Weekly political digest (25.08- 30.08.2008)

Official chronicle

On 25 August, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev received a delegation led by Senator Richard Lugar, member of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. It was stressed during the meeting that Azerbaijan-US bilateral relations are developing successfully in all spheres and they exchanged views on regional and international affairs.

On 25 August, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has sent a letter of condolence to President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the death of many Iranians in the plane crash near Bishkek.

The First Lady of Azerbaijan, the President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Good-Will Ambassador of UNESCO and ISESKO, Member of Azerbaijan Parliament, Mehriban Aliyeva, marks her birthday on 26 August.

Mehriban Aliyeva was born in the family of well-known intellectuals in Azerbaijan. Her father, well-known scientist, academician, Ph.D in Physics and Mathematics, Arif Pashayev, is the Rector of National Aviation Academy. Her Mother, Aida Imanguliyeva, was Ph.D in Philological Sciences, Orientalist.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev received the delegation led by Stefan Goris, the honorary chairman of the parliament assembly of the Western European Union.

Goris said that his visit aims at developing a report on processes taking place in Azerbaijan and Caspian region and efforts to provide energy security. He said he was sure that the report will also include issues on stability so much inherent in Azerbaijan.

President Ilham Aliyev said that at present the regional issues are of great significance. Head of the state said that day by day Azerbaijan is playing more significant role in providing stability, energy security in the Caspian region and in Caucasus. President expressed hope that visit of the delegation will be a good chance to get familiar with the development- related processes in Azerbaijan more closely.

On 27 August, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received Director of Romania's Foreign Intelligence Service Mihai Razvan Ungureanu and his accompanying delegation. The Head of State recalled recent visit of Romanian President Traian Basescu, saying fruitful talks on expansion of bilateral relations were held during the visit. President Ilham Aliyev noted Azerbaijan-Romania ties are developing successfully in a variety of fields and stressed the importance of cooperation to strengthen regional security. He expressed his confidence that Ungureanu`s visit would contribute to bilateral relationship. Mihai Razvan Ungureanu said he is honored to visit Azerbaijan and meet President Ilham Aliyev. He stressed bilateral relations are developing successfully, and that his visit would help strengthen cooperation.

On 27 August, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed order increasing the amount of benefit provided to those, who are in partially paid social leave for the care of child. According to the order, the amount of monthly benefit to those, who are in partially paid social leave for the care of child at the age of up to 1.5 years, will compose AZN 20, for the care of child from 1.5 to 3 years - AZN 10.

The Cabinet of Ministers is in charge of resolving all issued arising from the order.Order will come to force from 1 September.

In order to strengthen social protection of poor families,  on 27 August the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed an order increasing the amount of social benefits. The order increased monthly benefits, benefits with respect to the age, benefits on the disablement (because of the general disease, disease during military service, labor injury and professional disease, in connection with the presence in the zones of military operations, liquidation of catastrophe in Chernobyl), benefits to children of up to 18 years with the limited physical possibilities, benefits on loss of family head, and also amount of one-time benefit.

The Cabinet of Ministers is in charge of resolving all issued arising from the order.Order will come to force from 1 September.

On 27 August the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed an order perpetuating memory of well-known Azerbaijan poet Samad Mansur. According to the order, memorial board will be established on the building, in which Samad Mansur lived (Amirjan settlement, Jabir Aliyev street 15).

On 28 August the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, arrived in Sumgait, second largest industrial city of Azerbaijan.

The Head of State laid flowers at the monument to national leader Heydar Aliyev located in the downtown Sumgait.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev participated in the opening ceremony of the Paralympics Sport Complex in Sumgayit, nearby Baku.

A decision on construction of the complex was made after the Azerbaijani National Leader Heydar Aliyev's meeting with paralympians. The only complex in the Commonwealth of Independent States' countries is designed to hold domestic and international tournaments.

The construction, which began in 2005, cost AZN 3.1mln. There is an conference hall, training hall, hall for hand games, football and volleyball pitches, as well as swimming pool. Favorable conditions were created for free movement of disabled people. It is planned to construct a hotel at the complex.

National Leader Heydar Aliyev's bust was set up at foyer of the building.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev attended at the opening ceremony of the four-storey 36 apartments building in Sumgait, which was built for disabled and Karabakh war martyrs' families, as well as disabled in the Chernobyl disaster.

A special exit was constructed in the building for the convenience of disabled. The building was constructed by order of the Azerbaijani Labour and Social Protection Ministry. Every apartment has been furnished with home appliances.

A television set and refrigerator were presented to every family on behalf of the President. Apartments are supplied with gas, electricity, water and telephone lines, as well as it is provided with central warming and fire signal systems.

Aliyev presented vouchers of new apartments and get familiarized with the building.

President was informed that five apartments were allocated for martyrs' families, 29 - Karabakh war disabled and 2 - Chernobyl disaster disabled.

The Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited reconstructed Nasimi culture and rest park in Sumgayit.

The park, where Dove monument was located, was reconstructed at the instruction of the President. Stone flags were laid, decorative bushes and trees were planted, and modern system of lighting was installed, as well as fountain was set up.

Domestic properties function at the park, where all necessary conditions were created for citizens' rest.

President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva talked with residents of Sumgayit city and were photographed in memory.

Then Head of state visited intersections of Peace and Baku Streets in Sumgayit.

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed an order raising the monthly salaries of employees of the Baku Subway by 25 percent on average from 1 September. The Cabinet of Ministers is in charge of settling tasks arising from the order.

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed a decree setting up money awards for Azerbaijani athletes who will gain medals at the Beijing Paralympic Games starting on September.

According to the presidential decree, the bonuses are set in the following order: -gold medal winners and their coaches will get 200,000 manats and 100,000 manats respectively; -silver medalists and their coaches will get 100,000 manats and 50,000 manats respectively; -bronze medalists and their coaches will get 50,000 manats and 25,000 manats respectively. Under the decree, the Cabinet of Ministers must deal with tasks arising from the decree.

On 29 August, the President of Azerbaijan, President of the National Olympic Committee, Ilham Aliyev, received and awarded the country's Olympians who competed in the Beijing Games and their coaches. The President made a speech at the meeting.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev extended his independence day greetings to Al-Wathiqu Billah Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah of Malaysia.

In his letter of congratulation, President expressed his confidence that Azerbaijan-Malaysia relations will developed as friendly in line with the will of both nations.

Elections

In connection with the presidential elections, polling stations will be established on oil platforms being located in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea and at ships, which will sail in the elections day, the Central Elections Commission (CEC) told Trend on 23 August. The presidential elections will be held in Azerbaijan on 15 October. Polling stations will be established at ships and oil platforms, if the number of voters is more than 50, the CEC said. Poling stations will be organized at hospitals and rest homes. The relevant executive bodies and municipals will participate in establishment of these polling stations. At present definite work is being carried out in this regard.

Last week the Central election commission of Azerbaijan confirmed candidatures of two presidential aspirants, Chairman of Azerbaijan Great Establishment Party, MP Fazil Gazanfaroglu and independent candidate Fikrat Ahmadov.

Azerbaijani pro-governmental Ana Vatan party (AVP) has developed arrangement plan with regard to the presidential elections. "The arrangement plan had been developed under my chairmanship. AVP will observe the election process and therefore, we need to define observer amongst party members," MP Fazail Agamali, Chairman of AVP, told Trend . At the fifth meeting of AVP in July, the party nominated the candidature of the Azerbaijani incumbent President Ilham Aliyev. Azerbaijan will host the presidential elections on 15 October 2008. So far, 18 candidates have nominated their candidatures to the presidential post. Agamali said that AVP activity regarding the elections would not be limited only supporting Aliyev's candidature.

"Party's Central Council will meet soon. The meeting will touch upon the issues connected with readiness of AVP to upcoming presidential elections and we will mobilize our forces again," Agamli said and noted that he would continue to carry out his pre-election activity jointly with NAP. "We will take all measures in accordance with legislation in order to succeed in the elections by majority," Agamli said.

Ana Vatan party was founded by Fazail Agamali in 1990. Party takes pro-governmental position. Party supported Aliyev's candidature in the presidential elections 2003.

The Association on Assistance to Civil Development in Azerbaijan published the results of training organized on August 15- 21 in six regions of the country in connection with the presidential elections.

The results revealed the absence of cards containing data about observers, as well as demand of documents from observers, which were not specified in the law, at different constituency commissions. The presidential elections in Azerbaijan will be held on October 15.

Organized by the Association on Assistance to Civil Development in the Azerbaijani regions of Ismayilli, Goychay, Qakh, Qabala, Ganja, the training provided information on the latest changes made to the Electoral Code, recommendations of the Venice Commission, rights and responsibilities, regulations on observers' conduct, the international experience on this issue.

The Association is scheduled to hold training in other regions of the republic from August 25 to September 3.

Mais Gulaliyev, the Azerbaijani Greens Party's presidential candidate and co-chairman of the party, will submit signature lists to the Central Elections Commission at the end of week, the party told Trend on 27 August.

According to the Greens Party, signature collecting campaign is nearing to completion. More than 40,000 signatures were collected at 65 constituencies. At present they are being verified at the party. In accordance with the schedule of the party's Elections staff, it is expected to collect about 45,000 signatures by the end of August.

The nomination of chairman of opposition Umid Party Igbal Agazade for presidential elections was confirmed by Central Election Commission of Azerbaijan on 30 August.

Agazade submitted 44,033 signatures to CEC for confirmation 40,777 of which turned out to be valid. Natig Mammadov, secretary of CEC said.

So far, CEC has only confirmed the nomination of current President Ilham Aliyev, chairman of ruling New Azerbaijan Party as a presidential candidate.

It is required to collect 40,000 signatures in order to be confirmed as a presidential candidate in Azerbaijan.

Foreign policy

Elmar Mammadyarov, Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan left for Ankara on 29 August for a one-day visit. The diplomatic sources reported that in Ankara Mammadyarov met with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Receb Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan. The situation in Caucasus after latest developments in Georgia and issues related to Platform of Stability and Cooperation in Caucasus initiated by Turkish Premier Erdogan were be discussed during the talks. The Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili is expected to arrive in Istanbul on 30 August and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov next week in order to discuss situation in the region.

Official Baku considers that Turkish President Abdullah Gul's visit to Armenia to participate in a football match is Turkey's interior affair. "This is the matter of Turkey and we are not going to interfere into it," Elmar Mammadyarov, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, told journalists when he arrived in Ankara. Earlier the Armenian President Serzh Sarkisyan invited Gul to the match between the Turkish and Armenian National football teams to be held in Yerevan on 6 September. Communities of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Armenia attentively follow whether Gul will accept the Armenian President's invitation, with whom Turkey does not have diplomatic relations.

Armenia and Turkey do not have diplomatic relations and the Armenian and Turkish border has been closed since 1993. Ankara urges Armenia to refuse from policy of the international recognition of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Empire, to recognize borders of Turkey, as well as to free occupied territories of Azerbaijan in order to establish bilateral relations.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Minister arrived in Ankara with one-day visit to discuss situation in Caucasus after developments in Georgia, as well as issues on Caucasus stability and co-operation platform with the Turkish leadership. The Turkish Premier Rejeb Tayyib Erdogan initiated this platform.

Political movements

Unification of the Azerbaijani opposition parties boycotting the presidential elections did not take place. "The first stage of negotiations is coming to end and the Azerbaijani National Independence Party (ANIP) and the Azerbaijani Democratic Party (ADP) have refused to participate in negotiations. Moreover, the Civil Solidarity Party and the Social Democratic Party were not involved in the talks," Fuad Mustafayev, the deputy chairman of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), told Trend on 25 August. At the end of last week Azadlig bloc Board of Directors made a decision to establish a cooperation centre of parties boycotting the elections. The bloc authorized Mustafayev, the PFPA functionary, to hold negotiations. According to Mustafayev, results of the first stage of negotiations will be publicized within this week. He refused to publicize political forces, which agreed to cooperate, whilst mentioned that the Open Society and Musavat party would agree to join the centre. The main principle of cooperation is to accept and to confirm the elections as illegitimate. Mustafayev does not exclude that the established format might be passed. Essential details of joint political activities may be specified as a result the talks.

The presidential contender from the opposition Great Establishment party (GEP) hopes for electorates' votes of opposition parties, which refused to participate in the elections. "I will take serious steps to attract electorates' votes of opposition parties, which will not participate in the elections," MP Fazil Gazanfaroglu, Leader of GEP, told Trend . Azerbaijan will host the presidential elections in October. The Azadlig bloc, which unites three opposition parties - Popular Front, Liberal and Citizen and Development), as well as Classical Popular Front, Open Society, Musavat, Civil Solidarity, Democratic, Great Establishment, Azadlig parties and Eldar Namazov, head of the Public Forum For the name of Azerbaijan refused to participate in the forthcoming presidential elections. According to Gazanfaroglu, non-participation by some opposition parties in the elections will not have serious influence on the election process. "Our participation will make the elections more active process. I am sure that you will witness how most part of opposition electorates will also stick to active position," Gazanfaroglu said. The process to collect the necessary 40,000 signatures to register his candidature has been commenced. "I do not intend to create a bloc. GEP will continue to hold consultations with the Democratic Election Centre (DEC). DEC unites several parties. I hope to get support from parties represented in the organization," MP said. Gazanfaroglu added that he had formed his lection headquarters. "The election headquarters have been formed completely and it is headed by Ajar Aliyev," GEP Leader said. Great Establishment party was founded in 2004. In 2005, party held the state registration.

The left opposition Social-Democratic party of Azerbaijan (SDPA) has stated that it would not participate in establishment of the opposition parties union, which intends to boycott the presidential elections. "Establishment of opposition parties union will not have results. At present, establishment of such an organization seems impossible," Araz Alizade, co-chairman of SDPA, told Trend . Azerbaijan will host the presidential elections on 15 October. Most opposition parties want to boycott the elections. SDPA took a decision to participate in the elections. The Popular front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), which is represented in the Azadlig bloc, launched talks with regard to establish a new cooperation centre within opposition. Some parties stated to unite the union. Alizade said that his party had not received an appeal to join the opposition union. "SDPA does not take part in similar organizations. Opposition will boycott the elections due to their private ambitions. Opposition understands that it will lose the elections despite of the democratic conditions in the country. The new union will be failed to establish due to private ambitions," Alizade added.

Azerbaijani opposition Civil Solidarity party (CSP) has appealed to Mazahir Panahov, Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC). Our representatives, who were sent to District Election Commissions (DEC) are not allowed to be elected to the Secretariat. However, the representatives, who are close to the ruling New Azerbaijan party (NAP) are elected to the organization. If the process will not be prevented, we will recall our representatives from DEC," MP Sabir Rustamkhanli, Chairman of CSP, told Trend on 29 August. Under the Election Code, the composition of election commissions are formed from representatives of parties, which representative majority (NAP), minority and from neutral MPs. For this reason the opposition Musavat party, which is united in the parliamentary minority, did not send its representatives to CEC, and the formation of DEC has not been completed so far. According to Rustamkhanli, a condition was created for parties which make up minority in the Parliament, approximately after two years; to send their representatives to DEC. CSP has sent 42 representatives to DEC. However, the representatives are not allowed to be elected to DEC Secretariat. "CSP is represented in the Parliament with three MPs. Two MPs are the members of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE. I cannot understand such a relation. The Government should be interested in the opposition to be represented in Secretariat," Rustamkhanli added. Azar Sariyev, Head of CEC press-service, told Trend that the position of CSP representatives does not show the reality. "All parties, which are minority, will participate in the elections. CEC cannot force CSP members to appoint to DEC Secretariat. The places allocated to Musavat representatives will remain free," Sariyev said.

MP Fazil Gazanfaroglu, chairman of the Great Establishment party (GDP) and presidential contender, rejects the information of the Government renders its assistance to him to hold signature collection campaign. "Why the Government should assist us to collect signatures? Simply, there are some parties, which will not participate in the elections, well informed of our force, and for this reason they have to use our names," Gazanfaroglu told Trend . Azerbaijan will host the presidential elections on 15 October 2008. So far, 18 candidates have submitted their documents to the Central Election Commission (CEC) for registration. The candidate from the ruling New Azerbaijan party (NAP) and incumbent President Ilham Aliyev, has already nominated the necessary 40,000 signatures to CEC. Some opposition sources released the information of the Governemnt asissts certain candidates in collection of signaturtes. Gazanfaroglu noted that the governmental departments, on the contrary, hinders in some cases to hold the signature collection campaign. "We implement the campaign at our own expenses. We hold transparent campaign and CEC will approciate our efforts finally," Gazanfaroglu said. So far, GDP has suceeded to collect only 38,000 signatures. We plan to collect additional 6,000 or 7,000 signatures. We will finish the campaign the next week and submit the document to CEC," Gazanfaroglu stated. The opposition GDP was founded in 2004. Later, in 2005, party held the state registration.

The format of cooperation of opposition Four is still in force. "Next meeting of the Four will be organized by Eldar Namazov, head of For Azerbaijan public forum. At present Namazov is abroad. The next meeting of four will be held in 2 or 3 days after Namazov's return," Sardar Jalaloglu, chairman of Democratic Party of Azerbaijan said. The oppositional Four includes Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, Musavat, National Independence Party and For Azerbaijan public forum. Concerning participation of Musavat and For Azerbaijan public forum included in Four, Jalaloglu said the parties included in this format, do not have any obligations before each other. "The parties in Four are not responsible for their relations with each other. If any party wishes to join any group, it can do that. We are not concerned about it," DPA chairman said.

Nagorno-Karabakh

23 August was the 15th anniversary of occupation of Azerbaijan's districts of Fizuli and Jabrail by the armed forces of Armenia. On 23 August 1993, 51 villages and center of Fizuli district were seized by the Armenians, more than 55,000 inhabitants left their Native Land. Fizuli district covers the territory from the southeastern slopes of Karabakh Mountain range to Araz River. It is border with Azerbaijanїs districts of Jabrail, Agjabadi, Beylagan and Iran along Araz River. The territory of the Fizuli district is 1386 sq.km, the population is approximately 105,000 people. Some 13 settlements and 20 villages are located on the territory of district, freed from the occupation. Twelve of the settlements are constructed after release, and the families of internally displaced persons have been temporarily placed there. At present 51,000 IDPs reside on the territory. Beginning from 1988, Fizuli district is a subject to the constant attacks of the Armenians. As a result of occupation, more than 1,100 inhabitants of fizuli became martyrs, 113 - were taken prisoner, 1,450 people obtained disablement. As a result the seizure of Jabrail district, of which territory is 1,050 sq.km, 72 secondary school buildings, eight hospitals, five mosques, two museums, 129 historical monuments, 149 cultural centers left in the occupation. 61100 IDPs from Jabrail district settled in more than 2,000 habitable points in 58 regions of the country.

On 23 August, the Armenian armed forces fired at the positions of the armed forces of Azerbaijan from 01:30a.m to 01:40a.m and from 02:00a.m to 02:20a.m from the territory of Chinari and Mosesgah villages of Berd region and from unnamed heights in Agdam region. On 22 August from 08:50p.m to 08:55p.m and from 10:30p.m to 11:30p.m the ceasefire agreement was violated near the Kuropatkino village of Khojavnd region, from 08:55p.m to 09:20p.m from dislocated areas near Ashagi Abdurahmanli village of Fuzuli region and from 11:10p.m to 11:40p.m from unnamed territories in Fuzuli region, , press service of Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan.

On 24 August, the Armenian Armed Forces violated the ceasefire by firing on the Azerbaijani National Army's positions in Gizilhajili village of Gazakh Region from 01.20PM to 01.30PM from their positions in Berkaber village of the Armenian Ijevan Region, from 02.35PM to 02.52PM from Yusifjanli and Marzili villages of Agdam Region, from 05.50PM to 06.15PM from the positions near to Kuropatkino village of Khojavand Region, from 10.00AM to 10.15AM and from 09.50PM to 10.10PM the positions in nameless height of Fuzuli Region and near to Gorgan village, on 25 August from 02.50AM to 03.05AM from the positions near to Kuropatkino village of Khojavand Region, Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan said. The National Army of Azerbaijan retaliated and no casualties were reported.

On 27 August, the subunits of the Armed Forces of Armenia fired at the Azerbaijani Armed Forces' positions located in the nameless heights in Tovuz and Agdam regions from the positions located in Ghinari village of Berd region of Armenia from 01:30a.m. to 01:55a.m. On 26 August, the subunits of Armenian Armed Forces fired at the Azerbaijani positions from machine-gun and guns from 9:45 p.m. to 10:10p.m. from the nameless heights in Fuzili region and on 27 August from Goyarkh village of Tovuz region from 01:20a.m. to 02:02a.m., press service of Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan said. The Azerbaijani army retaliated and no causalities reported.

No incident took place during the monitoring in the contact line of the Azerbaijani-Armenian Armed Forces on 27 August. Before the monitoring, Hasan Sariyev, head of the City Administration of Agdam region of Azerbaijan informed the participants of the monitoring about the frequent violation of ceasefire by Armenians by firing at the positions of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces and settlements. "A total of three civilians have died as a result of it since May. Besides, fire set by Armenians to the occupied lands of Azerbaijan, especially in the direction of Agdam region have burned 340 ha of area and it has caused damage worth AZN 426,000," Sariyev said. Monitoring at the contact line of the armed forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia near Barda-Agdam highway was carried out in line with the mandate of personal envoy of OSCE chairman in office. The monitoring was carried out by Piter Ki and Antal Herdich, field assistants to the current OSCE chairman by Azerbaijani side. The monitoring was carried out by Irji Aberle and Vladimir Chountulov from the opposite side, recognized as Azerbaijani lands on the international level.

On 28 August, subunits of Armenian armed forces fired at the Azerbaijani Armed Forces' positions located at Alibayli village of Agdam region, nameless heights in Tovuz region and Bala Jafarli village of Gazakh region from positions in Mosesgeh village of Berd region of Armenia and Vazashen village of Noyemberyan region from 12:10a.m. to 12:30a.m., from 01:20p.m. to 01:40p.m. and on 29 August from 00:15a.m. to 00:55a.m. On 28 August, they also fired at the positions of Azerbaijani armed forces by machine-guns and guns from the nameless heights in Fuzuli region and on 29 August from 06:30a.m. to 06:40a.m. from the nameless heights of Khojavand region, press service of Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan said. The Azerbaijani army retaliated and no causalities reported.

On 29 August, subunits of Armenian armed forces from the Chinarli village in Berd region fired at the Azerbaijani Armed Forces' positions located at Kokha Nabi village in Tovuz region and Bala Jafarli village in Kazakh region from 10:00p.m and on 30 August from 01:00a.m to 01:10a.m, nameless heights in Kuropatkino village in Khojavand region and Fuzuli region from 03:15a.m to 03:40a.m, as well as Gizil Oba village in Tartar region from 02:00a.m to 02:40a.m, press service of Defense Ministry of Azerbaijan said. The Azerbaijani army retaliated and no causalities reported.

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