Weekly political digest

Official chronicle

The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev received the Executive Director of the Global Ecological Fund Mrs Monique Barbut on 30 June.

The successful implementation of large-scale programs in the sphere of ecology in Azerbaijan and the realization of plans on the complex solution of the ecological issues were noted during the meeting.

The significance of the cooperation of the agencies of the country with the Global Ecological Fund was stressed during the meeting.

On 30 June Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev issued a decree to award Jalal Aliyev an Honorary Diploma of the Azerbaijani President for his services in the development of the Azerbaijani science.

Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko marked the progress in the energy projects jointly implemented with Azerbaijan. "I am satisfied with the implantation of energy projects and the way they acquire practical plane," Yushchenko said in Baku on 30 June during the Ukrainian-Azerbaijani talks in large.

The Ukrainian appraised the state of bilateral relations, which are successfully progressing in many issues, Trend reports citing the Ukrainian President's Office.

Yushchenko also stressed the importance of the opening of a monument to Taras Shevchenko, great Ukrainian poet, in Baku within the framework of the Ukrainian President; visit to Azerbaijan.

On his part, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev noted the intensity of bilateral contacts, reminding of his visit to Ukraine in May 2008. Both sides succeed to coordinate all issues concerning the bilateral relations, which are on agenda, in accordance with national interests of the two nations, Aliyev said

Attending the talks from the Ukrainian side are Vladimir Ogrizko, the foreign minister, Vasiliy Vovkun, the culture and tourism minister, Alexander Chaliy, the deputy head of the President's Secretariat, Sergey Bondarchuk, the Director General of Ukrspetsexport, Ruslan Demyanenko, the head of President's Office.

Prior to talks at the President's Administration Yushchenko and Aliyev a one-to-one meeting.

On 30 June the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed a decree conferring Honorable Lawyer rank upon Fikrat Babayev, judge of the Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan, for his long-years activity in the interior and court bodies of Azerbaijan and exemplary fulfillment of his duties.

The Presidents of Azerbaijan and Ukraine, Ilham Aliyev and Victor Yushchenko, arrived in Batumi to attend the third summit of the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development - GUAM ( Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova).

Attending the summit will be the presidents of Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, officials of the US Department of State, the Czech foreign minister.

During the summit it is planned to sign several documents, particularly, a declaration of Batumi summit, communique, a GUAM declaration on use of transport and transit potential, Georgia's chairmanship at the GUAM.

GUAM summit in Batumi adopted a serious decision to insure the security, Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan said in a press conference on the results of the GUAM summit in Batumi.

President said that the security issues are one of the priorities for Azerbaijan. "The situation of conflicts and their solution are of great importance for Azerbaijan since no country has faced genocide and occupation of territory as Azerbaijan. We make every effort to solve this occupation in a political way. But all the problems must be solved from the viewpoint of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan; this is our key approach to the settlement process. Therefore, the regional security issues are very important for us," he said.

"Today we can say that we support each-other within the international organizations and there is much evidence that we could strengthen our cooperation on the international arena. Azerbaijan is thankful to all GUAM countries and all those who supported the UN Resolution on the occupied territories. We have already supported Georgia's territorial integrity and this is very good example of cooperation," he said.

According to Aliyev, GUAM will play very more important role in providing energy security of Europe. "GUAM countries and their friends are implementing regional energy projects together which aim at providing energy security of Europe. Azerbaijan and Georgia also contribute it. At the moment we are working on Odessa-Brodi project and our friends Ukraine and Poland are also part of this project. In the future, the joint efforts of the Black Sea and Baltic countries will bring significant progress to it," Aliyev said.

The Azerbaijani President thanked his Georgian counterpart for warm reception and added that Batumi summit was well-organized. " Summit is of great significance for the development of GUAM. Last year we became GUAM chairman and our organization became more efficient and active in a year. The relations between our countries and those who frequently take part in our meetings have strengthened," the Azerbaijani President said.

Aliyev remembered the visit to the local family where gas was burned after State Oil Company of Azerbaijan installed gas in Batumi. "Today we visited the family of Batumi resident and our meeting was very warm. It is historical event when Batumi received gas from Azerbaijan. This is a good example of our cooperation," he said.

On 2 July, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev received President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Lluis Maria de Puig and his accompanying delegation.

The Head of State stressed Azerbaijan-CoE cooperation is successfully developing. The President noted Puig's visit would allow him to learn more about the processes in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani Leader pointed out the present visit would contribute to expansion of cooperation. PACE President recalled interesting remarks made by Ilham Aliyev when he was the head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the PACE.

Discussions also revolved around the present state of Azerbaijan-CoE cooperation and its prospects.

On 2 July, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, sent a message of congratulation to President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on the country's public holiday, Independence Day. "I am sure that strengthening of traditionally friendly relations, dynamic development of mutually beneficial cooperation between Azerbaijan and Belarus will continue to serve the interest of our peoples and countries," said the President. Azerbaijani leader wished his Belarus counterpart good health and success, and people of the friendly Belarus peace and prosperity.

On 2 July, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed an order conferring Honored Scientific Figure rank upon Sudeif Imamverdiyev for his services in developing medical science.

The first official visit of the President of Russia, Dmitriy Medvedev, to Azerbaijan assumes great importance from the point of view of discussions over bilateral relations". Such a statement was made by the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, on 3 July in at Gulustan Palace during supper in Dmitriy Medvedev's honor. Head of State noted that there are strategic partnership relations between the two countries and mutual visits give new pulse to them. "After collapse of the Soviet Union, our relations they transferred to a new and more active stage. Our relations are of sufficiently comprehensive character," said the President of Azerbaijan.

Ilham Aliyev noted fruitful co-operation between Azerbaijan and Russia in such spheres as energy security, regional co-operation, realization of joint projects, increase of the trade turnover, transport and education. The President of Azerbaijan also emphasized that the largest Russian diaspore in Caucasus lives in Azerbaijan. "Russian culture and language are attached respect in our country. Russians in Azerbaijan feel themselves part of one family," the President said.

In his turn, Dmitriy Medvedev expressed satisfaction with the results of his visit to Baku. He noted that productive exchange of views took place during the negotiations from the point of view of future co-operation. According to Medvedev, realization of new projects will even more greatly strengthen the relations between the two countries.

Speaking about Heydar Alyiev's role in the development of the bilateral relations between Russia and Azerbaijan, Dmitriy Medvedev noted that today this policy is successfully carried out by the President Ilham Aliyev.

The Russian President also expressed his satisfaction with the attitude towards Russian language and the created conditions for the Russian community in Azerbaijan. Medvedev added that the negotiations held in Baku will open a new stage in the bilateral relations.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received the delegation led by the foreign minister of Czechia Carel Svartsenberg on 4 July. The head of state of Azerbaijan stressed that the bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Czechia are in high level. Touching upon the cooperation between our two countries within the international and regional organizations, President stressed the significance of Czechia's participation in Batumi summit of GUAM.

The head of state stressed that there were good prospects for the development of the bilateral cooperation and said that he was sure that the visit will contribute to the further expansion of the bilateral relations.

Carel Svartsenberg said that he is the first Czech foreign minister to visit Azerbaijan. He noted that the relations between our two countries were developing successfully and there were good opportunities to further consolidate the cooperation.

On 4 July President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has sent a letter of congratulation to Hugo Chavez Frias, President of Bolivar Republic of Venezuela on the occasion of Independence Day. President said that he was hopeful that the development of Azerbaijan-Venezuela relations will serve to the development of interests of nations of both countries.

On 4 July, Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev signed a range of decrees due to the 150th anniversary of Azerbaijan's State Caspian Sea Shipping Company. According to the decrees, title Honorary Engineer was conferred on Fazil Gahramanov for his contributions in development and application of navigation technics, title Honorary Teacher was conferred on Hamlet Mehdiyev for his contributions in the field of education. Twelve people were awarded with Taraggi medals for effective navigation activities.

On 4 July, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev decreed to allocate AZN14mln from the President's Reserve Fund for Azerigaz closed joint stock company to improve gas supply of Agstafa, Gazakh, Goranboy, Shamkir, Samukh, Tovuz, Gadabay, Salyan and  Neftchala regions of Azerbaijan.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has sent a letter of congratulation to the US President George W. Bush on occasion of the US national holiday - Independence Day. "Today there is strategic relations between Azerbaijan and the United States and they are developing successfully. The close cooperation between our countries especially in energy security and support of the United States for the Azerbaijani-initiated large transnational projects is very important for us," the letter said.

Ilham Aliyev said in the letter that US is making consistent efforts to establish peace and stability all over the world and US is one of the first to launch war on terrorism which a source of threat for mankind. "We support the United States with this regard and we are always prepared to contribute to it. We are pleased with interest and support of the United States for Azerbaijan's Euro-Atlantic integration and development of the democratic institutions in our country," President said in his letter to his US counterpart.

President Aliyev`s letter also appreciated the United States` "consistent efforts to achieve a just settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh", which the Azerbaijan leader described as his country's "most painful problem".

President Ilham Aliyev wished George Bush strong health and success in his activities, and the people of the United States peace and prosperity.

President Ilham Aliyev received credentials of newly-appointed ambassadors of Czechia, Pakistan and France on 4 July.

The Ambassador of Czechia Redek Matulan, Ambassador of Pakistan Abdul Hamid and Ambassador of France Gabriel Keller stepped past the honor guard.

During their meeting with the Azerbaijani president the ambassadors said that they witnessed great development in the country. The Ambassadors stressed that they will contribute to the further development of bilateral relations.

Azerbaijani President left for Astana on 5 July to attend 10th jubilee of the Kazakh capital. President and other guests to Nursultan Nazarbayev attended a ceremony to mark 10th anniversary of Astana, got familiarization with places of interests and development plans of the city. On 6 July heads of state congratulated the founder of the city, Nazarbayev, on his birthday.

Elections

A total of 30 entrepreneurs of Azerbaijan made a statement in the meeting on presidential elections. "We, as a group of representatives of independent entrepreneurs, believe that the achievements of Azerbaijan in the international arena and improvement of the welfare of the population are services of the current President Ilham Aliyev. Therefore, we state that the current head of state Ilham Aliyev should be the president of Azerbaijan for the next five years," the businessman Hadji Khalil Garaahmadov said in press conference on 30 June.

According to Garaahmadov, the entrepreneurs have set up Organizational Committee. It includes Mesenat Holding, Atlant MKT, Mega Holding, Enlightenment Publishers, Confor law firm, Masalli Istisu and other businesses.

The entrepreneurs made a joint statement as a result of the event which said that they began supporting the nomination of Ilham Aliyev. They called on all businessmen and work collectives to follow this call and to support nomination of Ilham Aliyev.

The Council of Europe (CE) has developed an action plan on support to free and just presidential elections in Azerbaijan. "The action plan envisages a range of arrangements, including translation into the Azerbaijani language and publishing of CE book Guideline on Elections & Media which is of educational character. The action plan also envisages trainings for lower election committees, workshops for national watchdogs," CE Secretariat reported to Trend .

Presidential election will take place in Azerbaijan on 15 October.

According to the Secretariat, CE also plans to develop an action plan on media. The plan will envisage trainings to improve professionalism of the journalists engaged in electronic and written journalism, including studying of legislation and other issues.

The Azerbaijani Central Election Commission (CEC) regarded the Council of Europe (CE) Venice Commission's opinion on public distrust to the election commission of the country as biased.

"Majority of the Azerbaijani society trust in election commissions," Mazahir Panahov, chairman of the CEC, told Trend on 1 July.

The CE Venice Commission estimated supplements and changes, injected into the Election Code. The Azerbaijani election commissions should try to gain confidence of all political forces in society, said the organization, urging reformation of election commissions.

Gianni Buquicchio, the chairman of the commission, said that the Azerbaijani Government did not take into consideration a recommendation to change a composition of the election commissions.

According to Panahov, there are not new recommendations and opinions in the final assessment of the Venice Commission. "The previously mentioned opinions were included in the assessment of the Venice Commission and it does not include any new issue. We repeatedly spoke about formation of election commissions. It is possible to hold free and democratic elections with the current composition of the commissions," Panahov said.

The ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP) has published the results of the internet-based poll on the last supplements and changes made to the Election Code by the Azerbaijani parliament. Some 85% of the respondents are neutral of the last supplements and changes to the Election Code, the press service of NAP said to Trend .

Some 60% of the respondents accept the last changes to the Election Code positively, 13% - normal, 12%- as necessary. Some 15% of the respondents accepted the changes to the Election Code negatively. "As we can see, 85%, that is majority of the respondents assess the changes as normal and they described it as a step to improve election legislation. This once again shows that the democracy, pluralism and freedom of expression are deepening. The results of the opinion poll once again showed that the citizens are free in expressing their political views and the upcoming presidential elections will be next contribution to enriching culture of democratic elections in Azerbaijan. One can make a conclusion that the position of the majority of the society (85%) coincides with that of the Azerbaijani government as in case of other principal issues.

This factor clarifies the attitude of the society to the ruling party candidate for the presidential elections. Because every opinion poll also shows the attitude to the current political course. It means that the results of the opinion show the unanimous support of the society to the reformative policy of the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev carried out in the sphere of legislation," NAP report on the opinion poll said.

"The draft list of watchdogs from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to monitor the presidential elections in Azerbaijan in October 2008 has been already developed," PACE reported to Trend . The list was approved at a PACE meeting on 27 June 2008.

The mission will be headed by PACE Monitoring Committee's co-rapporteur on Azerbaijan, member of the European People's Party Andres Herkel and will include representatives of the Socialist Group, Democrat Group of Europe, Alliance of Democrats and Liberals for Europe, as well as 38 representatives from the Socialist Group of Unified Europe, Spain, Lichtenstein, Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Holland, Turkey, Romania, Lithuania, Poland, Greece, Norway, Czechia, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Austria, Ukraine, Russia, Iceland and Belgium.

The Azerbaijani local non-governmental organizations (NGO) will hold exit-poll in the presidential elections. "We intend to hold exit-poll during the upcoming elections and certain works are being done in this regard," Rauf Zeyni, chairman of the National Forum of NGOs, told Trend on 1 July.

Changes were made to the legislation regarding NGOs by the Azerbaijani Parliament on 13 June. The local NGOs were allowed holding exit-poll during the elections on the base of the changes.

Zeyni said that the National Forum unites 479 NGOs. "These NGOs have enough experience with regards to elections and we plan to hold exit-poll," he said.

Maherram Zulfugarli, Head of Election Office of Association of Assistance to Development of Civil Society in Azerbaijan, which combines more than 40 NGOs, told Trend that the issue to hold exit-poll is being considered. "However, we have not made a final decision on it," Zulfugarli said. He said that none of NGOs had power and experience to hold exit-poll independently. "Only separate coalitions of NGOs can hold exit-poll. There are nearly 5,000 polling stations in the country. It is necessary to have facilities, which enable to cover such a number of stations," he said.

At today's meeting of the National Forum of Azerbaijani NGOs, Rauf Zeyni was selected President of the organization.

Three candidates were nominated for presidency of the National Forum of Azerbaijani NGOs - head of the Democratic Elections Centre Rauf Zeyni, chairman of the Turkish Universities' Graduates Association Chingiz Bayramov and the head of the Social Problems Research Association Maharram Zulfugarli.

Former President of the National Forum of Azerbaijani NGOs Azay Guliyev retired, since he had been elected chairman of the Council for State Support to NGOs attached to President.

Out of 461 members of the National Forum, 311 voted for Zeyni.

Foreign policy

On 30 June the deputy foreign minister of Azerbaijan Khalaf Khalafov held several meetings in the Foreign Office of the Great Britain within the framework of his businesslike visit to London, the Embassy of Azerbaijan in London said to Trend . Khalafov held meetings in Foreign Office Departments for Russia, Middle East, South Caucasus and Central Asia and Energy Group for the Caspian region. The visit aims at holding consultations between the Foreign Ministries of the two countries and discussing questions related to the development of the bilateral relations.

During the talks the parties noted that the bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Great Britain are on the sufficient level and there is great potential to develop bilateral relations.

The special emphasis was put on the regional economic projects. The parties stressed the special role of the large regional projects, where Azerbaijan is involved, in strengthening peace and stability in South Caucasus. It was also noted that this factor creates favorable conditions to realize new prospective projects. Khalafov noted Azerbaijan's increasing role of Azerbaijan in providing energy security of Europe. " Azerbaijan became trusted partner in providing energy security of Europe," he said.

The parties exchanged views on the current situation in the South Caucasus, Central Asia and Caspian region. The integration to the Euro-Atlantic organizations, prospects of the settlement of the regional conflicts and their negative impact on this process were discussed during the meeting. It was mentioned that the occupation of the Azerbaijani lands by Armenia has a bad impact on the development of the region and impedes intraregional integration.

" Azerbaijan is loyal to its obligations to the Council of Europe regarding democracy, superiority of law and human rights," said President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Luis Maria de Puig, who arrived in Baku in the early morning of 1 July with a 3-day visit. In the Baku Airport Puig said the purpose of his visit is to negotiate fulfilment of Resolution on Azerbaijan which was passed during the PACE summer session.

"My visit to Azerbaijan is friendly. I do not aim to make any inspection in the country. I just want to do my utmost to help Azerbaijan to fulfil the Resolution," he said.

Puig will be visiting Baku till 3 July.

During the visit Puig plans to meet with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, Speaker of the Azerbaijani Parliament Ogtay Asadov, Prime Minister Artur Rasizade and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.

Puig will meet with the members of Azerbaijan's delegation to PACE, representatives of different political parties and civil society, media and diplomatic corps in Baku to discuss the actions to be taken with respect to Resolution 1614 (2008) on operation of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan.

The Presidents of five countries have signed a Declaration ' GUAM -Integrating Europe's East' as a result of the GUAM Batumi summit. Declaration approves loyalty of countries to democratic values, respect to human rights and freedom, reservation of spiritual and cultural heritage of nations and strengthening of tolerance.

The document was signed by the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Ukraine's Viktor Yushenko, Georgia's Mikhail Saakashvili, Lithuania's Valdas Adamkus and Poland's Lech Kaczynski.

The sides touched upon the invariability to develop regional cooperation as a part of European and Asian integration processes, as well as strengthen the international partner relations of GUAM with the United States, Poland, Japan and other countries, as well as international organizations.

Declaration expresses concern with threats caused by long standing conflicts, aggressive separatism, extremism and international terrorism. Declaration shows readiness of GUAM member-countries to resist to aforesaid threats through the close cooperation with other countries and international organizations.

Presidents of GUAM member-countries expressed will to further development of energy security system and to support efforts to liberalize and diversification of the European energy power market.

CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) is a format of regular meetings and talks with the region countries for Baku, however, the country prefers bilateral relations, said Polad Bulbuloglu, the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia said.

"We do not consider CIS useless organization, but we give priority to bilateral relations," Polad Bulbuloglu, the Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary of Azerbaijan to Russia said in his interview with RIA Novosti on 2 July.

"CIS is a good format for talks, meetings and exchange of opinions. Frankly speaking, all former Soviet Republics fear any supranational superstructures," he said.

According to Ambassador, by gaining independence, no one wants to accept even a little infringement of its sovereignty, no one wants to give small part of its authorities, and maybe therefore the Union of Russian-Belarus State is established with difficulties. "If there such unions in the region such as EuroAzEU, GUAM and CSTO, it means that CIS is first of all format of talks. By the way, it is good when presidents, head of governments and foreign ministers meet and communicate regularly," Ambassador said.

According to Ambassador, there is positive facts about CIS including railways, energy, combined fight against crime and drug trafficking and many branch councils. "When I was minister of culture of Azerbaijan, I ran CIS Council for Culture for many years. As it is known, Council for Humanitarian Aid has been established where I represent Azerbaijan. The first meeting of the CIS intelligentsia was held in Moscow, later in Astana and the next is expected to be held n Tajikistan. There is real progress," Ambassador added.

On 2 July Elmar Mammadyarov, the Azerbaijani foreign minister, received copies of credentials of the newly appointed Pakistani ambassador to Azerbaijan, Abdullah Hamid.

The sides stressed the high level of mutual relations between the two countries. The minister thanked the Ambassador for fair position of Pakistan in the Armenian -Azerbaijani conflict.

The discussion also concerned the regional and international problems of mutual interests.

On 2 July the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, received the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Luis Maria de Puch, Foreign Ministry's Press Service reported to Trend .

During the meeting, the high-ranking guest again expressed Council of Europe's unanimous position on Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement, and remembered that this position was also reflected in the recently adopted Resolution. Mammadyarov said that Azerbaijan will co-operate with the Council of Europe in various spheres. In addition, the sides discussed a number of important issues.

Five Azerbaijani-Russian documents were signed in Baku on 3 July at the end of the Azerbaijani-Russian top level talks.

The declaration on friendship and strategic partnership between Russia and Azerbaijan was signed by Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Dmitriy Medvedev.

Furthermore, the Foreign Ministries of the two countries signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of archive work and the Federal Customs Service of Russia and the Azerbaijan State Customs Committee inked an agreement on cooperation in fighting with customs violations.

The Russian Federal Agency on State Property Management and the Azerbaijani State Committee on State Property Management signed a memorandum on cooperation in privatization of state property and its governance. The Interior Ministries of the two countries signed a memorandum on interaction in defense of transit cargo.

The legal agreement base of the Russian-Azerbaijani relations includes over 100 bilateral documents.

Political movements

The differences occurred within the opposition bloc 'Our Azerbaijan' regarding the presidential elections. Vugar Beyturan, Chairman of the bloc, told Trend that the decision of the Council of Chairmen was final and it would support the candidature of Eldar Namazov, a candidate from the Public Forum for the name of Azerbaijan.

According to Beyturan, the next meeting of the Assembly will be held in order to inform other parties about Council's decision. "Council's decision is not expected and cannot be changed during the meeting," Beyturan said.

Hasan Hasanov, Chairman of the Assembly of Our Azerbaijan, told Trend that the Council's decision would be discussed in the meeting of Assembly soon. "However, initially, we will meet with Namazov. If Namazov will refuse from joint discussions with people, who support his candidature, then I will oppose to nominate his candidature," Hasanov said.

According to Hasanov, there was not a common agreement to support Namazov's candidature. "NPO representatives and intellectuals represented in the Assembly are not interested to support Namazov's candidature," Hasanov stated.

Hasanov does not satisfy with Namazov's attitude towards the bloc.

The chairman of the Azerbaijani oppositional party rules out the possibility of joint actions in the current situation. "There should be common objectives to hold joint action of opposition," Ali Karimli, chairman of the oppositional Azerbaijani Popular Front Party (APFP) and co-founder of the Azadlig bloc, told Trend on 30 June.

The Azerbaijani oppositional Musavat party called on oppositional parties to hold joint actions. Musavat party considers that it is important to hold joint actions of opposition in the run-up to elections in the country.

According to Kerimli, joint actions of opposition will be possible, only when oppositionists hold a unified position. There are different positions concerning the elections in the current political conditions.

The political and election situation in Azerbaijan was discussed in the meeting of Lluis Maria de Puig, PACE President, with leaders of Azerbaijani opposition parties. "The key topic of the discussions was the freedom of speech, state of press and arrested journalists in the country," Lala Shovkat, Co-founder of the Azadlig bloc and Leader of the National unity movement, said to journalists after the meeting.

Isa Gambar from Musavat party, Ali Karimli from Popular Front party, Lala Shovkat from National unity movement, Eldar Namazov from the public forum For the name of Azerbaijan and Asim Mollazade from Democratic Reforms party participated in the meeting with the PACE President.

"We informed the PACE President about the problems in democracy and violation of political rights of citizens regarding Azerbaijan's joining the Council of Europe. I will wait for positive results from the discussions held with the PACE President," Shovkat said.

Maria de Puig was also informed about Azadlig bloc's intention to boycott the upcoming presidential elections. According to Shovkat, PACE President did not express any attention to this issue.

However, Shovkat said that the bloc made its final decision to boycott the elections. "PACE President's visit to Azerbaijan will not make any changes into the election situation in the country and election legislation as time is limited. Bloc will boycott the forthcoming presidential elections," Shovkat said.

The ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP) will realize joint projects with the US International Republican Institute (IRI). "Joint projects, to be realized by the IRI with the NAP, play an important role to improve the party's action and especially to increase the role of youth in the life of the party," Ali Ahmedov, executive secretary of the NAP, said at a meeting with Jake Johns, the head of the Baku office of the IRI.

The meeting focused on cooperation between the NAP and the IRI.

Johns stated that their organization was interested in enlarging relations with the NAP.

The political council of the oppositional Vahdat Party held last discussions on the presidential elections to be held in 2008. "Our political decision is completely clear and members of the party will support Ilham Aliyev unanimously," Tahir Kerimli, chairman of the party, told Trend on 3 July.

Kerimli said that shortening the period of pre-election campaign from 120 to 75 days in Azerbaijan led to changes in some pre-election plans for Vahdat party as well. The date of party's High Assembly was postponed from July to August. "High Assembly will be held in the period of pre-election campaign and our decision to support Ilham Aliyev will be officially registered at the Assembly," Kerimli said. He said that Vahdat party would mobilize all its opportunities for the victory of Aliyev. "We believe that Aliyev will gain more than 70% of votes, and we hope that members of our party will be represented at the governmental bodies after our candidate's victory," he said.

Vahdat party was in oppositional position under the chairmanship of Tahir Kerimli, a former MP and a former chairman of the Supreme Court, until 2006.  At present, the party pursues pro governmental course.

Nagorno-Karabakh

On 29 June, the Armenian Armed Forces from the territories located nearby Kuropatkino village and Khojavand region from 1.00p.m to 1.21p.m and on 30 June from 1.30a.m to 1.45a.m, as well as from Geyarkh and Gizil Oba villages in Tartar region and Tapgaragoyunlu village in Goranboy region fired at the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, reported.

The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported

The official Baku believes that at the current stage the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh can not join talks on the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. The Nagorno-Karabakh communities can join the talks only after the occupied Azerbaijani lands are returned, Khazar Ibrahim, the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan said to media in Baku on 30 June.

The government of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic recently initiated to take part in the talks.

"Both of the communities can take part in the talks only after our lands are liberated from occupation and refugees and internally displaced persons return to their native lands," Ibrahim said.

Commenting on the last visit of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen to the region, Ibrahim said that Baku asked the mediators to call on the official Yerevan to take more constructive position in the talks.

The co-chairmen visited Baku, Yerevan and Khankandi on 28 to 29 June and held talks on ways of settlement of the conflict. The co-chairmen will meet in Vienna today to hold consultations on the results of the visit.

he Armenian Armed Forces violated the ceasefire by firing at the Azerbaijani National Army's positions from nearby of Kuropatkino village in the occupied Khojavand region of Azerbaijan from 3.15pm to 3.30pm on 30 June; from nearby of Goyarkh village in the Azerbaijan's Terter region from 5.00am to 5.25am on 1 July, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry reported.

The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) calls on Armenia to free the occupied territory of Azerbaijan unconditionally and immediately. " Armenia has occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. The Council of Europe recognizes the territorial integrity and inviolability of Azerbaijani borders approved by the international community," PACE President Luis Maria de Puig who is in Azerbaijan at the moment said on 1 July during his meeting with the representatives of the political parties represented in the parliament.

According to Puig, the Resolution passed in the summer session of PACE supports the territorial integrity and inviolability of Azerbaijani borders approved by the international community.

The PACE President noted that he will visit Armenia in a week. "In Armenia I will mention the importance of Armenia's freeing the Azerbaijani territories," he added.

Poland supports the territorial integrity of Georgia and Azerbaijan. "I mean Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are integral part of Azerbaijan and Georgia," Lech Kaczynski, Polish President, said in the news-conference of the GUAM Batumi summit.

The Polish President stated that the Azerbaijani and Georgian nations cannot agree with the strange forces occupied their lands. "Alien imperial forces entered Nagorno-Karabakh violating international law and it must be changed, this is my will," Kaczynski said. 

Kaczynski expressed his negative attitude towards Russia's actions against the Georgian territories. "We always helped and will help Georgia and Azerbaijan in future," the Polish President stated.

At the same time, Kaczynski said that both Georgia and Ukraine would become the NATO members soon.

On 1 July, the Armenian Armed Forces located in the positions nearby the Gizil Oba village in Terter region from 11.00p.m to 11.40.pm and on 2 July, from Kuropatkino village and Khojavand region from 1.35a.m to 1.40a.m and 6.35a.m to 6.40a.m, as well as from Shurbad village in Agdam region fired at the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, reported.

The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported

The meeting between Seyran Oganyan and Safar Abiyev, the Defense Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, was held in Bishkek on 2 July, within the framework of a meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States' (CIS) Defense Ministers Council, Mediamax agency reported.

The meeting focused on minimization of cases of ceasefire violations in the line of frontline, as well as, problems of missed soldiers and prisoners of war.

The sides agreed to return back to discussion of these issues in the future.

Eldar Sabiroglu, press secretary of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, told Trend that meeting of the Defense Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia held in Bishkek was not scheduled and he did not hold information about this meeting.

On 2 July the Armenian Armed Forces located in the positions nearby Chinari territory of Vazakhen village of Noyemberansk and Berd region of Armenia fired at the Azerbaijani armed forces located not far from Agdam village of Tovuz region and heights in Kazakh region from 16:30 p.m. to 16:40 p.m. and from 17:45 p.m. to 17:55 p.m., from the positions not far from Gorgan village of Fuzuli region from 16:25 p.m. to 16:45 p.m., on 3 July from Kuropatkino village and Khojavand region from 01:35 a.m. to 01:55 a.m. and from 05:40 a.m. to 06:00 a.m. and from Yusifjanli village of Agdam region from 02:49 a.m. to 02:55 a.m., a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry reported.

The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported

"The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must be solved with preservation of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity," Speaker of Kazakhstan's Senate Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said.

" Kazakhstan supports OSCE mission and Minsk Group's decision on Nagorno-Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must be solved on the basis of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan," Tokayev said at a press conference in Astana on 3 July dedicated to results of the 17th session of OSCE PA.

On 3 July, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was elected Vice-President of OSCE PA for 3 years.

Newly elected Chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is prepared to make all possible efforts to settle the 'frozen' Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

"We will be trying to resolve this problem with common efforts. I should say that it is also in my disposal as a newly elected Chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. I will be trying to do all the best and use all resources that we have to search ways of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," said the Chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Joao Soares, on 3 July in Astana.

According to him, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly should play a decisive role in this process. "I highly appreciate words of OSCE Chairman, Alexander Stubb, who yesterday said that the OSCE should not only manage conflicts, but also resolve the problems and conflicts. And I fully support this," Soares said to a press-conference as a result of the 17th session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Astana.

"I want to note that I can not work a miracle, but we will be trying to do those that are in our hands. I assure you of it," the Chairman said.    The conflict between the two countries of South Caucasus began in 1988 due to territorial claims by Armenia against Azerbaijan. Armenia has occupied 20% of the Azerbaijani land including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its seven surrounding Districts. Since 1992, these territories have been under the occupation of the Armenian Forces. In 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement at which time the active hostilities ended. The Co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group ( Russia, France and USA) are currently holding peaceful negotiations.

On 3 July the Armenian Armed Forces located in the positions in Berkaber village of Ijevan region of Armenia fired at the Azerbaijani armed forces located not far from Gizilhajili village of Gazakh region of Azerbaijan from 16:50 p.m. to 17:00 p.m, and on 4 July from Kuropatkino village of Khojavand region from 02:30 a.m. to 03:00 a.m., a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry reported.

The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported.

The Czech Republic adheres exact position on the [Armenian-Azerbaijani] Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, urging its resolution within the framework of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

" Czech Republic's position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict urges the peaceable resolution to the problem within the framework of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan," Karel Schvartzenberg, the Czech foreign minister, stated in Baku on 4 July. This is the problem of international scale, but not only of Azerbaijan, the he stressed.

The Armenian Armed Forces violated the ceasefire regime by firing at the Azerbaijani National Army's positions from unnamed hills in the Khojavand region from 8.35pm to 8.50pm and from 11.00pm to 11.20pm on 4 July; from unnamed hills in the Fuzuli region and from nearby of Garvand village from 11.15pm to 11.30pm and from 12.25am to 12.55am on 5 July; from nearby of Goyarkh village in the Terter region from 12.30am to 1.00am, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry reported. 

The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported.

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