Weekly political digest

Official chronicle

Azerbaijan must finish implementing planned infrastructural projects within 5 years and has every capability to do so, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said at a conference on the government's 2004-2008 socio-economic development program.

The program for the next 5 years is being developed and will be approved shortly, he added.

"The program is very concrete," Aliyev said.

A key objective of the program will be to develop the non-oil sector.

Infrastructural programs in the field of electricity and natural gas will also be further developed.

Special attention will be paid to drinking water and irrigation, including building the Oguz-Gabala-Baku-Samur Absheronskgo Canal and Tahtakerpyu Reservoir and treatment plants along the Kur and Araz rivers. Azerbaijan must ensure its water security, Aliyev said.

The program envisages providing 400,000 people with water. A total of 800,000 people will be provided with drinking water. Treatment facilities will be established in all rivers and channels throughout the country. The program will also pay special attention to ecological issues.

Azerbaijan must reduce the possible future impact of the global financial crisis.

"I have no doubt that we will be able to do this," Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said at the Gulustan Palace at a conference on outcomes of the government's regional socio-economic development program for 2004-2008.

In the past 5 years, the Azerbaijani economy grew 2.6 times. Income per capita hit $5,500. Industrial production grew 2.5 times. An additional 766,000 jobs were created. The poverty rate also declined from 49 to 13.2 percent. Azerbaijan's currency reserves hit $18 billion, he said.

As part of the program, new jobs were created, businesses established and regional development supported, Aliyev said.

Azerbaijan is gradually reducing its dependence on oil, he added.

"The private sector is developing and discipline in the financial sector has improved," Aliyev said.

Azerbaijan's experience and policies show that state funds have been spent properly, he said.

"Investments were made in power engineering, gas supply and transportation projects, as well as the health, educational and humanitarian sectors. Oil revenues are distributed equitably in the country," Aliyev said.

According to the president, Azerbaijan has significant economic potential.

"The social sector was emphasized during the implementation of the project," he said.

The minimum wage grew 8.3 times. The minimum pension increased four-fold over 5 years. A total of 1,600 schools and hundreds of medical facilities were also opened.

"Azerbaijan has ensured food security. Countries that do not ensure energy, food and transportation security will face major problems," Aliyev said.

Some countries cannot cope and have to take foreign loans, he said.

"But Azerbaijan was also asked to issue loans," Aliyev added.

As a result of the state program, 9 power stations with an aggregate capacity of 1,000 megawatts were built in Azerbaijan. Another two stations with an aggregate capacity of 600 megawatts will be commissioned this year. Two more stations are being built, Aliyev said.

"Eighty-five percent of the Azerbaijani population is provided with gas. We intend to raise the figure to 93-95 percent," he said.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev received the delegation headed by Georgian Vice Speaker Pridon Todua, the Azertaj state information agency reported.

President Aliyev stressed the significance of the current visit for expansion of interparliamentary relations. Aliyev expressed a hope that this visit will be fruitful for further perspective cooperation between the parliaments of the two countries.

Todua remembered his meeting with Azerbaijani National Leader Heydar Aliyev and said that he was proud of this meeting. Todua voiced the importance of the interparliamentary relations and expressed certainty that this meeting would contribute to intensifying the cooperation.

The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has sent a letter of congratulation to President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves on his country's independence day, AzerTaj State news agency reported. 
The letter says: "Relations between Azerbaijan and Estonia have entered a new stage. I am confident that your recent visit to Azerbaijan, meetings we held, views we exchanged and joint declaration we signed would contribute to strengthening our friendly relations even more and expanding bilateral cooperation."

President Ilham Aliyev also wished Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and the people of the country "best regards, prosperity and welfare".

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has sent a letter of condolence to President of Slovakia Ivan Gasparovic over the loss of lives caused by a traffic accident, AzerTaj State news agency reported.
 
"The news of a human loss as the result of the traffic accident was a source of great sorrow to me," the President said in his letter.

"On behalf of the people of Azerbaijan and on my own behalf, I offer sincere condolences to you, families and relatives of the dead and all the people of Slovakia and wish speedy recovery to the injured," President Ilham Aliyev said.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has sent a letter of congratulation to His Highness the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on the occasion of National Day of the State of Kuwait, AzerTag state agency reported.

In his letter, President Ilham Aliyev expressed satisfaction at the current state of relations between Azerbaijan and Kuwait. The Azerbaijani leader said he believes the two countries will further develop their bilateral relations and cooperation within international organizations.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev inaugurated the Interior Ministry's Safe City computer management center in Baku on Feb. 24, the AzerTag news agency reported.

The center will maintain continuous video surveillance to ensure rule of law and rapid responses to crimes and emergency situations.

In the initial stage, 555 video cameras were installed in 200 places in Baku.

The Turkish Ekin company installed the equipment.

Ten million manat was allotted to implement the project.

About 4,000 cameras will be installed in Baku.

Data about law violations are reported the Interior Ministry at telephone number 102.

The information is then passed on to local police precincts.

Safe City is a modern project implemented as part of the "State Program to Improve Activities of Law Enforcement Agencies in the Azebaijan Republic," signed by President Ilham Aliyev on June 30, 2004.

The President Of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, Awarded Akif Alizadeh the Sheref Order for his great services in developing geological science in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has sent a letter of condolence to President of Turkey Abdullah Gul over the crash of plane belonging to the Turkish Airlines, which caused numerous losses of lives, AzerTaj State news agency reported.

"We share your pain in connection with the occurred tragedy. On behalf of the people of Azerbaijan and on my own behalf, I offer sincere condolences to you, families and relatives of the dead and all the people of fraternal Turkey and wish speedy recovery to the injured," President Ilham Aliyev said.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev issued a decree on measures due to implementation of the 2009 budget of the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan, the Azertaj information agency reported.

According to June 19, 2001 presidential order on Regulations of preserving, placing and managing funds of the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan Republic, Sept. 12, 2001 order 579 on Regulations of devising and implementing annual program of incomes and expenditure (budget) of the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan Republic and 2009 State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan Republic, were approved Key directions (program) of spending the funds of the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan Republic for 2009 and estimate of expenditure on management of the 2009 State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan Republic.

Solution of issues following the decree was instructed to State Oil Fund Executive Director.

On the morning of 26 February, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev laid a wreath on the Monument to commemorate the victims of the Khojali Genocide.

Top officials, public figures and representatives of diplomatic missions also placed wreaths on the monument.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev received OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs Bernard Fassier (France), Yuriy Merzylakov (Russia) and Matthew Bryza (U.S.) and Special Envoy Andzey Kasprzyk on Feb. 27, the AzerTag news agency reported.

The meeting focused on negotiations to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

On Feb. 27, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev received the President of the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations Ennio Falsoni, AzerTaj State news agency reported.

Ennio Falsoni stressed all conditions for sport development have been created in Azerbaijan. He stressed Azerbaijan's increasing international sport prestige, adding Azerbaijan has all sport facilities to host international events. 

President Ilham Aliyev noted the government of Azerbaijan supports all kinds of sports in the country and pays special attention to youth's health by building sport infrastructure across the country. The Head of State said he is hopeful that cooperation between the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations and Azerbaijan's respective sport agencies will continue to develop in the future.

On Feb. 27, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev received Yves-Louis Darricarrere, President for Exploration & Production of France's Total Company, AzerTaj State news agency reported.

Head of the State stressed the significance of signing of the exploration, development and production sharing agreement for the Absheron block in Azerbaijan between the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) and the Total E& P Absheron B.V. Ilham Aliyev expressed his confidence for further cooperation with Total.

Mr. Darricarrere stressed the significance of the agreement. He underlined that there were ample opportunities to successfully cooperate with Azerbaijan.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev today received head of the Administration of the Russian President Sergey Naryshkin. 
The sides stressed relations between the two countries were successfully developing in various spheres. The information was spread out by the National Information Agency AzerTaj.

They also underlined the importance of opening of the Lomonosov Moscow State University`s Baku branch for expanding bilateral cooperation including humanitarian one. 

It was noted that the current visit of the delegation headed by Mr. Naryshkin would contribute to strengthening cooperation between the two countries. 
They expressed confidence that bilateral relations would continue to expand.

The official opening ceremony of the Moscow State University (MSU) Baku Branch was held in Baku on Feb. 27.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Russian Presidential Administration head Sergey Narishkin attended the official ceremony together with other senior officials.

On Jan. 15, Aliyev signed a decree to open a MSU branch in Baku.

The branch's curriculum will be based on MSU programs.

Students will be taught by MSU staff. Graduates will receive MSU diplomas.

Each of the branch's three faculties (languages, chemistry and applied mathematics) will enroll 25 people.

On Feb. 27, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev appointed the head of the Shusha City Administration.

Bayram Asadoglu Safarov was appointed head of the Shusha City Administration by presidential decree, the Azertaj state news agency reported. 

Political movements

The governing New Azerbaijan Party's (NAP) referendum campaign group has held 70 events to promote the amendments to the Constitution.

"The group's representatives and lawyers are actively promoting the referendum in Baku and the regions," NAP Deputy Executive Secretary Siyavush Novruzov told Trend on Feb. 24.

The referendum campaign began on Feb. 18 and will end March 16 at midnight.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) decided to allot the referendum groups 90 minutes of airtime on both the Public Television and Public Radio stations.

Airtime will be provided on the television from 18:15 and on the radio from 20:15.

The groups will receive four blocks of free airtime during the campaign.

The Azerbaijani Constitution was adopted in 1995. Amendments and additions were made in 2002.

Novruzov said New Azerbaijan is the only group that has hung campaign posters at all the authorized locations since Feb. 19.

"We intend to continue the campaign at such a speed," the NAP member said.

The U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan hosted a meeting with leaders of the country's political parties.

"The meeting focused on the public and political processes in Azerbaijan and the referendum," opposition Azerbaijan Democrat Party Chairman Sardar Jalaloglu told Trend on Feb. 24.

Azerbaijani opposition's referendum campaign group will send a document on constitutional amendments to the Council of Europe Venice Commission.

"We argue that the referendum contradicts article 156 and 158 of the Azerbaijani Constitution. We want the Venice Commission to provide its conclusion on this issue," Musavat party central executive office head Arif Hajili told Trend . The Musavat party is a member of the Movement for Karabakh and Republic.

Azerbaijani referendum groups launched campaigning on Feb. 18.

Referendum groups have been allotted 90-minute airtime a per week both on Public Television and Public Radio each. The groups will have an opportunity to debate referendum from 18:15 to 19:45 on Saturdays on the Public Television and from 20:15 to 21:45 on Wednesdays on the Public Radio Station. The referendum campaign groups will be allotted four free airtimes during the campaign period.

Hajili said they had to appeal to the Venice Commission as Azerbaijanis respective bodies did not respond.

The cooperation between political parties after the referendum depends on sincere intentions, Azerbaijani opposition leader said.

"The cooperation for unity of opposition must develop on the basis of sincere intentions," National Unity Movement (NUM) Leader Lala Shovkat told Trend on Feb. 27.

Opposition parties may unite for a common purpose aftermath of referendum, Shovkat said.

"Opposition parties must be frank to each other. Leaders' principality is also very relevant," Shovkat added.

Human quality plays an important role. "I support the cooperation among opposition parties after the referendum," Shovkat noted.

"I do not believe that any serious change will be observed in relations between opposition parties," political scientist Zardusht Alizade told Trend .

The long-year experience shows that opposition parties will fail to unite. "The current unification of opposition parties has a temporary character. Most of opposition leaders cannot give up their own ambitions," Alizade said.

Candidate to the chairmanship position in Azerbaijani opposition party Ali Orujov said that he did not hold a meeting due to place problems.

"The referendum on amendments to the Constitution also prevented the meeting," Orujov, Azerbaijani National Independent Party (ANIP) Press and Propoganda Secretary, told Trend .

ANIP failed to hold meeting since early of the year.

Orujov said that the party would hold the meeting this year.

"I still cannot call the exact date," Orujov added.

The Baku City Administration rejects our appeals to hold the meeting. "We were prohibited to hold the meeting in the Shahriyar Cultural Centre and Rashid Beybutov Theatre of Songs," Orujov said.

Party members rejected the rumors that the meeting was delayed due to ANIP leader canceled candidatures.

"ANIP leader Etibat Mammadov stays apart of the issue. On the other hand, all candidates are well-known within the party and proved to be worthy to this post," Orujov added.

Elections

A CIS observer mission will monitor the referendum in Azerbaijan.

CIS Executive Committee Executive Secretary Deputy Chairman Toktasan Buzubayev will visit Azerbaijan on March 6-19, Committee spokeswoman Maria Gutsalo told Trend over the phone from Minsk.

Azerbaijan will hold a referendum on March 18 to amend the Constitution. The Constitution was adopted in 1995. Amendments and additions were made in 2002.

The Central Election Commission registered the New Azerbaijan, City, Progress, Law and Democracy and Civil Society initiative groups. The Prosperous Village, Free Speech, Azerbaijan People's Republic and National Independence groups were not registered.

The committee will open an office in Baku.

Yevgeniy Sloboda, chief of the CIS observer mission, will head the office.

The CIS mission will work in two formats.

A long-term mission will stay in the country from March 5-19 and short-term mission from March 16-17.

On Feb. 24, the Azerbaijani Central Election Commission (CEC) elected members of the commission who will have the right to a consultative vote from among authorized representatives and lawyers of opposition referendum initiative groups.

Anvar Aliyev was elected a member of the commission from the Movement For Karabakh and the Republic group, and Osman Kazimov - from the Republicans group.

A total of 18 authorized representatives and 25 lawyers were appointed from the Movement For Karabakh and 74 authorized representatives and 25 lawyers - from the Republicans.

Foreign policy

The Georgian parliament may discuss the Khojali tragedy, Georgian Parliamentary Vice Speaker Fridon Todua told journalists in Baku on Feb. 23.

"It would have been better if this event had not taken place. But it did and we should solve the problem through joint efforts," Todua said.

The Georgian parliamentary delegation arrived in Baku on Feb. 23 upon the invitation of the Azerbaijani parliament. Georgian-Azerbaijani interparliamentary group head Todua leads the delegation.

The Georgian deputation will meet Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Parliamentary Speaker Ogtay Asadov during the visit. They will also hold meetings with Azerbaijani parliamentary committees and executive officials.

The Georgian delegation comprises Vice Speaker Paata Davitaya, Otar Toidze, Dilar Khabuliani, David Bezhuashvili, Ramin Bayramov and Kakhaber Okriashvili.

The visit will focus on the public and political situation in Georgia and bilateral cooperation issues.

Greece is always ready to assist Azerbaijan in the military sector, Greek Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ioannis Metaksas told journalists on Feb. 25.

A draft agreement on military cooperation is being developed between the two countries, he said.

Greece is ready to expand cooperation with Azerbaijan in the proposed fields, Metaksas said.

Azerbaijani-Greek cooperation is envisaged in the NATO Partnership for Peace program.

Azerbaijani officers attend various refresher courses.

Azerbaijan signed military and technical cooperation agreements with over 20 countries and cooperates with over 50 countries in this field.

Vladimir Dorokhin was appointed Russia's new ambassador to Azerbaijan, the Foreign Ministry of Russia said on Feb. 26.

Over the recent period, Dorokhin acted as ambassador on special targets of Russian Foreign Ministry, and in 1999-2003 headed Ministry's department on cultural relations and work with UNESCO, RIA Novosti reported. 

At the Oxford University, a conference on "Azerbaijan is junction of East with West" discussed Azerbaijan's increasing role in Europe's energy supply, as well as threat of delaying the Nagorno-karabakh conflict settlement for the region.

The Azerbaijani Embassy in UK, Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy and Oxford Azerbaijan Community organized the conference, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Youth and Sport said on Feb. 26.

Relations between UK and Azerbaijan are expanding in all fields, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Fahraddin Gurbanov said at the conference. The ambassador made a report about the current processes in Azerbaijan and its foreign policy.

The ambassador noted that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a main obstacle to establish peace in the region and its prosperity. Gurbanov hoped the negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement will be fruitful.

Russia highly appreciates the level of humanitarian cooperation with Azerbaijan, Russian President Administration head Sergey Naryshkin said at the Baku Slavonic University on Feb. 27.

"Azerbaijan has provided all conditions to study the Russian language. It is gratifying to see that people in Azerbaijan show interest in the Russian language and culture. This is a far-sighted policy of the Azerbaijani Government," he said.

Sergey Naryshkin's visit has immensely contributed to development of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Russia, Azerbaijani Presidential Administration head-of-staff Ramiz Mehdiyev said at the ceremony.

The OSCE Minsk Group cochairs may return to Baku after the March 3 visit to Yerevan, U.S. cochair Matthew Bryza told journalists in the Baku airport on Feb 27.

OSCE MG cochairs Matthew Bryza (the U.S.), Bernard Fassier (France) and Yuri Merzlyakov (Russia) held talks today in Baku. They offered their ideas on how to resolve disputes between Azerbaijan and Armenia in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Bryza told Trend . Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev received the diplomats.

Human rights

Now the people returning from military service in Azerbaijan can continue their labor activity in the previous workplace.

According to the amendments and additions adopted at the Parliament of Azerbaijan on Feb. 24, the people have the right to return to the previous work after demobilization from the military service.

"This is one of the basic changes. This right is reflected in the Law on Youth Policy. More specifically, in the Labor Code this right gives the worker an opportunity to appeal to the employer during 60 days and to be re-appointed to his working place during this period," said the chairman of Parliament's standing committee on social policy, Hadi Rajabli.

The additions and changes envisage concrete time and certain regulations, additional authorities for the timely preparation, concluding and making changes to the collective agreements and for the protection of the legal equality of sides, said Rajabli.

According to the commission chairman, in the Labor Code the social protection was intensified in case of dissolution of the working contract. "Special significance is attached to the protection of the families, in which there are disabled people. Seasonal workers are planned to be given vacation for two calendar days in each working month. This will be paid vacation," said Rajabli.

According to the commission chairman, all provisions of the Labor Code are directed towards more protection of the interests of worker, strengthening social protection. However, various articles have been considerably improved from the point of view of regulation of the interests of employer.

The European Human Rights Court is testing online applications.

The European Court has developed an online application on its Web site.

Initially the application will be available to Swedish and Danish citizens.

After a trial period, the application may be developed for other Council of Europe countries.

The application has several features.

An applicant can cancel and continue to fill in his/her application at any time.

After filling in the document, the complete application will be sent to the applicant in PDF format. He/she must then print and sign the application and send it to the court by a fixed date.

The Azerbaijani parliament applied to the Council of Europe to receive a special guest status on Jan. 24, 1992.

Azerbaijan joined the Council of Europe Venice Commission in 1996.

A decision was passed to accept Azerbaijan into the Council of Europe as a full member at a meeting on Jan. 17 in 2001.

The monitoring group against children's violence was created in Azerbaijan.

The new organization was established by Helsinki Citizen's Assembly, Azerbaijan's Union of Children, Birliya dogru (towards unity) Public Union of Disabled and Homeless Children, Dalga (Wave) Youth Movement, graduates from Netherlands' School of Journalism (AzNAN) and reporters working in different newspapers. The group aims to jointly combat violence against children, Helsinki Citizen's Assembly told Trend on Feb. 26.

The group will conduct monitoring in boarding schools, children's homes and take an interest in condition of homeless children. The monitoring group will operate on public intention and protect only children, as well as plans to carry out joint operations with law enforcement agencies. The monitoring group intends to conduct the first meeting next week.

The Azerbaijani government will take measures to protect the property rights of its citizens, Supreme Court Chairman Ramiz Rzayev said at the news conference as for results of 2008.

"Buildings will be constructed for IDPs, who settled apartments of Azerbaijani citizens, in Baku and Sumgayit," Rzyev added.

Azerbaijani courts made decisions to resettle IDPs from apartments of Azerbaijani citizens. However, the decision will be implemented after liberation of Azerbaijani territories.

This issue was reconsidered after the European Court's decision on Akimov against Azerbaijan. Court made a decision to resume infringed rights of citizens.

The construction of buildings for IDPs will be launched shortly.

This issue was included into the State Program to improve social state of IPDs.

Azerbaijani Ombudsman Elmira Suleymanova submitted an annual 2008 report on Provision and Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms in Azerbaijan to the President and Parliament, Ombudsman Office told Trend on Feb. 27.   

In accordance with the Constitution, Ombudsman's report was also submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers, Constitution Court, Supreme Court and General Prosecutor's Office. 

After listening to the report at the Parliament, it will be posted in newspapers, Azerbaijani Legislative Collection and other media outlets.

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Azerbaijani Ombudsman Elmira Suleymanova sent a message to international organizations on the 17th anniversary of the Khojali Genocide. She stressed that Armenian terrorists must be held accountable.

"Armenia must give up its aggressive policy and territorial claims [against Azerbaijan] and comply with international documents on the conflict. Azerbaijan's territorial integrity must be restored. The rights of Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs must be protected. Authorized international organizations must impose sanctions on Armenia," Suleymanova said.

She sent her message to the UN, Council of Europe, Azerbaijani embassies abroad and diaspora organizations and foreign diplomatic missions in Azerbaijan.

English-language Web site for the Justice for Khojaly international campaign ( Trend Agency conference hall on Feb. 23.

Justice for Khojaly international information campaign was announced by OIC Youth Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation General Coordinator for Intercultural Dialogue  Leyla Aliyeva. The campaign was launched on May 8, 2008.

The campaign, which aims to inform the world community of the crime committed against humanity in Khojaly city on Feb. 26, 1992 and to assess the genocide from legal, political and human viewpoint on international level, will be officially announced on Feb. 26. The campaign and its official Web site (www.justiceforkhojaly.org) will be presented in major European, American and Asian capitals on the same day.

On Feb. 23, Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops located in Gazakh region from 15:15 to 15:20. The shots were fired from Vazashen village of Noyemberan region of Armenia. 

The Armenian armed forces were also firing from nameless heights of Gadabay region from 11:05 to 11:45 and from nameless heights of Khojavand region from 20:50 to 20:57. Shots were also fired from Yusijanli village of Agdam region from 22:45 to 22:55. This was reported by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry press service.

The response of fire shelling was suppressed, without any losses.

As OSCE chair, Greece backs peacefully resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Greek Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ioannis Metaxas told reporters.

Greece assumed the OSCE chairmanship on Jan. 1.

"Everyone is aware of Greece's position and policy on the conflict's resolution. Athens supports complying with international laws to resolve the conflict. Greece has its own views on the issue. We will not change them," Metaxas said.

Greece backs the OSCE Minsk Group's activity and has an impartial approach towards the conflicting sides, he said.

Azerbaijan informed the new U.S. Administration of Khojali genocide.

The letter containing detailed information on the tragedy was sent to the U.S. President Barack Obama's office by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Youth and Sport, Minister of Youth and Sport Azad Ragimov told media on Feb. 25.

Obama was elected President in November 2008. His inauguration was held on Jan. 20.

The letter followed reply with thanks for given information of these events, the Minister said.

On Feb. 25, Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from Chilabort village of Terter region of Azerbaijan from 11:55 to 12:55.

The Armenian armed forces were also firing from Fuzuli region from 14:30 to 14:50 and Khojavand region from 20:55 to 21:10. The shots were also fired from Yusifjanli village of Agdam region from 20:55 to 21:10. This was reported by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry press service.

The response of fire shelling was suppressed, without any losses.

Monitoring along the contact line between the Azerbaijani and Armenian armies near the Fuzuli-Horadiz Highway was interrupted, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry's press service told Trend .

Representatives from the both sides began monitoring.

The officials kept in contact via radio about the situation.

The Armenian forces later opened fire - allegedly at the Azerbaijani monitoring group. The group said the shots were deliberately aimed at them.

OSCE representative Andrzej Kasprzyk requested that the monitoring cease immediately.

He then told the monitoring group on the Armenian side to investigate the incident.

The monitoring was expected to be held in Azerbaijan by Kasprzyk and field assistants Pieter Ki and Vladimir Chountulov. On the opposite side of the contact line, which is officially recognized as Azerbaijani territory, the monitoring was to be held by OSCE field assistants Imre Palatinus and Irji Aberle. 

First and foremost, the withdrawal of troops from the occupied territories is profitable for Armenia, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov told Trend in Kiev.

"The formula is simple - withdraw the troops and communications will open. You will see great opportunities not only for Azerbaijan, but also for Armenia," Mammadyarov said.

However, economically, the withdrawal of troops and resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is more profitable for Armenia than Azerbaijan, the minister said.

"I think we must continue to explain to Armenia that after the troops leave, its economy will profit first and foremost," Mammadyarov said.

"In this event, Armenia will receive political dividends," Mammadyarov said.

On Feb. 26, Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops located in Tovuz and Gazakh regions of Azerbaijan from Mosesgeh village of Berd region and Vazashen village of Noyemberyan region of Armenia from 17:30 to 17:40, from 22:00 to 22:05.

The Armenian armed forces were also firing from Kuropatkino village and nameless heights of Khojavand region from 11:05 to 11:15, from 18:20 to 18:50 and on Feb. 27 from 05:30 to 05:40. The shots were also fired from Fuzuli region from 12:30 to 12:40, from 18:55 to 19:00. Armenian armed forces also fired from positions near Tapqaraqoyunlu village and nameless heights of Goranboy region from 16:20 to 16:45, from positions near Yusifjanli village of Agdam region from 21:00 to 21:20 and on Feb. 27 from 03:15 to 03:50. This was reported by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry press service.

The response of fire shelling was suppressed, without any losses.

On Feb. 27 in Baku, the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group suggested the Azerbaijani side their ideas on how to remove disagreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and this was not a formal suggestion, American co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, Matthew Bryza, told Trend on Feb. 27

"We discussed what approach can be used to resolve key disagreements between the sides," Bryza said.

He said that the talks in Baku were constructive, the co-chairmen heard the approach of the Azerbaijani side towards the ways of settling the conflict. "In addition, in a constructive manner, we discussed the statement of the co-chairmen made on Feb. 13," Bryza said.

According to Bryza, the co-chairmen stated that it is very important to maintain constructive mood between the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev and Armenia, Serj Sarkisyan. "We stated that there is only peaceful solution of the conflict," said Bryza.

On Feb. 27, Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops located in Alibayli village in the Tovuz region of Azerbaijan from Mosesgeh village of Berd region of Armenia at 17:45-17:55.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported that the Armenian armed forces were also firing from heights of Fuzuli region and an area outside Garvand village at 12:20-12:30 and 16:00-16:30, from an area outside Kuropatkino village and heights in the Khojavand region at 15:50-16:50. The shots were also fired from an area outside Goyarkh village in the Terter region at 18:00-18:50 and from an area outside Kangarli village in the Agdam region at 02:45-02:55 on Feb. 28.

The Azerbaijani troops answered their fire. No casualties were reported.

"War is terrible. It causes the grief of hundreds and thousands of people. War is particularly tragic when innocent people are killed. And this is exactly what happened in Khojali. The Armenian armed forces deliberately killed Azerbaijani civilians," head of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Representative Office in Russia Leyla Aliyeva said at a commemorative ceremony at the Baku Cinema in Moscow on Feb. 27.

The ceremony was organized by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the Azerbaijani Youth Organization in Russia and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Youth Forum to commemorate the victims of the Khojali Genocide.

"These people were shot cruelly. They were innocent. They were massacred because of their ethnicity. This was genocide committed against the Azerbaijani people," Aliyeva said. 

She said Armenia's aggressive military operations were a deliberate attempt to scare the Azerbaijani people.

"History shows that the spirit of the Azerbaijani people has not been broken and will never be broken," Aliyeva said. The Khojali tragedy was a black page in Azerbaijani history, she added.

Aliyeva said the Azerbaijani people will never condone the occupation of their native lands and will restore the country's territorial integrity.

Azerbaijan State Commission on Hostages, POWs and Missing People confirmed the fact that three Armenian servicemen were taken prisoner in Azerbaijan

Shahin Sayilov, Secretary of the Commission, did not provide information on how the incident took place.

One of them was from Yerevan. He was mercenary.

Objective conditions to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have been created, OSCE MG Co-Chair Yuri Merzlyakov said after the meeting with head of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Bako Saakan. 

Merzlyakov found difficult to speak about possible regulation of the conflict in 2009, the Novosti Armenia quoted.

"There are objective conditions to regulate the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but still no subjective conditions have been created. Subjective condition is a political will of a country to make difficult, but decisive decisions," Merzlyakov added. 

OSCE MG Co-Chairs informed about the possible regulation of the conflict after the last meeting of Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Zurich, and shared their impressions.

Putin orders Russia to begin large-scale COVID-19 vaccinations next week
Putin orders Russia to begin large-scale COVID-19 vaccinations next week
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Azerbaijani, Russian FMs hold telephone conversation
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