Weekly political digest (15.06- 20.06.2009)

Official chronicle

Azerbaijan marked National Salvation Day on May 15.
Azerbaijan got its independence in October 1991. The first years of the independence are characterized by the crisis within the country and in the government. Chaos occupied all the spheres of the social life. The case was more hard in the army, increased the quantity of desertion. Armenian increased their occupation day by day. Azerbaijan remained without a head. Separate individuals and groups struggled among themselves for power in the young republic. National Front occupied the power of the state in May 14, 1992 and on the first days of its ill-determined ruling shower inability to lead the state. In 1993 Azerbaijan faced the danger of the civil war.

On such a hard period of time people invited the prominent son of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev from Nakhchivan to Baku. With the insistence of the people and the authorities of the republic he came to Baku in June 19.

In a short period of time Heydar Aliyev prevented civil war in Azerbaijan.

In June 15, 1993 Heydar Aliyev elected the chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Azerbaijan and this date entered our history as the day of National Salvation. With the insistence of the people in June 1997 Milli Mejlis (National Assembly) declared June 15 a holiday.

On June 16, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev conferred honored ranks upon a group of employees of health.

Upon the Presidential order, for their services in the development of medical sphere in Azerbaijan, ten people were conferred the rank of Honored doctor of Azerbaijan, two - rank of Honored science figure of Azerbaijan and one - rank of Honored teacher of Azerbaijan.

Upon other order, 11 health employees were awarded the Tarragi Medal ("Progress") for their services in the development of health system.

The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev awarded employees of gas industry the Tereggi Medal ("Progres")..

For their achievements in the development of the gas industry, the Head of the State awarded a group of employee Azerigas JSC the Tereggi medal.

Parliament

Azay Guliyev, President of the Council for State Support to NGOs under the President of Azerbaijan, the members of the Council Sahib Mammadov and Alimammad Nuriyev met with the Head of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Policy and State Establishment Ali Huseynov and Director of the Law Department of Parliament Jeyhun Garajayev, during which they discussed the changes and additions to the bill on NGOs.

The views and proposals of the Council regarding additions and changes were presented to the attention of the Chairman of the Committee, the Council said. Ali Huseynov mentioned the fruitfulness of this meeting and said that the working group will carefully study the proposals of the Council regarding changes and additions to the bill.
It was agreed to continue discussions between the Parliament and Council on improvement of state legislation regarding NGOs.

Deputy of the Azerbaijani Parliament voiced protest against the intention of the U.S. Congress to allocate financial aid to Nagorno-Karabakh again.

"The United States is a strategic partner of Azerbaijan, therefore, the parliament must protest the support to separatists," Deputy of Parliament, Chairman of the People Front Party of Unified Azerbaijan Party, Gudrat Hasanguliyev, told the Parliament.

As for 2009, the U.S. administration allocated $8 million financial aid to Nagorno-Karabakh. The analogue aid was scheduled for 2010.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.

According to Hasanguliyev, the United States being one of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and at the same time allocates financial aid to separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh and such actions are contrary to each other.

"If the U.S. Congress continues to render financial support to the occupation regime, then how they could achieve the settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan," the deputy said.

This issue must be discussed in the adjusted parliamentary committee and appropriated statement must be adopted, Hasanguliyev said.

Azerbaijani parliament adopted new Law on Education at a third reading today.

"According to amendments to the law, restrictions for owners of private higher schools are lifted. Under new amendments, foreign judicial and physical persons can found higher schools in Azerbaijan. The state-run higher schools will be granted permanent license and private and municipal universities for a period of five years, foreign legal and natural persons for a period of not less than three years. In the case high schools are founded by foreign legal and physical persons in Azerbaijan, deputy head of must be only Azerbaijani. More than 80 percent of the students and teachers will Azerbaijanis," member of parliament Shamsaddin Hajiyev said.

Azerbaijan's current Law on Education has been adopted in 1992. The parliament began to work out draft law in 1995. But new law has not been adopted for 14 years.

Under previous law, higher schools could be only state-run and private.

Hajiyev said children will receive education from the age of three. At the age of five they will receive compulsory education. "There will be a general, primary, secondary and upper secondary education. Compulsory education in Azerbaijan will be nine years after the law takes effect. The period of general secondary education is not specified in the law. The relevant executive bodies are mandated to define the term. Higher education will consist of bachelor's, master's and doctor's degree," he said.  

Azerbaijani Milli Mejlis (Parliament) adopted the law on union of municipalities of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic on June 19.

Roughly 40 municipalities will be created as a result of union of 84 municipalities. As a result number of municipalities will hit 17 in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic," MP, chairman of the commission on regional issues Arif Rahimzadeh said at meeting of the Parliament.

Number of municipalities reduced from 2,757 to 1,766 in Azerbaijan.

Foreign policy

Azerbaijan's adoption of the military doctrine will contribute to aligning armed forces with NATO standards to a great degree, Turkey's ambassador to Azerbaijan Hulusi Kilij said at conference "Contribution of Reforms in Law Enforcement Agencies and Armed Forces to Euro-Atlantic Integration" in Baku.

"Azerbaijani army and law enforcement agencies need to be more effective and professional. Control over army by a civil body envisaged by the Individual Partnership Action Plan which aims to enhance Azerbaijan-NATO cooperation enables to increase army's effectiveness," ambassador said.  

Azerbaijan has designed Military Doctrine. The doctrine will not be discussed at parliament's autumn session as it was expected.  

He said Turkey supports Azerbaijan's democratization and integration with the Euro-Atlantic area. "The key element of this political choice is democratization. The work Azerbaijan did in this regard is praiseworthy," Kilij said.

Azerbaijan launched cooperation with NATO in 1994. Currently, cooperation is carried out as a part of the second stage of the action plan.

There is civilized and democratic control over armed forces in Azerbaijan, NATO Coordinator-Officer for the South Caucasus Zbigniew Rybacki told reporters.

"Azerbaijani parliament's security and defense committee is working on this issue," Rybacki said.

He said cooperation between Azerbaijan and NATO is developing positively.

"Azerbaijan is successfully and actively realizing Individual Partnership Action Plan. Defense reforms play great role in Azerbaijan-NATO cooperation," he said.

He said aligning Azerbaijani armed forces with NATO standards is a long process. "Azerbaijan is taking a number of measures in this regard. But still much remains to do. However, NATO is satisfied with results achieved," he said.

Azerbaijan is an important partner of the United States on regional security, especially counterterrorism, Assistant Secretary Philip Gordon said in his statement on US foreign policy.

He mentioned role of Azerbaijan in helping US European allies in diversification their supplies of natural gas, and volume of daily oil export of Azerbaijan to global markets via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, free from geographic chokepoints (such as the Turkish Straits and the Straits of Hormuz) and from monopolistic pressures.

Assistant Secretary also noted that the United States has helped generate new progress toward a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through organization of series of discussions between Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders.

Azerbaijani delegation led by Chairman of State Committee for Family, Women and Children's Problems Hijran Huseynova takes part in the 29th session of the Conference of Ministers of the Council of Europe on family matters. The Conference takes place June 16-17 in the building "Austria Center Vienna" in the capital of Austria.

The main theme of the conference was "The state policy of support of childbirth: social, economic and personal factors". At the meeting there were discussed issues such as why so many Europeans have fewer children than would like: social and economic factors, as well as policies to support the family: steps to create the best conditions.
In her address Hijran Huseynova stressed that the Azerbaijani State has implemented a program aimed at improving the economic and social opportunities for young families, as well as the development of better conditions in society for children.

At the conference there was presented EU created collection of national documents describing the marital status in 31 EU countries. Azerbaijan part of the book has been prepared by the State Committee for Family, Women and Children's Problems.

During the visit Hijran Huseynova hold bilateral meetings. Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Austria Fuad Ismayilov also takes part in the conference and the bilateral meetings.

Rapprochement of Turkey and Armenia should be the catalyst in the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, Head of the U.S. Congress Subcommittee on Europe of the Committee for Foreign Policy Democrat Robert Wexler (Florida) told Trend .

"The United States attaches great importance to both processes, but all parties, particularly Azerbaijan and Armenia must demonstrate their courage in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem," the congressman said.

If the region is stable, then "the role of the South Caucasus will grow in the international security issue", Co-chair of the Parliamentary Turkish-American Friendship Group Wexler said.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.

Kazakhstan-Azerbaijan Friendship and Culture Association Office opened in Astana today.

Representatives of Azerbaijani and Kazakh embassies, Azerbaijani diaspora, students and journalists attended the opening ceremony.

Azerbaijani ambassador to Kazakhstan Latif Gandilov opened the event.

"I believe and I am sure that the association is a symbol of spiritual closeness of our two peoples. Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan are strategic partners at the political level, but in universal terms we are close nations. We must always bear it in mind and tell it to the young. I see manifestation of people's diplomacy in this," Gandilov said.

The diplomat said that during two years of activities the association jointly with the embassy of Azerbaijan and the local diaspora held many events on the friendship between the two peoples in Astana and other cities of Kazakhstan.

"I believe that the office of association is our Azeri house in Astana," ambassador said.

Kazakhstan-Azerbaijan Friendship and Culture Association Office is located in one of the cabinets of Kazakh University of Economy, Finance and International Trade in Astana.

The embassy of Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan rendered great help to found the association, rector of the university Gabdykapar Seytkasymov said.

"The embassy gave the office not only books in Azerbaijan, but also all the necessary computer equipment," he said.

Opening of the office is only a good start to work together for many years to come, chairman of Azerbaijani diaspora in Astana Vadidy Salakhov said.  

According to the embassy, the association was established in Astana on July 4, 2007 upon the initiative of the Embassy of Azerbaijan and representatives of the Kazakh intelligentsia. Professor of Technology and Business University and Doctor of Technical Sciences Ashat Shakirov was elected chairman.

Syrian does not want worsening of the Karabakh problem, Syrian President Bashar Asad said at a joint news conference with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan in Yerevan on June 17, News Armenia reported.

"Of course, this is a difficult problem, but we do not want its worsening, as from the Middle East experience, we know that it will be difficult to solve this issue in this case," the Syrian president noted.

The president said he wanted to know Armenia's position in the Karabakh problem before his visit to Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will continue consultations on the convergence of views on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.

Bilateral negotiations on the level of deputy foreign ministers of both countries will be held in Ashgabat September 8-9, Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan Elkhan Huseynov told Trend .

Delegation headed by the Special Representative of the President of Azerbaijan on the status of the Caspian Sea Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Khalaf Khalafov will go to Turkmenistan to participate in the negotiations.

Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will continue consultations on the convergence of views on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.

Bilateral negotiations on the level of deputy foreign ministers of both countries will be held in Ashgabat September 8-9, Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan Elkhan Huseynov told Trend .

Delegation headed by the Special Representative of the President of Azerbaijan on the status of the Caspian Sea Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Khalaf Khalafov will go to Turkmenistan to participate in the negotiations.

The main subject of discussion will be determination of the median line the bottom of the Caspian Sea which will be divided between the Caspian littoral states on national sectoral basis. Previous negotiations between the parties to determine the coordinates of the median line were held in Baku in 2008.

Baku and Ashgabat have already recorded a rapprochement of their positions, and now intend to continue efforts in this direction, Huseynov said.

The main discord between the parties is the Kapaz field, which the Turkmen side is committed and called" Sardar ". According to seismic data, the estimated reserves of oil and gas condensate on the field are 150 million barrels.

Russia and Kazakhstan have no claims to each other on division the bottom of the Caspian Sea. There are both bilateral and trilateral agreements on this issue between the two countries. The parties also agreed to determine the coordinates of the dividing line. The issue is not agreed with only two countries - Turkmenistan and Iran due to which despite many years of discussions the status of the Caspian Sea has not yet been determined.

Azerbaijan was the first country on the Caspian Sea that begun to delineate the world's largest lake and the definition of limits of its sovereignty. It was the first Republic of Azerbaijan that announced the availability of its sector of the Caspian Sea on September, 20, 1994, and signed international contract (contract of the century) with western companies on the model of PSA (production sharing agreement). This is also reflected in the Basic Law of Azerbaijan 1995.

Baku and Tokyo are confident that constructive and stabile dialogue between Azerbaijan and Japan will contribute to development of bilateral ties and better mutual understanding, Azerbaijani and Japanese Foreign Ministers Elmar Mammadyarov and Hirofumi Nakasone said during Azerbaijani minister's visit to Japan, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry press center said.

Azerbaijani and Japanese foreign ministries decided to continue regular consultations on international issues as a part of the bilateral cooperation.

Resolution of the Karabakh conflict as soon as possible is important for the development of the economy, "stability and predictability" in the entire South Caucasus, ITAR-TASS quoted Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov as saying at the Japanese International Problems Institute during a working visit to Tokyo.

"We are sure that resolution of the conflict as soon as possible will play a great role in development of economic cooperation, ensuring prosperity, stability and predictability of the entire South Caucasus," minister said.

"We consider search for peaceful solution of problems to be important task," he said. "We try to explain to our Armenian neighbors that national interests of our countries equally imply to reach peace as soon as possible."

Georgian and Azerbaijani culture ministries have agreed to launch a joint commission to preserve monuments, Azerbaijani culture minister Abulfas Garayev told reporters.    

He said the commission will include culture workers, scholars, historians and archeologists who will jointly study historical monuments in territories of both countries.

The commission will identify condition of monuments and will solve disputes. The key task is to preserve Azerbaijan's cultural heritage in Georgian territory and Georgian cultural heritage in Azerbaijani territory.

The minister said the commission will begin work today. Bodies of the two countries responsible for preservation of monuments will exchange information as a first step.  

Azerbaijan and Kuwait intend to continue a constructive dialogue to develop bilateral relations. The negotiations will be held during Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad as-Sabah's official visit to Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Kuwait Shahin Abdullayev told Trend on June 19.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev invited the head of Kuwait to Baku during his official visit to the country in May.

The ambassador said Kuwait is interested in Azerbaijan too much. The bilateral relations have been stimulated by Azerbaijani President Aliyev's visit to Kuwait and the signed intergovernmental agreement which gives good opportunities to the Kuwaiti businessmen to work in Azerbaijan, the diplomat said.

At present there are several investment projects which are under the two countries' consideration, the ambassador said.

Political movements

Leader of Azerbaijani opposition party suggested improving municipal system.

"Municipal system consisting of several stages must be created in Azerbaijan. There are no urban municipalities. The law on municipal system must be adopted in Baku," National Independence party leader Etibar Mammadov told Trend on June 16.   

Division of privileges must be legalized to strengthen activity of municipalities, Mammadov said. "Afterwards, change of municipal elections into serious process will be possible," National Independence party leader said. 

Adoption of the law Union of municipalities will not solve problems in this sphere. "Major goal is to simplify governance of municipalities by executive power," Mammadov said.

Ruling New Azerbaijan Party has launched official preparations for municipal elections.   

"The party will complete territorial meetings on municipal elections by end of the year. Five meetings have been held until now," NAP official and member of parliament Siyavush Novruzov said.  

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. 

Electoral headquarters with the participation of NAP representatives have been launched and list of members have been approved, Novruzov said.

"The lists of candidates will be specified and activities of current municipality members will be discussed. New candidates will be nominated in September," he said.

The Communist Party of Azerbaijan on the platform of Marxism-Leninism doubt that the Left Forum, scheduled for the autumn, will be able to successfully carry out propaganda left wing ideas.

"It is impossible to disseminate ideas of the left wing through forum. The propaganda of left ideas in Azerbaijan is weak. One should use internet and press in order to propaganda modern methods of campaigning, Chairman of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan on the platform of Marxism-Leninism Telman Nurullayev told Trend .

Some left wing parties of Azerbaijan are planning a fall-wide forum this autumn. The organizing committee presents the People's Socialist Party and the Left Democrats Party of Azerbaijan.

The Communist Party of Azerbaijan on the platform of Marxism-Leninism has also been previously presented in the Organizing Committee, but later refused to participate in the forum. Other participants connect party's refusal to be presented in the Committee due to uncertainty in its own force.

According to Nurullaev, CPA's decision was caused by biased attitude of organizers to participants of the forum. "We turned over the participation in the forum. We agreed, but with the proviso that it will attend the entire sector of the left camp. Organizers partial to parties, so we have to participate", chairman of the party said.

With respect to uncertainty in the forces, Nurullaev said that history will show which party is strong. "Our party has a great history and its activities in the eyes. We are the only left party which has the weight in the press and the international communist movement," he said.

Movement launched by Azerbaijani opposition has designed a strategic program to reinforce activities.

"Azerbaijani people will witness different tactics of unification of opposition soon," chairman of Umid Party and member of parliament Igbal Agazade told Trend . Umid Party is a part of the Movement for Garabagh and Republic.

The Movement for Garabagh and Republic was founded by Popular Front Party, Citizens and Development, Liberal, Democrat, Musavat and Umid Parties prior to the March 18 referendum.

Agazade said the parties represented in the union will act as a bloc in the municipal elections. "We have made a concrete decision about it. I think we will take part in the parliamentary elections as one once we achieve activeness in society" he said.

He said the reason for weak opposition is sad mood in public. "Unification of leading parties has marked the biggest success of recent years. We will not disclose out steps beforehand," Agazade said.

The Azerbaijan Intellectuals Union refused from opposition parties' proposal concerning the municipal elections.

"We have received many proposals from leading opposition parties to attend the municipal elections. We have refused from their proposals in a civilized manner. Intelligentsia seeks not to cooperate with opposition. We support cooperation with democratic camps. Unfortunately, the Azerbaijani opposition does not present a democratic camp," Chairman of the Azerbaijan Intellectuals Union Eldaniz Guliyev told Trend on June 18.

Guliyev was dissatisfied with opposition parties' attitude toward intelligentsia. "Opposition should understand a long time ago that if sources of any political bodies do not rely on intelligentsia, it will not have the end, as it does not have the beginning," the chairman of the union said.

He thinks intellectuals should not join the municipal elections. "Members of the union are free to act, but most of them do not intend to join the elections," Guliyev said.

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

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.

On June 15, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from areas in Khojavand region and from near Kurpatkino village at 12:00-12:15 and from areas in the Goy-Gol region at 18:30-18:40. The shorts were also fired from near Chayli village of Terter region at 01:20-01:55, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said.  

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

On June 16, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from the positions located in the village Shavarshavan Noyanberyan district from 14:55 to 15:10 and  on June 16, from positions near the village Kuropatkino Khojavend area from 11.10 to 11.15 and  June 17 from 01.30 to 01.35, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

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

On June 18, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from positions near the Tapgaragoyunlu village of Goranboy region at 16:27-16:37, from nameless heights in the Kuropatkino village of Khojavand region at 21:10-21:20 and 22:20-22:25. The shots were fired from the Ashagi Abdulrahmanli village of Fuzuli region at 23:15-23:20 and on June 19, from Marzali village of Agdam region at 05:50-06:00.

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

On June 19, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops located in the Tovuz region from Mosesgeh village of Berd region at 15:45-15:55, from Khojavand region at 16:15-16:20 and from Gizil Oba village of Terter region at 23:45-00:05, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said.

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

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