Weekly political review

Politics Materials 23 January 2007 12:03 (UTC +04:00)

Official News

Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, visited the Cemetery of Martyrs in Baku on 20 January 2006 in connection with the 17th anniversary of the bloody tragedy committed in 1990. The head of state put a wreath at the Memorial of Martyrs. The prayers were made and State Anthem of Azerbaijan was played.

The Azerbaijani President returned back to Azerbaijan after a short holiday.

Azerbaijan's President, Ilham Aliyev has sent a letter of congratulations to Mintemir Shaymiyev, the President of the Russian Republic of Tatarstan on the occasion of his 70th jubilee, Trend reports.

Mr. Aliyev noted that being a prominent state and political figure, Mr. Shaymiyev is diligently working for the sake of the progress of the republic he heads. He also expressed his confidence that friendly relations between Azerbaijan and Tatarstan would be only developed in the future.

Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict

The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement, Yuri Merzlyakov (Russia), Matthew Bryza (USA) and Bernar Face (France), will arrive to Armenia on January 24. The visit of the co-chairs to Nagorno-Karabakh depends on the weather condition, Armenpress reports quoting the U.S. Embassy in Armenia.

On January 23, the co-chairs will participate at the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov and Armenia, Vardan Oskanyan, at the Foreign Ministry of Russia, after which they will visit region to discuss with the State Heads the negotiation process on Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.

On 16 January, an Azerbaijani serviceman previously detained in Nagorno-Karabakh, was handed over to the Azerbaijani authorities under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Trend reports.

ICRC Azerbaijani Office reported that the operation took place on the frontline, in the Agdam region of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The ICRC, acting as a neutral intermediary and in accordance with its mandate, facilitated the transfer of the released serviceman at the request of all parties and with their full co-operation.

ICRC delegates visited him prior to the handover to verify that he was returning of his own free will.

Since the start of its activities in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 1992, the ICRC has assisted in the repatriation or transfer of 661 people.

Eldaniz Guliyev, 30, who was called up in July 2005, lost his way in the territory of Fuzuli District on 30/31 December 2006 and was taken prisoner by the Armenians.

Pier Stankin, the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Germany to Azerbaijan, stated that Germany will support all steps directed towards the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He made this statement in Baku on 16 January during a news conference, dedicated to Germany's chairmanships at the European Union in 2007.

The diplomat noted that the EU cannot resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and this should be done by the conflicting parties. Furthermore, there is also the United Nations to resolve the problems of the nations, the Ambassador stated.

He stressed that the OSCE Minsk Group should become more active in its resolution of the Armenia вЂ"Azerbaijani conflict.

The next meeting of the Azerbaijan and Armenian Foreign Ministers will take place at the Foreign Ministry of Russia, Trend reports with reference to the Russian Foreign Ministry Group for Nagorno-Karabakh.
Presently serious work is being implemented to prepare the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, and Armenia, Vardan Oskanyan. The Co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Yuri Merzlyakov, who is on holiday, prepares the meeting. In addition, the meeting is expected to be attended by the American and French co-chairs, Matthew Bryza and Bernar Fassier.

The meeting is intended to cover the opinion of the sides regarding the recent proposals of the mediators with regards to the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the possibilities of the future visit of the co-chairs to the region and other questions.

The member of the Azerbaijan delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, Eldar Ibrahimov, informed Trend that the Chairman of the OSCE PA and Rapporterur on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Goran Lennmarker will visit region on February 8-10. According to him, Lennmarker has completed his report regarding Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

But yet the Organization fears to present the report to the discussions. Discussing the report faces a number of problems. The Head of the OSCE PA states that there is OSCE Minsk Group, of which co-chairs have been involved in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. After the co-chairs complete their work, the OSCE PA may make a decision. All these proceed from double standards, Ibrahimov said.

Foreign Policy

В"Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, will hold bilateral meeting with Swiss leader, Micheline Calmy-Rey, during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum to be held in Davos, Switzerland on 24-28 January.

Elchin Amirbayov, the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Switzerland, exclusively informed Trend that they received a number of appeals from other participants in the Forum to conduct bilateral talks with the Azerbaijani president. President Aliyev is expected to join the discussions concerning energy security in Europe and deliver a speech on this topic.

Attending the forum will be over 2000 leaders from business, political, academic and media circles and representatives from the civil society. Representatives from the Palestinian autonomy, Iraq, Jordan, the United States, Ireland, India, Monaco, Oman, Japan, Brasil, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Singapore, UK, China, France, Mexico, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Nigeria, Austria, Philippines, Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Russia, Turkey, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Egypt, Iran, Korea, Kenya, Bahrain, Manila, Israel, South African Republic, Tatarstan, Vietnam, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Qatar and Australia will also be in attendance.

MP Elmira Akhoundova, the Azerbaijani parliamentary delegate to Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), exclusively informed Trend that arrangements are underway for the State visit to France of the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev. The State visit will take place on 29-31 January.

MP Akhoundova was on a visit to Paris from 13 to 16 January 2007 to participate in a meeting of the Committee on Gender Equality.

French officials are eagerly awaiting this visit as it is the first State visit in the history of the two countries, she stated.

MP Akhoundova stressed that during the visit, flags of the two countries will be hung on the central streets of Paris. A formal ceremony will be held in the House of Disabled, where Napoleon was buried, with the participation of the Presidents of Azerbaijan and France, Ilham Aliyev, and Jacques Chirac.

The Head of the Permanent Representation of Azerbaijan to the UNESCO, Ambassador Eleonora Huseynova, exclusively informed Trend that the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, will hold a number of meetings with the senior officials of France in Paris. According to the initial program of the state visit scheduled for January 29-31, the Azerbaijan President will meet with the President, Chairman of the National Assembly, Senate and Prime Minister of France. A reception will be organized in honor of the Azerbaijani President, which will be attended by more than 300 guests, Ms Huseynova said.

Pier Christopher Stankin, the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Germany to Azerbaijan, reported that the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, will pay an official visit to Germany in mid-February, Trend reports.

He noted that Azerbaijani President will travel to Germany with a large delegation, representing the economic circles of Azerbaijan. The Ambassador noted that Germany's interests towards Azerbaijan boosts day by day and the Government of Germany is pleased that the President of Azerbaijan will lead the delegation within the framework of its visit to Berlin.

The Azerbaijan delegation to PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe) has departed for Strasburg today early in the morning to take part in the winter session of the Organization, Trend reports.

The winter session of PACE will be held on January 22-26, 2007. The Azerbaijan parliamentary group to participate in the forthcoming session will be headed by Samed Seyidov, the Head of the Azerbaijani Delegation to PACE, Chairman of the permanent Commission for International relations and Interparliamentary Ties.

The Azerbaijan delegation consists of MP Gultakin Hajjiyeva, Rafael Husseynov, Ganira Pashayeva, Sabir Hajjiyev, Aydin Mirzazadeh, Aydin Abbasov, Akram Abdulayev, Fazail Ibrahimli, and Aynur Guliyeva. During the meeting, a report on the work carried out is expected to be heard. The report has been prepared by the Bureau of the Assembly and the Permanent Committee. The danger of using energy carriers as a mean of political influence, agriculture, and illegal acceptance for work in Europe, the situation with Kosovo, fulfillment of obligations taken by some members-states of the Organization, violence toward children, and elimination of all kinds of children exploitation is on the agenda.

Mr. Seyyidov and the other Azerbaijan MP are expected to give a speech during the session. They will express the position of the Azerbaijan party towards the issues that are in the agenda of the event.

Polad Bulbuloglu, the Azerbaijani Ambassador to Russia, has exclusively informed Trend that the Azerbaijani Embassy in Moscow has not made any emergency plans for Azerbaijanis in connection with the recent application of new rules regulating its migration flow into Russia.

He stated that no-one has appealed to the Embassy. All the rules have been made public and every resident of Russia is aware of them. The Ambassador felt it was too premature to make any conclusions as only 2 days have passed since the new rules came into effect. The situation will become clear in approximately 15 days.

Mr. Bulbuloglu stressed that Azerbaijani citizens residing in Russia have not appealed to the Consulate to be repatriated to their motherland. The Consulate continues to operate as normal, receiving only 100-120 appeals per day, he emphasized

Ali Hasanov, the head of the Public and Political Department of the President Executive Apparat, exclusively informed Trend that Azerbaijan is prepared to resolve all questions concerning the citizens residing in the territory of Russia. He ruled out the possibility of
emergency situation.

He reminded that the commission involved in the resolution of problems of Azerbaijanis residing in the territory of Russia has organized headquarters with operative assistance of Azerbaijani citizens in all regions of the country. Necessary work is done for urgent issue of documents for Azerbaijanis. The Azerbaijan Ministry of Internal Affairs and other establishments carry out necessary work to legalize their residence in Russia and ensure registration.

He also announced that the appropriative working groups function in the country to assist in returning of these Azerbaijanis to their motherland. Forecasts for the placement of these citizens in the regions have been also developed.

Mr. Hasanov said that these are Azerbaijanis who immigrated in search of job. They are mainly residents of villages and regions of Azerbaijan. Over the past period lands were distributed in the regions of Azerbaijan and the Government took necessary steps for cultivation of the lands. If Azerbaijanis return from Russia to their regions, then all facilities will be offered for their employment and business activities, he said.

On 16 January, the newly-appointed head of the Azerbaijani Representation at the Council of Europe, Arif Mammadov, presented his credentials to Terry Davis, the CE Secretary General.
The Azerbaijani Representative at the CE reported that the meeting focused on bilateral relationships and co-operation between Azerbaijan and the CE.

On the same day, Mr. Mammadov met with the Chairman of the CE Committee of Representatives.

The construction of the railway Baku-Tbilisi-Kars will create an opportunity for sustainable development, stability and the improvement of welfare in the region, Trend reports with reference to the statement by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry regarding the agreement which has been recently signed in Tbilisi between Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia on the realization of the project.

The agreement will assist in the development of the regional transport network directed towards ensuring the sustainable development and security in the Eurasian region and South Caucasus, the development of economical co-operation of the countries in the region and the expansion of co-operation at a regional and global level.

The project is Azerbaijan's next successful step towards foreign policy and will encourage the increase of transport commodities between Georgia and turkey via the territory of Azerbaijan, the creation of direct transport links between the Caspian region and Europe and the development of co-operation within the EU Neighborhood Policy as well as the increase of external economical relations of Azerbaijan, etc.

Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister, has received the copes of credentials presented by Jon Ramberg, the newly-appointed Norwegian Ambassador to Azerbaijan today, on January 17, 2007, a source in the Press-Service of the Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry told Trend.

During the meeting, issues on expanding Azerbaijani-Norwegian relations in political, economic, and humanitarian sphere were considered. The availability of a great potential for further development of relations between the two countries was marked during the meeting as well.

Mr. Mammadyarov provided with the information about Azerbaijan's all-round development, the country's recent achievements. He marked that Azerbaijan was intended for the integration to Euro-Atlantic agencies. He also provided with the recent information about the Nagorno-Karabakh peaceful negotiations, different countries' supporting Azerbaijan's just position in the issue, etc.

Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister, has received the copes of credentials presented Hussein Avni Karslioglu, the newly-appointed Turkish Ambassador to Azerbaijan today, on January 17, 2007, a source in the Press-Service of the Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry told Trend.

Having expressed his satisfaction with the high level of the existing Azerbaijani-Turkish cooperation, Mr. Karslioghlu noted that he would do all his best to improve it.

Mr. Mammadyarov congratulated the new Turkish Ambassador on the occasion of initialness of the railway project вЂ" Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi-B, where Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey are the parties. The Azerbaijani Foreign Minister also expressed his confidence that the project would be a success as well as many other ones being implemented in the region. Touching upon the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Mr. Mammadyarov marked the necessity on ensuring the security of all the projects being implemented.

Azerbaijan is unfamiliar with the final modification of the report by a Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Co-rapporteur POWs, Captives and Missing People, Leo Platvoed. It is, therefore, impossible to state whether this is agreeable to Azerbaijan, MP Mirzazade, Azerbaijani parliamentary delegate to PACE, informed Trend

However, the MPs will become familiar with the report in due course. Azerbaijan was not satisfied with the initial modification of the report by Mr. Platvoed.

MP Mirzazade said that during the last discussions of the document at the PACE Committee on migration, refugees and settlements, 3 discrepancies were revealed. It is still not known how the rapporteur regarded the report.

He also added that the PACE Committee on migration, refuges and settlement will discuss the report within the PACE winter session framework. We will make our opinions known, MP Mirzazade stated.

PACE rapporteur Leo Platvoet informed Trend that on January 24, the meeting of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Migration Committee will take place within the winter session of the PACE. The meeting is planned to focus on his report regarding missing people, people in captivity and prisoners in South Caucasus. According to him, after the recent discussions, the document did not receive proper changes. The main dissatisfaction was from the Azerbaijan side with regards to the phrases on Nagorno-Karabakh. Necessary amendments were made. Leo Platvoet did not exclude that Azerbaijan side might express its dissatisfaction during the discussions over the report at the meeting of the Migration Committee. According to him, the Azerbaijan delegation should support the report because their amendments were made to the report. The report has already been approved by several ministries of Azerbaijan, Platvoet said.

Andreas Herkel, the Co-Rapporteur of PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe) for Azerbaijan, said on air of broadcatinbg station, Radio Liberty that Azerbaijan obligations to the Council of Europe might be discussed during the forthcomning summer season of PACE to be held in June, 2007, but not during the spring session in April, 2007, as it was expected before.

He said that the report on Azerbaijan was deferred due to some reasons. However, the PACE Rapporteur did not tell these reasons.

Notably, the issue on Azerbaijan fulfilling its obligation to CE was expected to be discussed during the spring session of PACE to be held in April, 2007. An initial reading of the report to be delivered by the Co-Rapporteirs has been prepared. Oficial Baku is to express written attitide towards the document till the end of February, 2007.

The Chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia, Sergey Mironov, may make a visit to Azerbaijan after the elections to the legislation body of Russia, Trend reports with reference to the International Relations Department of the Federation Council.

The visit may take place only upon the completion of the elections to the Council, which will take place in March of this year. Presently Mironov is involved in the pre-election preparation and has temporarily postponed all foreign visits, the same source said.

Georgia will appoint its new Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador to Azerbaijan. The Georgian Parliament informed a Trend Correspondent in Georgia that the Georgian President Mikhael Saakashvili has submitted his nominee for this post to Parliament. Nikoloza Natbiladze is expected to replace Ambassador Zurab Gumberidze.

Moreover, Mayya Panjikidze will be appointed the Georgian Ambassador to the Netherlands. The Georgian President has submitted his candidate to the Parliament for approval.

The Consular of Slovenia to Azerbaijan, Borut Megushar, exclusively informed Trend that the Republic of Slovenia appointed a new ambassador to Azerbaijan. According to him, the new Slovenian Ambassador to Azerbaijan is Mitja Е trukelj. He will combine his diplomatic activities in Azerbaijan and Turkey. The diplomat is expected to present his credential to the President of Azerbaijan in the near future.

The next meeting of the Committee of National Co-ordinators (CNC) of Organization for Democracy and Economic Development - GUAM will take place on March 1-2 in Kiev, Trend reports with reference to Information Office of the organization.

According to the information obtained from the Office, before the meeting of the national coordinators, the meeting of the experts will take place on February 27-28. The representatives of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldavia will discuss the questions linked with the future activities of the organization. The agenda of the coordinators meeting will be prepared at the meeting of experts. Azerbaijan will be represented at the meeting by the Deputy Foreign Minister, Araz Azimov.

During the tragic events on January 20, 1990, the Azeri people put a trace in fighting against hegemony for the freedom and independence of the Muslim peoples in 20th century, said the statement of the Embassy of Iran to Azerbaijan in regards to the 17th anniversary of the 20 January Tragedy, Trend reports. The statement says that during those events, Muslim people of Iran were solid with the Azeri people. Presenting its condolences to the State and people of Azerbaijan, the Embassy of Iran expresses its respect for the memory of martyrs.

В"The Advisor of the Embassy of Poland in Azerbaijan, Voytsekh Guretski, informed Trend that the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland, Pawel Kowal, will make a visit to Baku on January 22. According to him, the Deputy Minister is expected to hold meetings at the Parliament of Azerbaijan, Executive Apparat of the President, Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Economic Development. The topics of the negotiations will cover bilateral Polish-Azerbaijani political, economical and cultural relations, co-operation in the sphere of energy, regional security, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, etc. In addition, the Polish diplomat will visit Baku Slavic University to get familiarized with the work of the Center of Culture and Polish Language. It is planned to visit the grave of well-known figure of Azerbaijan oil industry, Polish engineer Pavla Potosko.

On January 19, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Khalaf Khalafov, met with the delegation headed by the Minister of High Education of Saudi Arabia Khalid al-Angari, Trend reports quoting the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan.

Khalafov presented to the attention of the guest the greetings of the Azerbaijan Foreign Minister, Elmar Mammadyarov. He said that the bilateral relations in all spheres between the two countries are at the high level. The Deputy Minister highlighted the importance of developing the bilateral relations. He said that last year visit of the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, to Saudi Arabia, as well as mutual visits of State and Governmental delegations were effective for the development of the relations. He highly assessed the position of Saudi Arabia in the process of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement within UNO, OIC and other international organizations, and expressed gratitude for the assistance in resolving the problems of refugees and internally displaced persons of Azerbaijan.

Angari said that the friendly relations between the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and King of Saudi Arabia, Abdallah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, play an important role in the development of the bilateral relations. He said that his country supports the comprehensive expansion of the relations with regards to the policy, security, science, education, health and culture. Angari underlined that the Memorandum on scientific and cultural co-operation between Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia is of great significance for the co-operation and mutual exchange in the education sphere.

On January 20, mourning events will be organized by the Finnish-Azerbaijani Friendship Society, Khazar Yanar Society in Norway, Azerbaijani-Turkish Culture Society in Holland. The primary goal of the events is to inform the European community about the inhuman crime committed against the Azeri people. Within the events, photo exhibitions will be organized and the participants will be presented with the comprehensive information on 20 January Tragedy.
The statement of the Congress of the European Azerbaijanis regarding 20 January Tragedy says that this bloody act, which was committed by the Soviet Army in 1990 in Baku is assessed as a largest crime against humanity. The documents states that the heroism of the Azerbaijani suns and daughters entered into the glorious history of the Azeri people.

Political Life

The Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Azerbaijan (CEC), Mazahir Panahov, briefed the media that the CEC holds training courses for the members of the district and divisional election commissions.

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, signed an order On confirmation of the National Action Plan for protection of human rights in Azerbaijan. The CEC has been delegated a number of authorities in the document. Thus, the CEC should organize courses for the members of the election commissions to raise their professionalism.

Offered by the CEC Chairman, a working group has been created from 5 employees of the CEC to organize the courses. The working group includes CEC Deputy Chairman, Svetlana Gasimova, CEC Secretary, Natig Mammadov, members of the commission, Nazim Nadirov, Rovshan Ismaylov, and representative of the CEC Administration, Elchin Askerov. The courses will be attended by nearly 30 members of the district and divisional election commissions.

On January 19, the Executive Secretariat of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP), members of its Executive Board and Political Council, deputies of the Azerbaijan Parliament, representatives of State and Government, who are members of the NAP, thousand of activists of the Party, Baku City Department visited Martyrs Avenue. The members of the party laid flowers on the graves of martyrs, who have given their lives for independence of Azerbaijan, Trend reports quoting the Press-Service of the NAP. NAP was created in 1992 by the Chairman of High Assembly of Nakchivan Autonomous Republic, Heydar Aliyev. The present Chairman of the party is the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.

On January 17, Azerbaijan Democratic Reforms Party (DRP) held a round table dedicated to the recent decision of the Tariff Council of Azerbaijan on increasing the prices in the country. The event was attended by the Deputies of the Parliament, specialists and heads of the social-political organizations, Trend reports.

DRP Chairman Asim Mollazade highlighted the importance of eliminating the results of the decision on price increase, seeking the way out from the situation and preparing appropriate programs for improving the living standards of population.

Deputy Chairman of the party, economist Inglab Ahmadov, said that increase in prices for the energy carriers and communal services infringes the interests of people and does not correspond to the existing atmosphere, and the budget will not earn anything from this. According to him, recently, administrative factor exists in the economical policy of Azerbaijan while in the world, the prime cost of the energy carriers go down, but in Azerbaijan, its vise versa.

The Chairman of Azerbaijani Parliament Permanent Agrarian Policy Commission, Eldar Ibrahimov, said that it is intended to allocate AZN 233 mln to stabilize the prices. According to him, the price increase will not create serious problems in the agrarian sector.

Deputy of Parliament, Vahid Ahmadov, said that the Government did not inform the community on the reason of price increase. According to him, the price increase will be strongly felt in February, after the reserves, which have been purchased by old prices, are finished. Ahmadov said that he opposes against giving subsidies because it will lead to the corruption and price increase.

The Chairman of Azerbaijani Parliament Permanent Social Protection Commission, Hadi Rajabli, underlined that anti-inflation measures should be taken due to the price increase. It needs to strengthen the social protection and increase the allowances. According to Rajabli, the Parliament will reconsider the 2007 budget.

Parliament Deputy, Gular Ahmadova, underlined that the price increase will affect the budget of each family.

We prefer to lose certain number of our readers in order not to lose the newspaper, the Editor-in-Chief of Yeni Musavat Newspaper, Rauf Arifoglu, informed Trend.

He said that the recent price increase for the energy carriers and communal services created necessity of increasing the prices for the newspapers. Rauf Arifoglu said that the Editorial Office of Yeni Musavat Newspaper decided to increase the prices for the newspaper. But they wait for the decision of the printing houses. If the printing houses increase the prices, we will also take the same step. The prices for the paper have already been increased. We will also increase the prices in order not to fully lose the newspaper although it will lead to the decrease of the readers of the newspaper, he said.
According to him, other daily newspapers have also decided to increase the prices, but no-one wants to become the first in this issue.

The heads of several printing houses say that the prices for typography will raise.

The Co-chairman of the Political Block Yeni Siyeset (New Policy), Eldar Namazov, informed Trend that for opposition, the initiative of holding mass actions has transformed into one of the form of competition.

Touching on the consecutive pickets of the opposition parties to protest against price increase, he said that the mass actions may take place in any cases, even if they are not organized by the political parties because the decision of the Tariff Council of Azerbaijan brings very serious harms to the social situation of the population. In Baku and in various regions of Azerbaijan, a number of citizens, drivers, farmers and entrepreneurs express their dissatisfaction. The political parties need to organize any actions to express their position. There is no ban to join then mass actions. Simply we consider that the opposition parties should jointly hold such events.

However, for opposition, the initiative of holding mass actions has transformed into one of the form of competition. Each party tries to separately hold the action and demonstrate that it is main opposition. We condemn and consider it inaccurate, Namazov said.

He said that Yeni Siyeset Block protests against the decision of the Tariff Council on price increase and supports these actions.

State Building

The First Lady, Mehriban Aliyeva, awarded the Active Protector of Electors' Rights, prize established by the Society of the Azerbaijan Parliamentary Journalists.

Oktai Asadov, the Chairman of the Azerbaijan Parliament, received the President of the International Social Security Association, Karozan de La Razu, on 17th January.

Mr Asadov informed his guest about the economic development of Azerbaijan, the reforms held in the field of social security and told of the attention the country attaches to this area.

Mr de la Raza stated that his association noted the reforms that Azerbaijan holds in the area of social security.

Ilgar Verdiyev, an Officer of the Press Service of the Azerbaijan Defence Ministry, has informed Trend that 90 Azerbaijani peacekeepers have returned to Azerbaijan after completing their military service in Iraq.

On 5 January, 2007, another 90 Azerbaijani soldiers departed for Iraq to substitute the soldiers who completed their military service with the International Peacemaking Forces.

Azerbaijani peacekeepers are protecting a hydro-electric power station in the Iraqi Town of Al-Khadeet-Kha which provides 50% of electric power to Baghdad and 30% to Iraq.

The Head of the Public Relations Department of the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan, Jonathan Henick, stated that USA stands ready to assist in the possibilities of strengthening the Azerbaijani border controls, Trend reports. According to Henick, for this reason, the Deputy Assistance for International Affairs of the U.S. Customs and Border Defense Service, Odri Admas, made a 4 day visit to Azerbaijan.

During the visit, the U.S. representatives visited customs points Shirvanovka, Samur, Bara and Ipak Yolu and held various negotiations, including one with the Head of the State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan (SCC). Debates were organized on developing the co-operation and possibilities of providing technical assistance to Azerbaijan in the area of customs and border control. According to Henick, in this field, the collaboration between USA and Azerbaijan is at a good level. But we wish to strengthen it further, he said.