ANS Group of Companies and Fund named after National Hero Chingiz Mustafayev. The State Head of Azerbaijan said that Azerbaijan's position includes the absence of co-operation with Armenia until the release of the occupied Azerbaijani territories, ANS reported. Ilham Aliyev added that Azerbaijan will direct all its forces to liberate its territories. "The activities directed towards strengthening the army, annually increasing the military budget, creating military industry and manufacturing its first product assumes great importance for future plans," the President said. Ilham Aliyev stated that Azerbaijan is currently holding peaceful talks with Armenia because as yet there is still hope. "We should be strong. Strong economy, strong army and strong military potential will settle the issue in favor of Azerbaijan. We already can see the initial signs," said the President of Azerbaijan

On 6 February, Ilham Aliyev, the Azerbaijan President, received US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programs Thomas Farrell. Thomas Farrell said during his current trip he eye-witnesses Azerbaijan's great development, since his previous visits to the country. He said he is well aware of President Ilham Aliyev-led efforts to build a civil society in Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev said Azerbaijan has made great progress in the last few years. They also stressed Azerbaijan-US relations are successfully developing in all the areas, and said there are good prospects for enhancing the bilateral cooperation.

On 6 Feb, Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan received Jacques Rogge-the President of the International Olympic Committee and his accompanying delegation. The Azerbaijani President has expressed his satisfaction about his previous meetings with Jacques Rogge, who is for the first time visiting Baku as the President of the International Olympic Committee. President Ilham Aliyev said that a large number of high-level international competitions, including Athens Olympics qualifying boxing, volleyball and taekwondo tournaments were held in Azerbaijan. He also touched upon aspect concerning the government's efforts in creating wide sports infrastructure, and said that 13 regional sport complexes, meeting the world standards, have also been built and 23 are under construction in the country. President Ilham Aliyev said that great attention is also paid towards the improvement of the social conditions of sportsmen. "Sport is not only success and achievements, it is also the nation's future," he added. The President of International Olympic Committee stressed that the Azerbaijan is developing in all the fields. Jacques Rogge said International Olympic Committee welcomes the attention paid by the President Ilham Aliyev`s in developing the sports and improving the Olympic movement within the country.

On 7 February, the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has received the acting chairman of the German Commerzbank Martin Blessing. Blessing said that he is visiting Azerbaijan for the first time and the main purpose of the visit is to participate in the official opening of the Baku Office of the Commerzbank. He noted expansion of the relationships between the two countries in the field of economy, and also voiced his gratitude to the administration of the country for support in opening of the Commerzbank's Baku Office. The operation of the Office will enhance the economic relationships, he said. The Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stressed the successful development of the relationships between Azerbaijan and Germany in different spheres, including economics. He evaluated the opening of Baku office of the German bank, as an important index of the cooperation.

Pr.Elkhan Nuroyev, the director of Strategic Research Centre at the Azerbaijani President, has been appointed Doctor of Political Science by the order of the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev. The Centre is engaged in the analysis of regional and global processes, investigations into internal and foreign policy issues, researching of geopolitical issues, studies of socio-cultural development and other issues.

On 8 February, the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has received the Chairman of PACE Sub-Committee on Nagorno-Karabakh, Lord Russell Johnston. The meeting focused on Azerbaijan's co-operation with PACE, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement.

Parliament

The Venice Commission of Council of Europe and other international organizations reached an agreement to introduce changes into the Azerbaijani Election Code. "The new version of Election Code was submitted to Parliament, and I believe that it will be submitted for discussion in the near future," Ali Hasanov, the head of Public-Political Department of Executive Apparatus of President, stated. There is no exact information about the changes to the Election Code. International organizations and the opposition are insisting on changes of principles in the formation of the election commissions.

A long period of time is required for Azerbaijan to adopt a law on the rights of the minorities taken as an obligation before the Council of Europe. "Fulfillment of some of the obligations that Azerbaijan made before the Council of Europe (CE) requires a long period of time. One of them is the obligation on the rights of ethnic minorities. Some 20 of the 44 CE member-states have not settled that problem as yet," Ogtay Asadov, the chairman of the Azerbaijani Parliament said during his meeting with Elena Jikova and Andreas Herkel, the co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 7 February. Azerbaijan was admitted to the Council of Europe as a full member in January 2001. The country made some obligations at that time. Though Azerbaijan has fulfilled most of them, the obligation to adopt a law on Alternative Military Service and on Ethnic Minorities has not been fulfilled as yet. The chairman of the Azerbaijani parliament said that two bills have been developed in Azerbaijan to solve the above-mentioned problems and the documents are being examined by international organizations. Asadov reported on the work carried out to protect human rights, to improve national legislation and to develop democratic principles in Azerbaijan. He also stressed that the integration to the Euro Atlantic space is one of the main directions of the foreign policy of Baku. " Azerbaijan has fulfilled the large majority of its obligations before the Council of Europe, the parliament has approved the large majority of the international conventions and several laws have been approximated to European standards," the speaker of the parliament said. The PACE co-rapporteur on Azerbaijan Herkel highly appreciated the integration of Azerbaijan to the Euro Atlantic space and the democratic and law reforms in the country. "The Council of Europe highly appreciates Baku's cooperation with the organization," Herkel said.

Foreign policy

The Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarovreceived the delegation of the European Union's 'Troika', headed by the Foreign Minister of Slovenia, Dimitry Rupel. The 'Troika' also includes EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, Benita Ferrero Waldner and EU Special Representative for South Caucasus. Rupel said that the EU will always support Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement. Waldner highly assessed the co-operation between Azerbaijan and European Union.

The Georgian diaspora in Azerbaijan has the same living conditions as Azerbaijanis. "The Georgians living in Azerbaijan do not differ from the Azerbaijani citizens and they have the same living conditions," the Georgian State Minister for Diaspora Yulon Gagoshidze said to Trend on 4 February. "There are three categories of Georgian diaspora in Azerbaijan - the Ingiloys historically residing in their territory, migrant Georgians, and the Meskheti Turks," the Minister said. "All these categories require different approaches from the Georgian state. Ingiloys live on their own land. They turned out to live beyond Georgia's borders as a result of political processes. We can help them only in development of language and cultural skills, as well as enable their rights for religious freedom. We can supply Georgian textbooks to them, and assist their local Orthodox Church." According to the Minister, attention should be paid to the new wave of emigration mainly involving the Georgian Azerbaijanis. "A special issue is the Meskheti Turks, who were evicted from Middle Asia with whom our country pledged to assist in their return to their land. We have to tackle all these issues in near future," Gagoshidze said.

The official Teheran is ready to assist in the settling of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. "Iran supports the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and is ready to assist in the process," Golamali Haddad Adel, the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, said at a meeting with the Azerbaijani parliamentary delegation on 6 February, the head of the Azerbaijani parliamentary delegation -Eldar Ibrahimov, who is also the chair of the Azerbaijani permanent parliamentary commission on agrarian policy, said to Trend in a telephonic conversation. Iran recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and considers that the Nagorno-Karabakh region is the integral part of the country, Adel said. According to Ibrahimov, enhancement of relationships between the Iranian and Azerbaijani Parliaments, exchange of the experience in development of laws, gas and electricity supply from Iran to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan, were the various topics discussed at the meeting. The Azerbaijani parliamentary delegation also met with the Iranian Deputy Agricultural Minister. They discussed development of the agricultural cooperation between the two countries. The Azerbaijani parliamentary delegation headed by Ibrahimov includes the chair of the permanent parliamentary commission on social policy-Hadi Rajabli, the deputy chair of the permanent parliamentary commission on regional affairs -Fettah Heydarov, and MPs Arastun Javadov, Huseynbala Miralamov and Fazil Mustafayev.

Another Congressman, Randy Kuhl, joined the US Congress's working group in Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry reported. Since 2004, Kuhl has been representing New York's 29 in the House of Representatives. Congressman Kuhl is a member of the Committees for Agriculture, Education & Labour, and Transport & Infrastructure. He removed his name from the list of authors of the Armenian genocide draft which was submitted to the US Congress in 2007. Recently, two more Congressmen joined the working group, namely Henry Brown ( North Carolina) and Mike Conaway ( Texas). Presently, the US Congress' working group on Azerbaijan unites 31 members, including Kuhl.

Azerbaijan did not undertake the obligation for the Council of Europe to determine the status of Baku and elect a Mayor of the city, as the implementation of that is not obligatory. "Determination of the Baku status and mayor elections is not an actual issue. Baku's current managing does not cause discontent among any of the international organizations," Samad Seyidov, the head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), said to Trend. The PACE co-rapporteurs for Azerbaijan Andres Herkel and Yevgeniya Zhivkova visited Baku from 4 to 7 February. They also discussed determination of the Baku status and election of a Mayor for the city. The CE local and regional authorities advised to solve the issue in near future. Seyidov said that Azerbaijan undertook special obligations to CE and their fulfilment is compulsory. "Determination of the Baku status and election of a mayor is not among the obligations. The Council of Europe is an international organization and one of the main tasks of international organizations is of making new suggestions regarding different issues. But no country, including Azerbaijan, can accept all the ideas and suggestions made by the Council of Europe," he said. He noted that the international organizations can suggest changes in the structure of the country and can also advice for the creation of a new one. "The compliance between the suggestion and the interests of the country should be made clear. If the suggestion does not correspond with the interests of Azerbaijan and causes some problems, it cannot be accepted."

Political movements

The Council of Europe's co-rapporteurs for Azerbaijan, Andreas Herkel and Yevgeni Jidkov, who are on visit to Azerbaijan, held a meeting with the opposition leaders on 4 February. The meeting was attended by the Head of Musavat Party, Isa Gambar, Co-chairs of Azadlyg Political Bloc, Ali Karimli and Lala Shovkat, Chairman of Azerbaijan Democratic Party, Sardar Jalaloglu and the Head of the Forum for Azerbaijan, Eldar Namazov. Eldar Namazov reported to Trend that the meeting focused on the public-political situation in Azerbaijan, the pre-election campaign, freedom of assembly, human rights, political prisoners and the arrest of journalists. "The opinions of the opposition leaders coincided with regards to human rights, democracy and freedom of speech. The opinion differed only with regards to the participation of boycotting the elections," Namazov said. He added that the opposition leaders highlighted the necessity of appointing a Council of Europe's special rapporteur for the political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

The Central Election Commission of Azerbaijan called on the opposition party 'Musavat' to keep within the law. "The rules laid down by the law should serve as a basis for all parties, particularly for Musavat," Natig Mammadov, the head of CEC said to Trend on 4 February. The chairman of Musavat opposition party, Isa Gambar, recently said that Musavat will not send its representative to the Central Election Commission until the election commissions are formed on an equal basis. According to Mammadov, the law states that the parties represented in the parliament should be represented in CEC by sending one of their members. "The law does not say that this demand to the parties is optional," the CEC chairman said. According to chairman, the refusal by Musavat party to take part in the election commissions will not affect the operations of CEC. "When quorums are held for collective bodies, the CEC as well the chairman takes part in it," Mammadov said.

The Union for Democracy uniting three opposition parties has applied to the Azerbaijani Interior Ministry, Embassies operating in the country and international organizations, the chair of the Classic Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (CPFPA) Mirmahmoud Miralioglu said to Trend on 4 February. Police broke up a meeting of the Union for Democracy in the Barda region on 3 February. The chair of the CPFPA Mirmahmoud Miralioglu, the chair of the National Democratic Party (NDP) Iskandar Hamidov and the chair of the Azadliq party Ahmad Oruj were detained and their vehicles seized. Several hours after their detention they were sent back to Baku. According to Miralioglu, the police officer said that he had announced an emergency situation in Barda and accused the oppositionists of creation of a tensed situation in the region. The Union for Democracy treats the step as excess of power by the Interior Ministry's employees. In its appeal to the Ministry the Union demands to clear up the situation. In its appeal addressed to diplomatic corps the Union says that the incident reflects an aggravated pre-election situation in the country and a lack of acceptable election atmosphere.

Once again, the discontent has arisen in the World Azerbaijanis Congress (WAC). Gulamrza Sabri Tabrizi-the chairman of the Congress has been removed from his post, Eldar Garadaghli, the member of the Board of Directors of the organization said to Trend. According to Garadaghli, the chairman was not shown confidence in the WAC meeting held in the Belgian capital of Brussels on 2 February. Some 12 Board members and some other WAC members have been reported, as the ones who took part in the meeting. According to Garadaghli, Tofig Malikov, Samad Fartash, Faramaz Guluzadeh, Abuzar Bagirov, Adil Minbashi and the others said that the activities of the chairman are insufficient and therefore demanded his resignation. However, Tabrizi did not accept his resignation. The meeting, at the end, decided to remove Tebrizi from the post of the chairman, and to establish an organizational committee for the preparation of the emergency meeting of WAC and the transfer of the management to the organization to this committee. Ali Rza Amanbayli, the head of the coordination and information center of the Congress, denied this information in his interview to Trend, and said that it impossible to remove the chairman from his post without the quorum of the Board of Directors. He said that 12 out of 17 members of the Board support Gulammirza Tebrizi and there are only 5 members who do not support him. "Each of them who oppose Tebrizi, claim to be the chairman. They are even rivals to each other, as all of them want to take up the post of chairman," Amanbayli said. According to Amanbayli, the former chairman of WAC Javad Derekhti and his supporters are taking the advantage of the discontents within the organization, and are attempting to degrade the authority of the Congress. If the supporters of Derekhti and Eldar Garadaghli will hold the separate meetings, that will be illegitimate, he added.

The ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP) has proposed to cancel the registration of parties which do not submit financial reports. "The financial transparency issue should seriously be considered in the legislation and parties who register without submitting financial reports should be rejected," MP Aydin Mirzazadeh, a member of NAP Political Council, stated. The amendments and supplements are expected to be made in the law draft on Political parties, which was passed in 1992, during the spring session of the Azerbaijani Parliament. According to Mirzazadeh, NAP occasionally submits financial reports to the public. "If a leader of a political party does not work and is therefore engaged full-time in the operation of a party, and if several people also work in headquarters, and the party's newspaper publishes and the party officials are participating in events occasionally, this must surely demonstrate that the party possesses a certain amount of funds. And the party must submit the financial report," MP said. The function of the party that goes to power should be transparent. Arif Hajili, head of Executive Department of Musavat opposition party, believes that it is impossible to inform the public about the financial state of the party. He added that there were no financial operations taking place in the organization currently. Nuraddin Mammadli, the deputy chairman of the opposition Popular Front Party, stated that the opposition does not receive investments from shadow sources. If there were financial sources, the parties would not face the financial deadlock.

The Our Azerbaijan bloc have blamed the chairman of the Classic Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (CPFPA) for spreading false information. In December 2007, 20 Azerbaijani parties signed an agreement to cooperate with each other Within the framework of the format of the agreement by 20 parties the so-called Democratic Elections Centre was established. "Mirmahmud Miralioglu, CPFPA chairman stated in his interview to Trend that the Centre was established by 20 parties. However, Our Azerbaijan is not represented in the Centre," Vugar Bayturan, Our Azerbaijan chairman, said to Trend on 7 February. Bayturan said that eight parties, which joined Our Azerbaijan, within the framework of the format of 20 parties, signed an agreement on cooperation. The Centre was established later, and eight parties, united in Our Azerbaijan, did not join the union. "Leaders of political parties are trying to force the bloc to join the Centre. They fail and there is an impression as the Centre should unites 20 parties by order. I warn them to leave us on behalf of the bloc I preside over and not to force us to disclose some issues which may destroy the agreement," Bayturan said. Miralioglu said to Trend that Our Azerbaijan took part in the establishment of Centre, as well as taking part in the meetings at the Centre. According to Miralioglu, Our Azerbaijan played an active role in the establishment of the Centre. Hasan Hasanov participated in the Centre on behalf of the bloc.

The Open Society opposition party of Azerbaijan will not support any presidential candidates from the opposition in the presidential elections to be held in October 2008. "If the leader of the party Rasul Guliyev does not return to Azerbaijan until the elections, the party Open Society will not support any candidates from the opposition," Yagub Abbasov, the chairman of the Supreme Assembly of the party said to Trend on 8 February. The party has worked out a program on the return of the ex-speaker Rasul Guliyev, who is an emigrant of Azerbaijan in US. The program will be sent to Guliyev so that he can become familiar with it. According to Abbasov, the party supports the atmosphere of mutual confidence and political reconciliation in Azerbaijan. "The leaders of the opposition claiming the post of president have lower ratings than Ilham Aliyev, the candidate from the government", he said. "We have supported the candidates from the opposition up to now, but none of them could achieve good results. The views and ways of approach have changed nowadays. The traditional ways do not work and the opposition cannot take steps in accordance with the realities of the present," Abbasov said. The Open Society Party was founded in April 2007. The leader of the party is Rasul Guliyev, the ex-speaker of Azerbaijan who has currently emigrated to the US.

Nagorno-Karabakh

The European Union is confident that the presidential elections in Azerbaijan and Armenia will not negatively affect the peace settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Dmitri Rupel, the Slovenian Foreign minister, stated to journalists in Baku on 4 February. "The EU follows the negotiation process directed at regulating the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and any issue that has been solved between the countries inspire us," Rupel stated. The EU excluded military methods as a settlement to the conflict. "Both countries should understand that the regulation of the conflict will lead to the development within the regions," Benit Ferero Valdner, EU Commissar on Foreign Relations, stated.

Though the international community does not accept Kosovo's independence to be a precedent for other conflicts in the region based on ethnic separatism, Anatol Lieven, a prominent British analyst, disagrees with such statements. "Kosovo and Nagorno-Karabakh are different conflicts, but at the same time they are both separatist conflicts in autonomous areas in other states, inevitably, what happens in one will have a certain effect on what happens in the other", Anatol Lieven, British policy analyst and chairman of International Relations and Terrorism Studies at King's College London, told Trend's correspondent in London. Lieven believes that the Kosovo example can be applied to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. "Why not? It is easy to say that things are specific, but it depends who is doing the talking. Everybody tries to make up different rules, different cases. But in fact, of course, it does set a precedent", said the British analyst. Kosovo's independence will have repercussions for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, he says. Serbia lost formal control over Kosovo in 1999, when NATO attacked to drive out Serb forces and halt the killing and ethnic cleansing of Albanian civilians during a two-year counter-insurgency war. The Kosovo Albanians insists on the declaration of independence of this region. The West stated that it can recognize the independence of this region, whereas Belgrade intends to grant this region only autonomy. Backed by Russia, Serbia rejects independence for Kosovo. Moscow has blocked the adoption of an independence plan at the U.N. Security Council. Russia backed Belgrade's position, which excluded any changes to the border violating the UN border, which was accepted as 'deadlock in negotiations' in the format of UN Security where Russia holds a right of veto. "I don't believe that the Russians will back the Armenians particularly, that will not be a direct effect of Kosovo's independence. But undoubtedly the Armenians will be encouraged by that", said Mr Lieven. The conflict between the two countries of the South Caucasus began in 1988 due to Armenian territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Since 1992, Armenian Armed Forces have occupied 20% of Azerbaijan including the Nagorno-Karabakh region 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. After the collapse of USSR, along with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict three more lingering conflicts exist in the territory of CIS. They are the Trans-Dniester, Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts. Commenting on Russia's hindering of the determination of the status of Kosovo and supporting for such separatist regimes as South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Mr Lieven said there were two main reasons. "Firstly, the Abkhaz and Ossetian are Northern Caucasian people to whom the Russians are tied very closely. And certainly they do not want any more trouble in the North Caucasus. And secondly, the Russians have come to absolutely detest the Georgians and are not going to do anything for them, whereas Russia, of course, has been trying to build good relations with Azerbaijan. That is the explanation", he said. Analysing the difficulty western powers face in balancing people's call for autonomy with a desire to maintain the territorial integrity of existing states and preserve regional stability, Mr Lieven said it would partly depend on what happens next. "If Kosovo does break away successfully and more or less peacefully, possibly involving limited partition literally, but without any other repercussions, then no doubt the US will be seen to have succeeded more or less". "If the independence of Kosovo leads to more serious fighting with Serbia and a possible overspill of Albanian separatism into Serbia itself and then towards Macedonia, then of course, the entire US policy towards the region, and ever since 1999 and the Kosovo war, will be seen to have been a disaster. But we do not yet know what will happen", said analyst.

The Armenian Armed Forces violated the ceasefire agreement by firing at the Azerbaijani National Army from the positions located near the Gulistan village in the Goranboy region of Azerbaijan from 4.40am to 5.00am; from the Javahirli village in the Aghdam region of Azerbaijan from 4.14am to 4.25am and from 4.30am to 4.50am on 5 February, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry reported. The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated, no casualties were reported

The Armenian Armed Forces violated the ceasefire agreement by firing at the Azerbaijani National Army from the positions located near the unnamed heights in Khojavand region of Azerbaijan from 00.00am to 01.10am; from the Bashgarvand village in the Aghdam region of Azerbaijan from 02.00am to 02.20am on 6 February, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry reported. The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated, no casualties were reported.

Involving the Nagorno-Karabakh region into the negotiations on settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will not promote the settlement process, the chair of the European Union, the Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitri Rupel said at a press conference on 6 February, the Novosti Armenia quoted. "I do not think involvement of one more side into the negotiations on the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will promote the process. With the assistance of the OSCE Minsk Group's co-chairs the Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents and Foreign Ministers are holding active negotiations to find solutions to the conflict," he said. According to Rupel, the OSCE Minsk Group is actively assisting in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Moreover, active negotiations are held within the framework of other international organizations and all necessary measures are currently being taken.

The European Union does not accept the military settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, said Dmitry Rupel, the EU envoy, Foreign Minister of Slovenia, Novosti-Armenia reports. "The EU opposes military settlement of each conflict, including Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The EU tries to apply the principles of democracy in the process of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement and establish an atmosphere of mutual trust between the conflicting sides," he said. According to Rupel, the European Union hopes that the diplomatic efforts for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement, will yield positive results. In addition, he stated that the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan will continue their assistance in the settlement of conflict, even after the coming presidential elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan. "Especially many politicians, including Foreign Minister- Vardan Oskanyan, functioning in Armenia, who has cleverly acted in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," Rupel said.

If Armenia does not fulfill the recommendations of international community to vacate the Azerbaijani lands, Azerbaijan will have to use its military force, Ali Ahmadov, the Executive Secretary and the Deputy Chairman of the governing New Azerbaijan Party (NAP), said to the journalist on 7 February. According to Ahmadov, peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the best way, but if the peaceful negotiations are fruitless, Azerbaijan will have right to resort to any means to liberate its lands from occupation. International organizations cannot deprive Azerbaijan of this right. " Azerbaijan supports the peaceful settlement of the conflict. However, if the peaceful settlement is impossible, Azerbaijan will have to resort to the single way to set its territory free," Ahmadov said. "International organizations should do more than just making recommendations. Stability in the region and solutions to the conflicts requires the exact steps, which would make Armenia vacate the Azerbaijani occupied territory," he said.

Azerbaijan's governing New Azerbaijan Party (NAP) informed the public how the Armenian state was established on the ancient Azerbaijani lands. A round table on the subject of 'Main Purposes of Fighting against Armenia's Provocations in Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict' took place on 6 February and was organized by the NAP. "The historical facts cited by President Ilham Aliyev about the establishment of a state by the Armenians in the ancient Azerbaijani land, about turning the ancient Irevan khanate into their capital Yerevan should be publicized on a wide scale," the Executive Secretary and the Deputy Chairman of the NAP Ali Ahmaov said. "During the last 200 years the Armenians committed the most serious international crimes, namely occupation, ethnic cleansing and falsification of historical facts," he said. "Ilham Aliyev's statements that Armenians came to the Azerbaijani territory as guests are proved by historical facts. The manuscripts about migration of Armenians to the Azerbaijani land are kept in archives," the Director of the Historical Institution in the Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences Yagub Mahmudov said. "The resettlement of Armenians to North Azerbaijan began after the Turkmenchay agreement was signed. In 1828, an Armenian province was established in the Azerbaijan land. A total of 1,114 villages out of the 1,125 which were given to the Irevan province were entirely Azerbaijani. Historical documents say that in 1886 Azerbaijanis comprised 86.5% of the population in the Irevan province," Mahmudov said. "In 1978, Armenians in the Agdara region of Azerbaijan erected a monument to the 100th anniversary of their resettlement in that land. Later, when they realised that this historical fact would be used against them they removed the monument," he said.

The Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE) is to hold a meeting on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with participation of Azerbaijani and Armenian MPs in Strasburg in 2008. "We need an agreement from both sides to implement the meeting," Rassel Johnston, PACE Subcommittee chairman on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, stated during his visit to Azerbaijan. According to Johnston, the aim of the visit is to find a solution and a possible dialogue between the conflicting countries. The chairman of the Subcommittee noted that he would hold a meeting with the President Ilham Aliyev, as well as Oktai Asadov, the Speaker, as well as representatives of the political parties. "The Council of Europe does not engage in the direct settlement of the conflict. Our goal is to create favourable conditions to settle the conflict," he said.

The Chairs of Azerbaijan Parliament's Commissions did not accept the proposals to conduct a meeting on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement with the participation of the Azerbaijani and Armenian MPs. "We stated that the Azerbaijani and Armenian MPs have met frequently. However, these meetings yielded no results, and therefore, a new meeting with the Armenian MPs is impossible," the Chair of Azerbaijan Parliament's Permanent Commission on Human Rights, MPs Rabiyat Aslanova, reported to Trend on 8 February. Lord Russell Johnston, the Head of the Sub-committee on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), met with the Heads of Azerbaijan Parliament's Commissions in the Parliament on 8 February. The conflict between the two countries of the South Caucasus began in 1988 due to the Armenian territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Since 1992, the Armenian Armed Forces have occupied 20% of Azerbaijan including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its seven neighbouring districts. In 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement which ended the active hostilities. The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group ( Russia, France, and the US) are currently holding the peaceful negotiations. In January 2005, PACE passed Resolution 1416 in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. The Resolution says that Armenia occupies Azerbaijani territories. It also contains various suggestions to settle the conflict. Aslanova said that during the meeting in April in Strasburg, the Chairman of the Sub-committee made a proposal to hold a meeting on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement with the participation of the Azerbaijani and Armenian MPs. Johnston said that his visit was aimed at knowing the position of the sides on whether the activity of the Sub-committee on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict would continue, as well as to study the possibility of the meeting of the Azerbaijani MPs. "We said that it is impossible to reach any results at the meeting with the Armenian MPs and holding a new meeting has no prospects," the MP said. Johnston said that the Council of Europe is not involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement. The visit to the region is not aimed at achieving the settlement of the conflict, but creating conditions for talks between the conflicting sides. "We said that the Sub-committee has been established to implement the PACE resolution 1416. However, nothing has been done for it. The visits to the region and held meetings serve protracting the conflict settlement. If such situation continues, there will be no necessity to continue the activity of the Sub-committee," Aslanova said. The Chairs of Azerbaijan Parliament's Commissions stated that no co-operation is possible between the Azerbaijani and Armenian MPs unless the Nagorno-Karabakh is settled.

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Iran's Rouhani asks US to pave way for talks
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JCPOA signatories require to take big steps towards commitments - Iranian MP
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