While commenting on the role of the West in the last parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan in an interview to Day.az, People’s Artist of Azerbaijan Flora Kerimova says that the opposition knew beforehand that the US would recognize the elections. It is the US who has backed all the previous electoral frauds, it was the US who sanctioned the shooting of people Oct 16 2003, says Kerimova. She says that there can be controversial attitudes to Russia’s policy, but that country has been following one single line from the very beginning. “While the US, first promising to support democracy, betrays believing people at the last moment. By some ill chance for Azerbaijan, these confronting super powers have turned out to be pursuing similar interests in our country. They do not care for democracy in Azerbaijan. They do not want to see it independent. Such was the case with all the previous polls, such was it this time too,” says Kerimova.
“The report that Azerbaijan hosts a secret US jail is a fiction,” Azeri Justice Minister Fikret Mamedov told journalists Dec 7. He said that the Council of Europe’s investigation has nothing to do with Azerbaijan. Baku has prisoner exchange agreements with Iran and the CE countries and is concluding similar agreements with other countries too. Mamedov reported several Iranian prisoners to have recently been handed over to their country. Mamedov said that Azerbaijan’s penitentiary is under constant public control, with civil advocates regularly visiting jails to monitor the situation there. (525th Daily)
“The special group set up for seeing if there are secret CIA jails in the CE member-states is now probing into the report,” CE Secretary General Special Representative to Azerbaijan Mats Lindberg said in Baku Dec 8. Noting that, to this end, the group would send experts to the countries supposedly hosting CIA jails, Lindberg said that he did not believe in the existence of such facilities in Azerbaijan: “I think there are no such jails in Azerbaijan.” To remind, earlier CE Secretary General Terry Davis asked 46 CE member countries to inform if there are secret CIA prisons in their territories. (New Time)
In the near future Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan may join one of the two blocs in the CIS territory, Russian expert, Head of the foreign policy department of Kommersant daily Azeri Mursaliyev says in an interview to Trend. He says that some CIS countries are seeking to cling together into a denser nucleus inside the commonwealth. These are the countries of EurAsEC (EurAsian Economic Community) and CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization). “This nucleus has already taken shape. These are the Central Asian states, except for Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, with the latter already at the orbit,” says Mursaliyev. On the other hand there is an “orange nucleus” — such countries as Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. Mursaliyev says that the former group is apparently seeking closer partnership with China — for all of them are members to SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization). The latter group are as apparently integrating into Europe, this implying their further joining the EU and NATO. “As a matter of fact, what is going on in the politics in the CIS is just existing realities taking their form,” Mursaliev says noting that it is almost impossible for Azerbaijan to join CSTO and further SCO as Azerbaijan’s foreign policy is interdependent on Armenia’s one. “With Armenia already being member to CSTO, Azerbaijan has almost no access thereto. And so Azerbaijan has one way to go — to the West,” says Mursaliyev.
2006 will be a “window” in the Karabakh problem and an excellent chance for solving it, US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Reno Harnish said in a meeting with Hazar University students Dec 9. He said that the US advocates peaceful and long-term resolution through a fair dialogue. “We are interested in the conflict settlement and are making efforts to this end in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group,” Harnish said noting that in mid-Dec the co-chairs would come on a regular visit to Baku. Commenting on the possibility of resumed military actions, Harnish said that new armed conflict will lead to even “bigger casualties.” “New war may destabilize the whole South Caucasus and put an end to Azerbaijan’s economic development hopes,” Harnish said. (New Time)
Asked by Hazar University students what is priority for the US — stability or democracy, US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Reno Harnish said: “Stability in one or another countries can be achieved through democracy, and the US is not going to sacrifice democracy for stability.” There was special rapture about the following question by one student: “The US has provided the Azeri law enforcement bodies with $2.5 mln. Is this money to help the police to grow even tougher in handling demonstrators?” A bit dumbfounded by the question, Harnish said that this money is to improve mutual understanding between the police and the civil population. (Zerkalo)
Concerning the intention of the Azadlyg opposition MPs to boycott the work of the parliament, Harnish said that it is for the anti-government camp to decide how to act. At the same time, he noted that parliament is an advantage for the opposition — a tribune they can use to opine on one or another issue. The wider the spectrum of personal views in the parliament, the more effective it is.
Dec 13 Azeri opposition leaders, civil advocates and heads of NGOs addressed a joint message to the CE top officials, PACE rapporteurs on Azerbaijan, heads of PACE committees, delegations and political groups, PACE members. “Some of us signed under the commitments Azerbaijan undertook when joining the Council of Europe five years ago, and this was our manifested will to live in a state respecting the elementary norms of democracy and human rights,” says the address. But having joined the CE and undersigned to a number of basic conventions, the Azeri authorities are now implementing a policy quite “contrary” to expected democracy development and human rights protection.
“In Jan PACE is to meet to confirm the mandates of national delegations, including the Azeri one. But if PACE confirms the mandate of the Azeri delegation, this will thaw the last unthawed patches of democracy in the hearts of the Azeri people. The lost of belief in the democratic values will lead to radical moods in society and the people may turn their backs to democracy.” (TURAN)
With the passions still high over the Russian Gazprom’s raising gas price for Azerbaijan, another Russian monopolist, RAO UES, has announced rising prices for electricity export to the country, reports Echo Dec 8. Azerenergy reports Azeri Energy Ministry to get an official notification from RAO UES in late Nov that the company is going to raise the price for electricity export to Azerbaijan. Azerenergy followed up with a relevant letter to the Cabinet of Ministers. Azerbaijan has imported electricity from Russia (not to confuse with energy exchange) since 2001. Then the price was 2 US cents for 1 KW/h, now it is already 2.99 US cents with RAO UES proposing raising it to 3.99 US cents Jan 1 2006.
SOCAR President Natik Aliyev says that if Gazprom raises its gas price to $140-160/1,000 c m, Azerbaijan may refuse to import the gas at all, reports Echo. The director of the Public Finance Monitoring Center Inglab Ahmedov believes that following the rise Azerbaijan may either reduce its purchases or stop them at all. “The bigger part of the Russian gas is used for generating electricity. We have, to date, been selling our mazut worldwide at moderate prices. If it turns out to be no longer profitable to import gas, we can resume using mazut in electric power engineering. But every year we find alternatives, i.e. we keep augmenting the output of alternative gas at Azeri-Cirag-Gunesli fields. But should we come to stop the import, we will suffer from gas shortages this winter,” says Ahmedov.
The gradual rise process launched in 2004 has been affecting the welfare of the population. The rise has strongly impacted the market, especially strongly as no preparatory work has been done like, say, installation of meters. It should be noted that one more Russian company, RAO UES, is also going to raise the price of its electricity in Azerbaijan from 2.99 US cents to 3.99 US cents per 1 kw/h. The chief engineer of Azerenergy Saleh Mamedov says that RAO UES has already proposed discussing the supply contract in 2006.
“They say that this is because of the rising energy resource prices,” says Mamedov. In this connection, Azerenergy has appealed to the Azeri Government. “Our talks will depend on what the Government decides. There can be different scenarios here — from cutting the import to stopping it at all. In the latter case, the sides may agree on equal mutual electricity transfers depending on day hours.” Echo reports Azerenergy Vice President Marlen Askerov to say that whether to resume or to stop the import will depend on what the Government decides — for it is the state who gives money for the purchase of electricity. We have, so far, got Russian electricity at peak hours in both winter and summer in amount of 1 bln KW/h.
The opposition MP Ali Masimov says that Russia’s raising its gas and electricity prices is a normal act. “We sell our oil at world prices, why can’t they do the same? Oil and gas are sold at world prices worldwide. So, until we start extracting gas from Shahdeniz field, we should search for alternatives. For example, we can buy gas from Turkmenistan — but will that country agree to sell gas lower than in the world?” (Echo)
Azerbaijan-Armenia. Karabakh Problem
“17 years have passed since the deportation of Azeris from Armenia committed by the Armenian authorities Nov-Dec 1988. Turned out from Armenia then were 182,000 Azeris (UNHCR data), 18,000 Kurds and 1,000 Russians (the data of Supreme Refugee Council Commission). At the same time, Armenian extremists killed 216 Azeris with many severely tortured: 2 people were beheaded, 11 burned alive, 1 hanged, 29 run over by cars, 41 beaten to death, 3 dismembered. While crossing mountains 49 refugees froze to death, 8 were missing. Some more people died failing to bear the horrors of deportation. USSR Interior Ministry reported 57 women and 23 children among the killed. It was the finale of the campaign to deport Azeris from Armenia launched in 1905.” (Zerkalo)
“It is time to understand one simple truth. The early settlement of the Armenian-Azeri conflict serves the interests of both Armenia and Azerbaijan. Otherwise, both sides risk being sent to ‘the back seats of Europe’ to be constantly ‘ordered about’ by the strong and mighty. It is enough mentioning that Georgia is already negotiating over the EU New Neighborhood program, while Azerbaijan and Armenia are not. Ukraine will shortly be given the status of market economy, while Azerbaijan and Armenia can only dream of it,” says Zerkalo.
“It is time to realize that the future of both Azerbaijan and Armenia, the future of their two peoples cannot be tied to the formal belonging of a territory of some 5,000 sq km to one or another country. Today, given globalization and fight of resources, economic, geopolitical, human, one can subdue part of the world by levers of no direct force. This is, primarily, what both sides should think of now. And, frankly speaking, Azerbaijan enjoys far bigger chances in this game — for Armenia has made a foolish slip by rejecting the stage-by-stage settlement scenario in 1998. Now one simply needs a bit more wisdom to find rational solutions to one’s home problems. However, the last parliamentary elections have shown that wisdom and rationalism is exactly what we are lacking today…”
“We know that Armenia is arming itself,” the press office of Azeri Defense Ministry has told Day.az. “We are also informed that Armenian Defense Ministry has bought from the Russian open JSC ‘NII STALI’ (Institute for Protection of People and Arms) protective blankets for tanks that make the object (tank) invisible. As to the Azeri army, next year the military budget of Azerbaijan will amount to $600 mln. Baku has repeatedly pronounced for resolving the Karabakh conflict by peace. But Armenia’s non constructive stance is forcing us to seek for other ways to solve the problem, including military ones,” says the Defense Ministry’s press office.