Weekly political digest (8.06- 13.06.2009)

Official chronicle

The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev issued an order on purchase of ambulances, supplied with modern equipment, in order to increase the level of emergency and urgent medical aid, as well as to strengthen the material-technical base of ambulance and urgent medical aid.
Upon the order, the Reserve Fund of the President of Azerbaijan allocated three million manats for purchase of modern ambulance cars.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed an order on some measures to strengthen the material-technical base of medical institutions to improve the quality of the public health services.

The Finance Ministry is in charge of providing the amount indicated in the order to the Ministry of Health of Azerbaijan.  

The Finance Ministry is in charge of transferring the amount to the Ministry of Health.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev congratulated the President of Portugal Anibal Cavaco Silva on the national holiday - the Day of Portugal.

"I hope that the development of bilateral relations between the two countries will continue in the future thanks to the efforts of both sides," the President of Azerbaijan stated in his congratulatory letter.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev sent a congratulatory letter to the President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev.

The Head of State congratulated Medvedev and the Russian people on the national holiday - Day of Russia.

Azerbaijan and Russia are connected by centuries-old friendly relations, the President said in his congratulatory letter. Ilham Aliyev expressed confidence that this relationship will further develop, helping expand the multidimensional bilateral ties and deepen the strategic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia in the name of the well-being of the two peoples and stability and peace in the Caucasus.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev sent a congratulatory letter to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

On his own behalf and on behalf of Azeri people, the Head of State congratulated Macapagal-Arroyo and the Filipino people on the Day of Independence of Philippine.

Azerbaijani President expressed confidence that Azerbaijan-Philippine relations will continue to further developing towards cooperation and friendship, and will serve the welfare of both peoples

The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has sent a congratulatory message to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the country's public holiday - Birthday of Queen.

"We attach great importance to relationship between Azerbaijan and the United Kingdom. In this sense, expansion of bilateral relations and strengthening of friendly ties on the ground of mutually beneficial co-op in numerous fields are especially delightful.
I am sure that we will make further efforts to continue multi-faceted contacts and joint works successfully."

The Azerbaijani leader wished Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II health and successes in her activity and the friendly people of the United Kingdom - peace and prosperity.

President of Algeria Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Kuwait Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al Sabah sent congratulatory letters to the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.

In their messages, they congratulated Ilham Aliyev and the Azeri people on the Republic Day.

President Ilham Aliyev has received congratulatory letters from Queen of the Netherlands Beatrix and King of Spain Juan Carlos on the occasion of the Republic Day.

They congratulated State Head and the whole Azeri people on the Republic Day  

Parliament

Vice speaker of the Azerbaijani parliament says realities must be taken into account while amending Law on Political Parties.

"The law should include provisions meeting interests of all sides. It will take certain time. Realities must be taken into account," Azerbaijani parliament's Deputy Chairman Bahar Muradova told Trend .

Azerbaijan's Justice Ministry has registered 52 political parties. The Law on Political Parties was adopted in 1992. The Law is expected to be amended to fund parties from the public budget.

Azerbaijan's governing party says only political parties who take part in elections and who have seats in the parliament can be financed by the budget. The opposition politicians propose that registered parties receive financing from the state budget.

Muradova said the parliament is not expected to discuss amendments to the Law on Political Parties soon.

Azerbaijani parliament's first vice speaker says mortgage lending for military men will be launched in soon.

"Due to supreme commander-in-chief's attention, the issue of mortgage lending for Azerbaijani military men will be solved soon," First Vice Speaker Ziyafat Asgarov said.

The conditions of mortgage loans are the following: loans must be issued in national currency - manat, and only to the citizens of Azerbaijan. The subject of the mortgage can only be apartments and private homes, the amount of mortgage loan should not exceed 85 percent of the market cost of the property, which lie under the mortgage, the monthly payment for the loan should not exceed 70 percent of the borrower's monthly income, the amount of life insurance shall exceed the amount of the mortgage loan and others.

Member of parliament from Azerbaijani ruling party proposes to make certain amendments to the Election Code.

"Amendments and additions to the Code are crucial for municipal elections. The amendments are necessitated by gaps that appeared after president elections and referendum," ruling New Azerbaijan Party Deputy Executive Secretary and MP Siyavush Novruzov said.

Amendments and additions were made to the Election Code after discussion between Azerbaijani government and Venice Commission prior to the October 15 presidential elections. Under changes, presidential candidates are prohibited to stage free campaign in state television and radio. The campaign will be staged under Law on Advertising in private television channels.

The previous Election Code stipulated 6 six hours of air time in state television and radio for candidates. Candidates could also campaign in private channels at the same time. Now presidential candidates can have free air time only on the Public Television.

The amendments and additions do not reflect formation of election commissions on equal basis.  

Novruzov said observer institution must be improved and status of the commission members must be specified in the Election Code.

He said the Law on Political Parties must be aligned with the Constitution and Election Code.

Azerbaijani member of Milli Mejlis (the Parliament) stressed that there are no TV channels and radio stations in the Azerbaijani language in Georgia up to now.

"We revealed that there is no channel in the Azerbaijani language during our visit to Georgia. There are two channels in Armenian language in Javakhetia," MP, Great Creation Party chairman FAzil Mustafa said at the meeting on June 9.

According to unofficial information of Azerbaijani NGOs operating in Georgia, roughly half a million of Azerbaijanis live in Kvemo Kartli (Borchali) region

Georgia's Azerbaijanis complain concerning study of state language, getting of education at native language, getting of land and not giving high ranking positions in state agencies. Georgian TV channel Marneuli stopped broadcasting of information TV shows at the Azerbaijani language because of financial problems.  

"Marneuli TV channel seldom broadcasted TV show at Azerbaijani language. Presently, it is not broadcasted," People's Movement of Georgia's Azerbaijanis Geyrat chairman Alibaba Askerov told Trend over phone from Tbilisi.

"There is no independent press at the Azerbaijani language. Television has not been created at the Azerbaijani language in Georgia up to now," Askerov said. TV shows broadcasted at Azerbaijani language on Georgia's TV shows could not gather much audience," Askerov said.  

There is no radio station at the Azerbaijani language in Georgia, Mustafa said. "There is lack of teachers in the territory of Azerbaijanis' living. It is necessary to assist in construction of mosques in Georgia," MP said.

If Georgia's policy changes, Azerbaijanis living in Georgia will be ready for taking certain positions any moment, he said.

A deputy of the Azerbaijani Parliament has proposed to remove the French co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group.

"We should not be satisfied only by a note from the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry to France due to the visit of the lower chamber of the National Assembly of France to Nagorno-Karabakh through the territory of Armenia. It is too soft measures," Chairman of the Great Establishment Party, Deputy Fazil Mustafa said at an extraordinary session of the Parliament.

On Monday, Armenian media released information referring to the parliament of the "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic" ("NKR") about the visit of France-Armenia friendship group chairman, deputy of the French National Assembly Fransua Roshbluan to "NKR".

Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry is clarifying the information about French deputy's visit to Nagorno-Karabakh. In the case of confirmation of the information, the Ministry will take necessary measures.

It is necessary to raise an issue removing the French co-chair of the OSCE MG. "We have to demonstrate our tough position to France, as this country damages Azerbaijan's interests. We have to show a decisive position on the matter," he added.

Azerbaijani member of parliament protests against statements by Iranian officials condemning Israeli president's upcoming visit to Azerbaijan.

"Iran has no right to teach Islamic solidarity lesson to Azerbaijan. Because Azerbaijan has done its utmost for Islamic solidarity. But Azerbaijani people will never Iran's stance when our lands were occupied by Armenia," member of parliament Ganira Pashayeva said at a parliamentary meeting.

Iranian officials have made statements condemning Israeli President Shimon Peres' visit to Azerbaijan to take place in late June.

She said Iranian media seeks to downgrade Azerbaijan. So, Azerbaijani parliament must provide a serious feedback to this issue.   

Pashayeva said Azerbaijan respects internal affairs of other states including neighbors.

"Of course, neighbors must respect Azerbaijan's internal affairs, with what countries it builds relations and invitation to which heads of government to visit country," she said.

She said Iran which advocates Islam solidarity, has not closed borders with Armenia and Iranian officials make frequent trips to the enemy country. "Iran seeks to eliminate Armenia's blockade by providing economic assistance to it. We are very sorry about it.  Therefore, Iranian officials have no right to interfere with Azerbaijan's internal affairs," Pashayeva said.  

The joint meeting of committees of the Parliament of Azerbaijan discussed the bill on private information.

"The new law will regulate the relations connected with the collection, development and protection of private information," the chairman of the committee on legal policy and state-building, MP Ali Huseynov, said at the meeting, the press service of the Parliament of Azerbaijan told Trend on June 9.

The MPs paid great attention to the protection of human rights during collection and use of personal information. According to the decision by the committees of Parliament, the bill was presented for the first reading at the Parliament of Azerbaijan. "The paper was submitted to the Parliament by the President of Azerbaijan as a legislative initiative," the press service said.

Proposals by MP Ali Huseynov on amendments to the law draft on freedom of religion were recommended for consideration at the Parliament of Azerbaijan.

Relations with Poland are developing, said the chairman of the Parliament of Azerbaijan.

"Azerbaijan-Polish relations have developed since the restoration of state independence of Azerbaijan after the establishment of diplomatic relations," said the Speaker of the Azerbaijani Parliament Oktay Asadov at a meeting with a member of the Senate of Poland Vladzimer Cimoszewicz.

Visit of the member of the Senate of Poland started to Azerbaijan today.

Asadov said that mutual visits of heads of State and signed inter-state documents play an important role in the development of bilateral relations and strengthen the legal framework of Azerbaijan-Poland relations.

"Azerbaijan, as an active participant and initiator of global projects in the South Caucasus, is the most advanced country in the region from an economic point of view, and has become an attractive country for foreign investment, making its major contribution to energy security of Europe" said the Speaker.

"Economic development in Azerbaijan, the steps taken towards building a democratic legal state, implementation of global projects of international importance have accelerated the integration of Azerbaijan into the world, including Europe," said the member of the Senate of Poland Cimoszewicz.

Azerbaijan has played a leading role in international projects in the region and is a reliable strategic energy partner in Europe. "Our countries are equal members of such international organizations as UN, OSCE, the Council of Europe. The relations of our nations are at a high level within the EU Neighborhood Policy as well. "All potentials must be used for the greater development of bilateral relations," said Cimoszewicz.

Political movements

Azerbaijan's opposition Muasir Musavat party has elected candidates for the municipal elections.

"The party will nominate candidates nationwide. The list of candidates includes about 4,000 people. The number is expected to increase until the election," Muasir Musavat party chairman Hafiz Hajiyev said to Trend .

Azerbaijan will hold municipal elections in December. There are 2,757 municipalities in the country. The figure is expected to be reduced to 1,766 after unification of municipalities.  

Hajiyev said meetings are held in regions about the elections. "The party does not plan to cooperate with other parties prior to the elections. We can not allow other political parties to gain publicity through Muasir Musavat," he said.

Azerbaijani government says formation of election commissions on equal basis is impossible.

"It is impossible to form election commissions on equal basis. It is impossible under current conditions as political organizations and political parties violate laws and principal agreements for sake of their ambition and interests," Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Public and Political Department Head Ali Hasanov in his exclusive interview with Trend .

Hasanov said recommendations by the Venice Commission are understandable.

"The Venice Commission must engage in such activities in member countries as in case of Azerbaijan. But realities in Azerbaijan are key condition for us. Azerbaijan's national and public interests, stability, active work of election institutions are very important. It is carried out also under the Council of Europe standards," Hasanov said.  

Opposition public forum in Azerbaijan has prepared a special program to improve the society activity in the municipal elections.

"We have reached several agreements on the support of candidates from the youth organizations and candidates from regional communities in the municipal elections," head of the Public Forum for Azerbaijan Eldar Namazov told Trend on June 10.

Namazov said that the forum brings together well-known intellectuals, former government officials and other prominent public figures. "Accordingly, the number of our candidates for municipal elections will be small," said the head of the forum.

According to Namazov, the special program envisages support for candidates of many opposition parties. "The purpose of the support of youth organizations is to increase their role in the political processes in the Republic," he said.

"It is necessary to increase privileges together with reduction of number of municipalities," Azerbaijani Democratic Party chairman Sardar Jalaloglu told Trend . This party was represented in the Movement for Karabakh and Republic. 

The Azerbaijani parliament adopted the law Union of several municipalities in Azerbaijan last month.

Number of municipalities will reduce from 2,757 to 1,766 upon the law.

Movement in which group of opposition parties is represented will determine united list of candidates for municipal members in September, Jalaloglu said. "There are many opportunities at municipal elections. So, we will not face intensive fight. There is an opportunity to coordinate united list of candidates," he said. 

If united list is determined, movement will participate at elections as bloc, he said. "It is also required by the law. Participation in elections with united list will create terms for us to be represented in all municipalities equally," Jalaloglu said.

Union established by Azerbaijani group of opposition parties suggests preparing united election platform of opposition.

"We as the side suggesting this proposal stand for common opposition conference on this regards," Azerbaijani Classic People Front party chairman Mirmahmud Miralioglu told trend News on June 11. 

Azerbaijani Classic People Front party is represented in the Alliance for the sake of Democracy.

Earlier the alliance voiced initiative to hold Karabakh forum. But parties represented in Movement for Karabakh and Republic refused from participation in this meeting.  

If the conference is held, establishment of commission due to economic crisis and commission consisting of famous specialists preparing project of new constitution will be discussed, Miralioglu said. "If we are able to achieve preparation of united election platform, we can create special commission on joint participation in municipal and parliamentary elections," Azerbaijani Classic People Front party said.  

The agreement on conducting the conference was reached during meetings with several parties and public organizations that are not included in the union for the sake of democracy, he said. "As concerns Movement for Karabakh and Republic, organizers of several parties represented in this organization will act against us. Presently, we are against mutual accusations," Miralioglu said.  

During the municipal elections, Azerbaijani opposition Musavat Party will set a quota for party's young functionaries.

"For the allocation of seats (in percent) for young functionaries as candidates in municipal elections, an informal agreement was reached with the leadership of Musavat Party. In the next municipal election, the party mainly supports the candidacy of young party members," chairman of the youth wing of the Musavat party Tural Abbasli told Trend .

According to Abbasli, party's young activists will nominate candidates in the cities and districts, which constitute 10 percent of the municipalities of the country. "Young activists support party's independent participation in the elections. We appealed to the leadership of the party for the allocation of a certain quota for young functionaries in the municipal elections," said Abbasli.

Abbasli added that he also intends to nominate his candidature in municipal elections.

He said that consultations are also held with the leadership of the party regarding the parliamentary elections. "We want to ensure participation of young activists in the parliamentary elections as candidates as well," said Abbasli.

An Azerbaijani opposition party is against of reducing the number of municipalities.

"The number of municipalities cannot be reduced, on the contrary, they must be increased and provided with additional authority," the Liberal Democratic Party of Azerbaijan told Trend on June 12.

At present it is very important to create communities in large cities, the opposition party believes. "There are no concepts of "executive committees" of districts and cities in the world. For this reason, the LDPA believes that municipalities have to replace the executive powers," the party said.

Elections

Pro-governmental party of Azerbaijan made a decision about independent participation in municipal elections.

"We will be able to achieve success at municipal elections without creation of bloc and cooperation with other parties upon decision of political cpuncil of the party," Vahdat party chairman Tahir Kerimli told Trend on June 8.

Presently, candidates of region and town branches of the party are being determined, Kerimli said. "We do not intend to intend candidates for municipal members in all districts. Our principal goal is to get seats in regions of Baku, the Apsheron peninsula, as well as municipalities of big towns and regions of the country," chairman of the party said.

Vahdat party of ex-chairman of Azerbaijani supreme court and ex-MP Tahir Kerimli was opposition till 2006. Presently, the party supports political course of authority.

Foreign policy

The Italian government is preparing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's official visit to Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani ambassador to Italy Emil Karimov said.

The governments of both countries are working on draft agreements to be signed during Italian prime minister's visit to Azerbaijan.

The visit is expected to take place in autumn. Exact date has not been set yet, the ambassador said.

Berlusconi's visit to Azerbaijan was coordinated during Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's visit to Italy in November 2008.

Bilateral and multilateral cooperation is expected to be discussed in Baku.

"Recently, India has held the parliamentary elections and a new government has been formed. India always supported Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and supports the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement through a peace way," Indian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Debnath Shaw told journalists on June 9.

The ambassador also said the embassy offered the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry to hold consultations between the ministries in Baku in the first half of 2009. "We have not yet received an answer to our proposal," Shaw said.

The strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and Romania will be discussed in Bucharest in autumn.

"I hope that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev will make an official visit to Romania this autumn. And it would be a good opportunity to formally strengthen the strategic cooperation between the countries," State Secretary for Strategic Affairs in the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bogdan Aurescu told journalists said in Baku.

The Romanian-Azerbaijani relations are at a high level, Aurescu said. "We are very close to our strategic partnership. In this regard, the number of summits is very important. The presidents of Romania and Azerbaijan have very good relations" he said.

Azerbaijan has not yet expressed wish to become NATO member, but alliance's are open for the country, Romanian Secretary of State for Strategic Affairs Bogdan Aurescu said in Baku.

"There is no confrontation and opposition regarding country's admission to the alliance. NATO does not oppose anybody. NATO is not against Russia, China or any other state. Membership depends on a country and is not targeted against others," Aurescu said at a seminar held as a part of the NATO Week in Azerbaijan.

NATO-Azerbaijan ties were established on June 4, 1994 following signing of framework agreement Partnership for Peace Program. Azerbaijan was one of the first 27 OSCE member states to sign this program.

Currently, the cooperation is carried out within the second stage of the IPAP.

Romania is ready for sharing experience with Azerbaijan in integration in Europe and Euro Atlantic sphere, secretary of state for strategic affairs of Romania Bogdan Aurescu said at the meeting with Azerbaijani foreign ministry Elmar Mammadyarov on June 9. 

"Relations between Romania and Azerbaijan are at high level. It is necessary to continue intensive cooperation between foreign ministries," Aurescu said.

There is wide potential for development of bilateral relations, Mammadyarov said.

Azerbaijani foreign minister informed Romania's secretary of state about talks held to settle Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and stated position of the country on this issue.    

Romania supports territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan and hopes that conflict will be solved shortly, Aurescu said.

The sides exchanged opinions on bilateral, regional and global issues.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov received today candidate for the post of Council of Europe secretary general and Polish senator Vlodzimezh Chimoshevich.

During the meeting, the sides said they are satisfied with development of ties between Azerbaijan and Poland and emphasized a need for use of opportunities to deepen them, the Foreign Ministry said.

As to the occupation of Azerbaijan's lands, Mammadyarov said ethnic cleansing and occupation is unacceptable in modern world. Foreign minister clarified Azerbaijan's position on resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to the senator.

The sides also exchanged views about bilateral, regional and global issues.

Foreign Ministers of Russia Sergey Lavrov held a telephone conversation with Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, Russian Foreign Ministry official website reported.

Ministers discussed relevant issues of the Russian-Azerbaijani relations, as well as regional agenda.

The conversation between the two ministers was held at the initiative of the Russian foreign minister.

Philip Gordon, U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, will discuss participation of Barack Obama administration in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Baku.  

Gordon will visit Azerbaijan on June 11.

During his Baku visit, he will meet with government and civil society representatives to discuss both bilateral and regional issues including energy security, the U.S. embassy said.

He assumed office on May 15, 2009. This is Assistant Secretary Gordon's first visit to the region as Assistant Secretary

Gordon's focus as Assistant Secretary is "to help promote democracy, encourage economic reform, protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolve the enduring conflicts" in the region. 

Priorities of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Latvia will be discussed in Baku in August during Latvian President Valdis Zatlers' official visit, Azerbaijani ambassador to Latvia Tofiq Zulfugarov said.

Latvian president will visit only Azerbaijan in the region, Zulfugarov said over telephone from Riga.

Zatlers will be accompanied by government members and a group of Latvian businessmen who plan to discuss opportunities to enhance cooperation with Azerbaijani counterparts, ambassador said.

A number of documents on bilateral cooperation are expected to be signed during the visit.

Azerbaijani delegation to the PACE will raise some issues related to Armenia's aggressive policy in the summer session.

"We discuss these issues at meeting of committees and sessions," member of Azerbaijani delegation to PACE Gultakin Hajibayli said.

Hajibayli said Azerbaijani delegation has not spoken about the issues to be discussed in PACE sessions beforehand for a long time.

"Because Armenian delegation can not hinder discussions over the matters we offer," she said.

She said no issue related to Azerbaijan will be discussed at the PACE summer session.

"I believe that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will be resolved, there is certain progress," Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Philip Gordon said.  

He said the sides have understanding on Basic Principles on resolution of conflict.

"The United States is focused on the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. There is opportunity to advance conflict's resolution. All sides can benefit from it," he said.

The U.S. supports constructive dialogue between sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Gordon said.

As a part of regional visit, Gordon visited Azerbaijan and held talks with country's officials.

Development of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Japan will be discussed in Tokyo.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov will pay a working visit to Japan on June 15-21, Foreign Ministry press service said.

Mammadyarov is expected to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, Crown Prince Naruhito, Head of the Azerbaijan-Japan friendship council Akira Amari, Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and members of Azerbaijan-Japan joint economic commission.

The meetings will focus on current situation, development prospects and future plans.

Mammadyarov will deliver a speech at the Japan International Relations Institute and to meet with representatives of local media.

Turkish foreign minister says progress must be reached in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to normalize situation in the South Caucasus.

"There is a need for progress and development in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to normalize situation in the region. All sides must work in this direction," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmad Davudoglu said in an exclusive interview with Trend .

"We want to further normalize bilateral ties as a part of our good neighbor policy," Davudoglu said.

The minister said the Turkey-Armenia bilateral ties are not only limited with the South Caucasus, but they impact Turkey-U.S. relations. "This is not right. Our relations with Armenia must not influence our relations with the U.S.," he said.

Human rights

Activation of Azerbaijanis in Iran before the presidential elections is natural and their resistance will grow every time, the World Azerbaijanis Congress (WAC) believes.

"As there was an external factor in the struggle of Azerbaijanis in Iran, it was fruitless. Our southern brothers must rely only on themselves," Parliamentarian, Co-chairman of the WAC and Chairman of the Civil Solidarity Party (CSP) Sabir Rustamkhanli told Trend on June 8.

Around 35 million Azerbaijanis live in Iran. Recently, the Iranian government has increased repressions, arrests and tortures toward them.

Rustamkhanli said it is impossible to stop the national and liberation movement which has already begun in the Southern Azerbaijan (northern Iran). "We must not believe the reports that schools will open in the Azerbaijani language in Iran and other addresses, sounded during the election campaign of the Iranian presidential candidates. This is a pre-election agitation and slightly differs from previous promises. All of these promises will be forgotten immediately after the end of the elections," the WAC chairman said.

He said Azerbaijanis in Iran must do their best that the candidates' promises will be fixed by the legislation. The WAC has developed a special plan to protect rights of Azerbaijanis in Iran, he said. "We are acting consistently. Much work has already been conducted to divulge problems in the Southern Azerbaijan to international organizations and different countries' parliaments," Rustamkhanli said.

During abroad visits, the CAM will seek to inform the international community about the realities of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, he said.

Iran will hold the presidential elections on June 12.

Norway will host the conference of the Council of Europe (CE) Justice Ministers on June 17-19.

The conference which be held on "Breaking Silence - Union against family violence will discuss the draft of the European Convention on Struggle against violence in family and women and protection of violence victims," CE official Web site reported.

The draft of the Convention is expected to be prepared in 2010

Azerbaijani Justice Minister Fikrat Mammadov will represent the country at the conference, the ministry told Trend on June 8.

The amendments to the Constitution of Azerbaijan were directed to enhance the efficiency of activity in human rights and basic freedoms, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Khalaf Khalafov said.

"Those reforms were directed towards strengthening the social focus of the State, enhancing the effectiveness of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and improving the work of the supreme State authorities, as well as courts and municipalities," Khalafov said during consideration of outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review on Azerbaijan in Geneva. 

Azerbaijan had paid significant attention to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. In the preparation of additional comments, representatives of various ministries and institutions had been consulted, including the Ombudsman's Office and actors of civil society, the deputy minister said.

"As a result of amendments to the Constitution, the provisions on the prohibition of unlawful interference in private and family life, on equality, the rights of children, the right to freedom of religion, and the right to obtain information had been enhanced," Khalafov said.

With a view to improving the normative legal basis and institutional mechanisms, measures had also been taken to increase transparency in the work of governmental bodies and municipalities, with the adoption of a national strategy on increased transparency and the fight against corruption established through a presidential decree and stipulated in the national plan for 2007-2011, Khalafov said.

Azerbaijan had also accepted the recommendations with regard to further measures on the prevention of all forms of violence against women. In that context, the Government had implemented measures of a social and economic character into national legislation with a view to eliminating all forms of violence against women, Khalafov said.

"For instance, the definition of sexual discrimination was enhanced in the law on gender equality adopted in 2006, which was now extended to include "any demonstrations of differentiation and superiority for reasons of sex that limited or impeded equal application of rights", he added.

Further, he draft law on the elimination of domestic violence was currently under review in the Milli Majlis (Parliament), according to Khalafov.

This document called for a legal framework on violence and contained provisions on the establishment of rehabilitation centres for women and children who were victims of violence.

"Moreover, Azerbaijan also accepted the recommendations concerning the necessity of taking further steps towards the prohibition of corporal punishment and cruel treatment of children, as well as on the enhancement of educational programmes and measures on social integration for street children that were victims of sexual exploitation and physical violence," Khalafov said.

"In the discussion on Azerbaijan, speakers noted that Azerbaijan had taken many positive steps in a number of areas, including the fight against poverty, education and gender equality. The results of such practical measures and Azerbaijan's approach to the Universal Periodic Review had created all the prerequisites required for a positive development in the human rights area

A new law on NGOs, which is expected to be approved shortly, will not create problems for acting non-governmental organizations, head of the Presidential Administration Public and Political Department Ali Hasanov said.

"The new law meets international standards and will encourage the development of interstate relationships. Before, Azerbaijani NGOs cooperated with foreign colleagues as they whished that. Under the new law, NGOs will cooperate with foreign organizations in accordance with agreements between Azerbaijan and those countries," Hasanov said.

Hasanov did not share the concern of some NGOs about the new law. "Azerbaijani NGOs of state registration will continue functioning and there is no threat for new founded non-governmental organizations," Hasanov added.

 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

On June 7, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from the nameless heights in the Khojavand region at 15:00-15:05, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

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

The Union, which includes a group of Azerbaijani opposition parties, will hold the next Karabakh Forum.  

"Frequent meetings under the pressure of heads of non-friendly countries testify that some plans that do not meet the interests of Azerbaijan are being developed. We are very concerned," Ahmed Oruj, Chairman of Azadliyq Party, represented in the Union for Democracy, told Trend on June 8.

According to Oruj, the intensification of Russia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement also causes concerns. "Various media outlets reported that Azerbaijan and Armenia have assumed obligations to resolve this problem. To discuss all these issues, we consider it necessary to hold other Karabakh Forum," said the chairman of the opposition party.

Date of Forum has not been determined yet, but it is not excluded that will be held by the end of this month, said Oruj.  

This year, the Union for Democracy has already held Karabakh Forum.

On June 9, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from nameless heights in the Khojavand region at 06:10-06:15.

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

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) participating countries will prevent the interference by the Collective rapid reaction forces (CRRF) in domestic regional conflicts, despite of Armenians will.

"The probability of interference of CRRF in the Nagorno-Karabakh is zero," Azerbaijani political scientist Tofig Abbasov said.

"Yerevan is interested in a logic question what will be CSTO's reaction in case of military aggression to Armenia by its eastern neighbor. The answer that we have heard (the reaction will be reserved or neutral) does not satisfy us," senior official of Armenian Foreign Ministry told the Vrema Novostei newspaper, who asked to remain anonymous.

Armenia seeks a clarification of the rapid reaction force's potential use in the South Caucasus region, and wants a military security guarantee from the CSTO that the force can be used to defend Armenia "in times of crisis," reflecting Armenia's threat perception form both Azerbaijan and Turkey, Armenian political scientist Richard Giragosian said.

The CSTO will most likely neither provide Armenia with the specific military guarantee that it seeks nor will it become any sort of pressure against Azerbaijan.   

Moscow seems to have a pronounced tendency to improve relations with Baku, Giragosian said.

"Moscow may even see a need to entice Azerbaijan to seek some sort of cooperation with the CSTO over the long term, and will not adopt any decision that could turn the CSTO into any kind of balance of counter against Azerbaijani interests in the region," Director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies Richard Giragosian wrote to Trend in an email. Observers believe not only Russia, but also the countries of Central Asia will not allow the use of collective rapid reaction forces, desired by Armenia.

The CSTO participants, particularly the countries of Central Asia do not want to assume military responsibilities and to intervene in the conflicts of two other states, said Kazakh political analyst Dosim Satpayev.

"The remained participants of the CSTO will unlikely support the use of the collective rapid reaction forces in the inter-state conflicts," Director of the Risk Assessment Group Satpayev said to Trend by telephone from Astana. "It does not meet the interest of other participants in the organization, particularly, the countries of Central Asia."

Armenia may just stay with its opinion on the matter, said the expert. "I do not think it will be able to provide some pressure on the process, because Armenia has no leverage on the countries of Central Asia," Satpayev said.

On June 9, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State on European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon stated in Yerevan that a definite form of voting which will reflect people's will will be used in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process.

Mediamax reported that Gordan made this statement in the briefing in Yerevan, when commenting on the Azerbaijani officials' statement about impossibility of the Nagorno-Karabakh's separation from Azerbaijan through a legal way.

The American diplomat noted that the settlement in the balanced form must reflect three basic principles, including the right to self-determination, territorial integrity and non-use of forces.

Monitoring was held on the contact line between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces on June 10 after a mandate by the special envoy of the OSCE chairman.

The monitoring near the Garakhanbayli village of Azerbaijan's Fuzuli region proceeded without incident on Jan. 10, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

Effectiveness of subsequent steps following the next meeting between the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents depends on development of Armenia's position, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov said.

He said Azerbaijan expects Armenia to take steps to develop its interests and that of the region.

"These steps include solution of complicated points while coordinating principles proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group," Azerbaijani president's special envoy on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict Azimov said.

He said Azerbaijan accepts these principles. But some elements have not been coordinated yet.

"Azerbaijan has not yet witnessed desirable compromise from Armenia," Azimov said.

He said the conflict can be easily solved. To do so, Armenia needs make a turning point.

"The turning point is possible only after Armenia assesses its positions from strategic point of view," Azimov said. 

Possibility of next meeting between Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan testifies to certain progress in talks, Minks Group U.S. co-chair Matthew Bryza told Trend .

"There would be little sense in another meeting unless there had been some progress in St. Petersburg," Bryza said over telephone from Washington.

Bryza said the next meeting could be in Russia.

"The next meeting can take place in Russia. Timing of the next remains unclear," he said.

Bryza said the next meeting will not take place at the same time with U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Moscow.  

"I do not think presidents will meet during President Obama's Moscow visit," Bryza said.

The United States' position in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains unchanged - this is peaceful settlement of the conflict and respect for "Madrid principles", developed by the OSCE Minsk Group, U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Anne Derse told journalists on June 10.

"These principles must keep balance and be discussed with the conflict sides," Derse said.

"Any mechanism of people's will must be included in the settlement of the Karabakh conflict," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Gordon Philip told journalists in Yerevan, "News-Armenia" reported.

"Any mechanism of voting, in which people will express their will, should be included in the settlement process," Gordon said, in response to a question about the possibility of a referendum.

The Assistant Secretary of State believes people's right to self-determination is one of principles, as the principles of territorial integrity and non-use of weapons.

"The result must reflect the three principles, each of which has its own importance," said Gordon.

Great Britain supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan at the international level and is in favor of resolution of conflict within the framework of international law, said British Ambassador in Azerbaijan Caroline Brown said during his visit to Tovuz region of the country. The diplomat also visited the village, located on the contact line of troops of Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Brown expressed regret that many countries, including Western, do not know the truth about this conflict and the situation on the contact line.

"Sometimes people call this conflict is frozen. Indeed, the phrase "frozen conflict" is not appropriate when you see people with shrapnel in the body, civilians who can not safely walk down the streets. UK calls this not as "frozen conflict" but the war, which has not been resolved. My country has repeatedly stated that recognizes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. We are absolutely know where start and end boundaries of countries in the region ", Brown said.

As for the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, the ambassador said that her country supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan at the international level and is in favor of solving the problem within the framework of international law.

On June 10, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from the nameless heights in the Khojavand region at 20:05-20:10, as well as from an area outside the Yusifjanli, Marzili and Tanribayli villages of the Agdam region at 20:15-22:20, 23:40-23:50 and on June 11 at 03:15-03:40, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

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

Ankara does not take any steps to detriment of Azerbaijan' interests, Turkish ambassador to Azerbaijan Hulusi Kilij said.

"We must address problems in relations with Armenia. But Turkey will not do it by harming Azerbaijan's interests," Kilij said to reporters at Strategic Research Institute under Azerbaijani president.

"Turkey will not open borders with Armenia until Azerbaijan's legal lands are liberated. Azerbaijan's lands have been occupied for 16 years. This problem must be resolved as soon as possible," he said.

Turkey showed the world that it will not ignore Azerbaijan's interests. Azerbaijan should show the same.

On June 11, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from the Mehdili and Jojugmerjanli villages in the Jabrail region at 23:35-23:50, as well as on June 12, from an area outside the Shurabad and Garagashli villages of Agdam region at 02:10-02:40 and 04:45-04:50, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

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

Members of the Board of Nagorno-Karabakh's Azerbaijani Community will meet with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs during their next visit to the region.  

"The program on activities of community's Coordinating Council was discussed at the meeting of Board of Directors. Various working groups of 15 people have been set up," board member and member of parliament Elman Mammadov said.

Nagorno-Karabakh's Azerbaijan Community held first conference on June 5. Head of the Shusha Administrative Body Bayram Safarov was elected chairman of the community.

Mammadov said each members of the board has tasks. "We will focus on establishing ties with international organizations and work with the community members. The board members plan to do significant work in the field of education, information and analysis," he added.

He said newspaper and Web site of the community will be launched soon.

On June 12, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani from near Kuropatkino village of Khojavand region at 09:10-09:15, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said.

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

On June 14, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from the Kuropatkino village of Khojavand region at 22:15-22:20, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

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

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