Weekly political digest (23.08- 28.08.2010)

Official chronicle

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has sent a letter of congratulation to the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on his country's national holiday - the Independence Day.

The head of state congratulated President and people of Ukraine on behalf of the Azerbaijani people and on his behalf on the national holiday - the Independence Day.

"Traditional friendship and partnership relations between Azerbaijan and Ukraine are dynamically developing. I am sure that the expansion of our bilateral cooperation, cooperation within the regional and international organizations will further serve the interests of our countries and peoples, peace, stability and progress in the region," the letter says.

Ilham Aliyev wished Viktor Yanukovich good health, success in activities, the friendly people of Ukraine - peace and prosperity.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev sent a congratulatory letter to the Acting President of Moldova Mihai Ghimpu on the national holiday of his country.

"I am pleased to express You and all Your people my sincere congratulations on the national holiday of the Republic of Moldova - the Independence Day. I am confident that the traditional relations of friendship and cooperation between Azerbaijan and Moldova will continuously develop and expand in the interests of our peoples," said in a congratulatory letter.

Ilham Aliyev wished Mihai Ghimpu good health, success in activities, and friendly people of Moldova - peace and prosperity.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev expressed his condolences to Chinese President Hu Jintao on numerous human casualties caused by the plane crash.

"The news of heavy human loss as a result of the plane crash in your country was a source of great sorrow to me. I offer sincere condolences to you, families and relatives of the dead and wish the injured soonest recovery," the letter says.

Azerbaijani First Lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, UNESCO and ISESCO Good-Will Ambassador and Member of the Azerbaijani Parliament, Mehriban Aliyeva, is celebrating her birthday Aug. 26.

Mehriban Aliyeva was born into a famous family in Azerbaijan. Her father, Arif Pashayev, is an academic at the National Academy of Sciences and holds a PhD in physics and mathematics. He is the Rector of the National Academy of Aviation in Baku. Her mother, Aida Imanguliyeva, was an Orientalist, PhD in Philological Sciences, Professor and Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the National Academy of Sciences, and specialist in Arabic literature.

In 1982, Mehriban Aliyeva graduated from Secondary Public School No. 23 in Baku, receiving a gold medal for the successful completion of her studies. A few months later she was admitted to the Nariman Narimanov Azerbaijan State Medical University and later continued her studies at the Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy, from where she graduated with an honorary diploma in 1988. In 1988-1992 Mehriban Aliyeva worked at the Moscow Scientific Research Institute for Eye Diseases.

In the mid-1990s, Mrs.Aliyeva established the Friends of Azerbaijani Culture Foundation, which she currently heads and which publishes the "Azerbaijan-IRS" (Azerbaijan-Heritage) magazine in three languages, including Azerbaijani, English and Russian, to widely publicize Azerbaijani culture.

Thanks to this publication, Azerbaijan was presented in the international arena not only as a state rich in oil and gas, as well as a country that has created a masterpiece in many areas - in music, architecture, fine and applied arts.

Mehriban Aliyeva established the Heydar Aliyev Foundation on May 10 in 2004. Its goal is to study the rich heritage of the National Leader of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, to train new generations in the spirit of the ideas of national statehood created by him. The priority directions of the Foundation are education, health, culture and social sectors. It covers assistance to children devoid of parents, recreation and improving logistics base of orphanages and boarding schools.

"We started with the logistics base of schools. We appealed to international organizations and big companies, explaining that there are small schools in rural areas that need urgent assistance. Thus, about 300 modern schools, provided with the necessary equipment, have been built through joint efforts in recent years. The Foundation developed a special program for sick children. They appeal us when they become almost desperate to get help. I personally try to trace the fate of each child. One of our rules is that all appeals to the Foundation should be read, analyzed, and a concrete decision must be taken on each of them." This statement was sounded at the celebration of the anniversary of the Foundation.

The status of First Lady and working for the Foundation enable Mehriban khanum to regulate the work, expand the scale of projects and draw extra resources for their realization.

To popularize and promote Azerbaijani culture, Gabala again hosted numerous visitors from all over the world at the Second International Music Festival upon the initiative of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. During the event Mrs. Aliyeva was awarded the Mozart Gold Medal by UNESCO in recognition of commitment to the promotion of tangible and intangible heritage of humanity, a continuing effort to promote intercultural dialogue, a significant contribution to enhancing cultural diversity and dedication to the ideals and objectives of this organization.

The Heydar Aliyev Foundation pays special attention to the publication of music albums of prominent Azerbaijani singers. The Foundation reprinted the "Ekhlagi-Nasir" book of the world-renowned thinker, great scholar, who had an encyclopedic knowledge, Nasreddin Tusi, in the Latin alphabet, prepared a photo album "Azerbaijan" and a Russian version of the Gabusname publication that is popular in many Turkic countries, presented a multimedia collection "Azerbaijani Mugam" and the "The World of Mugam" publication. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation held premiere of Intizar opera under its International Music Project.

Museum of Modern Art was opened in Baku upon Mehriban Aliyeva's initiative. "This museum was a must. We were able to create something that is an art object in itself: there are no well-defined routes, and visitors can examine the collection as they like. The museum resembles a maze, a way out from which one does not want to find. Anyway, such are my feelings exactly. I hope very much that visitors to the museum will also feel this unique atmosphere," Mrs. Aliyeva said at the opening of the museum.

The Foundation has also successfully implemented many projects outside Azerbaijan through its representations in other countries. Thus, "Dialogue of cultures in a globalizing world" Forum was held in Baku in June upon the initiative of Head of the Russian representation of Heydar Aliyev Foundation Leyla Aliyeva.

The Foundation participates in the restoration of universal cultural monuments. Thus, the Foundation restored two monuments included in the World Heritage List, damaged with time and by climatic conditions, in the park of Versailles Palace in Paris. The Foundation allotted financial aid to repair of stained-glass windows of the Strasbourg Cathedral. Furthermore,many mosques, synagogues and churches were restored in Azerbaijan.

The Foundation also expands its cooperation with foreign countries - Greece and Poland. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation and Lithuanian Embassy in Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the humanitarian sphere in July. The Foundation plans to establish the French school in Baku together with the French Embassy in Azerbaijan.

Mehriban Aliyeva is committed to the use of all available opportunities to enhance the efficiency of such humanitarian programs, the purpose of which is benefiting to the Azerbaijani people.

One of the priorities of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation is to draw the international community's attention to the realities of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Among the implemented projects, it is necessary to mention the publication of a collection of "Karabakh Realities" booklets, reflecting the history of the Armenian aggression, books entitled "War and Our Cultural and Historical Monuments" and "War Against Azerbaijan: Targeting Cultural Heritage", recounting Armenian destruction. Moreover, the Foundation has held events and photo and video exhibitions in various countries on the Khojali genocide.

In August 2004, Mehriban Aliyeva became a designated UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for promoting national literature and the musical heritage of Azerbaijan. Two years later, she was conferred with the title of ISESCO (Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Goodwill Ambassador for extensive and selfless activity in various fields, including inter-cultural dialogue, attention to children in need of special care and support for improving living conditions and education.

To be ambassador for such authoritative international organizations is a very honorable and responsible mission. Both UNESCO and ISESCO are non-political institutions, as is written in their charter. And at the same time, this is an international arena in which Mehriban Aliyeva represents her country.

This is an opportunity to introduce modern Azerbaijan and its people with the most profound historical and cultural roots, and to inform the world about the achievements of national art, music, and literature.

Mehriban Aliyeva's task as goodwill ambassador is to show the opportunities of the Islamic world through science, culture, and education and to demonstrate how the West and the East, two very different civilizations, could be interesting and helpful to each other.

In 2005, the First Lady was awarded the order of the "Ruby Cross" from the International Charitable Foundation "Maecenas of the Century" for her public support and charity activities, considerable contribution to the support of educational and cultural institutions and strengthening friendships between the peoples of Russia and Azerbaijan. The World Health Organization (WHO) gave Mehriban Aliyeva an award "for the exceptional services in protecting and strengthening the health of mother, child and family". For her charitable activities and the outstanding achievements in services to the highest ideals of humanity, Mehriban Aliyeva was honored an International award the "Gold Heart" in 2007.

Mehriban Aliyeva's broad activity has not been limited with the above said. In 2002 Mehriban Aliyeva was elected the President of the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation, demonstrating herself as an excellent organizer. Her authority has played a crucial role in making decisions on holding the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Azerbaijan in 2003 and 2004 and the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in 2005 and European Championship in 2007 and 2009. The Azerbaijani national rhythmic gymnastics team has gained international recognition, and Azerbaijani gymnasts take the leading places at international events

In 2005, Mehriban Aliyeva received a PhD in Philosophy. In the same year, she was elected a member of Azerbaijani Parliament.

The Azerbaijani President signed an order May 5, 2009 to award Mrs. Aliyeva the Heydar Aliyev Prize for the productive activities in the socio-political and cultural life of the country.

Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded the Grand Commander`s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Polish Republic Sept. 14, 2009. Mehriban Aliyeva received this Order for her contribution to development friendly ties between Azerbaijan and Poland.

Mehriban Aliyeva was awarded with Order of Legion of Honor by French President's order dated Feb.10, 2010.

Mrs.Aliyeva has two daughters, Leyla and Arzu, a son, Heydar, and two grandchildren, Mikayil and Ali.

Parliament

Baku will host an informal meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-speaking countries (TurkPA).

"Sept. 20, an informal meeting of heads of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the Senate of Kazakhstan and the Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan will be held," TurkPA Secretary General Ramil Hasanov told journalists today.

Members of the TurkPA established in mid-2009  are Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Hasanov said the meeting in Baku will be held to prepare for the plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly, to be held in March 2011 in Astana.

Political movements

Candidates with the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front Party is not an easy process, the chairman of the Musavat Party, Isa Gambar, told reporters.  

"The process to agree candidates from both parties is a complicated process. We have already passed most of the way, the issues of joint participation and compiling a single list will soon be resolved. Of course, there are difficulties, since agreeing the candidates in all districts is not an easy process. We are democratic organizations. The candidates wishing to participate in the parliamentary elections can make concessions only if they are ready," said Gambari.

During the event on the 21st anniversary of the Popular Front Party on July 15, the head of the Musavat Party, Isa Gambar, made an initiative to unify with the Popular Front Party. The two organizations are negotiating on this issue.

According to Gambar, the discussions on joint participation in the elections with Azerbaijan Popular Front Party continue in constructively.

"We plan to determine on which of the 125 constituencies an agreement can be reached. Perhaps, some districts will remain free, and everyone will be able to nominate themselves," Gambar said.

The Azerbaijani opposition Union for Democracy completes the first phase of consultations with the party Musavat. The decision was taken at a meeting of the Union's Council of Chairmen held on Monday.

"The sides are expected to adopt an outcome document on issues agreed to this stage. This document is expected to be developed and signed this week.  The document will reflect the list of constituencies agreed between the Union and Musavat, the parameters of joint participation in elections and other questions," Azadlig Party Chairman Ahmed Oruj said.

Oruj also spoke about other issues discussed at the meeting.

"The meeting discussed the Union's readiness for the elections. List of the Union's candidates was refined. It was decided to nominate National Salvation Party Chairman Vugar Bayturan in the Surakhani constituency No.31," Oruj said.

Azerbaijani ruling party is satisfied with its MP corps, represented in the Parliament, NAP Deputy Chairman, Executive Secretary Ali Ahmedov told journalists today.

"We are pleased with MP corps representing the New Azerbaijan Party (NAP) in the Parliament. Every MP honorably discharged the duties. MPs from the NAP showed fruitful activity in the preparation and discussion of bills, holding activities outside the Parliament, addressing voters' problems," Ahmedov added.

"On the other hand, naturally, the NAP's ranks increased within five years. Personalities, more specifically demonstrating their activities molded in the Party. Young peoples brought up during these five years now are the NAP members demonstrating the activity in the country's political life. Their candidacies will be considered when determining candidates from the NAP," he said.

The idea to establish an election bloc by the Azerbaijani opposition parties Great Establishment (GE), Justice and Unified Azerbaijan Popular Front Party retreated into the background, GE chairman Fazil Mustafa told Trend on August 24.

"There are a lot of districts, for which we were unable to agree on joint participation in the elections. And we decided to realize it in the format of cooperation," Mustafa said.

Some time ago, the above- mentioned parties stated that the establishment of the bloc will be announced in late August.
Mustafa also said the reasons why no agreement was reached.

"It was considered appropriate that the parties together organize their propaganda, but not as the bloc, but in a format of cooperation. There will be districts, where all three parties will nominate their candidates," Mustafa said

The opposition Azerbaijan Liberal Party (ALP) and Citizen and Development Party (CDP) decided to establish a joint election bloc, CDP chairman Ali Aliyev told Trend on August 25.
"Today a joint meeting of the executive apparatus of the Liberal Party and Citizen and Development Party was conducted. Firstly, it was decided to jointly support 72 candidates and establish a joint election bloc," said Aliyev.

For already certain time, ALP and CDA have been working together to create the bloc. Earlier, the chairman of Azerbaijan Democratic Party Sardar Jalaloglu and chairman of the Union of Azerbaijani Intelligentsia Eldaniz Guliyev in their statements to Trend talked about accession to the bloc. On Wednesday, ADP and Umid Party announced the establishment of "Karabakh" bloc.

According to Aliyev, a meeting of political council of CDP will be conducted on Saturday.
"The meeting will also cover other issues related to the establishment of bloc. The ALP will also hold a meeting of structure, capable to make decisions, and a decision will be made in a collegiate manner," said the party chairman.

Aliyev said that the executive staff of both parties steps up their activities.

"Work will continue to agree candidates in other districts. Other work related to the election bloc will be conducted in early September," said Aliyev.

Azerbaijan decided to create an electoral bloc "Garabakh", in which opposition parties will be represented.

Today chairman of the Azerbaijan Democratic Party (ADP), Sardar Jalaloglu and the Umid Party Chairman Iqbal Aghazadeh held a press conference in connection with the joint participation in the elections at the Umid Party's headquarters.

Jalaloglu said today a joint meeting of board members of the DPA and the Umid Party was held. It was decided to establish Garabakh electoral bloc at the meeting.

According to Jalaloglu, there are no limits for other parties wishing to be represented in the bloc.

Aghazadeh said that a working group will be created for the functioning of the structure, which will hold meeting every week.

After the press conference Jalaloglu told Trend that the parties agreed on the candidates on 91 constituencies.

"Negotiations were held to create a bloc with the Citizens and Development Party and Liberal Party, but due to the serious problems revealed during the negotiations, the creation of bloc with these organizations didn't take place," Jalaloglu said.

Green Party of Azerbaijan has joined the election bloc formed by the opposition Azerbaijan Liberal Party (ALP) and Citizen and Development Party (CDP), CDP chairman Ali Aliyev told Trend.

"Today we had a meeting with the chairman of the Green Party Mayis Gulaliyev. He proposed to join the established election bloc. This proposal was accepted positively by us," said Aliyev.

According to Aliyev, tomorrow consultations will be conducted with the Green Party, which will cover accession to the bloc.

"Gulaliyev expressed his desire to nominate with our bloc at the constituency number 22. This proposal was also accepted by us. Our list of candidates for the constituency number 22 will include Mayis Gulaliyev as well," said Aliyev.

The opposition Azerbaijan Liberal Party (ALP) and Citizen and Development Party (CDP) decided to establish a joint election bloc. Earlier the chairman of the Union of Azerbaijani Intelligentsia Eldaniz Guliyev also talked about accession to the bloc.

The Azerbaijani opposition parties have established a new electoral bloc 'Reform'.

The Azerbaijani opposition Adalat, Great Creation and Unified Azerbaijani Popular Front Party have agreed to create a new electoral bloc 'Reform'.

Elections

Chairman of the Azerbaijani Central Election Commission (CEC) Mazahir Panahov said today that the procedures for registering electoral candidates cannot be simplified further given current legislation.

"Azerbaijan has set very simple conditions for registering candidates and simplifying them further is impossible," he said. "A candidate needs to gather only 450 signatures, which represents roughly one percent of the given district."

However, the procedures must nonetheless still be simplified, head of the OSCE Baku Office Ali Bilge Cankorel said in a speech during training courses for district election commission chairmen. He said that the number of documents required for registration should be decreased.

The CEC is working to address any misunderstandings that arise during registration, Panahov said.

Executive power heads in Azerbaijan were told today to get ready for the parliamentary elections.

"They have been instructed to create the necessary conditions to promote all candidates," departmental head of the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Zeynal Nagdaliyev said today during training courses to improve the skills of district electoral commissions' chairmen.

He added that the electoral violations revealed during the 2009 municipal elections at some polling stations must not be repeated.

"The president dismissed the head of the Naftalan Executive Power due to these violations," Nagdaliyev added. "Control will be even more rigid during these elections."

Fewer violations were found during the 2009 municipal elections than previous elections, he said.

According to Nagdaliyev, 62 polling stations will be moved and repairs will be conducted on 1,076 polling stations by Sept. 1.

Azerbaijani Central Election Commission (CEC) today has started holding the courses to improve skills of chairmen of the district electoral commissions.

"The courses aim at examination of the negative cases, which took place during the elections in previous years, and preventing their repetition in the parliamentary elections this year," the CEC Chairman Mazahir Panahov said at the opening of the courses.

According to him, the CEC has prepared 40 types of printed materials on the electoral legislation.

All the works for preparation for the electoral process, including the enlightenment works will be completed by the beginning of the election, Panahov said.

The opening of the courses is also attended by the Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Department Head Zeynal Nagdaliyev, the Milli Mejlis (Parliament) first deputy chairman Ziyafat Asgerov, head of the OSCE Office in Baku Ali Bilge Cankorel and other officials.

Chairman of the Constitutional Court Farhad Abdullayev,

Chairman of the Supreme Court Ramiz Rzayev, Presidential Administration Department Head Ali Hasanov, Deputy Interior Minister Oruj Zalov, deputy Public Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan, Rustam Usubov, the responsible persons of the Ministry Justice and the Court of Appeal, the CEC members and the CEC department heads will deliver lectures at the courses, to be held till Aug. 29.

After the courses chairmen of the district electoral commissions will receive certificates.

The Central Election Commission held qualification courses on electoral law for members of district electoral commissions in 2007 and 2009.

Suspension of allocating funds for campaigning of candidates, in accordance with the changes in the Electoral Code, will create equal opportunities for conducting a fair fight among the candidates, Azerbaijani Central Election Commission (CEC) member Ramiz Ibrahimov, said at the courses for members of the district election commissions (DEC).

Ibrahimov said special accounts of candidates, the election funds of political parties and blocs should be opened in the regional branches of the International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA). If there is no IBA branch in the region, opening an account at another bank may be considered, he added.

The limit of candidate's election fund was increased, Ibrahimov said.

"The figure is 500,000 manat for each candidate. These funds may be formed by personal funds of the candidate. Moreover, the political parties and electoral blocs may allocate funds not exceeding 150,000 manat to candidate. Every citizen can transfer no more than 3,000 manat and legal entities - no more than 50,000 to an account of candidate," Ibrahimov said.

A pluralistic press plays a special role in democratic elections, OSCE Baku Office head Ali Bilge Cankorel said today at an event dedicated to the role of the media in covering elections.

Cankorel expressed confidence that steps will be made to increase the role of the media in the upcoming parliamentary elections this fall compared to previous years.

The OSCE has proposed amending the Electoral Code to ensure that all media have an equal opportunity to cover the electoral process.

According to the code, the Azerbaijani National Broadcasting Council creates the necessary conditions to ensure election coverage on television, Cankorel said. However, he added that private television channels should also devote more time to the political campaigns.

Azerbaijan will not use administrative resources to limit the media's participation in the 2010 parliamentary elections, Presidential Administration Social and Political Department head Ali Hasanov said today at an event dedicated to the media's role in covering the elections.

"We want the electoral climate to be completely transparent and fair," Hasanov said.

He added that the electoral process in a democratic society covers three phases - preparing and organizing elections, preparing society for elections through education, and holding elections.

Neither international organizations, nor political parties expressed any complaints about the election process during the last elections," Hasanov said. "But after the election results were announced, so called 'election fraud' was declared. Thus, the media's role is also to bring the truth to the public through conducting independent surveillance."

Azerbaijani media have the necessary authority to cover the parliamentary elections this autumn, Presidential Administration Social and Political Department head Ali Hasanov said during courses for district election commission members this week.

"All of the other structures, though, need to register to monitor the elections, but media outlets only need to show their certificate," Hasanov said.

He added that media outlets must organize their activities without interfering in the electoral process.

"Their management should not give them reason to obstruct the elections," he said.

During parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan, the decisions of the district election commissions must be grounded, said Supreme Court judge Asad Mirzaliev in the training organized for the chairpersons of district election commissions.

"During elections, the main concern relates to the fact that the decisions of the district committees are not justified and rejected, not taking into account," said Mirzaliev.
According to the judge, when considering complaints on decisions of district commissions in the courts, professional representatives of these commissions should be sent.

"These representatives must substantiate the correctness of the decision. But in practice those who are sent as representatives to the courts can not justify the commission's decision," said the judge.
Touching upon the issue of denial of registration, Mirzaliev said that judges, military and religious figures can not nominate.

OSCE chairman-in office appointed OSCE PA Vice President Wolfgang Grossruck head of the Organization's short-term observers mission at the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan, the OSCE told Trend.

The OSCE plans to send 450 observers to Azerbaijan, 50 of which are short-term.

The OSCE Baku Office announced today a number of principles to help ensure equitable media coverage ahead of the November parliamentary elections, following discussions at a roundtable event with political parties earlier this week, the office reported.

The following four main recommendations emerged as a result of the discussions: More than three hours per week of unpaid air time should be offered to political parties and candidates on both public television and public radio during the election campaign period. One third of this time should be allocated for debates and the rest for the candidates, to be used independently by the political parties; Opportunities to participate in news programmes, live forums, talk shows and other programming should be offered to representatives from all political parties on a non-discriminatory basis; Nationwide and regional private television channels should be encouraged to participate in the election campaign period and provide air time; Article 77.1 of the Election Code should be repealed to allow AzTV (the former state TV channel) to offer air time during the election campaign period.

The Azerbaijani Central Election Commission (CEC) voiced its stance on increasing the amount of free TV airtime for candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections today.

"No country in the world discusses this issue because nowhere else are candidates provided with free airtime," CEC Secretary Natig Mammadov said. "One must create a fund and use this fund to achieve objectives and to receive certain powers."

Opposition parties expressed discontent with the level of free airtime at a round-table discussion organized by the OSCE Baku Office this week on the media's role in the elections.

According to Mammadov, airtime is given to electoral candidates for free only in Azerbaijan.

"Perhaps, someone does not want to use other means of propaganda to implement his electoral program and is just waiting for free airtime," he said.

The Association for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan (ACSDA) intends to hold exit-poll during the parliamentary elections, ACSDA Electoral Staff Head Maharram Zulfugarli told journalists on Friday.

"The ACSDA collegial meeting will decide on conducting exit-poll," Zulfugarli said. "The relevant decision will be made Sept.15."

Only one local organization - the Centre for Independent Studies ELS conducted exit-poll tt the last elections held in Azerbaijan.

Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan are scheduled for Nov. 7. The elections are held by the majority system in 125 constituencies.

Association plans to conduct the registration of observers, organize trainings for observers in all regions by local staff and t conduct outreach work to increase voter turnout in the regions from September.

Foreign policy



Strong, sustainable partnerships are built on long-term strategic interests and understanding, Azerbaijani Consul General to Los Angeles Elin Suleymanov belives.

Herein lies an important challenge the United States faces in Eurasia: Achieving both strategic and tactical goals requires outlook and commitment, Suleymanov said in his article published in the Washington Post.

The Obama administration's initial focus in the Caucasus has been to push the opening of the Armenia-Turkey border at any cost. This is a noble objective, Suleymanov said, but realistically, it can only be achieved as a part of a wider strategic vision. This was how, in the 1990s, the United States was able to build strong partnerships and help emerging nations establish themselves in the international community.

"It was a positive sign when Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, in Baku in early June to discuss security cooperation and Afghanistan, delivered a letter from President Obama emphasizing the need to broaden U.S.-Azerbaijani relations," Suleymanov said.

In his article, Suleymanov also raised the issue of democratic reforms in Azerbaijan. "Throughout the region, much remains to be done, but the steady progress should not be overlooked. In Azerbaijan, from establishment of the award-winning Oil Fund to rapidly growing levels of economic development, the process of nation-building has been vibrant and transformative. Institutional reforms take time," Suleymanov said.

Absence of a U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan does not affect the relations between the two countries, Presidential Administration Social and Political Department head Ali Hasanov told journalists on today. "Staff of the American diplomatic mission in the country performs the ambassador's functions," he said.

"But, according to the international practice, the state can not remain without an ambassador over a year. We therefore hope that the U.S. will appoint an ambassador to Azerbaijan in this interim period," Hasanov said.

The post of U.S. Ambassador in Baku has been vacant since the previous ambassador, Anne Derse, left it due to completion of her diplomatic mission, in July 2009.

Azerbaijan does not intend to join either NATO or the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), until these organizations condemned Armenia as an aggressor, Presidential Administration Social and Political Department head Ali Hasanov told journalists on today.

Azerbaijan refuses to join the CSTO, as it does not want to be in the same organization with the aggressor Armenia. Azerbaijan has nothing to discuss with the CSTO, until Armenia abandoned the aggressive policy and the organization has made a clear position in relation to the occupation and the aggressive policy of Armenia," Hasanov said.

Azerbaijan will join neither NATO nor the CSTO until it meets the country's interests, Hasanov said.

The acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Volodymyr Khandogiy Saturday received copies of credentials of newly appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Azerbaijan in Ukraine Eynulla Madatli, official website of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry reported.

During the meeting Khandogy and Madatli discussed current issues and priority actions for the development of Ukrainian-Azerbaijani relations in order to fill the strategic partnership between Ukraine and Azerbaijan with a real pragmatic content, the report said.

The two sides discussed preparation of the official visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Ukraine. During the visit the second meeting of the Council of Presidents of Azerbaijan and Ukraine should be held. The preparation of the eighth meeting of the Joint Ukrainian-Azerbaijani intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation was also discussed.

Azerbaijani Ambassador Shahin Abdullayev presented copies of his credentials on his appointment to Egypt to Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Azerbaijani embassy in this country told Trend.

The meeting discussed issues of mutual interest.

The opening of borders between Turkey and Armenia is not included in the agenda of NATO, deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Araz Azimov said.

"As a representative of the Ministry dealing with NATO matters, I can say that opening of borders between Turkey and Armenia is not included in the agenda of the alliance, and this issue was not discussed. This is - somebody's speculation," - deputy FM told journalists on Saturday.

Earlier, media reported that Turkey may temporarily open the border on Sept. 11- 17 as part of the NATO military exercises in Armenia. However, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu denied the rumors.

According to Azimov, upcoming activities of NATO and partner countries of the alliance in Armenia have been already prepared for several monthes.

"There are plans to transfer certain units of member countries and partners of NATO, sent to Armenia via Georgia. Also, the plans include the use of airspace. However, there was no consideration of any proposal, desire or demand regarding the transit of a convoy in Armenia through Turkey", - Azimov said.

Human rights

The new mechanism of naming in Azerbaijan is not contrary to legal norms, Director of the Information Technologies Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan (NASA) Rasim Aliguliyev told Trend.

Based on the new principle "traffic light", the names that correspond to national, cultural and ideological values of Azerbaijan will be included in the "green list" and there will not be any restrictions in the appropriation of these names. The second category of names will be included in the "yellow list" - the names that are objectionable, are not recommended, having an ugly sound in other languages. The names of the third category will be included in the "red list" and the appropriation of these names will not be allowed. These names include the names of persons who have committed aggression against the Azerbaijani people, names that have insulting meaning in our language.

"After dissemination of information on the new principle "traffic light" in the naming, some foreign media outlets have published information on alleged human rights violations. However, the laws of all European countries contain similar restrictions," said Aliguliyev.

According to him, the introduction of the new principle serves the preservation of national identity, the development of people, and the Azerbaijani people must present themselves properly in the global world.

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

August  22, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops in village Qizil Hajili in Gazakh region from positions outside village Berkaber in Ijevan region of Armenia,

from  positions outside nameless heights in Geranboy region at 13.00 to 13.05;

August 23  from positions outside village Saridjali in Agdam region at 00.05 to 00.15;

from positions outside village Qizil Oba in Terter region at 00.05 to 00.20

Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

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

Azerbaijan hopes that the recently renewed leasing agreement between Russia and Armenia on the Gumri military base will not negatively impact the resolution of the Karabakh conflict.

"Official Russian circles argue that the treaty signed in Armenia will not adversely affect the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP) Deputy Chairman, Executive Secretary Ali Ahmedov told journalists today.

Russia and Armenia recently signed a protocol amending a 1995 bilateral agreement on the Russian military base in Gumri, extending the lease by 24 years, RIA Novosti reported. The document was undersigned by the Armenian and Russian defense ministers.

The Azerbaijani government hopes to discuss the agreement with President Dmitry Medvedev during his upcoming visit to the country in September, Ahmedov said.

Aug. 23, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from positions in the nameless heights in the Goranboy region at 20.40-21.00, from positions outside the Goyarkh village in the Tartar region at 23.10-23.25, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

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

During the visit to Lebanon, a group of Armenian separatists headed by self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Head Bako Saakyan did not hold any meetings with the Lebanese official circles, Azerbaijani Honorary Consul in Beirut Nazih Gassub told Trend.

The delegation led by Saakyan held meetings with the Armenian communities in the Lebanese village of Anchar, which is populated mainly by Armenians and representatives of the Armenian Church, Gassub told Trend over the telephone.

Earlier, Armenian media reported that Saakyan and his delegation met with Lebanese ministers, deputies and heads of local self-government of Armenian descent, as well as the Catholicos of Cilicia Aram I.

However, Gassub refuted the information about the official meetings of Saakyan and his delegation with the Lebanese side, referring to the Lebanese authorities' response to the official request of the Azerbaijani side.

Regarding Armenia's information about presence of the official representation of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in Beirut, Gassub said that there is no agency, both private and official, which would named Karabakh and represented the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in Lebanon.

"Lebanon officially recognizes the Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan's territory," Gassub said.

Peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is of crucial importance to the Azerbaijani people and all Muslims, Chairman of the Caucasian Muslims Office (CMO), Sheikh-ul-Islam Haji Allahshukur Pashazade said at the meeting with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Cyril,  ITAR-TASS reported.

The sides discussed prospects of interfaith cooperation throughout the CIS today.

Pashazade paid tribute to the Patriarch's activities, stressing that he has "great authority" "not only in the Russian Orthodox world, but also in the Muslim".

Pashazade said he noted about this at the recent summit on the 50th anniversary of the League of Arab States held in Saudi Arabia. "Our joint work in this direction is evaluated not only in the religious world, but also by the leaders of nations. Not only the leaders of CIS countries, but also other states' leaders want to join our dialogue," he said.

"I am personally grateful for the support to our ideas on resolution of the Karabakh problem by peaceful means. It is very important for our people and our Muslims," Pashazade stressed. He highlighted the importance of the fact that the Catholicos of all Armenians took part the World Religious Summit in Baku.

Aug. 24, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from positions in the nameless heights in the Khojavand region at 15.30-15.40 and 21.00-21.05, as well as from positions in the nameless heights in the Goygol region at 16.00-16.10 and from positions outside the Tapgaragoyunlu village in the Goranboy region at 17.30-17.40, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

Further, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from positions outside the Ashagi Abdulrahmanli village in the Fizuli region at 23.40- 23.46, as well as from positions outside the Shurabad, Yusifjanli and Kangarli villages in the Agdam region at 21.30- 21.50, 22.20-22.30 and 01.30- 01.40 Aug.25, and from positions in the nameless heights in the Gedabek region at 00.45- 01.10, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

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

Aug. 25, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from positions outside the Sarijali and Yusifjanli villages in the Agdam region at 21.45-21.57 and 00.00-00.25 Aug.26, as well as from positions in the nameless heights in the Noyenberyan region of Armenia at 03.05-03.15, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

The Azerbaijani troops answered their fire. No causalities were reported

Aug. 26, the Armenian Armed Forces opened fire at Azerbaijani troops from positions in the nameless heights in the Fizuli region at 19.00-19.10, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.

The Azerbaijani troops answered their fire. No causalities were reported

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