Weekly political digest (22.02- 27.02.2010)

Official news

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev took part in the opening ceremony of an apartment building in Lokbatan for the families of soldiers who died or were disabled in the Karabakh war, the AzerTaj state news agency reported.

Labor and Social Protection Minister Fizuli Alekberov informed the president that the building consists of 81 apartments - 72 two-room and nine three-room flats. The building has all the necessary conditions for comfortable residence and is accessible for the handicapped.

Aliyev took a tour of the building and congratulated the new apartment owners.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has received a delegation headed by EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby today. 

Relations between Azerbaijan and the EU, settlement of Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, cooperation in energy, regional and other issues were discussed during a meeting.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited today the memorial to victims of the Khojaly tragedy, erected in the Khatai District of Baku.

President Aliyev put a wreath at the monument to commemorate the victims of the genocide.

613 people were killed, 1,000 peaceful people of different age became invalid during Khojaly genocide. 106 women, 63 children, 70 old men were killed. Eight families were completely annihilated, 130 children lost one parents, while 25 both of them.1,275 peace residents were taken hostages, while the fate of 150 of them is still unknown

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has been declared the "Person of the Year 2009". This annual Russian Grand Prix is being awarded to the people who most vividly prove themselves in the political, social, governmental spheres of their countries during the year.

The Award ceremony which took place on February 25th, in Kremlin, has been established by the Russian information agency "RBC".

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has today received outgoing UN Resident Coordinator in the country Bruno Pouezat.

The President praised Pouezat`s activity in Azerbaijan, saying he contributed to "successfully continuing" the cooperation between the country and the organization.

President Ilham Aliyev said: "Over the last few years Azerbaijan`s government has been implementing important projects in collaboration with international organizations, including the United Nations."
The UN Resident Coordinator praised the Azerbaijani leader`s role in "ensuring successes which we have achieved".

Pouezat thanked the President and government of Azerbaijan for the support shown to him during his tenure.

The UN Resident Coordinator said: "It was a great honor for me to be a witness and part of important events which took place in Azerbaijan during my tenure."

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has arrived in Gabala region today, AzerTaj State News Agency reported.

The State Program on regions' social-economic development gave a push to comprehensive development in the Gabala region. The region's center, villages and settlements become more modern. In recent years the Gabala region's economy has been developing. In 2009, production increased by 2,1 times compared to 2003. Industrial production increased by 21 times. Agricultural production increased twice in the region.

During this period the amount of investments directed mainly to capital exceeded 23 million manats by increasing 32 times. About 25 percent of industrial products produced in the region are exported abroad. In 2003-2009 about 8,271 new jobs were created at 451 enterprises of the region, about 6,483 are permanent. A set of activities are conducted to realize the Gabala region's rich tourist potential in accordance with the President's order.

President Ilham Aliyev visited National Leader Heydar Aliyev's monument in the region's center and laid a wreath.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev attended the opening of health center "Fitnes" in Gabala.

The President cut the ribbon symbolizing the opening, and examined the center.

It was noted that this center, built in a contemporary style in an area of five hectares, is used for examination and treatment of tourists.

President Ilham Aliyev examined the individual rooms of the center, a cinema and concert hall and listened to "Cengi" from the opera "Koroglu" performed by children's ensemble of folk instruments.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev took part in the opening of the youth center "Caucasus Park" in Gabala.

The President got acquainted with the artificial ice rink having the area of 900 square meters.

The park covers an area of 16 hectares. There are swimming pools, artificial lakes, cafes, children's entertainment centers here. Various trees, shrubs and flowers have been planted. The original fountains, modern lighting system have been installed. About 150 people will be provided with jobs.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has participated in inauguration of a new kindergarten in Gabala.

After cutting a ribbon, the President examined the kindergarten closely.

Education and health of young generation is one of the prior directions of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation's activity. The Foundation takes active part in educational and health projects of the country. The actions taken by the Foundation President Mehriban Aliyeva are directly related to save genofond and solve problems in this sphere. The work held by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation to protect children's health are taken by the society with pleasure. Now, the Foundation pays great attention to modernize pre-school institutions, kindergartens and strengthen their technical base. The kindergarten built in Gabala with support of the Foundation is one of examples.

Two-storey kindergarten with 942 quarter meter squares can place 70 children. All conditions have been created for education and rest of children.

President Ilham Aliyev was informed that there are special training rooms in the kindergarten. Special manuals are used to broaden children's world view. Great attention is also paid to their nutrition. The building is equipped with heating system.

Today Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited the settlement for internally displaced people in the village Zaragan in Gabala, AzerTaj state news agency said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee on Work with Refugees and IDPs, Ali Hasanov informed that according to changes in the 'State program to improve housing conditions and employment of refugees and internally displaced people" a settlement for internally displaced people has been built in Gabala in the territory of Zaragan municipality in accordance with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's order dated October 31, 2007.

President Ilham Aliyev got acquainted with conditions in the apartments. Having met with internally displaced people and the public of Gabala, the Azerbaijani President congratulated the new settlers and told about the work to improve housing conditions and increase of employment of refugees and internally displaced people.

On Feb. 22, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev signed an order to perpetuate the memory of People's Artist of USSR Lutfiyar Imanov.

Executive Power of Baku City is in charge of establishing a commemorative plaque on the building, where Lutfiyar Imanov lived (Baku, Khagani str., 27/32).

On Feb. 22, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree to conduct 100th anniversary of academician Imam Mustafayev.

Ministry of Agriculture and the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan are in charge of preparing and conducting events to conduct 100th anniversary of Imam Mustafayev, and the Cabinet of Ministers is in charge of addressing issues arising from this order.

Upon the order by the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Gurbanov Israfil was conferred the honorary title "Honored public servant" for his long years fruitful work in the public service in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Upon the order by Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, Igor Ponomarev was awarded an Honorary Diploma of the Azerbaijan Republic for his merits in the development of sport.

On Feb. 25, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on conscription of the country's citizens into active military service and on the transfer of servicemen from active military service to reserve units between April 1 and 30.

The decree is applied to all citizens of the country born in 1992 who are 18 years of age on the day of conscription, as well as those born in 1975-1991 and are under the age of 35, and those who have no right of deferral of service in the armed forces and other military services of the country.
Under the presidential decree, soldiers, seamen and sergeants who served their term envisaged by the Law of the Azerbaijan Republic "On military service" are to be discharged.

Upon the order by the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, was approved the Resolution on a single commemorative medal "65 Years of Victory in Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945", signed on 10 October 2008 in Bishkek.

The Cabinet of Ministers of Azerbaijan is in charge of taking necessary measures to implement the orders, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - to notify the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States on the implementation of internal procedures required for entry into force of this order.

Upon the order by the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, Artur Rasizade was awarded the Sharaf Medal ("Glory") for his great contribution to the socio-economic development of Azerbaijan.

March 1 the Azerbaijan State Telegraph Agency, AzerTaj, turns 90. On the threshold of this nice anniversary, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has signed a number of orders to award the leaders and employees of the Agency with state awards and honorary titles.

Under the order of the head of state, Director General of AzerTaj Aslan Aslanov was awarded with the order "For Service to Motherland" of the 3rd degree, for special merits in development of the national press in the Azerbaijan Republic.

For merits in development of mass media in the Azerbaijan Republic with the honorary titles "Honored journalist", "Honored culture worker" and "Honored engineer" have been awarded eight employees of the Agency, with the medal "Tereggi" - nine journalists. The head of state awarded one employee of AzerTAc with the special grant of President of the Azerbaijan Republic.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree to give a personal scholarship to Aliyeva Elmira Ismayil.

The Azerbaijani Cabinet of Ministers is charged to solve the issues concerning this decree.

Today, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has signed a decree to award Aslan Aslanov with a medal "For Services Contributed to the Motherland" for special services in development of national media in the Azerbaijani Republic.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev presented his condolences to Morocco King Mohammed VI concerning numerous victims as a result of a mosque's minaret collapse in Meknes.

Azerbaijani President also presented his condolences to families and relatives of victims, entire Morocco people on behalf of Azerbaijani people and his own. He wished injured people rapid recovery.

Azerbaijani President presented his condolences to Portugal counterpart Anibal Cavaco Silva concerning numerous victims as a result of heavy flood on Madeira island, AzerTaj state news agency said.

Azerbaijani President also presented his condolences to families and relatives of victims, entire Portugal people on behalf of Azerbaijani people and his own. He wished injured people rapid recovery.

On Feb. 22, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev sent a congratulatory message to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam on the country's National Day.

"I am confident that development of relationship between Azerbaijan and Brunei Darussalam will further serve strengthening friendship and cooperation between our peoples," the letter says.

The Azerbaijani President wished Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah good health, success in his activities and friendly people of Brunei Darussalam peace and progress

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev congratulated the President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves on the national holiday - Independence Day, AzerTAj state news agency reported.

"Today, the Azerbaijani-Estonian relations are developing successfully. I hope that we will continue to consistently work together to strengthen our bilateral relations and friendly ties, expand cooperation in areas of mutual interest. I wish you good health and success in activities, the friendly people of Estonia - peace and prosperity," the letter by Ilham Aliyev says.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has sent a congratulatory letter to Emir of the State of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on the country`s public holiday-National day.

The President expressed assuarance to "further make efforts to strengthen Azerbaijan-Kuwait interstate ties and continue cooperation succesfully both bilaterally and within international organizations."

President Ilham Aliyev wished the Emir of Kuwait robust health, successes in his activities and friendly people of Kuwait peace and prosperity.

On Feb. 24, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev sent a letter of condolence to President of Turkey Abdullah Gul.

The letter says: "I was deeply grieved upon hearing the news about loss of many human lives in a gas explosion at a coal mine in Balikesir province.
I share your sorrow over this tragedy, and on behalf of myself and Azerbaijan people I express deep sympathies to the families and friends of the killed and all the people of Turkey. I wish speedy recovery to those wounded and injured. May Allah rest their souls in peace!"

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has offered condolences to Professor Ali Dogramaci over the death of his father, public figure and outstanding scientist Ihsan Dogramaci, AzerTAj state news agency reported.

"I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of the great son of the Turkish world, public figure, world-renowned scientist and enlightener, wise and noble man Ihsan Dogramaci," the President said in his letter.

"Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva joins me in offering our sincere sympathies to you and your mother Mrs. Ayser Dogramaci."

President Ilham Aliyev referred to Ihsan Dogramaci`s receiving Azerbaijan`s highest awards, the Istiglal and Heydar Aliyev orders, saying it was "a vivid evidence of how deeply Azerbaijan recognized his invaluable services".

The President described Dogramaci`s death as "a great loss for every citizen of Azerbaijan".

"He will always live in memories of our people," the President said in his letter.

Parliament

The Azerbaijani Parliament will mull yearly report on municipalities' activities.

"Feb.23, the Parliamentary meeting will discuss the yearly report of the Justice Ministry's Center on Work with Municipalities, which controls the municipalities' activities," the parliamentary press-service reported.

The meeting's agenda also includes discussion of the bill on amendments and additions to the Constitution of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (NAR). "In addition, the parliament will mull the constitution bill "On the principles of Azerbaijan's economic independence" in connection with the application of the referendum act "On Changes and Amendments to the Azerbaijani Constitution, Adopted by Referendum March 18, 2009", the source reported.

The meeting will also discuss on second reading the draft law "On combating disease caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)." A bill on amendments to Civil Code also was included in the agenda.

Azerbaijani-Iranian relations should intensify as the countries share a 657-kilometer border, Azerbaijani Parliamentary Speaker Oktay Asadov said after a recent visit to Iran.

An Azerbaijani parliamentary delegation headed by Asadov was on a visit to Iran upon the initiative of the Iranian Islamic Consultative Assembly from Feb. 20-22.

During the visit, meetings were held with all the Iranian state agencies.

"Nagorno-Karabakh issue was discussed at each meeting and the Iranian side confirmed its support for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity," Asadov said.

According to the speaker, Azerbaijan should establish ties at a high level not only with Iran but with all countries in the region.

To avoid discussions related to false "Armenian genocide", the best way is to appeal to the group of friends of Azerbaijan in U.S. Congress on behalf of the Parliament, said MP Ganira Pashayeva on Feb. 23.

The claim about the "Armenian genocide" is a claim for recognition of the mass extermination of Armenians living in Anatolia during the First World War. Turkey considers the event as the Armenian-Turkish confrontation.

These appeals must be submitted by April 24. With such messages, we can influence on the Armenians' supporters in the Congress, she said.

"Any discussion in Congress related to the fictitious genocide is directed against positions of Turkey and Azerbaijan. So we must ask on behalf of the Azerbaijani parliament and appeal to our compatriots living in the United States. Head of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva and the representation of the Foundation in Russia carry out a great work in bringing to the world the truth about Azerbaijan. But the activities of our compatriots are also very important in this regard," she said.

"The fact, that 26 percent of the municipalities are women, is important for our country," MP Ganira Pashayeva said during discussion of an annual report of the agency realizing administrative control over the activities of municipalities.

Extended number of women and youth representatives represented in the municipalities is associated with strengthening of their role in political life. "In my opinion, increasing the role of women and youth in the municipalities will also have a positive impact on the development of our regions," Pashayeva said.

The last municipal elections in Azerbaijan were held Dec. 23, 2009.

The Center for work with municipalities at the Justice Ministry must now pay much attention to educate members of the municipalities. "Some municipality members do not even know their office duties. As a result, the gravity of problems falls onto the shoulders of ordinary people. Therefore, education work must be greatly expanded," MP Pashayeva said.

There is a problem with the issuance of municipal lands to auction. "The most sensitive issues in holding land auctions are related to rights and duties of municipalities. Therefore, to achieve a solution to the problems of people, the municipalities must normally fulfill their rights and obligations," MP Pashayeva said.

According to Pashayeva, ensuring the independence of municipalities requires specifying the section on the activities of executive bodies and municipalities.

The Azerbaijani parliament made some supplements and changes to Nakhchivan AR Constitution.

"According to the proposals on Article 5 of the Nakhchivan AR Constitution, a presentation should be sent to the Azerbaijani president in connection with the appointment and dismissal of power executive heads of AR," Ali Huseynov, chairman of the parliamentary committee on legal politics and state-building said Feb. 23.

The proposals, relating to assigning higher special ranks, must also be submitted to the President of Azerbaijan. Under the amendment, the high ranking official of Nakhchivan AR will establish honorary titles and submit them to the President for approval as a state award of Azerbaijan, Huseynov said.

According to another change, upon request of 31 members of the parliament of Nakhchivan AR or upon proposal of the high executive person of AR may the Parliament may hold a closed meeting.

The Azerbaijani Parliament approved an agreement to abolish rules associated with the requirement of visas for citizens with diplomatic passports.

"Azerbaijan and Slovenia signed the agreement on the abolition of rules related to the requirement of visas for citizens with diplomatic passports Nov. 9, 2009 in Baku," Samad Seyidov, Parliamentary International and Inter-parliamentary Relations Committee chairman, said today.  

He said that Azerbaijani and Slovenian citizens, who have diplomatic passports, may enter the territory of another state without a visa and stay for six months.

We hope for the objectivity of the report, which will be prepared with regards to Azerbaijan, the MP said.

"We hope for the objectivity of the document that will be prepared about Azerbaijan by the Council of Europe Monitoring Committee co-rapporteurs," a member of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE, Azerbaijani parliamentary committee on international relations and inter-parliamentary relations deputy chair Gultekin Hajibeyli told reporters.

Azerbaijani MPs also will participate in the discussions that will take place in the CoE Monitoring Committee in March. "Azerbaijan is faithful to the European integration policy and continues a successful policy in the name of democracy," she said.

Nizami Jafarov, chairman of the Azerbaijani parliamentary committee on culture and Azerbaijan-Turkey inter-parliamentary working group, will attend funeral of Ihsan Dogramaci, world renowned scientist, the parliament told Trend today.

Jafarov within Azerbaijani delegation will join a farewell ceremony of the great friend of Azerbaijani people Dogramaci, who was awarded with the highest awards of our country - 'Istiglal' and 'Heydar Aliyev.'

Political movements

Azerbaijan's ruling party is satisfied with cooperation with the U.S. International Republican Institute.

"Deputy Chairman and executive secretary of the New Azerbaijan Party (NAP), Ali Ahmedov, received the U.S. International Republican Institute (IRI) director for Azerbaijan, Jake Jones, the NAP told Trend .

The sides noted the cooperation between the IRI and the NAP from the beginning of establishment until today, the successful outcome of joint projects, an extensive exchange of views. "Ahmedov stressed his satisfaction with the cooperation of the Party with IRI. Ahmedov and Jones expressed their satisfaction with mutual cooperation and stressed the importance of continuing relationships in the future," said the statement.

Foreign policy

Azerbaijani Parliamentary Speaker Oktay Asadov arrived in Tabriz during his visit to Iran, IRIBNEWS reported.

East Azerbaijan Province Governor Ahmad Alirza Beygi and other officials met Asadov at the city airport.

The speaker will discuss bilateral ties with the governor and the regional representative of the country's spiritual leadership in this region Ayatollah Mohsun Shabustari.

An Azerbaijani parliamentary delegation headed by Asadov is on visit to Iran upon the initiative of the Iranian Islamic Consultative Assembly from Feb. 20-22.

Asadov has met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Supreme National Security Council Secretary General Saeed Jalili.

A member of the British House of Lords and team leader for cooperation with countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia will visit Azerbaijan next month.

During a press conference in Kazakstan on Tuesday he spoke about his intention to visit Baku.

According to him, Azerbaijan is a very important republic.

The purpose of his visit is to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh problem and the results of Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev's visit to Baku. The fact that Saudabayev visited the Caucasus is very important for resolving the conflict, he said.

The opening of the Palestinian Embassy in Baku will contribute to strengthening the political and economic ties between the two countries, Palestinian Authority in Uzbekistan Ambassador, who is also accredited in Azerbaijan, Asad Al-Asad said.

"This is a historic moment in strengthening Azerbaijan-Palestine relations," Al-Asad told Trend . The question of opening the embassy is still under discussion, "but we hope it will be resolved soon," he said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will attend the opening ceremony, he added.

The question of opening the embassy in Baku was discussed during the first visit of Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki to Azerbaijan in late October 2009.

The appointment of the first Palestinian ambassador-resident to Azerbaijan will take effect after the issue is resolved, Al-Asad said.

"We have been negotiating with the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry for four months to receive a building and a residence for Palestine's ambassador in accordance with the decree of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev," he said.

According to Al-Asad, the Palestinian leadership hopes that by opening the embassy in Baku, political and economic ties between Palestine and Azerbaijan will strengthen and expand.

"The Palestinian leadership pays special attention to Azerbaijan. So, it is necessary to strengthen and develop the existing relations," Al-Asad said. "We strive to create fully diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan, and appreciate Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's decision to provide the Palestinians with a building for the embassy and ambassador's residence."

Al-Assad also connects Abbas's upcoming visit to Azerbaijan with the launching of the embassy.

As to political relations, he added that both sides suffer from a common occupation policy.

"If one looks at the problem with occupation in Azerbaijan and Palestine, one can immediately reveal similarities," Al-Asad said. "I believe that Azerbaijan could play a certain role in resolving the Palestinian problem given that Azerbaijan has a strong economic and political position in the South Caucasus, and has good relations with Israel."

According to the ambassador, the Palestinians have great hopes that Arab and Islamic countries will work together to settle the conflict in the Middle East because, as history shows, Western countries, including the United States, are more and more inclined to support Israel.

"The Palestinian people have a strong will and desire. We will move till the end towards the creation of an independent state," Al-Asad said. He aded that that Azerbaijan and Palestine, as OIC member states, must implement the objectives of the Islamic world and cooperate in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh and Palestinian conflicts.

On the other hand, Al-Asad said that Arab countries, especially those who have strong ties with Armenia, can also contribute to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Azerbaijan's permanent representative to the UN Agshin Mehdiyev wrote a letter to the Secretary General of the Organization in connection with Khojaly genocide, the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan reported.

In February 1992, an unprecedented massacre was committed against the Azerbaijani population in the town of Khojaly, the letter says. This bloody tragedy, which became known as the Khojaly genocide, involved the extermination or capture of thousands of Azerbaijanis: the town was razed to the ground.

The ongoing armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has resulted in the occupation of almost one-fifth of the territory of Azerbaijan and made approximately one out of every eighth persons in the country internally displaced or a refugee. The most serious international offences, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, were committed in the course of the conflict, the letter says.

The genocide in Khojaly, along with other grave offences committed during the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, entail the State responsibility of Armenia and the individual criminal responsibility of those who participated in said acts and their accomplices and accessories, the letter says. There can be no long-term and sustainable peace without justice. This requires consistent commitment by States towards their obligations to prosecute those responsible for breaches of international humanitarian law or international human rights law.

A high-level delegation from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), headed by President Joao Soares and the Special Representative on Nagorno-Karabakh Goran Lennmarker, will pay a three day visit to Azerbaijan in mid-March, the OSCE said.

The OSCE PA's delegation will visit Azerbaijan March 13-16 within a regional visit to all three South Caucasus countries. It will begin in Georgia, March 9 and 10, continue to Armenia from March 10 to 13, and will end in Azerbaijan March 13 to 16.

The visit is President Soares's first official visit to the region as President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

The talks in the three countries will focus on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and on the situation after the war between Georgia and Russia.

The Armenian side will not be able to hide the truth about atrocities perpetrated in the occupied territories against Azerbaijani civilians from the world community, Foreign Ministry spokesman Elkhan Polukhov told Trend on Wednesday.

Today, Armenians presented website where they boldly falsify facts of Khojali tragedy.

"There are a variety of documentary evidence of Armenian atrocities against civilians. Today, this truth consistently reaches the public in various countries around the world," Polukhov said.

He said the events are held almost all over the world, where the public becomes acquainted with the truth about the Khojali tragedy.

The Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani is expected to make a visit to Azerbaijan this year, a diplomatic source told Trend .

This will be a reciprocal visit. In January the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov made a two-day official visit to Qatar, during which he met with Emir of Qatar, Minister of Foreign Affairs and other officials. During the visit, an agreement was signed between the governments of Azerbaijan and Qatar on the exemption of visa regime for people with diplomatic and special passports.

First Vice Prime Minister of Russia Igor Shuvalov will make a visit to Baku on March 3, a senior diplomatic source told Trend .

According to the source, due to Russia's chairmanship to CIS this year, the priorities of CIS in 2010 will be discussed during Shuvalov's visit.

The Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan received the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus.

The meeting between Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov and the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby focused on the current status and prospects of Azerbaijan-EU relations, the Foreign Ministry's press service told Trend on Feb. 24.  

Mentioning Azerbaijan's interest in strengthening cooperation with the EU, Mammadyarov highlighted the importance of the Eastern Partnership in this regard. Touching upon the security in the South Caucasus, particularly the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the minister said that for the solution of the conflict, the Armenian armed forces must withdraw from occupied Azerbaijani territories, Azerbaijan's territorial integrity must be restored and the internally displaced persons must be returned to their homelands.     

Semneby mentioned the inadmissibility of continuation of occupation of Azerbaijani territories and hoped for soon solution of the conflict. In addition, during the meeting the sides exchanged views on energy and other question of mutual interest.    Muhammad

The OSCE Minsk Group (MG) is not interested in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Mohammad Bagir Behrami told journalists at a press conference today.

"OSCE MG is not interested in the conflict resolution," he said. "Iran proposes to fairly solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through using its potential."

He added that given Iran's relations with its neighbors, as well as its regional and international position, the country can contribute to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution.

"OSCE MG has been intending to solve the conflict for over 18 years. However, the conflict has not been resolved yet. Ensure of the regional security will contribute to its development. Resolution of the conflict through the negations is of benefit to the region," Behrami said.

He said the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must be resolved within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, which Iran has always recognized.

Some non-regional countries, as well as some forces within the two countries, do not want Iranian-Azerbaijani relations to develop, he added.

Regarding a statement of the Iranian ambassador to Armenia, Behrami said the information contradicts reality.

"How can it be that the ambassador of a country that supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan spoke against it? I, on behalf of the Iranian government the Foreign Ministry and the Iranian ambassador to Armenia, refute this information," he said.

"Iran, which has a joint border with Nagorno-Karabakh and will soon express its position on placing peacekeeping on this territory," Iranian ambassador to Armenia was quoted as saying by Regnum.

On Feb. 25, Azerbaijan signed the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the permanent mission of Azerbaijan to the CoE told Trend .

On behalf of the Azerbaijani Republic the convention was signed by country's permanent representative to the Council of Europe, Ambassador Arif Mammadov, and on behalf of the Council of Europe - the Deputy Secretary General of the organization Maud de Boer-Buquicchio.
At the signing ceremony, describing this as a commitment of the republic to the values of the CoE, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe appreciated the initiative of Azerbaijan and expressed hope for the ratification of the convention soon.

Azerbaijan is the 43rd country among the CoE member states that signed the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Human rights

An Azerbaijan delegation took part in conference dedicated to the reformation of the European Court of Human Rights, Azerbaijani Justice Ministry said.

The delegation, headed by Azerbaijani Justice Minister Fikrat Mammadov, included Azerbaijani Supreme Court head Ramiz Rzayev, the European Court's authorized representative in Azerbaijan, Justice Ministry senior officials.

The conference was held within the framework of Switzerland's presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the European Union.

Switzerland's Justice and Police Minister Eveline Widmer-Shlumpf, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland, PACE Chairman Movlud Chavushoglu and Chairman of the European Court of Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg attended the opening of the conference.

The main topics of discussion concerned the identification of more effective mechanisms for the fulfillment of the European Convention on Human Rights' obligations, the support to the efficiency growth of the European Court and other urgent issues.

The conference stressed the necessity to create a balance between the amount of incoming complaints to the European Court and the court's decisions.

Justice Minister Mammadov spoke about operations carried out in the country related to the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as issues related to the improving of the country's judicial system.

A political declaration was adopted as a result of the conference.

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg will visit Azerbaijan on March 1-5, the official statement of the organization said.

Media freedom, the justice system, the behaviour of law enforcement officials and the legislative framework on non-governmental organisations are the main topics that the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg.

It is Hammarberg's second visit to Azerbaijan since the beginning of his mandate.

In the course of his visit, Commissioner Hammarberg plans to meet the President of the Republic, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Internal Affairs, as well as the Prosecutor-General and the Head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Further meetings are planned with the Ombudsman and representatives of civil society.

The Commissioner intends to visit some places and institutions of human rights relevance, including in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Feb.21, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from areas and positions outside the Ashagi Sayidahmadli village in the Fizuli region at 12.30- 12.40 and from areas and positions outside the Tapgaragoyunlu village in the Goranboy region at 18.30- 18.45, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

Further, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from positions outside the Jojugmarjanli and Mashadi villages and from nameless heights in the Jabrayil region at 23.30- 23.55, as well as from the areas near the Sarijali village in the Agdam region at 23.15-23.30  , the ministry reported.

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

Turkey calls upon the OSCE Minsk Group to accelerate the process of settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during his official visit to Spain today, CNN Turk reported.

Azerbaijani Ombudsman Elmira Suleymanova made a statement regarding 18th anniversary of the Khojali genocide.

The statement demands making criminally responsible the Armenian terrorists and their supporters who have committed Khojali genocide.

"The efforts of international organizations aimed at addressing certain conflict should be in full compliance with the norms and principles of the international law, without the policy of double standards. Giving up the policy of occupation, territorial claims, Armenia must comply with the provisions of the documents adopted in connection with the conflict, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored, the Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced people should return to their native lands, the prisoners and hostages must be released, Armenia must be sanctioned by the competent international organizations," said the statement.

Feb.22, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from areas and positions outside the Yarimga village in the Tartar region at 11.30-12.10 and from areas and positions outside the Tapgaragoyunlu village in the Goranboy region at 13.50-14.15, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

Further, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from positions outside the Ashagi Sayidahmadli and Ashagi Abdurahmanli villages in the Fizuli region at 16.15- 16.30, the ministry reported.

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

The U.S. will not take any steps to resolve the frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet countries, former U.S permanent representative to the United Nations, who is recently serving at American Enterprise Institute, John R. Bolton, told Trend .

"If you look at the Obama's policy towards Russia so far, I think the U.S will try not to re-open the frozen conflicts, not try to find a way so that Russia relates to all post soviet countries and sovereign and independent ones and not even try to solve the conflicts within their borders of those countries. I know it sounds odd, but I think this is what the U.S will do".

Mr. Bolton also sows careful optimism on establishing diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey.

"It's a positive event, but I wouldn't overstate the potential implications of it. It is a positive thing to establish a relation with a country after so many years, but I wouldn't overstate it that much. Of course, it's symbolic," he stated.

Renewing the relations between the U.S and Russia affect other post-Soviet countries, including Georgia and Azerbaijan, expert said.

Monitoring was held on the contact line between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces Feb.23, after a mandate by the special envoy of the OSCE chairman.

The monitoring on the contact line between Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces on south of the Tazakand village in Azerbaijan's Agdam region proceeded without incident Feb.23, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

The monitoring was held on the Azerbaijani side by OSCE Chairman-in-Office Personal Representative field assistants Vladimir Chountulov and Pieter Ki.

The monitoring was on the opposite side, which the international community recognizes as Azerbaijani territory, by OSCE Chairman-in-Office Personal Representative Andrzej Kasprzyk's field assistants Irji Aberli, Imre Palatinus and Jaslan Nurtazin.

Caucasus Muslims Religious Leader Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazadeh has made an appeal in connection with the Khojali Tragedy.

Sheikh ul-Islam appealed to the world presidents, parliaments, nations and international organizations, calling them to give legal estimation to Armenian extremists' actions, not to be indifferent to our nation's tragedy and to recognize this tragedy as a massacre.

During his visit to Azerbaijan, the European Union Special Representative for South Caucasus Peter Semneby will discuss the pressing problems of EU-Azerbaijan, in particular Azerbaijan's rapprochement with the European Union, the possibility of starting negotiations on the association agreement, the energy security, energy supply to Europe, regional security, as well as Nagorno-Karabakh conflict solution and normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations, Semneby told reporters today upon his arrival in Baku.

"Partly the purpose of my visit is to make contacts and prepare visits of a number of new senior officials of the European Union," he said. During his three-day visit, Semneby will hold meetings both with officials of the country and with the representatives of non-governmental organizations and political circles in Azerbaijan.

"The current visit will be an important factor in the development of relations between Azerbaijan and EU," he said.

Speaking about the progress in the peaceful settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Semneby said that it is possible to hope for it, "but time is running out." "The situation in the region is changing, the status quo can not last forever. I hope very much that the momentum which was achieved last year will bring to concrete results. In any case, we will contribute in this regard," said EU Special Representative.

Feb.24, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from areas and positions outside the Goyarkh village in the Tartar region at 10.00-10.20, and from areas outside the Mehdili village in the Jabrayil region at 18.50- 19.25, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

Further, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from positions outside the Ashagi Abdurahmanli village in the Fizuli region at 20.30- 20.40 and 20.35- 20.45, the ministry reported.

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

The Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group will be replaced this summer, a senior diplomatic source in the Russian Foreign Ministry told Trend .

"Russia's current co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group Yuri Merzlyakov is likely be replaced by Igor Popov," the source said. "Popov's candidacy to this post has been discussed over the past few months."

However, Russian Ambassador to Mozambique Igor Popov has denied information about his appointment as Russia's co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

"The ambassador responded to a request from your agency about the possibility of his appointment and said that there has been some mistake. He has no connection with the OSCE Minsk Group and was surprised by this information," Mikhalevich said.

Popov is Russian Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador to the Republic of Mozambique since July 2005 and the Kingdom of Swaziland. He has held various diplomatic posts in the ministry's central office abroad. He served as deputy director of the CIS First Department of the Foreign Ministry.

There is no need the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh to participate in the negotiations over the conflict.

"This is a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. A community can not interfere in the affairs of the state," Azerbaijani community of Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh region head Bayram Safarov told journalists.

All IDPs should return to their homes.

"The ongoing negotiations on the conflict settlement should proceed in the direction of maintaining the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh's independence is not a subject for discussion," he added.

According to him, the settlement process can not last forever.

"If this problem can be solved peacefully, the negotiations must continue. Otherwise, the land will be returned with force," he added.

"I have repeatedly stated that anyone residing in Nagorno-Karabakh is a citizen of our state. Citizens must abide Azerbaijani laws, and they have the right to live in this country, like other peoples because we are citizens of a democratic state."

Azerbaijan will not give up and continue its efforts the Khojali genocide to be recognized internationally, Azerbaijani Parliament Vice Speaker Ziyafet Askerov told journalists.

"It's a great pity that the world community does not react to the genocide committed in late the 20th century by Armenians," he said.

Askerov added that if the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not resolved peacefully, then war is inevitable.

"Azerbaijani army is not only ready for war, but a full-scale war," he said.

Feb.25, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from the nameless heights in the Armenian Berd region and from positions near the Chinarli village to the Kokhanabi village in the Tartar region at 15.30-16.30 and 19.30-19.40, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

Further, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from positions outside the Chilaburt village in the Tartar region at 19.55-20.15, as well as from the Ashagi Abdurahmanli village in the Fizuli region at 20.15- 20.35 and from areas outside the Mehdili village in the Jabrayil region at 22.30-22.45, the ministry reported.

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

The Azerbaijani MPs are expected to visit the Nagorno-Karabakh.

"Presently, negations continue over the expansion of the Azerbaijani delegation's staff, which will visit Nagorno-Karabakh. The date of the visit is still to be coordinated," MP Rovshan Rzayev told Trend today.

Nagorno-Karabakh community representatives are also expected to visit the region.

Azerbaijani and Armenian PMs met in the capital of Russia in Moscow earlier. With regard to holding the next meeting in another country, Rzayev said that they were interested in organizing the meeting only in Karabakh and would continue efforts in this direction.

Feb.26, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from nameless heights in the Fizuli region at 12.50-13.15, as well as from areas and positions outside the Mehdili village in the Jabrayil region at 23.00- 23.30, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

Further, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from positions outside the Giziloba village in the Tartar region at 04.40-04.50 Feb.27, the ministry reported.

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

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