BAKU: Why do they ignore in Aliyev something they revile Lukashenko

Regnum, Russia
May 9 2006

`Why do they ignore in Aliyev something they revile Lukashenko for?’:
Azeri press digest

Ilham Aliyev’s visit to the US

Commenting on the official visit of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev to
Washington, Deputy Spokesman of the US Department of State Adam Ereli
said on April 25 that Azerbaijan is an important country for the US.
He said that the two countries have lots of mutual interests: human
rights, democratic development, energy security, regional stability,
fight with terrorism. The protection of human rights and democracy
continues to be the key topic of the US-Azeri dialogue, Ereli said.
He refuted the remark by one of the journalist that the invitation of
the president of Azerbaijan to Washington proves that the US closes
its eyes on the human rights and democracy problems in that country.
He said that the US has all the above goals, but also has its own
principles. (Turan)

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev spoke at the Council on Foreign
Relations of Carnegie Foundation on April 26. Turan reports him as
saying that the Karabakh conflict can be resolved only in line with
the international law and in the framework of Azerbaijan’s
territorial integrity. Aliyev confirmed Azerbaijan’s commitment to
provide Nagorno Karabakh with a high European-model autonomy. He said
that Armenia must stop its hostile policy towards its dynamically
developing neighbor. Azerbaijan wants the problem to be solved by
peace. `However, patience of the Azeri people may end one day,’
Aliyev noted. Concerning Iran, Aliyev said that Azerbaijan wants the
problem to be solved by peace. He explained that Azerbaijan and Iran
have an agreement forbidding them to use their territories against
each other. Asked if Azerbaijan may become a bone of contention
between the US and Russia, Aliyev said that should there be
contention between the US and Russia, Azerbaijan’s territory cannot
be an object for it.

During his visit to the US President Aliyev said that his country
would not take part in any anti-Iranian actions. `Azerbaijan
advocates peaceful resolution of problems in the region and it has an
agreement with Iran that the sides should not use their territories
for military actions against each other,’ Aliyev said. At the same
time, he noted that Baku gives strategic importance to its relations
with the US, and the two countries enjoy mutual understanding in
security and economy. (Real Azerbaijan)

The White House meeting of the US and Azeri presidents George Bush
and Ilham Aliyev will allow the two countries to establish closer
relations based on promotion of democracy, enhancement of security
and diversification of energy sources, Trend reports White House
Press Secretary Scott McClellan as saying. He called Azerbaijan a key
ally and valuable partner of the US in a strategically important
region. He also said that Bush is going to use this meeting to
confirm the US’ aspiration to help Azerbaijan to take necessary
measures to ensure bigger democratic freedoms for its people. The US
is ready to discuss its possible assistance in this matter.

US President George Bush and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev met in
Washington on April 28. In a joint statement after their 45-minute
meeting, they said that they had discussed regional security issues,
joint anti-terror efforts, situation over Iran, the Armenian-Azeri
conflict and energy security problems. Bush said that the US welcomed
Azerbaijan’s involvement in the anti-terror coalition. He also noted
that Aliyev and he are unanimous that the Iranian problem should be
solved by diplomatic means. Bush said that Azerbaijan plays an
important role in the region’s energy security. Aliyev highly
appreciated the US’ support in the development and transportation of
Azerbaijan’s energy resources to the world markets. (Trend)

On April 28, Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov said that
President Aliyev’s Washington talks were `very useful.’ He said that
the US wants to know Azerbaijan’s position on the Iranian problem.
`We say: Iran is our neighbor, a home to many Azeris. Via Iran we
carry cargoes to Nakhichevan, who also gets Iranian gas. That’s why
we say that we don’t want a war in Iran,’ Mamedyarov said. He said
that Tehran did not ask Baku about mediation in its conflict with
Washington. There is no need for such mediation for the time being.
`But if the sides wish, it will not be a problem for us,’ Mamedyarov
said. (Echo)

Asked by Turan: `Was the problem of Azerbaijan’s occupied borderline
territories discussed in Washington?’, Mamedyarov said that Baku
wants the Karabakh conflict to be resolved fully and quickly. He said
that, as an OSCE MG co-chair, the US is doing big work towards this
end.

Echo says: `Shortly before the Aliyev-Bush talks, the US media came
about a conclusion that was hardly comforting for those wanting war
in Iran: the Azeri president has refused to help the US in case of
its possible war against Iran. True, there is comforting news too –
Azerbaijan has given hope that there will be no oil crisis.’

The Christian Science Monitor says that despite being small
Azerbaijan’s international diplomacy is rather `heavy-weight.’ The
visit of the Azeri president is part of the Bush administration’s
actions to support its key region against the background of growing
conflict with Iran.

Concerning the Iranian problem, AP says that President Bush first
sought support in the matter from the Chinese leader who was in
Washington shortly before President Aliyev. Althouth, Bush failed
with Beijing, who does not want to act against its key oil supplier
Iran. Azerbaijan is Iran’s neighbor, and this time Bush pinned hopes
on Baku. But Aliyev too said that Azerbaijan will not take part in
any operation against Iran, says AP.

Echo points out interesting fact: shortly after President Aliyev’s
clear statement that Baku wants the Iranian problem to be solved by
peace, the US media covering the visit began speaking about democracy
problems in Azerbaijan. Human Rights Watch even urged Bush to exert
pressure on Aliyev. Bush must have ignored this urge. Well-known US
analyst Ariel Cohen believes that the US is improving its relations
with all Iran’s neighbors. In case economic or other sanctions are
applied against Iran, the US should cooperate with Azerbaijan more
tightly than Iran.

Commenting on Aliyev’s statements about Azerbaijan’s refusal to take
part in any actions against Iran, Ambassador of Iran to Azerbaijan
Afshar Suleimani told the press on April 28: `I would like to remind
you that the cooperation between Azerbaijan and Iran is obvious, and
if the US demands that Aliyev take actions against Iran (though I
think it won’t), Azerbaijan will naturally give a `no’ answer. I am
absolutely sure it will. I believe that during the Washington talks
Aliyev can force Bush to think this situation over. Why? Because
Aliyev is the president of the leading country of the South Caucasus,
and he certainly knows about the level of Azeri-Iranian relations,
about the region’s problems and can make Bush aware of the ones he is
not very much aware of. And Bush will have to be satisfied with this
information as it will give him a deeper insight into the situation.’
(ANS)

In his turn, the deputy executive secretary of the ruling Yeni
Azerbaycan party, MP Mubariz Gurbanli says to Echo that he agrees
with the position President Aliyev expressed in Washington. `I
approve of and support such a policy. We believe that the president
is conducting a very pragmatic, correct and useful policy. Our
foreign policy is well-balanced. Azerbaijan’s interests are superior
to any other interests. Azerbaijan is trying to protect them. We keep
up our contacts with the US, Russia, Turkey, Iran and other
neighboring countries, except Armenia. And we build our relations in
such a way as to be able to protect Azerbaijan’s interests in any
situation. That’s why the president’s statements and the general
success of his visit to the US have shown once again that Azerbaijan
is the leader in the region and continues to be well-balanced in its
policies.’

Zerkalo notes: `Despite all the troubles, Ilham Aliyev’s visit to the
US is an important milestone in the history of the Azeri diplomacy,
in general, and the Azeri-US relations, in particular. What real
fruits it will bear we will see in the near future. Well, already now
it is clear that they in the White House wanted the Azeri president
to be their guest because they wanted something from him. Nothing is
done for nothing in life and especially in politics. So, let’s seize
the opportunity…’

Zerkalo continues: `It’s time to sum up some results. First, no
agreemenst were signed during Aliyev’s visit. This proves that the
visit was not planned. And this proves that there was some high
urgency in such a tete-a-tete meeting. Second, if there was such an
urgency, the sides must have reached some unofficial `gentlemen
agreements.’ So, now it is very important to find out the extent of
coincidence of the sides’ real rather than declared goals. There are
certain indirect signs that the sides have reached some specific
`gentleman agreements.’ These agreements may have well been reached
long before, for example, during the shuttle voyages of US
high-raking emissaries to Baku or during Azeri FM Elmar Mamedyarov’s
Washington talks with Condoleezza Rice. And the official visit of the
Azeri president was necessary for ratifying these agreements by `a
strong friendly handshake.’ Whether anybody likes it or not, we have
witnessed such `a handshake.’ At least, during the briefing following
the tete-a-tete meeting, Bush aptly bypassed all the sharp questions
and congratulated Aliyev on the coming wedding of his daughter. One
makes no such compliments in public when there are no `gentlemen
agreements.’ Third, after Aliyev’s Washington visit, we can be sure
that the `Prague process’ will be continued.’

Commenting on Aliyev’s visit to the US, The Economist compares two
cases of electoral fraud (with political arrests before and beating
of protesters after) and two mustached post-Soviet leaders. The one
who is balder Alexander Lukashenko was censured by the US both before
and after senseless presidential election in Belarus last month. The
other Ilham Aliyev, whose supporters got all the seats in the Azeri
parliament in absurd elections last year, will get this week
something he has craved for a long time – a meeting with US President
George Bush in America. But, in this particular case, the hospitality
of the US President is a mistake. There are two reasons why. The
first one is a moral one. Aliyev got his post from his father in
2003. The Aliyevs have ruled Azerbaijan almost throughout its
post-Soviet history, just like Lukashenko in Belarus. Aliyev Junior
protects human rights in word but violates them in action, and
probably as much as in Belarus. Azerbaijan is the world’s most
corrupt state. Although, the question is not so much if there is
moral reason for Aliyev’s visit as if there is political sense in it.
And there is obviously no sense. Why do they ignore in Aliyev
something they revile Lukashenko for? Because Belarus is a poor
Slavonic state with no sea, while Azerbaijan is a Muslim state with
oil rich shore in the Caspian Sea and a border with Iran. US Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has begun visiting Azerbaijan suspiciously
often and people have begun to rumor that Azerbaijan may be useful
for the US’ military operations. In the north Azerbaijan borders on
Russia, which makes is a part of the West-Kremlin fight for sway in
the post-Soviet area. Oil and geographical situation make Azerbaijan
much too important for the US to risk to cause the Azeri president’s
estrangement. The Azeri opposition is too weak and disintegrated to
offer real alternative. Unfortunately, Aliyev has already proved its
ability to feign liberal instincts, to reasonably explain abuses and
to keep promising progress. Aliyev is too intolerant to opposition
and too tolerant to corruption and inequality. Oil dollars will make
Azerbaijan’s position even stronger. But such public recognition may
prove bad not only for Azerbaijan but, in the long run, for America
itself – for Aliyev has one more thing in common with Lukashenko:
they will not rule for ever. If Aliyev is compelled to move in the
right direction, Azerbaijan may well become a prospering and
democratic Muslim state one day. Otherwise, America will get in an
unstable region a rich Muslim country, disappointed with democracy
and the West and receptive to other ideas.

Commenting on Aliyev’s visit to Washington, Haaretz daily (Israel)
says: `The corrupt leader of Azerbaijan has got the long-awaited
invitation from Washington. The Americans have simply understood that
they should either clench their teeth and try closing their eyes on
Azerbaijan’s reluctance to hold any reforms and negligence of the
principles of democratization, or allow it to go under Vladimir
Putin’s sway. The Americans have been forced to make a similar choice
with one more dictator – Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The
American frankness has also disappeared from the US’ statements on
Russia. Reports and speeches praise freedom and progress, while US
top officials are trying hard to point out that Russia is committed
to cooperation, is firm and influential. US Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, expert in Soviet studies, rules out any possibility
of a new Cold War in a new form. What are you talking about, I was
there, and this is already is a different story, she says. In her
contacts with Russian politicians she is based on the `realism’ of
Bush Senior: to improve relations between big powers at the expense
of liberalism. They simply have no choice.’

Politics

The head of the social-political department of the Azeri president’s
staff Ali Gasanov regrets that the Azeri opposition leaders show
negative attitude to Ilham Aliyev’s visit to the US. He says that it
does them no credit to show opposition to the country’s statehood and
national interests: `To be in opposition to a person, political
party, authorities, idea is a normal thing, but to oppose to
statehood and national interests is an unworthy thing to do. The key
reason they have stayed in opposition for many years is that they
position runs counter to the interests of their state, statehood and
people. The invitation of the Azeri president to the US and the
establishment of excellent relations with a superpower like the US
serve the interests of every citizen of our country, even if he is in
opposition. Unfortunately, they in the opposition do not think so.’
(525th Daily)

`In its last years’ reports Human Rights Watch has shown an
increasingly biased attitude, including towards Azerbaijan,’ says the
head of the social-political department of the Azeri president’s
staff Ali Gasanov. `For example, we all perfectly know what is going
on in Armenia, particularly, what is going on between the local
government and opposition,’ says Gasanov reminding that not very long
ago `all the key oppositionists’ were shot down in the parliament (he
means the terrorist act in the Armenian parliament Oct 27 1999, when
shot down were Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan, Parliament Speaker
Karen Demirchyan, vice speakers Yuri Bakhshyan and Ruben Miroyan,
Minister for Operational Issues Leonard Petrossyan, MPs Armenak
Armenakyan, Henrik Abrahamyan and Mikayel Kotanyan – REGNUM). But
despite this all, in some aspects Human Rights Watch ranks Armenia
higher than the other two South Caucasian states. `The Azeri
authorities have already made their remarks about this to the HRW
officials visiting Baku,’ says Gasanov. At the same time, he notes
that Washington’s foreign policy is based on the positions of
governmental rather than non-governmental organizations like HRW.
`Still, that organization does have an influence on the public
opinion in the US, and we would not like the American people to get
biased information about the situation in Azerbaijan,’ says Gasanov.
(525th Daily)

In Azerbaijan, some provisions of the law on the freedom of assembly
will restrict human rights, says Azeri MP, the chairwoman of the
parliamentary commission on human rights Rabiyat Aslanova. `The law
has points restricting human rights and contradicting the European
Convention on Human Rights,’ she says. The Azeri Parliament is
presently considering amendments to the laws on the freedom of
assembly, on the status of internal troops and on the police, which
allow the police when dispersing rallies to use not only water-jets
and rubber bullets but also electric shock and specially trained
dogs. (525th Daily)

Freedom House has issued a report on the pre-electoral and internal
political situation, political prisoners, freedom of speech, human
rights, the judiciary and the living standard in Azerbaijan. The
report says that despite certain progress, the situation is still
unsatisfactory: the rights of candidates are still violated and
little is done to prevent this, human rights are still infringed,
courts still pass unfair and ordered verdicts. At the same time, the
report notes that the living standard in the country is improving.
(Turan)

About Iran

`The anti-Azeri statements made by the Iranian authorities on the eve
of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to the US were an attempt of
pressure,’ political scientist Vafa Guluzade says as a comment on the
statements of Iranian National Security Secretary Ali Larijani that
Iran may strike the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline if the US starts
a war against that country and that US anti-Iranian intelligence
groups are acting in Azerbaijan. Guluzade says that Iran is trying to
get President Aliyev to raise the issue of Iranian-American-Azeri
relations during his meeting with President Bush. If the US starts a
war against Iran, Azerbaijan will suffer the most. And now the US’
key concern is how to strike Iran so as not to let it to
counter-strike.

In his turn, political scientist Ilgar Mamedov says that this is due
to growing propaganda war. `That’s why the sides are making
increasingly sharp statements. The Iranian DM’s visit to Baku was
followed by anti-Azeri threats from Iran – exactly now when President
Aliyev is going to the US. Iran is a dangerous neighbor, that’s why
it made such statements before Aliyev’s visit,’ Mamedov said. `The
start of military actions will put Azerbaijan in a hard situation. If
in exchange for involvement in the anti-Iranian coalition, the US
promises support in the Karabakh problem, the Azeri authorities will
be forced to take this step, otherwise, the public will reproach
them. However, this will make Azerbaijan an enemy to a dangerous
neighbor, Iran. If Azerbaijan supports Iran, it will become an arena
of military actions. If it stays neural, both sides will start
actively pressuring it into decision,’ says Mamedov.

Ambassador of Iran to Baku Afshat Suleimani thinks that the US has
lowered its tone of late: they have already understood what mistake
they are risking to make. Suleimani hopes that Aliyev will explain to
Bush the significance of Iran and the general situation in the
region. `But, as we all remember, before its invasion in Iraq, the
Bush administration also said that it was committed to solve the
problem of Iraqi mass destruction weapon by diplomatic means,’ says
Suleimani. (Azeri-Press)

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