BAKU: Azeri paper critical of Georgia’s “anti-smuggling operation”

Azeri paper critical of Georgia’s “anti-smuggling operation”

Zerkalo, Baku
1 Jun 04

The Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo has criticized the Georgian
authorities for acting “unprofessionally” during their recent
anti-smuggling operation on the border with Azerbaijan and called
for the use of “civilized” anti-smuggling tactics. It described
the operation in the Azeri-populated region of Georgia as “dirty
provocation” aimed “to deport the entire population” of this region.
In an interview with the newspaper, the leader of Georgia’s ethnic
Azeri movement said that he was “outraged about the mass arrests of
our compatriots” during the operation especially as many of those
arrested had nothing to do with the border incident. The following is
an excerpt from report by M. Yasaroglu, A. Rasidoglu in Azerbaijani
newspaper Zerkalo on 1 June headlined “Over 100 Azeris have been
arrested in Georgia”; subheadings have been inserted editorially

Georgia has tightened control on the border with Azerbaijan and, in
fact, has closed down the state border, the leader of the movement
Qeyrat [of ethnic Azeris in Georgia], Zumrud Qurbanli, has told

Meanwhile, according to information from the Georgian Security
Council, the Red Bridge checkpoint will be temporarily closed within
the framework of the programme to combat smuggling from Azerbaijan
(Turan news agency).

[Passage omitted: Georgian officials comment on the border incident
with Azeris on 30 May; Azeri ambassador to Georgia deals with the

Yesterday [31 May] the Georgian ambassador [to Azerbaijan] told
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov about the results of
a sitting of the Georgian Security Council and, particularly, with
regard to the situation on the border. According to Mammadyarov, the
traffic on the Red Bridge has not been blocked. “Certain clashes have
occurred there between law enforcement agencies and Georgian citizens
of Azerbaijani origin,” Mammadyarov said. He added that “Georgia is
our strategic partner and a friendly country, that is why, stability
and tranquility there have major importance to us.”

Paper cannot share Azeri foreign minister’s optimism

We would like to share Mammadyarov’s optimism, but facts are
different. Long before [Georgian President] Mikheil Saakashvili’s
election there were fears that he will do his best to deport the
entire population of “naughty Borcali [Azerbaijani name of Georgia’s
Kvemo-Kartli region]” whom he describes as “Tatars” and “second-rate
people” [Passage omitted: about Saakashvili’s election promises to
guarantee the rights of ethnic Azeris].

But completely different processes started after the elections which
allowed us to assume that the new Georgian president’s election
promises, to put it mildly, are not being fulfilled. What happened
after Saakashvili’s election as president? Contrary to his promises,
he has given all lands of Borcali to [ethnic] Georgians lessees,
and only their scanty part, which is unsuitable for use, has been
given to Azeris. The Azeris are being denied all rights, including
the right to land, by the new Georgian political leadership. The
Georgian leadership’s policy is not logical – it’s a fact.

Zerkalo newspaper has repeatedly talked about the violation of rights
of our compatriots in Georgia, a country via which territory we are
laying an oil pipeline to Europe and for whom we have arranged reduced
transport tariffs. True, Saakashvili himself understands fully well
that Azerbaijan would not have agreed to the oil pipeline going via
Armenian territory and the USA was categorically against “the Iranian
route”. The only choice was “the Georgian scenario””…[ellipsis
as published].

As a result of Saakashvili’s policy, the Azeris living in Georgia
are concerned about their fate. There is no need for them to be
afraid of being sacked, as they are already being persecuted and
arrested. [Passage omitted: only three ethnic Azeris have been elected
to the Georgian parliament].

No link between border incident and “anti-smuggling operation” in
Azeri v illages

The movement Qeyrat is the only organization which supports our
compatriots. Zumrud Qurbanli is outraged about the mass arrests of
our compatriots.

[Qurbanli] The Georgian media outlets have been trying to analyse
the unfolding events from various positions and angles. The incident,
which happened around the customs checkpoint, is being taken as the
basis. But this is not just about the incident on the Red Bridge. The
main events occurred not on the border, but in the villages of
(?Garadzhalar) and (?Politsala), 5-10 km from Tbilisi.

The events at the customs checkpoint and in these villages can be
linked indirectly only because 60 km separate these two areas. Had
it been only about smuggling, they could have been dealt with that
en route.

Second, nobody objects to the Georgian authorities’ anti-smuggling
operations. But one should not carry out operations of this kind so
unprofessionally and in the homes of innocent people. Even if there
was information about smuggled goods in someone’s house, there was
no need to humiliate the whole village.

Many buses in Georgia pass the Red Bridge and, naturally, they are
being first of all checked by border guards, the customs as well
as other state bodies. One should not forget that a bus carrying
smuggled goods could have been detained while it was covering the
60 km en route to the village. So, I cannot agree with those who say
that they allegedly “came to the village to confiscate the smuggled
goods brought precisely by this bus “. This is a lie.

How could the Georgian customs have missed this bus? It is
impossible. It is impossible to take even a bag across the border
without the state bodies’ inspection.

Authorities could have informed village administration about operation

I recall that nearly two to three months ago the governor of Kvemo
Kartli called for measures to combat smuggling by the village of
Politsala. This proves that “carrying out measures” has been planned
long ago. But how did they carry out the operation? At 0200 [2100
gmt on 29 May] nearly 200 people in masks burst into the Azerbaijani
village and started to shoot randomly. This is a sign of unprofessional
approach to say the least.

[Passage omitted: background information]

There is another issue of concern, i.e. the Georgian side has
instituted legal proceedings against more than 100 Azeris, who
were arrested and whose property was confiscated. Many of those
arrested had nothing to do with the incident on the Red Bridge. That
is why, I believe that this dirty provocation may seriously damage
Azerbaijani-Georgian relations. There are civilized ways of combating
smuggling and the border service and the customs should start to
do this.

[Passage omitted: the Qeyrat movement tries to protect the rights of
the Azeris and some forces could make use of arrests; Azeri parliament
and envoy to Georgia are dealing with this issue as well]

[Zerkalo] The aforesaid operation was carried out after [Azerbaijani
President] Ilham Aliyev’s statement about his forthcoming visit to
Georgia. In your opinion, could this incident lead to the postponement
of the visit?

[Qurbanli] Ilham Aliyev’s visit has nothing to do with
Georgian-Azerbaijani relations because he is planning to attend
the GUUAM’s [Georgia-Ukraine-Uzbekistan-Azerbaijan-Moldova] regular
sitting. Thus, the recent events will have no impact on the Azerbaijani
president’s visit to Georgia. It is necessary to establish relations
with Georgia as both countries will benefit from this. This will,
in turn, help solve problems of the Azeris in Georgia.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS