Political review of the last week

Official chronicle

The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has extended his condolences to the family of the outstanding state, public and political figure, organizer of the oil industry of Azerbaijan and Russia Nikolay Baybakov who passed away. The President noted that "Baybakov had a special personality with high civil properties, perfect professionalism, an endless love for work, determination and fidelity". Because of these qualities, Baybakov will remain in the memories of the people he said.

On 31 March, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev received the participants of the meeting of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA) which is taking place in Baku. The President greatly appreciated the fact that Azerbaijan is represented in the Executive Committee of the IAACA, which affiliates over 130 countries. The Azerbaijani Leader said he is hopeful that the Baku meeting of the Executive Committee would be successful. According to President Aliyev, Azerbaijan has adopted an anti-corruption law and state program in 2004 thus creating a solid base in this field. The Head of State stressed that Azerbaijan is taking administrative measures to fight corruption without any discrimination. Azerbaijan is successfully continuing its cooperation in this field as the country joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. The State Oil Fund has won the UN Public Service Award for success in this field. Last year, the President noted, the level of corruption in the country was reduced. Meanwhile, the private sector share in economy has increased and now makes up 80%, the President said. The Head of State noted that the poverty level has been reduced from 49% to 16%. Mr. Jia Chunwang, President of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities of China, Ex-Prosecutor General of the CPR, expressed his thanks for meeting with them. He also expressed his pleasure at the accomplishments Azerbaijan had achieved under the guidance of President Ilham Aliyev.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev received the Head of the OSCE Baku Office, Jose Luis Herrero Ansola on 1 April. The meeting focused on Azerbaijan-OSCE cooperation in a variety of spheres.

On 2 April, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, arrived in Bucharest to attend the NATO summit. The State Head is accompanied by Azerbaijan's First Lady- Mehriban Aliyeva, Foreign Minister- Elmar Mammadyarov, Defence Minister,-Safar Abiyev, and other senior officials. The program of the State Head on Wednesday includes bilateral talks with the President of Georgia- Mikhail Saakashvili, as well as participation in the supper in honor of heads of delegations arrived to attend the summit. Meetings of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) at Heads of State and Government level will be held in Bucharest, Romania, from2 to 4 April 2008. There will also be a high-level expanded meeting on Afghanistan. Meetings of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, NATO-Ukraine Commission and NATO-Russia Council will also be held at Summit level in Bucharest.

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and Georgia's Mikheil Saakashvili discussed bilateral and regional cooperation in Bucharest on 2 April. The Presidents voiced their satisfaction with the present bilateral cooperation between the two countries. On 2 April, the Azerbaijani President arrived in Bucharest to participate in the NATO summit. He is accompanied by the First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, the Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, the Defence Minister Safar Abiyev and other officials. President Aliyev is expected to meet with the Co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group on settling of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev held consultations with the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group in Bucharest. The meeting focused on the current situation with the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement.

The meeting with the Azerbaijani President took place at the request of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, Novruz Mammadov, the Head of International Relations Department of Azerbaijani Presidential Administration said to Trend . According to Mammadov, the meeting was held in a tense atmosphere. "During the talks the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev brought to the notice of the co-chairs the tough and irreconcilable position on the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," said Mammadov. Mammadov also said that Azerbaijani President demanded OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to explain the position of the countries they represent regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which was introduced to the UN vote by Azerbaijan. On their part, the co-chairs stated that they supported the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. On 3 April, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs will make an official statement regarding their positions.

On 3 April, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, met with his Latvian counterpart, Valdes Zatlers, within the NATO summit in Bucharest on 3 April. It was stated during the meeting that political and economic relations continue between the two countries, the Press Secretary of Azerbaijan President, Azer Gasimov, briefed the media after the meeting. In addition, the sides highlighted the successfulness of the co-operation between the two countries within the international organizations. In addition, the meeting especially highlighted Azerbaijan's role in ensuring energy security of Europe, Gasimov said.

The Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict may be settled provided Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is observed, the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said in Bucharest on 3 April. Armenia committed an ethnic cleansing in Azerbaijan, over 1mln Azerbaijanis became refugees and IDPs, Aliyev said at the working dinner involving the heads of state and government of the member countries of Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the NATO Administration. The President said that the integration of Azerbaijan into Euro-Atlantic structures has expanded. President Aliyev noted Azerbaijan's special role in providing energy security to Europe and its active part in cooperation in the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea regions. The President noted development of Azerbaijan's economic potential, the rising role of Azerbaijan in the region.

PARLIAMENT

Estonian businessmen are quite interested in investing in the economy of Azerbaijan. "Estonian businessmen are very much interested in the development of bilateral relations with Azerbaijan. The economy of Azerbaijan is developing at a commendable speed and Estonia pays much preference to the economic development with Azerbaijan," Kristiina Ojuland, the Vice Speaker of Estonian Parliament, stated to journalists. Ojuland's three days visit to Azerbaijan starts on 31 March. The economic cooperation may put some positive effect on the expansion of relationships between Azerbaijan and Estonia. Ojuland's visit's aim is to hold political discussions in order to expand relationship between the two countries. Within the framework of the visit, Ojuland will meet with Oktai Asadov- Speaker of Azerbaijani Parliament, Elmar Mammadyarov- Foreign Minister, Heydar Babayev- Minister of Economic Development, members of Azerbaijani and Estonian inter-parliamentary friendship groups, and will also deliver a report about the state of women in Estonia in the standing commission on Legal Policy and State Building Issues.

FOREIGN POLICY

Unification of the entire Turkic world should be started from Turkey and Azerbaijan, the Chair of the Unified Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, MP Gudrat Hasanguliyev said to ITV.

" Turkey and Azerbaijan are more close to unification. So, what is policy? That is implementation of the things which can be implemented. I am sure that the Central Asian countries will also join the unification. After that we will make all other countries to take into account the Turkic world," Hasanguliyev said.

According to the MP, the Turkic world has very great potential - favourable geographic situation in which the Turkic lands connect Europe and Asia, power resources, etc. "Each missed day and hour does not suit our interests. After unification of the Turkic world Europe will entreat the very Turkey to join the European Union," he said. "I do not like the Central Asian countries' indifference to the Khojali genocide and to the Day of the Genocide of Azerbaijanis. The Turkic countries should stick to the common position. I hope these problems will be solved after establishment of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Turkic Countries," Hasanguliyev said. On 3 April, the NATO summit in Bucharest highlighted support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, Moldova and Georgia, the President of Romania, Trayan Basesku, said at a press-conference in Bucharest on 3 April. Considering the possible precedent of Kosovo's independence for the 'frozen conflicts' in the post-Soviet territory, the North Atlantic Alliance decided to add additional item to the closing document of the summit, the President said. In addition, Basesku said that Serbia did not appeal to NATO for membership, and Georgia and Ukraine did not demonstrate intensity with regards to the MAP. Moreover, Basesku said that the summit welcomed the steps of Ukraine and Georgia in the way of joining NATO.

Azerbaijan expressed its protest to India, who voted against the Resolution on Situation in Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan during the recent session of the UN General Assembly. The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan expressed its dissatisfaction with the position of India in this regard, Azerbaijan's Ambassador to India, Tamerlan Garayev, reported to Trend by telephone from Delhi on 4 April. The Resolution highlights serious concerns that the armed conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh territory of Azerbaijan and its surrounding regions is continuing to present threats for the international peace and security and adversely affects the humanitarian situation in the South Caucasus countries. In addition, the Resolution requires an immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of all Armenian Armed Forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Thirty-nine countries voted for and seven countries, namely Angola, Armenia, France, Russia, the USA, India and Banuatu, votedagainst the resolution with 100 members abstaining from the vote.

The USA calls on Azerbaijan to unify all efforts to combat threats from Iran. "We consider that Iran presents threats for the USA, Europe and Russia and therefore, we call on Azerbaijan to jointly work against these threats," said the U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Anne E. Derse, in Baku on 4 April, commenting on the talks between the USA and Russia regarding use of Gabala Radar Station in Azerbaijan. The Ambassador said that the issue of joint use of the Gabala RLS by the USA and Russia is always real for the USA and NATO. "The USA supports the prompt and positive settlement of this issue," the Ambassador said.

Azerbaijan may become a full rights member of the European Union if it corresponds with whole of the EU criteria, the European Commission's Representative in Azerbaijan Alan Waddams said to journalists on 4 April. "For this purpose, the Azerbaijani Government should make full use of the opportunities offered to it by the EU New Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan," he said. The criteria particularly regard democracy, superiority of law, struggle against corruption, human rights and freedom of speech. EU's estimation of the work carried out by Azerbaijan in these fields is completely reflected in the EU report publicized on 3 April. The main shortcomings persist in the court system, justice system, media situation and support to civil society. The EU report paid special attention to the pre-election situation in Azerbaijan. "The freedom of speech still remains restricted in the country and there are serious problems on composition of the election committees," Waddams said. "The Azerbaijani Government should continue implementation of its strategy on protection of human rights and improvement of struggle against corruption," he said.

Azerbaijan considers Russia as its key strategic partner and neighbor, the First Vice Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, Yagub Eyyubov, stated in Moscow. "I, as the Co-chairman of the Russian-Azerbaijani Inter-Parliamentary Commission, am very glad that the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia are developing each day," Eyyubov said on 4 April at the press-conference dedicated to the 16th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Russia.

The relationship between Azerbaijan and Russia, having centuries-old history and traditions, has assumed a special significance, the Director General of the Trend news company Ilgar Huseynov said speaking at the conference 'Azerbaijan 2008: Breakthrough for Development' in Moscow on 4 April. According to Huseynov, the Azerbaijani diaspora is one of the largest and respected ones in Russia. Business cooperation between the countries is enhancing and the cargo turnover is rising. "The Russian culture and Russian language are thoroughly protected in Azerbaijan. The Slavonic University is successfully operating, and the joint humanitarian projects are being implemented in the field of literature and art," he said. " Azerbaijan is the dominating country in the South Caucasus, and is a serious and sedate partner. Therefore, this is quite enough to suppose that Azerbaijan and Russia are important partners for long-term prospective," he said. He said that along with the official statements on support to the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, several Russian channels broadcast films and information pictures about Nagorno-Karabakh of quite contrary idea. "In addition, we, representatives of Azerbaijan's national press, expect large understanding from Russia. Of course, it is possible to bring evidences regarding independence of the press. I support independence, but the reality is that the Azerbaijani community judges Russia's position not only through official statements, but also through the activities of Russian press. Unfortunately, biased materials regarding Azerbaijan results in increasing tensions in the inter-ethnic and international relations, and contributes towards the destruction of the political processes, dissidence and adhesion," he said. Speaking of the situation in South Caucasus, the General Director of Trend said that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia presents obstacles in general development of the region and its integration into worldwide economy and policy. "First of all, this situation does not meet the interests of Azerbaijan as a most dynamically developing country of the region," he said. Irrespective of the whole complex of the problems, Azerbaijan could achieve realization of the regional energy and transport projects of global character. "However, these successes disturb the destructive forces. We face large number of foreign propagandistic materials describing the history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict wrongly, putting Azerbaijan's position at stake in the negotiations process on the conflict settlement. I think that the efforts of finding solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in an averaged and simplified manner are wittingly made unproductive," Huseynov said.

POLITICAL MOVEMENTS

The Initiative group of new Socialist Party of Azerbaijan (SPA) has became a member of the two international organizations, Rustam Shahsuvarov, the head of Initiative group, stated. Shahsuvarov, earlier represented in the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, is founding a new party. According to Shahsuvarov, the new Socialist party will be Left central democratic organization. Initiative group of the party became the member of Communistic organization for Fourth International and International Committee. Shahsuvarov added that his party denies the old traditional communism, Stalinism and will not submit to Genadi Zuganov, leader of Russian communists, and will function independently.

The opposition of Azerbaijan has accused the Government for its lack of election atmosphere in the Country. "The opposition is concerned by the issue that no mood has been set in preparation for this year's elections in the Country. We believe that the Government is responsible for creating an election atmosphere in the Country," the Chairman of the opposition Open Society Party, Akif Shahbazov, reported to Trend . The Presidential elections in Azerbaijan will take place in October. According to Shahbazov, despite the fact that less than six months is left to the elections, there is no feeling that the elections are approaching. "Naturally there is a lack of opposition here as well and I do not hide this fact. However, we consider that the Government is responsible for creating an election atmosphere," Shahbazov added. The Chairman of Azerbaijan Democratic Party, candidate for Presidency, Sardar Jalaloglu, also said that the Government should take steps to form a normal election mood with less obligations falling on the opposition in this regard. The Chairman of the Great Establishment Party, MP Fazil Gazanfaroglu, also agreed that the Government is guilty on the issue that the atmosphere of elections is not felt in the Country. The ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP) however, does not agree with the claims made by the opposition. The NAP Deputy Executive Secretary, MP Mubariz Gurbanli, reported to Trend that there is a normal election atmosphere in the Country. If the opposition cannot utilize this and prepare for the elections, then they themselves are the guilty party. He stated that the NAP prepares for the elections at a high level. "It needs to understand one thing - the decisive role in the elections is linked with the candidate. During the 2008 Presidential elections, personal authority and activities of the NAP Chairman, Ilham Aliyev, who will be a candidate from the NAP, will bring to the issue that majority of the electors will vote for him," Gurbanli said.

The ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP) sent a protest statement to the embassies of the co-chairman countries (The USA, France, Russia) of the OSCE Minsk Group, a source at the NAP reported to Trend on 31 March. During the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly, the co-chairman countries of the OSCE Minsk Group voted against the adoption of the Resolution on Situation in Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan. The statement describes the activities of the OSCE Minsk Group directed towards the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and highlights the responsibility of the organization that the conflict has not been settled to this day. The document says that the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group expressed unbalanced attitudes towards the sides, giving interviews hiding aggression of Armenia, took steps which did not serve towards the settlement process of the conflict. In particular, such attitude took place during the voting over the Resolution on Situation in Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan. The statement describes the fact that the co-chairman countries of the OSCE Minsk Group voted against the Resolution and it caused great dissatisfaction of the Azerbaijani community. Political parties and National Forum of NGOs condemned the position demonstrated by the co-chairman countries of the OSCE Minsk Group with regards to the Resolution and called on them to act in accordance with the standards and principles of the international law. Together with the NAP, the statement was signed by Ana Veten Party, Social Welfare Party, Great Establishment Party, Azerbaijan Unified Popular Front Party, Adalet Party, Civil Unity Party, Civil Solidarity Party, Alliance for Azerbaijan and National Forum of NGOs. NAP was established in 1992 in Nakchivan by ex-President of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev. Currently the Party is being chaired by the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.

The Lankaran offices of oppositional Musavat (Equality), Popular Front Party and Open Society parties have decided to fight together against law violations during the presidential elections to be held in October. The parties have set up a Unified Information Center and have already monitored the same constituencies, said the regional correspondent of Trend . During the monitoring held in Lankaran City Constituency #73, Lankaran Rural Constituency #74, Lankaran-Masalli and Lankaran-Astara Constituency #76, it was not permitted to become familiar with the election rolls, the Center said. The offices of the opposition Musavat (Equality), Popular Front Party and Open Society parties have demanded the heads of the Constituency provide favourable conditions for the citizens and parties to become familiar with the election rolls.

On 1 April, about 20 activists of youth movement Dalga held protest action under 'Health future' slogan in front of the Medical University in Baku. Activists sat on the concrete in front of the University and expressed their protest against the fact that Azerbaijan holds first place in the number of people affected with the contagious tuberculosis disease. The action was held under Public health in coma slogan. Activists distributed lists to the students of Medical University and call upon the Azerbaijan youth to fight against this disease along with the Movement. According to Araz Gasimov, acting chairman of Dalga, it was the first action which was held without any police interference. Previously, police had prevented their protest actions for several times.

Postmarks were issued in China reflecting the nationwide leader of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with regards to his 85th jubilee, the press-service of ruling New Azerbaijan Party reported to Trend . The 85th jubilee of Azerbaijan's nationwide leader will be marked in the country at State level. Events will also take place in China, dedicated to Heydar Aliyev.

Denis Sammut, the Head of the British Links organization believes that Europe is the best place for the development for Azerbaijan. " Azerbaijan is a European country and an important area, which unites Asia and Europe. Europe should be prepared to invest in Azerbaijan, as well as provide human resources," the head of Links organization stated in the conference ' Azerbaijan and Europe 2008' in Baku on 2 April. According to Sammut, Azerbaijan needs to upgrade its education system, strengthen control over Government activity and the Government itself should encourage interest to solve problems in the media. Azerbaijan, according to Sammut, is not utilizing all its potential to develop and integrate into Europe. Siyavush Novruzov, the Deputy Executive Secretary of ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party (YAP) believes that the population of Azerbaijan may be identified with European nations according to its thinking, education and culture. Novruzov considers that Europe has double standard positions towards Azerbaijan - Azerbaijan participate in all NATO programs, but Armenia does not. However, NATO have the same relations with Armenia, he said. The Azerbaijani political scientists including Rasim Musabayov and Rustam Mammadov stated that Azerbaijan is insisting on its integration to Europe and the European liberal values were included in the Constitution of the country.

The Deputy Executive Secretary of the governing New Azerbaijan Party (NAP) Siyavush Novruzov said that Europe's international organizations apply double standards towards Azerbaijan. "Due to its thinking, education and culture, the Azerbaijani people may be equated to the European nations," Novruzov said at the conference ' Azerbaijan and Europe 2008' on 2 April which is taking place in Baku on the initiative of the British organization Links. According to Novruzov, although unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan is participating in all NATO programs, the organization attitude towards both countries is the same. " Azerbaijan does not have a guardian and is independent. Azerbaijan unlike Armenia is not an outpost for other country. Baku does not have the George Bush Avenue unlike Georgia," he said. Novruzov said that the elections in Azerbaijan usually take place more democratically than in Georgia and Armenia. Azerbaijan spends four months for pre-election process, while in Georgia the recent presidential elections were announced and held within a month and a half. An employee of the Georgian Embassy in Azerbaijan voiced discontent with Novruzov's speech and said that the out of turn presidential elections in Georgia were held at force majeur circumstances. "Each side should search for its problems inside its country. So far, 3,000 Georgian soldiers have been serving in Iraq. Georgia is a European country and is currently expecting for being accepted to NATO," the diplomat said.

The chairmen of pro-government parties of Azerbaijan will not retire from their positions. "There is no-one in the Ana Vatan party who is able to take on the responsibilities and lead the party ahead,' Fazail Agamali, the Chairman of Ana Vatan party, stated to Trend . The issue of the election of new chairman was not included in the agenda of the meeting scheduled for June. Agamali said that he would retire from the chairmanship position only when he was certain there was someone to replace him. Presently, there are vacancies for the chairman position in the party and the new chairmen are expected to be elected after the meeting. Ana Vatan party was founded by Agamali. Abutalib Samadov, chairman of the Party of Alliance for the Sake of Azerbaijan [PASA], stated to Trend that he does not see any reason to retire from his position. PASA was founded by Samadov in early 1990s. Samadov was appointed as the head of State Agency on author rights by the President's order in 2006.

About 30 activists of the Muasir Musavat party attempted to stage a rally in front of the France Embassy in Baku on 3 April. Police did not allow the rally participants to come close to the Embassy building. The rally was staged in the Malakan park. The participants of the rally demanded the activity of the OSCE Minsk Group to be refused because the OSCE member-countries including Russia, France and the United States voted against the Resolution on Situation in Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan adopted during the session of UN General Assembly on 14 March. The slogan of the rally was 'OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs must refuse from pro-Armenian positions' and 'French co-chairs must be removed from his position'.

The rally was unsanctioned by the Baku Executive Power. Farhad Aliyev, the chairman of Muasir Musavat, submitted a protest statement to the representative of French embassy. Muasir Musavat was founded in 2000. In 2002, the party received state registration. Party takes constructive opposition course towards the authorities. The leaders of various Azerbaijani parties discussed the issues of preparation for the upcoming Presidential elections and situation in the region with the members of the AGO Monitoring Group of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers who are on a visit to Baku. "The key topic of the discussions was fulfillment of Azerbaijan's obligations undertaken by Azerbaijan Government before the Council of Europe," said the Head of Musavat Party, Isa Gambar, who attended the meeting. The meeting was attended by Head of Musavat Party- Isa Gambar, Chairman of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party- Ali Kerimli, Chairman of Umid Party- Igbal Agazade, President of Public Forum 'For Azerbaijan'-Eldar Namazov and Chairman of Azerbaijan Democratic Party- Sardar Jalaloglu. The Head of Musavat said that due to the upcoming Presidential elections in Azerbaijan in 2008, the Council of Europe and Monitoring Group are mostly interested in ensuring democracy and freedom in the country. The members of AGO highlighted their intentions to meet with the imprisoned journalists and political prisoners. "It testifies that the Council of Europe and Monitoring Group are concerned about the freedom of speech and press in Azerbaijan," Gambar said.

NAGORNO-KARABAKH

The Armenian Armed Forces from the positions located in the Berd, Ijevan and Noyemberan regions in Armenia violated the ceasefire regime by firing at the Azerbaijani National Army's positions located in the Gadabay region, Agbulag and Agdam villages in the Tovuz region, Gizil Hajil and Ashagi Askipara villages in the Gazakh region of Azerbaijan from 11.40am to 11.55pm on 30 March; from nearby of the Gizil Oba village in the Terter region from 12.40pm to 12.50pm and from 9.20pm to 10.00pm; and from the unnamed hills in the Fuzuli region from 9.50pm to 12.00am, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry reported. The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported.

"Sharp criticism by Baku against the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairmen, especially the USA, is a tactical step to strengthen the support for Azerbaijan's position," said Zeyno Baran, Director of the Center for Eurasian Policy of Hudson Institute. The UN General Assembly's adoption of the Resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh 'was a response to the declaration of Kosovo's independence and the large support it gained from the West,' Zeyno Baran said in his interview with Armenian Mediamax news agency. " Baku is concerned that Kosovo will be used as a precedent and Georgia shares this concern. Thus, this Resolution can be considered as a policy to 'forestall' such development of the events. Furthermore, I think that taking into consideration the fact that Russia uses the issue of precedent of Kosovo with regards to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Baku (and Tbilisi) wanted to gain confirmation that Kosovo will be considered as a unique case and to see how the Russians will vote," the American politician said. According to her, concerns are growing in Azerbaijan that the West unfairly approaches it because it is a Muslim country. " Azerbaijan sees how the USA decisively supports the territorial integrity of Georgia, but does not see the same attitude towards itself. Of course, considering the fact that the USA is the co-chairman country of the OSCE Minsk Group, the American Government cannot hold any other position on Nagorno-Karabakh. Unfortunately, it is difficult for the ordinary Azerbaijanis to understand this difference. Many Azerbaijanis consider that Azerbaijan is an important ally of the USA with regards to the energy security, its fight against terrorism and other issues, but does not receive much in reply. However, I think that officials and large part of the Azerbaijani society accept the importance of partnership with the USA and will not allow the Resolution to bring harm to relations between Baku and Washington," Baran said. Azerbaijan recently appealed to the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna to know the procedures of appointing and recalling the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group. The local media sources report that it is caused by the dissatisfaction of the Azerbaijani Government with the issue that the co-chairman countries (the USA, France and Russia) voted against the adoption of the Resolution on the Situation in Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan during the session of the UN General Assembly on 14 March.

The members of Azerbaijani Parliament urge to send protest letters to all the countries, particularly to the co-chairing countries of the OSCE Minsk Group (USA, Russia, France), which voted against the Resolution on the Occupied Territory of Azerbaijan at the UN General Assembly. "The Azerbaijani Parliament should express its attitude to the question. The friendship groups of the parliament should send protest letters to the countries which voted against or abstained from voting," MP Mubariz Gurbanli, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the governing New Azerbaijan Party (NAP), said at the Parliament on 1 April. The Resolution which was supported by 39 UN member countries calls to respect and support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan within the borders which were recognized by the world community. The OSCE Minsk Group's Co-chairs believe that the UN Resolution, which was initiated by Baku, creates obstacles for continuation of peaceful negotiations for the settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. According to Gurbanli, the recent resolution which was passed at the UN General Assembly is the success of Azerbaijani diplomacy. He urges the Parliament first of all to send protest letters to the co-chairing countries of the Minsk Group. MP Zahid Oruj said that the Azerbaijani Parliament should discuss the activities and recent steps of the OSCE Minsk Group. "The Azerbaijani Parliament should send protest letters to the countries which voted against the Resolution. At the same time, gratitude letters should be send to the countries which voted in favour of the document," MP Ali Masimov said. MP Gudrat Hasanguliyev believes that the situation that occurred around the solution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be discussed in the Parliament. "The discussions should be held in the Parliament with the participation of President and Government. The latest discussion in UN demonstrates that not only Russia, but the west countries are also interested that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should remain in the frozen state. We should state openly to the population that the peaceful settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh is impossible." Hasanguliyev supported the initiative to sent protest letters to the countries which voted against the resolution and gratitude letters to the countries which voted in favour of it. MP Ganira Pashayeva proposed to discuss the activity of OSCE Minsk group co-chairs in the Parliament. Parliament must express its relation to this issue, she said. MPs Ikram Israfil, Sabir Rustamkhanli, Fazil Gazanfaroglu, Siyavush Novruzov, Panah Huseyn also supported the initiative to address letters to UN. Ziyafat Askarov, the First Vice Speaker, stated that Azerbaijan does not intend to refuse from mediation of OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs. "I support ideas stated in connection with the activity of Minsk Group. Minsk Group does not consist of only three countries, which voted against Azerbaijan, he said. Askarov noted that Azerbaijan expected that during the discussions in UN, the Minsk Group will abstain from voting, as the mediators should not support either of the side "Presently, there is neither international law norms, nor its logic. The international law has become forceful law".

The official Baku calls on the co-chairs of OSCE Minsk Group engaged in settling of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to infer from the Azerbaijan's recent message. "The co-chairs monopolize the negotiations and direct them into that course which is good for them," the Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov said to the journalists on 1 April. The official Baku sent an inquiry to the OSCE to get informed about the replacement of the co-chairing countries or the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. The official Baku has taken such rough measures because on 14 March the Minsk Group's co-chairing countries did not support the Resolution on the Situation in the Occupied Territory of Azerbaijan at the UN General Assembly's meeting. Azimov said that Azerbaijan did not state its intention to replace the co-chairs. "The letter which Azerbaijan sent to the Minsk Group was a tactical step. The strategic step is that Azerbaijan observes not full use of the Minsk Group's potential," Azimov said. Azimov said that Azerbaijan is ready to continue the negotiations to remove the gap in the main principles of settling the conflict, which were presented by the Minsk Group to Azerbaijan and Armenia in autumn 2007. "The territorial integrity is non-alternative issue for negotiations and Azerbaijan is ready to continue the negotiations only if the issue is provided," he said.

The United States is a strategic partner of Azerbaijan, the US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Anne Derse told Trend on 1 April. "We support peaceful and rapid settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," she said. Derse said that the United States support the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and does not recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs called on the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia to meet as soon as possible. "Heads of the two countries and OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs decided to continue talks on the basis of 'major principles', clarify the proposal under discussions and take additional steps to support peaceful talks," according to the statements issued by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, which held meetings with the heads of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Bucharest. The co-chairs retariated their support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and imporance of political compromises on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, which should be defined by the population of this region.

The European Union (EU) believes that Azerbaijan and Armenia have achieved good results in the fundamental principles of settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. "In recent years sides have considerably reduced the differences in their positions, and now a very small amount of issues remains unsettled," report on fulfilment of the European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan by Azerbaijan which was developed by the EU Foreign Policy Commissariat and was publicized on 3 April says. At the end of 2007, the OSCE Minks Group's co-chairs for the first time presented a document to Azerbaijan and Armenia on the fundamental principles on settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. EU supports the OSCE Minsk Group's efforts aimed at settling the conflict, the report says.

The U.S. co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, Matthew Bryza, is sure that the negotiations process will continue, he said on 3 April in Bucharest after the meeting with the newly elected President of Armenia, Prime Minister, Serj Sarkisyan. Speaking of the possible mechanism of changing the format of settling the conflict, Bryza said that there is only one format - OSCE Minsk Group, and currently there is not serious necessity to change it, a source at press-service of Armenian Government reported to Mediamax. According to the American diplomat, it is clear that the negotiations process continues and the main fact is that after the inauguration ceremony of the Armenian president, both the presidents have an opportunity to meet and talk.  "We have known the newly elected President of Armenia and we are sure that we can continue talks with him regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement," Bryza said.

On 3 and 4 April, the Armenian Armed Forces violated the ceasefire agreement from the positions dislocated on the Berd region of Armenia to Azerbaijan's Munjuglu and Alibayli villages of Tovuz region and from positions near Ashagi Veysalli and Gorgan villages of Fizuli region. On 4 April, the ceasefire agreement was violated near the Yusifjanli village of Agdam region and Chilabert, Seysulan and Gizil Oba villages of Tartar region, a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, reported. The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported.

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