Books on Azerbaijan
Update No: 284- (27/08/04)
Armenia facing pressure on Nagorno-Karabakh issue
Armenian President Robert Kocharian's administration appears to be facing
increasing pressure to soften its stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Reports
suggesting that Armenia is willing to explore the return of Azerbaijani
territory seized during the Karabakh conflict, are threatening to stir domestic
political trouble for Kocharian.
Both Armenian and Azerbaijani media have reported that the United States, in
seeking to break the existing stalemate in Karabakh peace talks, is pressing
Armenia to agree to the return of Azerbaijani regions captured during the
1991-94 conflict.. According to the reports, Armenia is being asked to return
anywhere between three and six of the seven areas seized from Azerbaijan. The
only area that reportedly has not come up in discussions is Lachin, the corridor
of land that connects Karabakh with Armenia proper. Kocharian has adamantly
opposed giving back what Armenians describe as "liberated territories"
as a precondition to a comprehensive peace settlement.
A recent article published by the Turkish newspaper Zaman quoted Turkish Foreign
Minister Abdullah Gul as saying that Yerevan was prepared to discuss the return
of the territories. Gul mentioned a meeting of the foreign ministers of Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Turkey, held on the sidelines of the June 28-29 NATO summit in
Istanbul, saying that the Armenian participant, Vartan Oskanian, declared:
"We [Armenia] can withdraw from all territories except Karabakh."
Oskanian subsequently denied making any such statement during the meeting.
Kocharian's ambiguous comments during a June 23 session of the Council of
Europe's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) helped fuel speculation about a possible
deal. Kocharian stated at one point that the question of what Azerbaijani
insists are "occupied lands" could have been settled long ago if Baku
had implemented the so-called Key West principles, which reportedly mandated
that Armenia vacate captured Azerbaijani territory. He also emphasized that any
potential handover would have to be part of overall Karabakh settlement.
"We are ready for serious negotiations on a full-scale solution to the
conflict," Armenia Today reported Kocharian as telling PACE. "That is
exactly why we have accepted the last formula for resolution offered by
international mediators which, unfortunately, [was] rejected by
Some Armenian observers have speculated that Kocharian may have been seeking to
prepare Armenian public opinion for a policy shift on the territory handover
issue. Azerbaijan has denied that any bargain was struck during the Key West
peace talks in 2001.
The speculation swirling around the Karabakh issue comes at an awkward political
moment for Kocharian. Though opposition coalition protests that roiled Yerevan
this spring have been suspended, Kocharian critics remain committed to a
six-month boycott of the Armenian parliament. Despite the coalition's relative
weaknesses, any effort to return Azerbaijani territory could potentially give
the opposition an issue with which it could inflict considerable damage on
Kocharian is no doubt mindful of the circumstances that led to his rise to the
presidency. In 1998, the willingness of then-president Levon Ter-Petrosian to
embrace a gradual approach to a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement sparked a chain of
events that led to his forced resignation.
A June 25 opinion poll, carried out by the Armenian Centre for National and
International Studies, underscored the risks for Kocharian. It found that only 1
percent of the 1,950 respondents polled nationwide believed that the captured
territories should be returned to Azerbaijan. By contrast, 45.5 percent wanted
the lands to remain under Armenian control. Another 11.2 percent called for the
regions to be equally divided between Armenia and Azerbaijan, while just under a
third said that they should be made part of Nagorno-Karabakh. At the same time,
only 2.5 percent of the survey's respondents expressed trust in the Armenian
authorities to resolve the Karabakh stalemate.
Meanwhile, there are signs coming out of Azerbaijan that Baku's Karabakh
negotiating position is hardening. In July 16 talks with the OSCE Minsk Group,
which oversees the Karabakh peace process, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev,
Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Defense Minister Safar Abiyev maintained
that Armenia must meet four 1993 UN resolutions that call for the country's
unconditional withdrawal from land outside of Karabakh. During a public
appearance July 20, Aliyev vowed that Azerbaijan "would liberate its
occupied territories at any cost," the Turan news agency reported.
The Minsk Group's US, French and Russian co-chairmen -- Steven Mann, Henri
Jacolin and Yuri Merzlyakov -- cautioned that the two countries' failure to
compromise could lead to a resumption of hostilities over Karabakh. Concerns
about a renewed outbreak of fighting have risen in recent weeks.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Azeri leader, Greek tourism minister discuss cooperation
Prospects for cooperation in the field of tourism between Azerbaijan and Greece
were discussed at a meeting between Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, and
Greek Minister of Tourism, Dhimitrios Avramopoulos, on August18th. Aliyev noted
the need to develop bilateral relations, in particular, in the field of tourism,
Trend News Agency reported.
The minister said that Greek tourist companies were interested in cooperation
with Azerbaijan. He said that the World Tourism Organization, on whose board
Greece sits, also attached great importance to Azerbaijan.
Azeri leader, Greek pipeline construction company official discuss cooperation
Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, who was visiting Athens, received Najib
Khoury, group vice-president (business development) of the Consolidated
Contractors International Company of Greece (CCIC [Greek contractor in charge of
the construction of the Azerbaijani section of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline]) on
August16th, Assa-Irada reported.
According to information from the presidential press service, Khoury noted that
all the conditions had been created in Azerbaijan for proper work and informed
the president about the work the company had recently conducted in the country.
President Aliyev said that the government would continue rendering assistance to
foreign companies and businessmen working in Azerbaijan.
They exchanged views on issues related to the development of infrastructure in
the oil sector.
Azerbaijan, Iran sign cooperation agreements
Ten agreements on cooperation between Azerbaijan and Iran in various spheres
were signed in Baku on August 5th, Interfax News Agency reported
An Interfax correspondent reported that Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, and
Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, took part in the signing.
The agreements include a deal on Iran presenting a US$75m credit to construct
four substations for the Imisli-Ali-Bayramli-Astara power line, as well as an
agreement on cooperation in the sphere of exchanging natural gas.
The sides signed a memorandum of mutual understanding between the two countries'
ecology agencies, and an agreement on cultural cooperation, a protocol on
cooperation in the transport sphere and a memorandum on the financing of the
Baku-Astara road's reconstruction.
A memorandum on trade in regions near the border, an intergovernmental trade
agreement and an intergovernmental agreement in the spheres of security and
law-enforcement have also been signed.
FOREIGN LOANS & AID
Iran allocates US$75m loan for energy projects in southern Azerbaijan
The Export Development Bank of Iran has allocated a US$75m credit for the
construction of the Imisli - Ali Bayramli - Astara [towns in Azerbaijan] power
line and four substations, Bilik Dunyasi News Agency reported.
Experts reckon that it will take between 20 to 24 months to complete the
project. It is expected that in line with the Azerbaijani legislation Azarenerji
[Azerbaijani energy] will soon hold a tender to determine the main subcontractor
for the project. The tender's results will be known in September or October.
In the course of recent years, the Azarenerji joint-stock company has
implemented a number of projects in tandem with its Iranian partners in order to
increase the quality and reliability of electricity transmission. For instance,
the project on increasing the technical capabilities for energy exchange between
Iran and Azerbaijan from 200 to 700 MW requires fundamental reconstruction -
which is equivalent to construction - of three major substations. These include
a 330-kV substation in Imisli, a 330-kV substation in Ali Bayramli, and a 220-kV
substation in Masalli, and the construction of a brand new powerful 220-kV
substation in Salyan.
This significant power grid construction will virtually double Iran's
electricity supplies to the NAR [Naxcivan Autonomous Republic, Azerbaijan's
exclave]. Some of the electricity transmitted in summer through these
high-voltage power lines may be used in Azerbaijan during winter. That is,
electricity supplies to Azerbaijan's southern districts, where some two million
people live, will be improved.
Aliyev confirms deal with EBRD
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has confirmed a credit agreement with the European
Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which will extend €41m for
overhauling the Kazi-Magomed-Kyurdamir highway, the presidential administration
as said on August 2nd, Interfax News Agency reported.
Azerbaijan has been an EBRD member since 1992. The bank has extended the country
a credit totalling more than €141m. The EBRD plans to allocate €350m in
credits for Azerbaijan in 2004.
Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey sign memo on railway construction
The Turkish, Azerbaijani and Georgian transport ministers signed a memorandum of
intentions on the construction of the Kars - Akhalkalaki section of the Kars -
Akhalkalaki - Baku railway recently in Ankara, Assa-Irada reported.
Azerbaijani Transport Minister, Ziya Mammadov, has said that the construction of
the Kars-Akhalkalaki section will help establish a permanent railway link
between Turkey and Azerbaijan through Georgia. He added that the sides would
prepare a feasibility study of the railway in the near future and seek funds for
the project that will cost about US$400m.
Of the 120-km-long Kars-Akhalkalaki railway, 90 km will pass through Turkey and
30 km through Georgia.
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