Books on Azerbaijan
Update No: 292- (26/04/05)
In recent weeks, a number of anti-government coalitions have emerged in
Azerbaijan with the aim of winning parliamentary seats in elections in November.
The opposition in the past has often failed to join forces in time to make a
political impact. But leaders of these groups say they have learned from past
mistakes and are determined to work together in order to bring democratic change
to the country.
Several opposition leaders and former government officials announced on 12th
April the creation of a new election bloc to run for seats in Azerbaijan's Milli
Meclis, or national parliament. The alliance is known as Yeni Siyaset (New
Politics). It includes Namazov, the chairman of Azerbaijan's Public Forum
nongovernmental organization, and a onetime aide of late President Heidar Aliyev.
Other members are Lale Sovket, the former chairwoman of Azerbaijan's Liberal
Party and a former secretary of state; and Etibar Mammedov, the former chairman
of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP).
Namazov said the ultimate aim of the Yeni Siyaset alliance is to put an end to
"a regime based on clan logic and corruption." He said that the bloc's
goals are detailed in a seven-point programme for leading the country in the
transition from authoritarianism to democracy.
Yeni Siyaset "will fight for free elections -- be they presidential,
legislative, or municipal -- and in-depth democratic reforms. In other words,
this bloc has not just been created in anticipation of the upcoming
[parliamentary] polls. We have broader strategic aims. We want authoritarianism
and Azerbaijan's corrupt politics to give way to a new, democratic system,"
The next democratic revolutionary?
Although not widely known in the West, Namazov has long been active in
Azerbaijani politics. From 1993 to 1999, he served as head of Heidar Aliyev's
secretariat. He then entered parliament in 2000, but was barred from running in
the controversial presidential poll in 2003.
That vote saw Aliyev's son, Ilham, win by a landslide and launch a crackdown on
the opposition, whom he accused of stirring up political unrest.
Unlike Namazov, some founding members of Yeni Siyaset did run in the 2003
presidential polls. Sovket, running as an independent candidate, officially took
3.3 percent of the vote. Mammedov won 2.7 percent.
Both Sovket and Mammedov claimed the vote was fraudulent. But neither joined the
street protests staged by the Musavat Party, whose chairman, Isa Qambar, had
finished second in the presidential race.
The new alliances are a departure from past opposition partnerships. In the
run-up to the 2003 elections, Mammedov, then head of AMIP, teamed up with Ali
Kerimli, the chairman of the reformist wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular
But Mammedov has since left the AMIP and joined Yeni Siyaset. For his part,
Kerimli allied himself with Qambar's Musavat and the Democratic Party of exiled
oppositionist Rasul Quliyev.
Kerimli said that the Azerbaijani opposition has learned its lesson from the
previous election campaign. This time, instead of waiting until late in the race
to join ranks, he says they have decided to consolidate well in advance.
"For us these elections are not mere elections. They are a way to achieve
freedom of choice," Kerimli said. "But we won't be able to reach this
goal if we remain isolated. This is why it is indispensable for us to join
forces. After analyzing the 2003 polls and their outcome, we came to the
conclusion that we must put our forces and resources together and get prepared
well in advance if we want to avert a new defeat. This is why we started our
election campaign so early."
Kerimli said the crackdown that followed Ilham Aliyev's victory demoralized the
opposition, which went on to boycott the 2004 municipal elections. But he said
the tide has reversed and that "the opposition is now much stronger than
Both Kerimli and Namazov said it is possible their alliances will back a single
candidate in November. It remains unclear, however, whether the Azerbaijani
opposition will be able to overcome its traditional divisions.
Already, a number of AMIP and Democratic Party figures have been lured into a
third antigovernment coalition created in January. Known as Hemreylik ve Etimad
(Solidarity and Trust), this alliance is chaired by Ilqar Qasimov, a former
Russian Justice Ministry official and a reported co-author of the Russia-Belarus
Many in Baku suspect that despite its self-described opposition stance, this
bloc may prove to be either a government puppet or a way for Russia to maintain
influence in Azerbaijani politics. By contrast, the blocs chaired by Namazov and
Kerimli are widely perceived as being pro-Western, if only because their leaders
are regularly invited to meet decision makers in the United States and Europe.
Namazov said the West has been closely following developments in Azerbaijan, but
so far is wary of backing a single political group. "We've been developing
close ties with international structures and democratic countries, including the
United States and European states," he said. "But our feeling is that
they do not wish to lend support to any particular individual, or political
party. What Europe and the United States support, first of all, is
[Azerbaijan's] democratic process. They've stated that on more than one
occasion, and I believe they are sincere."
Namazov and Kerimli both noted that the West is currently pressing the
government to amend the existing election law and ensure that the upcoming vote
is fair and democratic. They also say it was Western pressure that forced Ilham
Aliyev to order the release of all opposition leaders sentenced last year for
their participation in the November 2003 unrest.
Both leaders say they want use elections to achieve democratic changes. But they
caution against a repeat of the recent political upheaval in Ukraine and
"We want these elections to be democratic, honest, and fair," Kerimli
said. "We're getting prepared for elections, not a revolution. We want
[everything] to go peacefully, democratically, and legally. But should the
government try to oppose this, should it attempt once again to falsify the
election's outcome, we will not let ourselves be pushed around and there will be
a popular resistance movement against frauds. If the government wants to avert
this, it has only one option -- to ensure that the upcoming polls are free and
Namazov said any perception of election fraud will inevitably lead to popular
resistance. He ruled out, however, the possibility of violent protests such as
the ones that followed the 2003 vote. "We believe society is mature enough
to not let a few thousand individuals armed with truncheons and stones confront
police forces," he said.
'Stone in the shoe' Journalist's murder
The murder of a prominent opposition journalist has raised Azerbaijan's
political temperature, ahead of parliamentary elections in November 2005. An
unknown assailant shot and killed 38-year-old Elmar Huseynov on March 2nd in the
hallway outside his apartment on the outskirts of Baku. Huseynov, the
editor-in-chief of the opposition Monitor magazine, was buried March 4th.
ne of Azerbaijan's best-known dissident journalists, Huseynov had frequently
tangled with authorities. Lawsuits brought by officials and Aliyev relatives
resulted in large fines against Monitor in recent years. In 2002, Huseynov
received a six-month prison term for allegedly slandering the mayor of Baku, but
was pardoned and released within two months.
Opposition members, human rights activists and journalists understandably take
the view that the killing was a politically motivated crime. Authorities,
including President Ilham Aliyev, have vigorously denied any involvement,
blaming the murder instead on a mysterious force that seeks to "discredit
Azerbaijan in a parliamentary election year."
Dismissing official rhetoric, many Azerbaijani journalists remain sceptical that
the government will vigorously pursue the Huseynov murder case. In an interview
with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Baku Press Club Deputy
Director Chingiz Sultansoy said that Huseynov had received several threats
recently and feared for his safety.
No prizes of course for identifying his political adversary as the government of
the country, who wanted him removed and have succeeded in that. Since they are
also the investigating authority, this is another "Don't hold your
breath" advisory, if you hoped or expected to see justice done.
ExxonMobil to stop drilling at Azeri fields
ExxonMobil has decided to terminate its exploration drilling programme at
Azerbaijan's Zafar-Mashal and Nakhichevan structures, Azeri state oil company
President, Natik Aliyev, said recently, Interfax News Agency reported.
Aliyev said that ExxonMobil has drilled one well at Zafar and does not want to
drill a second and added that Azerbaijan is waiting for their proposals.
ExxonMobil would probably pay compensation, the amount of which will be
determined at talks. Aliyev said a similar situation was emerging at the
Nakhichevan site. Aliyev said in November last year that ExxonMobil spent 150m
Euro drilling the first exploration well at the Zafar-Mashal. "This is the
most expensive well in the Caspian Sea, so I don't think ExxonMobil will drill a
second well in the contract area," Aliyev said. However he added that SOCAR
would require a second exploration well at the Nakhichevan structure, where
ExxonMobil is also project operator.
Azeri leader, Pakistani officials discuss boosting cooperation
President Ilham Aliyev, recently paid his first official visit to Pakistan. On
the first day of his visit, the president met the Pakistani foreign minister,
parliament speaker and President, Pervez Musharraf, Azad Azarbaycan TV reported.
As is the case at all meetings, during the talks with his Pakistani counterpart,
Aliyev drew attention to the elimination of the consequences of Armenia's
aggression against Azerbaija, the correspondent in Islamabad, Namiq Aliyev,
Azerbaijan and Pakistan have always supported each other in the settlement of
the Nagornyy Karabakh and Kashmir problems, Aliyev said at a meeting with
Pakistani Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, on the first day of his
visit to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
During the meeting, they stressed the importance of improving settlement
mechanisms within the framework of international organizations, including the
UN. Aliyev positively assessed the fact that Pakistan backed the initiative to
raise the issue of illegal settlement in Nagornyy Karabakh and adjacent
districts with the UN.
It was also noted during the meeting that trade between Azerbaijan and Pakistan
is not at the necessary level and that it is important to hold business forums
and encourage businessmen to pay mutual visits to boost these ties.
For his part, Pakistani Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, said it was
important to ease the visa regime between the two countries. The meeting also
discussed the opening of Karachi-Baku flights.
Furthermore, Aliyev met the speaker of the Pakistani National Assembly, Mr
Chaudhry Amir Hussain. During the meeting, Mr Chaudhry Amir Hussain recalled
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's visit to Azerbaijan last July and said
that important documents on developing bilateral ties were signed during the
In turn, President Ilham Aliyev positively assessed the fact that Pakistan backs
Azerbaijan's position on the settlement of the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict and
noted that dialogue between the two countries has become more intense since
Pervez Musharraf's visit.
The Pakistani parliament's speaker especially stressed the strengthening of ties
between the friendship groups of the two countries. Trade was discussed at the
meeting once again and it was noted that good opportunities have been created
for import and export and that it is important to use these opportunities.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Slovenian minister meets Azeri businessmen to boost economic ties
OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Slovenian Foreign Minister, Dimitrij Rupel, attended
an economic forum of Azerbaijani and Slovenian business people recently. The
Slovenian minister said that there are conditions for developing economic
cooperation between the two countries and added that his country was interested
in this, Space TV, Baku reported.
Azerbaijani Minister of Economic Development, Farhad Aliyev, said that
Azerbaijan is doing its best to avoid the Dutch syndrome. Special work is under
way to develop the regions, and businessmen who come to the country are being
encouraged to go to the regions.
Italian businessmen set to invest 20m euros in Azerbaijan's economy
Italian businessmen plan to invest 20m Euros in Azerbaijan's economy,
Italian ambassador to Azerbaijan, Margherita Costa, has told Azerbaijani
Agriculture Minister, Ismat Abbasov. Praising economic cooperation between the
two countries at a meeting with the Azerbaijani minister on 9th April, the
Italian ambassador said that relevant agreements had been signed between the
Azerbaijani and Italian governments during Azerbaijan President, Ilham Aliyev's,
visit to Italy in mid-March, Yeni Azarbaycan newspaper has reported.
The agriculture minister welcomed the move and said that all the
"conditions have been created in Azerbaijan" for foreign investments,
the newspaper said.
Azercell concludes one more roaming agreement
In order to extend the scope of an international line of communication for its
subscribers joint venture AzerCell Telecom has concluded one more roaming
agreement with China Mobile Company (CHNCM), AzerTAj reported recently.
This will play an important role in cooperation between Azerbaijan and China
which is one of the most important trade partners of Azerbaijan in all spheres.
This agreement will also help local and foreign businessmen as well as
compatriots living in China, to establish more comfortable communication. So
far, AzerCell Telecom JV has already concluded 226 roaming agreements with 102
mobile operators worldwide.
Azerbaijan, Greece sign agreement on developing tourism
A ceremony to sign an agreement on cooperation in the sphere of tourism between
Azerbaijan and Greece was held at the Yacht Club on 7th April. The document was
signed by Greek Minister of Tourism, Dhimitrios Avromopoulos, who was paying a
working visit to Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijani Minister of Youth, Sports and
Tourism, Abulfaz Qarayev, Turan News Agency reeported.
Qarayev pointed out after the ceremony that the agreement opened a new page in
Azerbaijani-Greek relations in the sphere of tourism and now a lot depends on
the two countries' travel agencies. He said that Azerbaijan could make use of
Greece's experience in developing the tourism industry.
In turn, the Greek minister stressed the invaluable role of tourism in
establishing peace and stability in the region and achieving economic progress.
He also said that an Azerbaijani-Greek business forum will take place in Baku in
October. It will be attended by representatives of the two countries' business
circles, including managers of travel agencies and hotels, as well as artists
Azerbaijan to have railway link with its exclave via Iran
The project envisaging the construction of a railway via Iran [from Azerbaijan]
to Naxcivan exclave under the blockade of Armenia is not all that viable, Deputy
Communication and Information Technologies Minister, Musa Panahov, has said.
Panahov added that other projects are currently being reviewed, Lider TV
"We are working on the North-South corridor project which envisages the
construction of a direct railway link between Azerbaijan and Iran. The railway
will be connected to Iran's Anzali-Rasht-Qazvin line via Astara [southern
district of Azerbaijan]. After we join the link, we will have a direct
connection with Naxcivan," Panahov said.