WEEKLY POLITICAL REVIEW

Official news

On Wednesday (23 March) Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited Imishli and Ali-Bayramly districts The Azerbaijani government is charged to cover all demand for agriculture products in the country, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, stated to an opening ceremony of a sugar factor in Imishli District, east Azerbaijan, on Thursday (23 March), Trend reports.

The task must be fulfilled shortly and both state and private investments must be attracted in this respect.

The head of state noted that over the first 3 months of 2006 growth pace of economy was 50%. In the nearest 10 years a powerful industrial potential will be built in Azerbaijan, which will enable the country to export its product, Aliyev underlined.

Aliyev took part in an opening ceremony of a sugar factory in Imishli district, east Azerbaijan. It comes as the first enterprise of its kind in Azerbaijan and the biggest in the region

More than 350,000 new jobs have been created in Azerbaijan over the past 2 years, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev stated in his speech in Ali-Bayramli district, Trend reports.

He said that poverty level in the country has fallen from 49% to 29% and this number will be further decreased in the coming year. Head of state also added that the state budget has grown from $1.2bln to $4bln in 2006 and it is expected to grow even more.

Considering social problems, existing in the country, the President stated that social policy has to be enhanced and all the problems have to be solved rapidly. The largest problem is the fact that 29% of population still live beyond the poverty level, he said. President has emphasized necessity of opening new job in the country, which largely depends on employers. All necessary orders were passed, programs adopted, the only thing that is left is to bring them in life, the President said.

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received a delegation headed by the vice chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on human rights, member of the PACE monitoring group, Edward Linthner on March 22, Trend reports.

The head of state has positively recalled his previous meetings with Linthner in Baku and Strasbourg. President Aliyev has emphasized that cooperation between Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe is at the highest level now and will be developing further.

Linthner in his turn appreciated the Presidents position on the development of bilateral relations. The guest expressed his confidence in bright future of existing relations between Azerbaijan and PACE.

The resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh passes through the rehabilitation of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and repatriation of refugees, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated in his appeal to nation at the ceremonial celebration of Novruz Bayram.

The head of state noted that Azerbaijan guides the international rule of law and the strengthening of the statehood and development of economy is priority of Presidents activities.

The President reminded of the soonest commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan main export oil pipeline and assured that revenues from the realization of the project will be directed at the development of infrastructure and education. He added the average monthly income in the country will be increased.

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev visited building site of TPG-500 sea platform and its underwater foundations on Zykh, within the frames of Shah-Deniz project March 22, BP Azerbaijan press release told Trend.

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev visited building site of TPG-500 sea platform and its underwater foundations on Zykh, within the frames of Shah-Deniz project March 22, BP Azerbaijan press release told Trend.

President observed the building site and met with the management and personnel. SOCAR owns the building site in Zykh. It was upgraded and improved by Shah-Deniz and BP partners.

Zykh building site at the present moment has a number of high-quality workshops, offices and quay sites. Technip Maritime Offshore LTD is also using the site for the platform building. 3500 personnel served the site work, including 80% of Azerbaijani citizens.

Fuzuli Sadikhov was dismissed from the post of the head of the Naftalan Executive Power at the 24 March 2006 decree by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Musa Musayev was appointed to this post, Trend reports.

Gazanfar Agayev was appointed the head of the Yardimly Executive Power at other decree by the President.

On Friday Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev signed a decree conduct of additional measures on strengthening of socio-economic development of Agdam, Terter and Barda districts of Azerbaijan, Trend reports.

The document underlines that a meeting held in Barda on 1 March 2006 with the participation of the head of state discussed the situation in the regions and outlined complex measures on removal of existing shortcomings.

The decree confirms an action plan on strengthening of socio-economic of Agdam, Terter and Barda districts. The Cabinet of ministers is charged in informing the President about the process of implementation of the plan and resolve other issues under the authority of the government.

A decree approving the national strategy and action plan for protection and consequential use of the biological diversity of the country was signed by the president Ilham Aliyev on Friday, Trend reports.

In accordance with the article 6 of UN Convention on Biological diversity, a new strategy and action plan will be adopted for protection of the consequential use of the biological diversity of Azerbaijan.

Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict

On 23 March the units of the Armenian armed forces dislocated in 0.4km south of Mazamli village of Gazakh District fired from 18:20pm to 18:25pm the positions of the Azerbaijan National Army in the opposite

The same day the units of the Armenian armed forces dislocated in 0.5km of south of Ashagi Eskipara village of Gazakh District fired the positions of the Azerbaijan National Army in 0.3km southeast of Boganis Ayrum village of Gazakh district from 19:50 to 20:00, as well as from their positions the Azerbaijani positions in 0.8km southeast of Chayli village of Terter District by guns and machine-guns from 21:30 to 21:55 and the Azerbaijani armed units in 4km of Garmiravan village of Terter District at 22:10.

On 24 March the units of the Azerbaijani armed forces dislocated in nameless height in the territory of Gazakh District were fired by the Armenian armed units from 23:15pm to 23:20pm. The Azerbaijani positions near Shikhlar village of Agdam District were imposed to fire on 25 March by the Armenian units in the opposite 05:00am to 05:30am

Azerbaijan has repatriated POW Vartan Martikovich Saakyan to the Armenian side, Commission for work with the prisoners of war, lost in action and hostages told Trend.

V. Saakyan, born 1986, was detained on February 2, 2006, next to the Azerbaijani-Armenian front line near Gasangay village of Terter district. In the course of investigation, it was discovered that he was serving on contract in the military forces of Armenia at the occupied territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

No talks are planned on the regulation of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem in the USA in late March 2006, Trend reports quoting Tahir Karimov, the adviser to the Azerbaijani embassy in USA on political issues. He was commenting possibility of negotiations or consultations on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the visit of Vardan Oskanian, the Armenian Foreign Minister, to USA.

As far as I know the Armenian Foreign Minister arrives in Washington on 28 March to discuss issues related to the program Challenges of Millennium. No contacts with Azerbaijan are envisaged, he stressed.

OSCE Fact Investigation mission will arrive to Karabakh in June to investigate hostage issue, head of the Azerbaijani Community of Nagorno-Karabakh, Nizami Bakhmanov told Trend. Fact investigation mission is due to investigate all illegal actions of separatists in Karabakh, including destruction of forests and national parks.

Armenian separatists are cutting down the platan forests, which are part of the State Protected Area Basitchay at the Zangillan district. The Ecology Ministry has already addressed the international organizations on that issue. OSCE Fact Investigation mission will arrive this June to investigate the problem of hostages. They should also investigate the cutting down of the rare platan forests in the area. The mission has recently investigated the fact of resettling the non-native Armenians in Karabakh and has confirmed it. The report on the results of the investigation was presented to OSCE member countries and co-chairmen of the Minsk group. Despite, Armenian site ignores all legal international norms and treaties of the international organizations; this document was issued in our favor. If the fact of destruction of the rare forests in Karabkh will be confirmed the world will know about it. And that will be in Azerbaijan `s favor, Bahramov said.

OSCE Minsk group co-chairmens consultations can be regarded as a positive event, but this is not enough for us. We want the negotiations process to yield the exact results, head of the Azerbaijan President Executive apparatus department of foreign affairs, Novruz Mammedov told Trend.

He did not support the statement that the negotiating process is in the state of stagnation due to absence of information. The process has been never publicized, as there was no need in it. Information will be spread only in case if some agreement will be reached or some steps forward achieved, Mammedov said, adding that negotiations are always held behind the closed doors.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Committee on migration refugees and population injected serious changes in its approaches to Azerbaijan, Trend reports citing Ali Hasanov, the Azerbaijani deputy premier, also the chairman of the State Committee on refugees and IDPs, as stating to a local television channel ANS.

Such approach is demonstrated after visits of representatives of the Committee to the refugee camps in Azerbaijan.

He also voiced his confidence that the factor will be taken into consideration during the current meeting of the Committee being held in Brussels, In general, positive changes are felt in CEs position towards the problem of refugees and IDPs in Azerbaijan, the chairman of the State Committee told Trend.

Declaration on Refugees and Displaced Persons in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia was included into the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) spring preliminary session `s agenda. Project of the given document was prepared by the Latvian reporter of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, Boriss Cilevics, Trend reports.

The document, referred by number 10 835, states in particular; The situation of refugees and displaced persons in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia continues to be an obstacle for the development of these countries in economic, socio-political and health terms.

The Assembly welcomes the fact that the three countries have now embarked on programs for the local integration of their refugees and displaced persons. Article 13 of the resolution project, indicates that In Azerbaijan three categories of people need to be distinguished: displaced persons who had to flee Karabakh, displaced persons from the districts of the Republic of Azerbaijan that are, strictly speaking, occupied, and Azerbaijanis from Armenia, who are refugees under international humanitarian law.

The European Union (EU) will take a direct part in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Peter Semnebi, the EU special representative on South Caucasus, said.

The resolution of conflict in the South Caucasus is one of the EUs priorities. It signals to more active attraction of the organization to the resolution of the problem situation, Semnebi underlined in his interview for Radio Liberty. EUs mandate in the issue has been expanded and resolution of conflict situation has been included in it.

Foreign policy

An Azerbaijani-US dialogue on security will be held in Washington on 28-29 March with participation of an Azerbaijani delegation led by Azimov.

Some thoughts voiced during the 2nd congress of world Azerbaijanis in relation to Iran can not be the official position of Azerbaijan, Nazim Ibrahimov, the chair of the State Committee on Azerbaijanis Living Abroad, stated.

Some critical thoughts voiced by Javad Derekhti, the chair of the World Azerbaijanis Congress, in relation to Iran at the 2nd congress of world Azerbaijanis on 16 March was the reason for anger of Afshar Suleymani, the Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan, who sent note to the Azerbaijani Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Ibrahimov stressed that the State Committee and other state bodies did not interfere in the internal affairs of Iran. The Satte Committee exists 3 years and we repeatedly stated that we doent interfere in te internal affairs of Iran. The people left Azerbaijan is our Diaspora. We also work with the Azerbaijanis from Iran. Everybody has own position and these thoughts are irrelevant to the Azerbaijan Republic, he added.

Every Azerbaijani irrelevant of the country, where he lives, is eligible to do his best in order to regard himself as Azerbaijani and expressed attitude to his historic motherland Azerbaijan, as well as defense his rights, Trend reports quoting Azerbaijani MP Ali Ahmadov. He was commenting the statement by Afshar Suleymani, the Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan.

Opinions voiced for defense of these rights must not annoy anybody. The Azerbaijani government made a statement on building of its foreign policy on the base of respect to national interests of all countries. Baku repeatedly stated that it did not interfere in internal affairs of other countries, as well as advised other countries not to interfere in the internal issues of Azerbaijan, Ahmadov stressed.

Leo Platvoed, a co-rapporteur of the PACE Committee on migration, refugees and population, will tour the South Caucasus region in June, MP Gultakin Hajiyeva, an Azerbaijani parliamentary representative to PACE, told Trend.

PACE Committee on migration, refugees and population met on 20 March. MPs Gultakjin Hajiyeva and Aydin Mirzazade represented Azerbaijan in the gathering. The two-day event discussed the state of migrants in Europe, missing people in South Caucasus countries, refugees, migrants and people in search of asylum.

Hajiyeva announced that Leo Platvoed was to deliver a speech on missing people in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. Following his absence from the gathering on definite reasons it was decided to dispatch him in April to Switzerland, where the Headquarters of the Red Crescent Society is placed, in order to investigate the issue on which he was to make a report.

Azerbaijan and Brunei are eager to develop bilateral cooperation in all areas. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Eldar Mammedyarov has reached such agreement with the leadership of Brunei during his visit to this country, Foreign Ministry told Trend.

The Azerbaijani minister has met in the course of his visit the Brunei Minister of Energy, Khadji Yavang Yakhya, Foreign Minister Mokhammad Bolkiuyah, Sultan of Brunei Khasanal Bolkiuyah, the chairman of the Bard of Direction of Brunei Corporation of Economic Development, John Terry, and the Minister of Industry and Natural Resources, Avang Khadji Akhmed bin Khadji Djumat.

Perspectives of bilateral cooperation in economic, political and cultural areas were discussed during the visit. Before Brunei Azerbaijan minister was visiting Malaysia.

India will to purchase Azerbaijani oil through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, Trend reports quoting Jioti Svarup Pande, the Indian Ambassador to Azerbaijan, as saying at a news conference in Baku on Thursday.

According to Pande, earlier Indian companies showed interest in the BTC project in the view of construction. One big Indian company put forward the proposal on construction of the Georgian section of the pipeline, but Azerbaijan did not give a reply to their proposal.

Of course, we are interested in the purchase of Azerbaijani oil, he said. According to Pande, Indias own oil production comprises only 34m tons per year, while consumption of oil reaches 120m tons and this figure permanently grows.

Danial Ahmetov, the Kazakh Primer, will pay a visit to Azerbaijan, Trend reports referring to Andar Shukputov, the Kazakh Ambassador to Azerbaijan.

According to Shukputov, the goal of the visit is to participate in the next summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), which is planned in Baku for 5 May. Attending the event is expected to be representatives of the ECO member-countries. The invitations have been already sent.

Preparations for the next meeting of the intergovernmental commission on delimitation and demarcation of the state borders between Azerbaijan and Georgia are underway, Trend reports quoting Zurab Gumberidze, the Georgian Ambassador to Azerbaijan.

According to Gumberidze, at present they carry out technical work. Experts continue the work on the agenda of the negotiations, which will include discussions on determination of parameters of the border. The meeting is expected to be held in Baku. The agenda will also include determination of ways of solution of some disputable issues, simplification of the function mechanisms of the check-points at the Azerbaijani-Georgian border.

The forum of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (PA CIS) will be held in Saint Petersburg from 13 to 14 June, Trend reports referring to Aydin Jafarov, the Azerbaijani delegate to PA CIS.

Jafarov noted that the Saint Petersburg forum will approve documents on preparation of the International Institute on Development of Democracy, defense of suffrage of citizens and monitoring on strengthening of parliamentarism.

A meeting of the South Caucasus Parliamentary Assembly originally scheduled for late March has been postponed, a member of the South Caucasus parliamentary assembly (PA) from Azerbaijan, MP Zahid Oruj told Trend.

He added that such meetings are held at the initiative of British organization Link with support from Conrad Adenauer Funds to Link.

Peace conditions and glance to the future will be the major subject of discussions, Orudj underlined. Azerbaijan will be represented at the meeting by a 9-member PA delegation headed by Siyavush Novruzov. It consists of 9 MPs. According to Novruzov, each of them will have a right to speak at the meeting.

Political life

New composition lists of commissions from 119 out of 125 districts were composed in the country, Central Elections Commission (CEC) told Trend.

There are still 6 districts with no commissions formed in them, CEC press-service head, Azer Sariyev told. This problem will be discussed at the CEC meeting next week.

According to the electoral codex in the country all commissions have to be formed anew after the last year elections. Each district commission should have 9 members. Now these commissions have only 7 members in each of them. Remaining 2 members will be appointed after the re-run parliamentary elections on May 13.

Ray Monitoring Center publicized the results of the last social inquiry conducted in Azerbaijan. In accordance with the inquiry, most of the population supports the political course persuaded by Ilham Aliyev, the Azerbaijani President, Trend reports.

Rizvan Abbasov, the head of the Center, noted that the inquiry was held among 1,508 respondents in 36 settlements from 15 to 16 March 2006.

In reply to the question How do you appreciate the activities of the Azerbaijani President? 82.8% answered that they regarded it as good.

The same time 74.1% of respondents noted that they trust to the head of the country, 7.4% political parties, 5.5% intelligentsia, 3.5% media, 2.2% the Milli Majlis [Parliament], 1.1% courts.

As to question Whom would you vote for if the presidential elections were held in nearest Sunday?, 72.2 % named Ilham Aliyev, 4.9% - Isa Gambar, the head of Musavat Party, 4.4% - Mehriban Aliyeva, the President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, 3.3% - Lala Hajiyeva, the leader of the National Unity Movement. Other political leaders gained less 3%.

3 candidates of the Consultative Council, uniting pro-governmental parties, withdrew their candidacy in the 13 May 2006 parliamentary elections in favor of single candidates from leading New Azerbaijan Party (NAP), Trend reports quoting Mammad Alizade, the chair of the Counsultative Council.

He noted that the Consultative Council had made a decision in support to single candidates of NAP. The candidates in the Gadabay, Sumgayit-Absheron and Binagadi constituencies have already been withdrawn in favor of single candidates from NAP, Alizade stressed.

He also said that election headquarters of the Consultative Council supported the election campaign of single candidates of the ruling party. The Consulatative Counsil will hold scientific and practical conferences on the birthday of national leader Heydar Aliyev in May, Alizade underlined.

The deputy chairman of Council of Europe chairman on human rights and legal issues and a member of CE monitoring group, Edward Lithner, met leaders of political parties and NGO during his visit to Azerbaijan on March 20-21, Trend reports.

Edward Lithner, representative of German delegation in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, has met with the Association on Development of Civil Society in Azerbaijan (ADCSA) leadership on March 20 and Eni Siyaset group co-founder Eldar Namazov

He also met with leader of Musavat party, Isa Gambar, Azadlig block co-chairman, leader of National Unity Movement Lala Shovket, Azerbaijan National Independence party leader Etibar Mammedov and the Council on the political prisoners leadership on March 21. The socio-political situation in the country, condition of democracy and human rights, results of the 6 November elections, re-run parliamentary elections and Azerbaijans obligations set by the CE were discussed by Edward Lithner and Verner Munge during their meetings with the leaders of political parties in Azerbaijan.

Linthner is satisfied with the pre-electoral situation in the country. He considered that re-run parliamentary elections is a good chance to show the ability to conduct democratic elections in the country.

I leave Azerbaijan with positive impressions. The CE recommendations to the government on the ways of improvement of the situation in the country were brought to life after the last parliamentary elections. I think that the Azerbaijani government realizes that re-run elections are a good chance to show the world that country is capable to hold truly democratic elections. Council of Europe is also very interested in upcoming elections and presented to government the pre-electoral plan, he concluded.

The Azerbaijan Liberal Democratic Party (ALDP) determined the composition of the delegation, which will follow the parliamentary elections in Ukraine on 26 March. The decision was made at the meeting of the party, held on Thursday, Trend reports.

ALDP received an invitation to observe the parliamentary elections in Ukraine from Igor Dyushin, the chair of the Ukraine Liberal Democratic Party (ULDP), Ludmila Yanudskaya, the chair of the Peace and Unity Party, as well as Vladimir Shestakov, the chair of Russkiy block.

The meeting of ALDP discussed the presidential elections in Belarus and the 2nd congress of world Azerbaijanis in Baku.

Fuad Aliyev, the chair of ALDP, noted that the presidential elections were normal and democratic in Belarus. The documents, adopted at the 2nd congress of world Azerbaijanis, were highly appreciated.

If Yeni Siyaset will transform into political bloc we can start cooperating with it. But this might be only on national issues, as there are few perspectives of cooperating with the Yeni Siyaset, Azadlig political bloc co-chairman, first vice chairman of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party (ADP), Sardar Jalaloglu, told Trend.

He stated that there are a number of conflicts and disagreements between parties forming Yeni Siyaset and Azadlig blocs. Decision taken by the bloc to participate in the elections again showed differences in their positions and views, Jalaloglu said.

We are ready to cooperate with all parties and blocs on national matters, including Yeni Azerbaijan party. This cooperation might include Karabakh problem and some other important for the country questions, he said.

State Building

Azerbaijani Emergency minister, general-colonel Kemaleddin Heydarov, has discussed work of the ministry with the member of the Parliamentary Commission of the Council of Europe (PACE) monitoring committee Edward Linthner and European parliament former member Werner Munchi, the Ministry press service told Trend

Actions to protect population in emergency situations were discussed during the meeting. Linther congratulated the minister with the new appointment and wished him success on the new job. The guest noted, that there is no such institution in Germany

and expressed his interest in the work of the Azerbaijan Emergency Ministry.

The minister told guests about the works conducted to prevent large scale disaster situations in the country.

He said that the Ministry is now in a state of formation. Heydarov told that rescuers of the ministry are always ready to protect the population and territory from possible disasters. Structures, working under the Ministrys control are capable to deal with disasters not only on the territory of the country but also abroad.

Opinions on different matters of bilateral interest were also exchanged during the meeting.

7 questions were suggested for discussion at the next meeting of the Milli Mejlis on March 24. The Annual report of the Azerbaijani Ombudsmen, Elmira Suleymanova was presented after MPs finished discussing all current issues, Trend reports.

Suleymanova, reported about the ombudsmen monitoring mission at the November 6 2005 parliamentary elections during her speech in parliament. She said that a number of appeals arrived to the ombudsmen office before and after the elections, they very turned over for revisal to the relevant institutions.

She also informed about constant human rights monitoring activities in the places of detention, and noted that illegally detained persons were found in some of the police stations. Relevant measures were undertaken to tackle this problems and those guilty were punished, ombudsman said.

Suleymanova also mentioned that a number of complaints on the judicial system came from citizens; they were turned over to the Ministry of Justice and Judicial council. Several judges were punished on the base of these complaints, she noted. She added that ombudsmen apparatus have taken up serious measures to restore the rights of Azerbaijani citizens violated by some foreign companies.

Investigations were also held to address the complaints of misunderstanding between the municipal and executive bodies regarding residential matters.

New structure and stature of the newly created Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan soon will be adopted, Azerbaijani minister of Culture and Tourism, Abulfaz Garayev told Trend.

Project of the new structure and stature has passed through all the bodies and now is reviewed by the Executive apparatus of the Azerbaijani president, the minister said. Project includes expansion of the ministry` s functions, creation of some new sectors i.e. of music, art and sculpture etc. New stature will help to expand the ministry `s activity and create new tasks, he said.

A special working group was created by the ministry to work out a new concept of the development of culture. A new legislature in that area is also needed, the minister said. Several suggestions and recommendations were sent to the parliament offering a number of changes and supplements to existing laws.

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