Political review of the last week (29 may to 2 june 2007)

Official news

On 29 May the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received the US Vice President's Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs, Joseph Wood. The meeting focused on political, economic, energy and security issues as well as development of democratic processes.

Both Ilham Aliyev and Joseph Wood stressed Azerbaijani-USA relations are successfully developing in all spheres.

Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, received the director of the Louvre, Anry Luareti, on 29 May. The President noted that the visit was a significant event in the cultural life of Azerbaijan and indicated the importance of expansion of cooperation between the Louvre and Azerbaijani museums. Mr Aliyev voiced his confidence that the visit would contribute to the extension of international cooperation in culture. Expressing his satisfaction with the course of the visit Mr Luareti spoke of plans and prospects on cooperation between the Louvre and Azerbaijani museums.

The guest was interested in a suggestion to exhibit samples of Azerbaijani culture at a new exposition to be held in the Louvre soon.

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, who is visiting Azerbaijan's district of Tovuz, said on 30 May that nearly 552,000 new workplaces have been opened in Azerbaijan since 2003. Highlighting the reduction of the poverty, the State Head stressed that the average monthly salary amounts to $200 and will increase by the end of the year. In addition, the President said that the Government of Azerbaijan pays special attention to the development of the non-oil sector.

Within his visit, the President participated in the ceremony of laying the first stone of a new Olympic Complex in Tovuz.

On 30 May the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev participated in the opening of an Olympic Complex in the Gazakh District as part of his tour of the northwest regions of Azerbaijan. The key objective of complexes such as these is to raise a young and healthy generation, the head of State stressed.

" Azerbaijan is in war situation and requires a young, healthy and patriotic generation to liberate its occupied lands," The President stated.

It comes as the 11th Olympic Complex was commissioned in Azerbaijan, the President noted. Twenty more complexes are to be built. Azerbaijan has applied to host the 2016 Olympic Games and these complexes will play a basic role in the preparation of future Olympic Games in Azerbaijan.

With respect to the socio-economic development of Azerbaijani regions, the head of State noted that within the framework of the State Program, the Baku-Gazakh highway will be built and the construction of the Diagnosis Center in Gazakh will be completed.

On 31 May the President of Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Good-Will Ambassador of UNESCO and ISESCO, MP Mehriban Aliyeva, participated in the ceremony of putting the first stone of a new 600-place school in Baku's Surakhany district for the Jewish children living in Azerbaijan. The ceremony was also attended by the representatives of the Jewish communities and Embassy of Israel in Azerbaijan, as well as the President of Federation of CIS Jewish Communities, Lev Levayev.

On 31 May a cconversation took place between the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev and Turkmenistan, Gurbangulu Berdimuhammadov. The Presidents expressed their satisfaction with the agreement on establishment of the Azerbaijani-Turkmen Intergovernmental Economic Commission and stated that the Commission will play an important role in the development of the co-operation. In addition, the Presidents exchanged views on regional co-operation and issues of mutual interest.

On 31 May the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received Dr. Huguette Labelle, Chair of the Board of Directors of the organization Transparency International. Dr. Labelle said he arrived in Baku to participate in the "Combating Corruption and Reforming Institutions in Transition Economies" regional meeting for Europe and Asia, and thanked the Azerbaijani government for the event's excellent organization.She noted successful reforms implemented in Azerbaijan in various fields, and their important results. President Ilham Aliyev described the conduction of the meeting in Azerbaijan as a very important fact, and whished success to its work. He pointed out that much work had been done in the country to ensure economic growth, poverty reduction, transparency of oil revenues, democratic development and so on, noting these measures will be continued.

On 31 May, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received a delegation headed by the President of the Federation of the CIS Jewish Communities, Lev Levayev.

It was stated during the meeting that the relations between nations and religions in Azerbaijan have been established on the basis of mutual respect and friendship. The meeting participants stressed that the national and religious tolerance in Azerbaijan is at a high level and this positive tradition will continue successfully.

The president voiced his hope that Levayev's visit will further develop the relations between the two nations.

Ramiz Mehdiyev, the Head of Staff of the Azerbaijan President's Executive Power, stated in talks with journalists on 31 May that the Azerbaijani President does not have any intentions to expand the presidency term from 5 to 7 years in the country.

He attributed the latest statements on the expanding of the Azerbaijani President's term of office from 5 to 7 years as goodwill by some people. "However, the President does not have such intentions," he added.

He ruled out any changes to the Constitution in this respect. 'It is impossible," he emphasized.

The Head of Staff regarded the proposals to change the state anthem and emblem as a rumor and stated that the issue was not considered by the authorities.

On 1 June, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received British Ambassador to Baku, Laurie Bristow, as the latter has completed his diplomatic mission in Azerbaijan. P.Amirjanov / On 1 June, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received British Ambassador to Baku, Laurie Bristow, as the latter has completed his diplomatic mission in Azerbaijan.

Mr. Bristow said he was pleased to work in Azerbaijan as Great Britain's envoy.

Laurie Bristow said much has changed in Azerbaijan over the last few years. over the last few years.

President Ilham Aliyev thanked the Ambassador for what he did to boost the bilateral relations between the two countries during his tenure. President Ilham Aliyev thanked the Ambassador for what he did to boost the bilateral relations between the two countries during his tenure.

The President said Azerbaijan and Great Britain have close cooperation in various sectors including energy.

On 1 June, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received the Polish delegation headed by Poland's Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration Janusz Kaczmarek.

The Head of the Azerbaijan State was reminded of his visit to Poland and meeting with Polish President Lekh Kachinsky, noting the friendly relations between the two countries. The President stressed the necessity of comprehensive, cooperative relations between Azerbaijan and Poland, including relations between law-enforcement bodies. Azerbaijan actively takes part in regional security actions in the framework of a new neighborhood policy program of the European Union, he emphasized.

According to the President, the current visit of the Poland's Minister of Internal Affairs to Azerbaijan will promote the analysis of the reached agreements between the two countries and define further avenues for cooperation.

Minister of Internal Affairs of Poland, Janusz Kaczmarek said he closely watches the activity of the Azerbaijan President. He conveyed to the Azerbaijan President greetings from his Polish counterpart.

Parliament

The term of the parliamentary spring session will be prolonged, the First Vice Speaker of Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani parliament), Ziyafat Askarov, reported on 31 May.

"There is no need to make a special decision in this connection. We have appeals by forty-two MPs. In accordance with the legislation; this number is enough for prolongation of the session term," Askarov added.

The First Vice Speaker noted that re-approval of judges whose term of office had expired would be considered by the parliament in near future.

The exact time for the end of the session has not been defined yet. In compliance with the Milli Majlis Charter, the spring session usually begins on 1 February and ends on 31 May,

The Speaker of Azerbaijan Parliament, Oktay Asadov, discussed the issues of improving the activities of the CIS Parliamentary Assembly with the Chairman of the Federation Council of Russia, Sergey Mironov, in Saint-Petersburg, said Head of Azerbaijan Parliament's Press Service, Akif Nasirov.

The meetings of the CIS Parliamentary Assembly and mass events on the 15th anniversary of the Organization take place in Saint-Petersburg where Azerbaijan is represented by a delegation headed by Asadov.

Asadov's meeting with Mironov focused on inter-parliamentary relations, activities of the separate countries for improving the work of the CIS Parliamentary Assembly, and the Organization's prospects. An international conference 'Inter-Cultural and Inter-Religious Dialogue' will take place on 1 June within the events which will also be attended by Asadov.

In addition, the Azerbaijani Speaker met with the representatives of the Azerbaijani diasporas in Saint-Petersburg. Asadov was interested in their mode of life and activities, and discussed the development of the Azerbaijani diasporas and their actual problems.

During the meeting of the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijan Parliament) on 5 June the Law on Permission of adoption, ratification and implementation of agreements among Azerbaijan and Londex Resourses SA, Will and Mayris SA, Fargate Mining Corporation, Qlobex International LLP and Mitsui Mineral Development Engineering Co Ltd on the study, examination, search, development and output of ore in Karabakh, Chovdar, Geydag, Dagkasaman mines and in the Kurekchay River basin were approved.

MP Valeh Alaskarov, the chairman of the permanent Parliamentary commission on Natural Resources, Energy and Ecology, stated that the agreement would be in force for 30 years. The work, envisaged in the programme of deposits, should be carried out within 48 months.

In case of the need to hold subsidiary work in each deposit some 16 months might be allocated. The investment liabilities of the contractors in compliance with this agreement are - Londex 45%, Will and Mayris 29%, Fargate 15

In the implementation of the project there will be a minimum of 45% of Azerbaijani specialists and 80% non-specialists. The number of specialists will be increased in future.

The Azerbaijani MPs consider that the implementation of the project will have a positive impact on economic development of Azerbaijan. The Parliament approved the agreement after discussions.

The Chairman of Azerbaijan Parliament's Permanent Commission on Social Policy, Hadi Rajably, considers that numerous amendments should be made to the Family Code of Azerbaijan. According to him, the amendments to the Code are a social order. The Commission offers to make it compulsory to present medical reference during marriage.

"It is clear that sick parents born sick children. The young people should know it beforehand. Another proposal envisages signing economic and civic acts that are specified by the law, but are not obligatory. The researches show that 15% of the marriages divorce and these problems appear during the divorce proceedings. Presently it is important to clarify this problem," Rajably said.

Highlighting the importance of adopting a new legislation regarding social protection of young families, the Chairman of the Commission stressed that this law will play its role in preventing possible problems. "The Family Code is a framework law. In addition, it is possible to devise draft laws on the social protection of the young families, alternative care about children, demographic security," Rajably added. According to him, the draft laws discussed presently envisages providing mothers with 100% salary during maternity leave. Moreover, it is intended to increase the amount of the lump sum allowances for infants.

The rise in market prices causes concern and the tendency cannot be called a positive one," the Chairman of the Permanent Parliamentary Commission on Social Policy, MP Hadi Rajabli, said on 1 June.

According to Rajabli, the rise of money supplies being held by the general population caused the rise in prices. "It is impossible to regulate the market, but natural ways should be used in combating monopolies. A rise in product supply can lead to a drop in prices," Rajabli said.

The MP noted that the rise in prices also affected monopolies. The Chairman again noted that the fight against monopolies to be necessary for combating the rise in prices.

The opening of the Child Parliament was held in the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijan Parliament) on 1 June. MP Bahar Muradova opened the session.

1 June is International Children's Day, this year's theme is Child Protection. In many countries children take up posts on this day. Azerbaijan joined the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of the Child in 1989.

Over forty countries worldwide have established Child Parliaments. The Child Parliament in Azerbaijan was formed on the basis of a memorandum, signed 1 April 2006, by the Parliament, the Education Ministry, UNICEF and the Public Union of Women Leaders.

The ruling structures of the Child Parliament and its eight commissions were formed on 30-31 May.

The Child Parliament will discuss issues surrounding children and the challenges they face.

Taleh Aliyev was elected as speaker and Farid Aliyev as vice speaker of the Child Parliament.

MPs, ministers, representatives of international organizations and foreign diplomats to Azerbaijan participated in the session.

Foreign policy

The Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Ulrich Bohner, highlighted on 29 May in Strasburg the necessity to elect a Mayor of Baku City.

During his meeting with the Azerbaijani journalists, he reported that the representatives of the Congress discussed this issue with the Government of Azerbaijan. Bohner considers that electing a Mayor is important from the point of view of following political balance within the Country.

Joined by Azerbaijan in 2002, the European Charter on Local Self-Government envisages the election of a Mayor.

Council of Law Enforcement Heads will be established at the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). The establishment was initiated by Azerbaijan at the latest meeting of the OIC Foreign Ministers Council held in Islamabad, Pakistan on 15-17 May, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Vagif Sadikhov, said to journalists in Baku on 29 May.

The OIC has the council uniting heads of different bodies of member-countries, including the Councils of Foreign Ministers, Education Ministers, Economics Ministers, Transport Ministers, Culture Ministers and others, the diplomat said. "Establishment of Law Enforcement Heads will enable OIC countries to consolidate their efforts in combating trans-national and organized crime, terrorism and other negative phenomena," he noted.

The suggestion was backed by all member-countries and the decision to form an expert group which will work in connection to this was made.

The expert group will meet in Baku in September for discussion of current issues on the establishment of the Council.

The Inter-State Working Group at the level of Deputy Foreign Ministers coordinated the text of the project of Conception of Further Development of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the CIS Executive Committee reports.

The Inter-State Working Group decided to ask the Executive Committee to send the project of the conception to the consideration of the Council of CIS State Heads.

The Regular Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (CE) began in Strasburg on 30 May.

Co-operation in the local democracy field outside Europe, with Mexico and Japan in particular, is amongst the main points of the agenda. The delegations of the countries will speak at the Chamber of Local Authorities and the Chamber of Regions of the Congress.

The Azerbaijani delegation consisting of six members is in attendance and the session will end on 1 July.

The requirement to provide statistics regarding women's participation in the membership of national delegations was put forward at the opening of the plenary session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (CE) on 30 May.

The rapporteurs speaking at the session, Anders Knape and Gunter Krug, noted that in accordance with the new Charter of the Congress the national delegation had to provide 30% participation of women by the next year.

It was noted that in case the requirement was not met, the next year's approval of membership would be refused to those delegations which did not comply with the gender equality principles.

A Sunday school for Azerbaijanis will be opened in Latvia. The school has been established through the efforts of the Azerbaijani Diaspora Organization (Ojag community) with the assistance of the Azerbaijani Embassy to Latvia, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Latvia, Tofig Zulfugarov, reported on 30 May.

IT equipment for the school was provided by the Azerbaijani Communications and IT Ministry. The computers and other technological equipment will meet the interests of the Azerbaijani diaspora residing in Latvia. The opening ceremony to be held in the evening of 30 May, which will be attended by the Azerbaijani Communications and IT Minister, Ali Abbasov.

The school has been established within the framework of the Latvian Government's program on National Minorities Residing in the Country.

"Some 1,750 Azerbaijanis reside in Latvia," the Ambassador quoted the Latvian Ministry of Integration.

Anna Derse, the US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, stated that the United States welcomes the steps taken by the Azerbaijani Government in its fight against corruption and is ready to provide any assistance to achieve effective results. She was addressing a regional meeting of the Transparency International on Europe and Central Asia in Baku on 31 May.

The organization of such an important meeting in Baku demonstrates that the Azerbaijani authorities have an excess of work in this area.

The diplomat stressed that in accordance with the report by the Transparency International, in 2006 Azerbaijan occupied 130th place amongst 163 world countries in the level of corruption. However Azerbaijan was 99th amongst 175 countries in a business report compiled by the World Bank. It clearly indicates that Azerbaijan should carry out serious and urgent measures in this direction, the diplomat emphasized.

Derse also drew attention to steps to be taken, particularly the adoption of the law to fight against money laundering and the establishment of institutes regarding their implementation. Furthermore, it is necessary to publicize an income declaration by state officers. The Government should ensure transparency and solidity in management over state funds, Derse stressed.

The President of the Federation of CIS Jewish Communities, Lev Levayev, briefed the media on 31 May while arriving in Baku, that opening a Jewish centre and schools in Azerbaijan is aimed at strengthening the Jewish diasporas.

Levayev stressed that his visit to Baku is with the aim of participating in the ceremony of laying the first stone of the Central Jewish Centre and school in Baku on 31 May.

"These activities assume great importance for the Jewish diasporas," he said adding that the President of the American Jewish Congress, Jack Rozen, as well as heads of many European Jewish diaspora organizations have also arrived in Baku to attend the ceremony.

Speaking of the situation of Jews in Azerbaijan, Levayev said "Jews wish to live here and will develop. Jews love it here and together we can move forward jointly and with friendliness".

According to Levayev, the Jewish diasporas are strengthening in Azerbaijan. "We already have more than 450 children at functioning schools and more children who wish to study," Levayev said. The history of Jewish residents in Azerbaijan has been on-going for more than 2,500 years. Together with Baku, the Jews live in the village of the Red Settlement in the Guba district of Azerbaijan. The maximum number of Jews in this region equaled 15,000 in 1938-1939. Currently nearly 4,000 Jews live in the village of the Red Settlement. Overall, approximately 20,000 Jews live in Azerbaijan.

The aggression of one CIS member-country against another CIS country is inadmissible, said the Speaker of the Azerbaijani Parliament, Oktay Asadov, on 31 May at the plenary session of the CIS Parliamentary Assembly, which takes place in Saint-Petersburg. The Head of the Press-Service of Azerbaijan Parliament, Akif Nasirov, conveyed by telephone from Saint-Petersburg that Asadov highlighted the importance of a joint approach of the CIS countries to the solution of conflicts. Asadov said that otherwise, the activities of the organization will yield no results and become an obstacle to its effective work. Asadov congratulated the CIS Parliamentary Assembly on its 15th anniversary, after the collapse of the USSR, when a necessity emerged to establish an organization like the CIS to re-establish the relations between former Soviet countries. Mentioning the special international role of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Asadov stressed that Azerbaijan has close relations with the organization. During the event, the medal "Commonwealth" was presented to the members of the Azerbaijani delegation, Ali Huseynov, Fazil Agamaly and Firudin Hajiyev.

Moreover, Nasirov stressed that within the event, Asadov plans to meet with his colleagues from other countries, including Chairman of the State Duma of Russia, Sergey Mironov.

The plenary session of the CIS Parliamentary Assembly will conclude on 1 June.

The US policy regarding the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline running via Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and turkey remains unchanged. "US supports this route," Steven Mann, the first deputy assistant of US Secretary of State on South and central Asia, stated in an interview with ITAR-TASS. He was commenting on the possibility of reanimation of the project which was supported by the US Administration in 1999-2000 and a consortium was established in this respect. The implementation of the project was ceased at the initiative of former President of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, due to disagreement with sponsors' commercial inquiries.

Mann, who has recently met with the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbangulu Berdimuhammadov, gave a briefing at the culre and information Center of the US embassy in Ashgabad. In 1998-2000 Mann was the US Ambassador to Turkmenistan.

"The President of Turkmenistan is interested in the construction of alternative pipelines, including the Trans-Caspian direction," Mann noted. The Trans-Caspian variant is the most profitable and commercially feasible route for export of Turkmen gas". The US supports other pipeline project of Turkmenistan - the Trans- Afghan route to Pakistan and India, as well as the pipeline in the direction of China. "2007 was a very important year for Turkmenistan," Mann stated, voicing his hope that President Berdimuhammadov will offer favorable facilities for American and international business to participate in all commercial profitable projects in Turkmenistan. At the same time he reminded that in accordance with the US policy and laws, the routes running via Iran cannot be reasonable for private companies.

Nagorno-Karabakh

Leo Platvoed, a co-rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on POWs and missing persons in the South Caucasus, has called upon Azerbaijan and Armenia to co-operate in uncovering the fate of the persons who have gone missing during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

As a result of the armed conflicts in the territory of the South Caucasus, which broke out after the collapse of the former USSR, the whereabouts of 7,538 persons is still unknown. Some 4,604 persons are considered to be missing in Azerbaijan, 947 in Armenia, 1,763 in Georgia and 197 in Abkhazia. The data was publicized by the co-rapporteur during a PACE permanent commission meeting in Belgrade on 24 May.

In an interview by telephone, Platvoed stressed the importance of close co-operation of the Azerbaijani and Armenian authorities, both with the international organizations and local institutions established in those countries. "There is a commission set up to search for the missing persons in Nagorno-Karabakh, but it co-operating with Armenia, not with Azerbaijan," he added.

The US co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, Matthew Bryza, intends to visit Azerbaijan on about the 5-8 June, the head of the Public Relations Department of the United States Embassy to Azerbaijan, Johnatan Henik reported.

According to Henik, the US mediator of the OSCE Minsk Group will hold talks on the current situation of the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with the Azerbaijani administration. As the Advisor on Europe and Eurasia of the US Secretary of State, he will participate in the 14th International Exhibition Conference 'Caspian Sea - Oil, Gas, Oil Processing, and Petrochemistry' to be held in Baku on 5-8 June. The US Deputy Trade Minister will also be in attendance.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced that the Armenian Armed Forces located in the southeast Vozkevan village of Noamberian District of Agdam, fired at the Azerbaijani forces located in Gushchu Ayrim village of Gazakh District on 28 May from 13:00 to 13:10 hours.

The Azerbaijani Army retaliated and no injuries were reported.

The OSCE Chairman-in-Office's Special Representative, Andzey Kasprzyk, confirmed the fact that the Armenian Armed Forces hold military trainings in occupied Azerbaijani lands. Kasprzyk made this statement on 30 May during monitoring in the line of contact of troops in Gapanli village of the Tartar district of Azerbaijan. According to him, the strong explosions set off during the military trainings were heard even in the villages in the line of contact of troops.

Kasprzyk said that while the source of last year's fires in occupied Azerbaijani lands were not discovered, if fires appear again, the problem will be investigated by a special task force of the OSCE. Visiting Tartar, the representatives of the OSCE met with the Head of Tartar Executive Power, Vidady Isayev. Isayev presented to the attention of the guests that very often Armenians are firing weapons at the villages and it jeopardize the inhabitants' lives. The next monitoring in the line of contact of troops took place without incidents.

Karabakh Liberation Organization (KLO) addressed appeals to the Embassies of the USA, Russia, Iran, Ukraine and Georgia in Azerbaijan with regards to the Song Festival planned to be held in Khankendy.

The appeal says that between 1 and 5 June, a Song Festival is planned to be held in the Azerbaijani lands occupied by the Armenians with the participation of citizens of Armenian origin of various countries. The KLO states that the participation of the citizens of other countries in the Festival will be assessed as disrespect for the territorial sovereign of Azerbaijan and will be a show of support to its aggressor Armenia. "We believe that your country will not attend the Armenian game. We ask you to clarify this issue and not to allow the citizens of your country to participate in the event. Otherwise, protest actions will take place," mentioned in the statement.

The Chairman of the informal meeting of the 'Great 8' foreign ministers stated in Potsdam that the establishment of peace and stability in the S. Caucasus is impossible without the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was not included in the agenda at the meeting.

"The G8 foreign ministers took a unified position on the importance of the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh for the establishment of peace and stability in the region," the statement read.

The G8 foreign ministers support the efforts by the OSCE Minsk Group and calls on the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to boost their efforts directed at achieving unanimity on major principles proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.

"In this respect we welcome the intentions of both Presidents at a meeting during the CIS informal summit in St. Petersburg on 9 July, 2007 and call on them to reach an agreement on the major principles so as to open a path towards the peaceful resolution of the conflict," RIA Novosti reports.

Terry Davis, the Council of Europe (CE) Secretary-General, voiced his hope to resolve the [Armenian-Azerbaijani] Nagorno-Karabakh conflict before the 2008 presidential election in Azerbaijan.

During talks with Azerbaijani journalists in Strasbourg on 30 May, he noted that it is up to the Azerbaijani and Armenian people. Davis stated his confidence that the presidential elections in Azerbaijan would not affect the negotiations process.

The CE Secretary-General said that the people of Azerbaijan should concentrate on education, health, employment and other problems. Due to the unsettlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, too much money is spent by both countries on defense, whereas it could be directed at resolving social problems of both nations.

The CE Secretary-General also advised Azerbaijan to compete with Armenia in the organization of elections. " Azerbaijan should strive to improve on Armenia's election process" he noted.

During the spring session of the NATO Parliamentary Many MPs who participated in the discussions on Kosovo were adamant that Kosovo could not be used as an example for the resolution of lingering conflicts in the post-Soviet area, according to the Assembly held in Madeira, Portugal, according to Ziyafat Asgarov, the Deputy Speaker of the Milli Majlis [Parliament] and also head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe.

He noted that the Armenian media expediently raised this issue. "The Armenians declared that by using Kosovo as an example, Nagorno-Karabakh will be given the same status. However, this is a completely different situation, because Nagorno-Karabakh is a territory of Azerbaijan. During the session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the MPs stated that using Kosovo as an example is unacceptable in other conflicts," he emphasized.

The NATO PA session also discussed the illegal growing of drugs in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh for export to Europe.

Asgarov voiced his satisfaction with the report on Azerbaijan, apart from some milestones. "The report indicated the poverty ratio on Azerbaijan at the level of 40%, whereas this figure is currently only 20%. The reporters themselves confessed that they had quoted last year's figure. Furthermore, the report mentions the hindrance in the activities of religious organizations active in the regions of country. "We must be reminded that there is a law on Freedom of Religious Beliefs in Azerbaijan and every religious section can function without any hindrance. Our country can be a model for other countries from the aspect of religious tolerance," the deputy speaker stressed.

MP Ali Masimli, the member of the Permanent Commission of Azerbaijani Parliament on Economic Development, stated on 31 May that the Milli Majli (Azerbaijan Parliament) should appeal to international organizations in regards to burnings of occupied Azerbaijani territories by the Armenians.

The Armenians misappropriated material wealth in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.

"The parliament could not remain indifferent to this. Some twenty foreign companies have already been in operation in the occupied territories," the MP stressed.

One Canadian company profits annually by $600mln from the occupied Soyudlu deposit of Azerbaijan, developed by the Armenians.

Doctor of Economic Sciences, Professor of the Academy of Sciences of Georgia, Anzor Totadze, informed Trend that there has been no analogue of such disrespect for a neighboring country, falsification of the history of the people and crude attempt to appropriate its cultural heritages as is demonstrated in the actions of Armenian pseudo-scientists. According to Totadze, the Armenian academician Suren Ayvazyan and others are the authors of many vulgar falsifications of historical facts.

"According to Ayvazyan, Georgia has been created within the territory of North Armenia, and Azerbaijan created on the territory of East Armenia. He tries to prove that by claiming that Bakurakert ( Baku) has been the capital of East Armenia for many years. In addition, he claims that Armenia was created in 2107 BC," Totadze said.

"According to these pseudo-scientists, the whole South Caucasus has been represented by Armenia for millennia and this idea fully corresponds with the morbid wish of the Armenian scientists. All falsifications lead to Armenian terrorist claims towards Jevaheti," Totadze stressed. The Georgian scientist fully refuted the statement of Armenian scientists by saying that in 1595, 95% of the population of Jevaheti was settled by the Georgians. According to Totadze, for the first time, the Armenians who were removed from Turkey appeared there in autumn of 1829. The historical fact is that in 1829-1831, 25,000 Armenians flowed to Samtskhe-Jevaheti. He said that presently nearly 70,000 Armenians live in Jevaheti and 250,000 in Georgia.

"Nagorno-Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan and Jevaheti of Georgia, but not Armenia," Totadze said. The scientist considers the statements of the Armenian scientists to be dangerous and calls on the international community to take measures. He highly assessed the active role of the Human Rights Institute of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences in this process. One of the activity directions of the Institute headed by Rovshan Mustafayev is to discover Armenian chauvinism which presents a real threat to the South Caucasus.

For Armenia the main thing is the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh, it is not worth speaking about other things without solving that issue," Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian stated in Yerevan at a joint press conference with OSCE Chairman-in-Office Miguel Angel Moratinos, PanARMENIAN reports. The Armenian FM reminded that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict broke out exactly because the very fact that Azeri authorities turned down the people of Nagorno-Karabakh the right to self-determination. "I repeat once again, only after determining the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh we will discuss any issues concerning the Karabakh process," the Armenian Foreign Minister stressed.

In his part the OSCE Chairman-in-Office underlined that the two sides adhere to political resolution of the conflict. "We believe and hope in political compromise. It is very difficult to solve any conflicts, including the Karabakh conflict," Moratinos said, stating as an example the unsettled problem of South Ossetia

The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry announced on 4 June that the Armenian Armed Forces located at the village of Berekamavan in Noyebreyan of Armenia, fired at the Azerbaijani positions located near the village of Kemerli of the district of Gazakh, on 3 June from 19:10 to 19:15.

Azerbaijan returned fire. No injuries were reported.

Political movements

Ali Aliyev, the co-founder of the Azadlig block and chairman of the Citizen and Development Party of Azerbaijan (CDPA) has stated that the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) will adopt the position of the opposition, which will change the direction of their struggle for a democratic society.

Commenting on the new political course of the party, Aliyev explained that the decision of previous alliances is their own business.

"The DPA remains to be in opposition and is unwilling to change its course. The DPA will change its methods of struggle against the authorities. DPA prefers a mutual understanding with the state, and considers this method to be acceptable," Aliyev stressed.

DPA had been a member of Azadlyg block since February 2007 and suspended its activity in the block after adopting a new political course.

Currently, Azadlyg block unites three opposition parties- the Popular Front of Azerbaijan, the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan and the Citizen and Development Party of Azerbaijan.

On 29 May Ali Karimli, Lala Shovkat and Ali Aliyev, the co-chairmen of the opposition block Azadlyg met with Jose Louse Herrero Ansola, the representative of OSCE in Azerbaijan.

The meeting focused on the socio-political situation in Azerbaijan and the latest development linked with the arrest of journalists. The leaders of Azadlyg informed the OSCE representative about the political situation, problems of media and pressure on journalists in Azerbaijan.

Herrero Ansola stressed that he constantly observes the situation in Azerbaijan, particularly the freedom of speech and expressed his attitude towards the position of opposition parties. Azadlyg unites three opposition parties, namely the Popular Front of Azerbaijan, the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan and the Citizen and Development Party of Azerbaijan.

Arif Hajili, the head of the Central Executive Apparatus of the Azerbaijani Musavat Party, stated on 29 May that the decision of the party not to participate in the work of the election commission remained unchanged.

Musavat considers that the election commission should be formed on an equal basis, with the participation of the state and opposition representatives.

"The party will not change its position until the election commission is formed on an equal basis," Hajili stressed.

The party submitted its proposals to international organizations.

Azerbaijan will hold the next negotiations on improving election legislation of Azerbaijan with the European Council Venice Commission and the Office on Democratic Institutes and Human Rights.

In compliance with current legislation, the election commissions of Azerbaijan are formed of representatives of opposition and pro-Governmental parties, represented in the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijan Parliament).

Five MPs represent Musavat in Parliament and refuse to send their representatives to the election commission.

Ali Orujov, the deputy chairman for media of the Azerbaijani National Independence Party ANIP, has stated that ANIP does not join memorandum, signed by opposition political parties on 25 May.

This document was adopted at the national forum held on 25 May, by political parties, representatives of non-political organizations and public figures.

The document represents a general position of parties, public forces, development of democracy, creation of conditions for holding democratic and free elections, protection of journalists' and human rights, as well as freedom of speech.

ANIP did not sign the memorandum, because the document was submitted to ANIP too late.

"Most parties have opportunity to get familiarized with the memorandum before the forum. The representative of ANIP obtained the document during the forum. ANIP is a collective establishment and all decisions are discussed at presidium," Orujov added.

ANIP might join the memorandum in future, after discussions with all the members of the party.

ANIP was established in 1992. Etibar Mammadov was the co-founder and chairman of the party by the end of 2004. Presently, Mammadov is the deputy chairman of the International Democratic Union of Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijani National Independent Party ANIP made the decision to join the memorandum adopted at the forum on 25 May, organized by the Azerbaijan Open Society Party.

Ali Orujov, the Secretary of Information and Media, stated on 30 May that the document was submitted to the party too late and it was the main reason for the delay.

The Musavat Party of Azerbaijan, the Popular Front of Azerbaijan, the Citizen and Development Party of Azerbaijan, the Classic Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan and many other parties joined the memorandum. The main purpose of memorandum is the joining of opposition parties.

ANIP was the first political party which was registered in 1992. Etibar Mammadov, was the founder and had been the Chairman of the party until the end of 2004. Presently, Mammadov is the Deputy Chairman of the International Democratic Union of Azerbaijan.

Ali Aliyev, the Co-chairman of the Azadlyg Block and Chairman of the Citizen and Development Party of Azerbaijan, stated on 30 May that the forum with the participation of the representatives of the opposition parties, public organizations and intellectuals, organized by the Open Society Party of Azerbaijan OSP, were not able to achieve the assigned tasks.

The political and public situation in Azerbaijan, the methods of joint struggle against the authority and co-operation amongst the opposition parties were discussed during the forum. As a result the memorandum and the appeal to international organizations was adopted.

According to Aliyev, the forum could not achieve the assigned tasks. "The participants of the forum submitted issues for discussion, as well as the participation of forces adherent to different political positions to have an impetus effect. The unanimity and co-operation of the parties were only able to discuss the serious political issues and to arrive at general decisions. In other cases it would be impossible to achieve assigned tasks," Aliyev added.

According to Akif Shahbazov, the Chairman of the OSP, the forum organized by the party had results. The parties, which had never before gathered together attended the forum, discussed and offered their proposals. We would like that such a forum become tradition," the chairman stressed.

Azadlyg Block unites three opposition parties, namely the Popular Front of Azerbaijan, the Liberal Party of Azerbaijan and the Citizen and Development Party of Azerbaijan.

OSP was established in April 2007. Rasul Guliyev, the former MP of Azerbaijan Parliament is the leader of the party.

Akif Shakhbazov, the Chairman of the Open Society Party of Azerbaijan OSP, stated on 30 May that the decision to hold monthly forums for all opposition forces, social representatives, and the Azerbaijani intellectual community had been made.

During the forums the national problems and definitions of a general strategy for political struggle will be discussed.

The forums' organizers will change monthly allowing each party to have its turn.

The next forum will be held in the near future.

The proposal of the OSP on bilateral cooperation among parties was included in the agenda.

Sardar Jalaloglu, the Chairman of the Azerbaiajn Democratic Party ADP, has stated that the Open Society Party of Azerbaijan and the National Independent Party of Azerbaijan will not join the new alliance of opposition.

The Chairman offered to form a new consultative union based on cooperative opposition forces and appealed to Isa Gambar, Eldar Namazov, Etibar Mammadov and others to form the union.

"Etibar Mammadov, the head of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, and Rasul Guliyev, the head of the Open Society Party of Azerbaijan, did not support the idea. I consider such action normal, because not everybody thinks and supports opposition. The new alliance will not put conditions before parties," Jalaloglu stressed.

The ADP was established in 1991. In January the ADP changed its political course to engage in dialogue with the ruling party.

During the IX meeting of the ADP, held on 27 May, Sardar Jalaloglu was elected Chairman of the Party.

Sardar Jalaloglu, the Chairman of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party ADP, considers that formation of new unions in the opposition camp by the end of 2007 and at the beginning of 2008 will be inevitable.

"In the first stage, the union will be of a consultative-council character, then it will become the union of associated parties, and one candidate is likely to be nominated," Jalaloglu noted.

The cooperation of opposition parties to participate in all political processes is very important.

ADP was established in 1991 by Sardar Jalaloglu. Protesting against the new course of the Party adopted in January to hold the dialogue with the Authority, the former Chairman of the Party, Rasul Guliyev, separated from the Party and formed the Open Society Party of Azerbaijan. During the IX meeting of the ADP, held on 27 May, Jalaloglu was elected the Chairman of the Party.

Tahir Abbasli, the chairman of the Azerbaijani Islamic Democratic Party, has stated that an initiative to create a united opposition alliance is not true.

The attempts of Rasul Guliyev, the leader of the Open Society Party of Azerbaijan and attempts of the opposition parties to create an alliance will not be implemented.

"An alliance is a positive step, while the opposition is not ready for this process. Opposition leaders will not give up their interests. The opposition leaders made a speech at the end of the forum and announced the impossibility of unification of opposition parties. The attempts to create an alliance will not be successful," Abbasli added.

The Islamic Democratic Party is a religious party.

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