1. FRY/Kosovo: WARNING ARRESTS
by Ylber Emra
2. Bosnia and Herzegovina: VERY DIRTY RACE
by Radenko Udovicic
3. Belarus: McDONALD'S TURNS TO THE COURTS
by Paulyuk Bykowski
4. Azerbaijan/Armenia: LONG TALKS WITHOUT PROGRESS?
by Farhad Mammadov
The Yugoslav province of
Kosovo, placed under international protection since June 1999, has been
shaken recently with a wave of arrests and announcements of more to come
of the former heads of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), and also some
Serbian leaders from the north of the province. After several months of
political lethargy, the mid-summer’s events heightened tensions, and may
have an influence on local elections set for October 26.
Events in Kosovo are much influenced by the situation in its vicinity ? in Macedonia, Albania and southern Serbia. Western diplomats in Pristina are inclined to comment that arrests of both Albanians and Serbs are a signal that the international government does not want a new wave of violence in Kosovo, and that it is acting preemptively to prevent it from spilling into other parts of the region.
Faced with threats from a newly formed Albanian armed formation in Macedonia called the Army of the Illyrid Republic (ARI), the international community tried to decrease the danger of new fighting in Macedonia before its parliamentary elections set for September 15 by indicting several former KLA leaders in Kosovo.
Last weekend, a former KLA commander Rustem Mustafa, better known by his nom de guerre “Remi,” was arrested in Pristina. That was immediately followed by an indictment against another former KLA commander, and current leader of the Alliance for Kosovo future (AAK), Ramush Haradinaj. Somewhat earlier, UNMIK (U.N. Mission in Kosovo) police had arrested his brother Daut, also a KLA commander. The Pristina news agency Kosova Live reported that international forces have arrested a total of 23 Albanians during the past week in Kosovo.
The arrests, indictments, and announcements of future actions ? the goal of which is to prevent renewed violence outside of Kosovo’s boundaries ? resulted in demonstrations organized in several Kosovar cities, including Pristina, Podujevo and Decani, the last a stronghold of the Haradinaj brothers. International diplomats stated that representatives of extremist Albanians threatened to start kidnapping KFOR and UNMIK members in the event of new arrests, but also said that Albanian threats met a “negative answer.”
Although demonstrations in Pristina and Podujevo turned out to be non-violent, there was a clear message to the international community that the honeymoon will soon be over if arrests of KLA leaders continue. In Decani, in Southern Kosovo, approximately 1,000 protesters suddenly clashed with international peace-keeping forces in the town of Decani, when they moved to clear the road. On Thursday, August 15, more than sixty persons were injured, including eleven UNMIK policemen.
The fighting began after international police prohibited protesters from moving from the center of Decani to surrounding streets, including the state highway. The protesters threw stones, while the police retaliated with teargas and rubber bullets.
The situation in Decani calmed down after several hours, but UNMIK and the Alliance for Kosovo’s Future began a new war of communiques, accusing each other for the outbreak of violence. “UNMIK police caused peaceful demonstrations to grow violent with its aggressive behavior,” said an AAK statement. UNMIK responded by saying that the violence was the consequence of Albanian ignoring an earlier agreement about the way the demonstrations would be held.
Western diplomats said the actions of the international community were carried out with the goal of discouraging a possible attempt by the new ARI to disturb the fragile peace in Macedonia before its September elections. All former KLA commanders now pending court investigations are also on many lists of influential leaders or supporters of various armed formations of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia.
At the same time, KFOR increased control along the Macedonian border in order to obstruct the major route for smuggling weapons to armed Albanian groups in Macedonia. As confirmed by authorities in Skopje and Albanian sources in Tetovo, Hevzet Halili, accused by Macedonians of being the person responsible for creating the ARI, was arrested during one such action. The Kosovo international administration still does not say anything about this story.
As early as last June, Macedonian police labeled Rustem Mustafa, (“Remi”), and ten other leaders of the KLA suspects in organizing and participating in clashes with Macedonian security forces. They were also believed to have helped in the formation of the National Liberation Army. The others included Daut Haradinaj, Ramus Haradinaj’s brother, who was recently arrested. Macedonian police claim to have proof of these charges.
However, [Ramus Haradinaj] is charged with an armed attack on the Musaj family, which supported the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo (DSK) led by Kosovo leader Ibrahim Rugova in July 2000 in the village of Streoce, near Decani. As claimed by Musaj family, Haradinaj and a group of Kosovar Protection Corps soldiers attacked their house during the night with bombs, automatic rifles and grenade launchers.
Albanian sources claim that Haradinaj received heavy head wounds, and was transported aboard a special plane into Rammstein base in Germany by American forces operating with KFOR. UNMIK police never revealed the results of the investigation, but one of the policemen who participated in the event said that Americans denied that Haradinaj was wounded in the first place. After several weeks he returned to Kosovo, and soon afterwards a member of the Musaj family was killed.
Trying to pacify Kosovar Albanians, the UNMIK administration also indicted one of the most prominent leaders of northern Kosovo Serbs, Milan Ivanovic. Such action was expected due to Ivanovic’s close ties with the “Guardians of the Bridge,” a controversial organization based in the Serbian enclave of Kosovska Mitrovica. Ivanovic, who is also president of the Serbian National Council of Northern Kosovo, was charged with attempted murder. He is suspected of endangering lives of Polish policemen during the recent uprising in the Serb-controlled part of Kosovska Mitrovica. During the demonstrations, fifteen international policemen were injured. Sources from UNMIK administration claim to possess a recording allegedly showing Ivanovic “throwing an object at policemen, immediately followed by smoke where it landed.” Ivanovic immediately accused the international community of fabricating the recording, while UNMIK said that Ivanovic’s arrest was only a matter of time and technique. Although the announcement of the arrest wasn’t followed by action from the international police, that does not mean they will not at if protests of the Albanian Kosovars become even more massive.
• • •
The election campaign in
Bosnia officially began on August 5 for the October 5 elections, which
include contests for the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the state
parliament of Bosnia and
Herzegovina, and the parliaments of both entities (The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb Republic). Elections will also be held for assemblies of cantons in the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina (the Serb Republic has no cantons). Given its beginnings, many agree that this election campaign is the dirtiest ever.
In previous election races, there were very deep clashes between nationalistic options in Bosnia regarding the country’s future, about the return of refugees, and about separatist and unitarian tendencies among the Bosnian people. During these elections, however, nationalistic tensions have decreased.
That doesn’t mean that important, global issues of the country are resolved. Nationalism and opposing political views on Bosnia’s future still exist, but it seems that the dominating opinion is that the “other side” cannot be reasoned with and the political struggle is now in one’s own backyard.
There are a total of sixty-two parties involved in the elections race. Most stand no chance of entering higher levels of government and there are only twenty serious ones in all of Bosnia. The country is composed of two entities (federal units), with one of them made out of ten cantons. There are a total of 110 counties in Bosnia, making a huge number of representatives at various levels a necessity. As a consequence, there are 7,535 candidates on various election lists.
The political situation in the three Bosnian nations is very complex. The most fierce struggle concerns the most numerous nation, the Bosniaks, who form the majority population in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, and therefore dominate the image of the country.
The ten-year rule of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) ended two years ago in the part of the Federation where Bosniaks form a majority. This nationalistic conservative party, with a strong religious slant, was replaced by the Social Democrat Party (SDP). The SDP was met with enthusiasm, particularly in the international community, because of its liberal slant and pro-Western approach. However, because of the country’s pressing economic and political problems as well as the lack of international financial aid, the SDP and several other minor parties who joined in a coalition are in a difficult situation, as citizens waver in their support for the government. The SDA, feeling the change in sentiment, has started a ferocious campaign claiming that the SDP is betraying the national and religious values of the Bosniak people. In the media and at citizens’ gatherings, there are many major political accusations made against the SDP claiming to be independent but colored by political biases. These accusations could have a significant influence on voters.
During this orchestrated campaign, the SDP is being labeled as a communist and anti-Muslim party. The source for these accusations is the current government’s attitude towards the issue of naturalized citizens from Arabian countries who fought during the war in Bosnia as Islamic volunteers and remained living in Bosnia. According to the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), some of them had connections with international terrorists, including Osama bin Laden. In cooperation with foreign soldiers, many of these naturalized Bosniaks have been arrested and banished from the country. Some of them were even extradited to American authorities and are now located in a prison in Cuba. The SDA has attacked America’s inconsistency and errors made in the war against terrorism and led people to believe that those being arrested. They raise the cry of a great anti-Muslim conspiracy, assisted by the SDP. Those who are better informed about the political situation won’t fall for these claims, but most people, uninformed and frustrated, will surely waver.
The head of Bosnian Muslims, Reis Mustafa Ceric, has become involved in the election struggle. He has accused the current government of being anti-Muslim, thus siding with the SDA, calling on Bosniaks to reject people who arrest other Bosniaks. But what caused a real shock among politicians was when he said former police officials now undergoing trial for preparing terrorist actions were innocent, together with military officials who are in jail for trafficking weapons to Kosovo. Reis Ceric’s many political speeches stated his indirect support for the SDA, but these latest remarks caught many off guard. The consequences of his “sting” were soon felt. The investigating judge of the Supreme Court in the Federation Bosnia-Herzegovina involved with these cases, Jasminka Putiva, resigned from her office. He has thus seriously damaged the judicial system with her authority. Most influential weekly newspapers Slobodna Bosnia, lately close to the SDP, retaliated by running a front-page article “Reis Ceric Advocate of Bosniak Mafia.” The article stated that during the war, Bosniak officials, including Alija Izetbegovic and Reis Ceric, were stealing money that Arab countries had been sending to the Bosniak people for food and weapons.
Another well-known publication, Bosnia's most influential daily newspaper, Dnevni Avaz, has entered into election the fray, trying to topple the SDP by running a series of commentaries and analyses especially against the SDP leader Zlatko Lagumdzija, the current Bosnian prime minister.
At first, Dnevni Avaz was in favor of the SDA. When the SDP came to power, it started supporting that party. Now it is a fan of the Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The newspapers are accusing Lagumdzija of corruption, citing his alleged connections with the Russian and Serbian mafia. The information is mostly undocumented hearsay, so it is clear that it is all part of election the campaign.
The Party for Bosnia Herzegovina is a creation of the once popular politician Haris Silajdzic. For several years, the party was allied with the SDA in a coalition. After the SDP’s victory, it changed coalitions. Silajdzic, who withdrew from politics, has now suddenly reemerged as a candidate for the Bosniak member of the country’s three-person presidency. Many believe that the return of Silajdzic, who belongs to the right-wing option, is a clear signal that this party wants to reorganize and ally with the SDA.
One must mention another event, the sentence of the district court in Karlovac (Republic of Croatia) of Fikret Abdic, former member of Bosnian presidency, and now a Bosniak dissident, to 20 years in prison for crimes against the civil population in the Bihac region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was in Bihac where two opposing Bosniak currents waged war on each other. Fikret Abdic proclaimed himself president of a separatist region in the north. After his defeat in a year-and-a half-long struggle, he escaped to Croatia, where he enjoyed the hospitality of Croatian president Franjo Tudjman. After the insistence of the Bosnian authorities, the Croatian court processed the case for extradition. Fikret Abdic has nominated himself as a candidate for Bosnian presidency in these elections. Now, however, it is definitely clear that his political career is over.
The sentence has deeply divided the Bihac population. For some he is a criminal, while others consider him to be a hero. Although all proofs for ending this case are here, wounds among Bosniaks are still present.
The scene in the Serb Republic is characterized by the return of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), which was prohibited from participating in the last election. The OSCE removed the party and many of its candidates from those elections because of statements that were against Dayton Peace Accords in Bosnia. The SRS is an extreme right-wing party, and basically a sister party of the party of the same name in Serbia headed by Vojislav Seselj, currently a candidate for Serbian president and once a close associate of Slobodan Milosevic.
Polls predict that the return of the SRS will take some of the voters from the strongest party Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), which is also nationalist, instead of the so-called moderate parties. It makes a regrouping on the right.
The SDS, founded by war crimes indictee Radovan Karadzic, returned to power after the last elections in the Serb Republic. Now it issharing power with the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), led by the pragmatic Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic. The loss of power by SDS in 1997 had a positive influence on the party; it became more cooperative with the international community and greatly reduced its nationalist rhetoric. The other major parties in the Serb Republic include the Party of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) led by Milorad Dodik, the man who toppled SDS from power in 1997 and improved the Republic’s relations with USA and Europe.
Dodik who entered this election campaign with a burdened past ? the authorities indicted him for theft of state finances during his term as prime minister. He claims the indictment is an election trick to discredit him. On the other hand, investigators indicted some high-ranking customs officials belonging to the SDS, accusing them of crime and corruption. Those in the know claim that these indictments are Dodik’s retaliation, via his influence on the judicial system. It is also possible that all these people, Dodik included, are guilty. However, the timing of the investigations as well as the media storm about these cases shows all the dirtiness of the election campaign, as well as the extent to which politics can influence the court.
The SRS is leading the election campaign with politically and nationalist accusations. The SRS accused the SDS several times of “endangering Serbian interests” and “siding with traitors” because of its cooperation with the international community. According to the SRS, traitors are all those supporting Milorad Dodik. Dodik is accused of supporting the USA during the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia and of working on the disbandment of the Serb Republic. The SRS tries to attract voters who see Serbian interests only through the tinted glasses of nationalism, and there are many such voters.
The strongest party of Bosnian Croats, the HDZ, is the least satisfied with the current situation. During the last elections the HDZ got about 70 percent of Croatian votes in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but it wasn’t enough to enter into government. The SDP entered a coalition with several minor Croatian parties (thus satisfying the condition of national representation) and so, after ten years, the HDZ was removed from power. This situation caused great displeasure among Bosnian Croats? as a consequence, most of them do not accept the current government because it doesn’t reflect the Croatian vote. And that is where right-wing HDZ is building its campaign. The party often labels Croatian parties participating in power as “traitors” and “collaborators,” and claims that their policy of closeness with the much more numerous Bosniaks will cause the Croats in Bosnia to disappear.
Although election polls in Bosnia aren’t always reliable, it is interesting to note the results of research made by the UN Organization for Development (UNDP). According to it, the SDP is still the most influential party among Bosniaks with 23.8 percent of Croatian voters’ support. Since the party is not nationally exclusive, the general estimate is that it will also get three percent of the votes from both Serbs and Croats. The SDA enjoys ten percent less support than the SDP, and the Party for Bosnia Herzegovina can count on 12.4 percent of the Bosniak votes.
The dominant Croatian party is HDZ, with 53.5 percent of Croatian voters’ support, much less than two years ago. The HDZ is immediately followed by the New Croatian Initiative (NHI) with 5.1 percent. Other parties have below five per cent support. As expected, the SDS is the strongest party in the Serb Republic, with 30 percent voters’ support. It is followed by the right-wing SRS, Dodik’s SNSD, and Ivanic’s PDP, with 10 percent each.
In theory, it is possible for right-wing forces to once again come to power in Bosnia if the SDS and the SRS enter into a coalition in the Serb Republic and the SDA, the Party for Bosnia Herzegovina, and the HDZ form another coalition in the Federation. It wouldn’t be strange because those parties had firm alliances both during and immediately after the war. However, one must take into account the fact that the international community doesn’t want cooperation with these parties and that it has been already warning that Bosnia will not get any foreign aid if the voters chose the right-wing option. Also, such a government would be forced into isolation.
The Bosniak SDA is in an especially delicate situation. Contrary to the war period, presently the SDA doesn’t enjoy U.S. sympathy. After September 11, the U.S. has placed the SDA under investigation because of suspicions that some of its high party officials are close to Islamic organizations and terrorism. Americans don’t hide their support for SDP, whom they, together with Europeans, consider a partner, emphasizing that the SDA is a matter of the past. It is more than clear that the international community, with almost a protective stance towards Bosnia, will do anything to dampen possibly unfavorable election results with financial and political blackmails as well as by inciting various (often unnatural) coalitions.
• • •
McDonald’s Restaurants has
filed suit in the Minsk Economic Court against Belarusian State University
(BGU), whose actions, it claims, have resulted in diminished access to
the McDonald’s restaurant on Privokzalnaya Square and thus material losses.
The BelPAN agency reported this item on August 6, citing McDonald’s marketing
and public relations manager, Olga Troyan.
Troyan as said that on August 2, one day after the fence was built around the restaurant, McDonald’s received a letter from the state building inspector informing them that the agency had halted construction. The fence, however, remained, and customer access is now limited to a set of gates in the fence. Troyan claims that the flow of customers has significantly decreased since then, a sidewalk paving stone installed by McDonald’s has been removed, and other damage has been caused by the construction.
On August 1at about 5:00 p.m., customers and employees at McDonald’s, as well as people in leased offices, unexpectedly found themselves behind bars. They were surrounded by a fence in preparation for the construction of a new BGU building. They were informed then that the restaurant building would be completely inaccessible from the next day on.
This McDonald’s serves about 9,000 people per day. The reason for the booming business is clear. It is in the train station, where fast food is especially in demand. That means that the closure of the restaurant will be acutely felt by the public ? its regular and potential customers ? as well as its management. Of course BGU, having invested in its expansion project, has its own concerns.
At that time, the U.S. Ambassador to Belarus, Michael Kozak, noted that the incident is but the latest in a string of agreements with foreign investors that have been broken by the Belarusian authorities. In response, the Belarusian foreign department press secretary, Pavel Latushka, said that the ambassador is trying to turn an economic disagreement into a conflict between Belarusian authorities and foreign investors. “From time to time, disagreements arise between businesses in the course of their activities. That in no way reflects on the general investment climate in the country. Such statements [as the ambassador’s] have no grounds.”
The university’s proposed construction project was announced well in advance. Last year, the Minsk city council passed a resolution unilaterally breaking McDonald’s 39-year
(until 2036) lease agreement and transferring the land to BGU for the construction of a new 14-story building. McDonald’s considered the city council’s action illegal, since the agreement could be broken only if its conditions were violated or under exceptional circumstances, as described in the law “On Foreign Investment,” such as natural disaster or other catastrophes.
As often happens, however, McDonald’s did not take its case to court, hoping instead to reach a settlement with the city and BGU.
An oral agreement was reached, under which the restaurant was to remain on its site and be incorporated into the new university building. According to Troyan, McDonald's was to close down the restaurant for two years and place its 150 workers in other McDonald's restaurants. In return, BGU was to make compensation for its losses in those two years. Now the company considers the agreement broken.
At BGU, they see things differently. University rector Alexander Kozulin said in an interview with the Interfaks-Zapad agency that it was McDonald's that broke the oral agreement. “I was new on the job and didn’t think it necessary to get the agreement in writing,” Kozulin confessed.
Kozulin said that BGU tried to reach an agreement with McDonald's “with very generous conditions.” In particular, it was suggested that McDonald’s build restaurants “of the exact same configuration and area in various very profitable sites in Minsk,” Kozulin explained, noting that, in addition, the university also offered monetary compensation. “But they wanted everything for a song, because they think that the university and the Belarusian educational system are weak and humiliated.”
BGU had repeatedly expressed its readiness to sign documents, Kozulin continued, but McDonald’s “continually made new demands.” At first, they discussed a sum of 2 million USD. Then they agreed on $1.5 million. Then the foreign company demanded compensation for taxes and losses from the rent of the building and its insurance. BGU estimated that raised the sum again by “about a million.”
European financial institutions have extended a credit of 145 million Euros for the construction of the new university building. Kozulin thinks that, “McDonald's wants to kill the project for some reason.”
It is hard to say whether Ronald McDonald is opposed to the university building project, but there are some political overtones in the scandal over the restaurant, given that the Belarusian service of Radio Liberty rents an office in the same building. There was an odd coincidence connected with this. Within half an hour of the fencing off of the restaurant, the Russian service of Radio Liberty was notified by the Belarusian foreign department that the staff of the Minsk bureau was going to be stripped of accreditation. It says in a letter to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that that decision was made due to the use of material in Radio Liberty programs prepared by journalists unaccredited by the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is a violation of
Belarusian law. Before that, Radio Liberty journalist Elena Pankratova had been called into the prosecutors office for questioning several times in connection with a broadcast on Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko’s visit to Austria. Pankratova, based at the radio station’s Minsk bureau, is not accredited by the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
McDonald’s is one of the biggest foreign investors in Belarus. Since the opening of the first McDonald's in Minsk in 1996, more than $14 million has been invested in a total of six restaurants, employing 850 people. Last year, McDonald’s paid the equivalent of $3.5 million in taxes in Belarus. The company is planning to expand its chain of restaurants by opening them in regional centers throughout Belarus.
• • •
After a long-term interval,
on August 14, the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Haidar Aliev and
Robert Kocharian, met on the border of their two countries. The meeting
took place in a specially constructed carriage at a field condition near
the Sadarak settlement of Nakhchevan. It continued for over four hours.
Agents of special intelligence agencies of both countries were mobilized
to go to the meeting place and defense ministers held talks between themselves
an hour before the meeting. According to the report of the Azerbaijani
side, the defense ministers came to the Sadarak region in order to ensure
the presidents’ security, not to take part in the negotiations.
Haidar Aliev and Robert Kocharian did not answer journalists’ questions after the meeting and offered only brief statements. Aliev declared that he considers the face-to-face meetings of the presidents regarding regulation of the conflict important, and he supports continuation of such meetings. In the words of the Azeri president, a number of variants were discussed at the meeting. “Both of us have come to the conclusion that there are a lot of options in the negotiation process. In addition, we have decided once again to keep the ceasefire regime and to support the Minsk group.”
In his turn, Kocharian said the Sadarak meeting, although held under complicated conditions, were satisfactory to both presidents. Nevertheless, they would not give information about any concrete results to the community: “We hope that the current meeting will revive the long-delayed negotiation process we can move forward.” Kocharian noted that there is a lot of pressure on him and Aliev for the regulation of the conflict. “If we can not settle this problem, then who can?” he said. So, according to the presidents’ statement, there was no progress in over four hours of talks. But in some experts’ opinion, such statements may also be intended to ensure maximum confidentiality of the talks. In previous talks, even a mild statement about some positive progress would draw all the public’s attention in both countries. Moreover, such conditions cannot be regarded as profitable for Aliev and Kocharian on the eve of elections.
Immediately after the meeting with Kocharian, Haidar Aliev talked for nearly an hour with the foreign minister Vilayat Guliev, defense minister Safar Abiev, and the personal representative on the talks with Armenia, Araz Azimov. This can also be considered a sign that concrete details were discussed at the talks. During the meeting of Aliev and Kocharian, the Armenian defense minister Serj Sarkisian gave a statement to Azeri journalists and stated that his country may agree either with giving full independence to Upper Karabakh or unifying it to Armenia: “There is no third variant.” This position put any positive spin to talks in doubt and begs such a question: that if there is no third variant, then what had Aliev discussed with Kocharian for over 4 hours? The next meeting of Aliev and Kocharian should be held in September in the capital of Moldova, during the Commonwealth of Independent States summit.
On August 14, Azeri foreign
minister, Vilayat Guliev answered the questions of Armenian journalists
who came to the Sadarak region on the border with Armenia.
According to the news provided by our correspondent Javid Jabbaroglu from Nakhchevan, Vilayat Guliev sharply responded to the aggressive questions of the Armenian media representatives. For example, one of the Armenian correspondents asked why Azerbaijan breaks the agreements gained in Key-West? Guliev said no agreement was gained in Key West and there was held an ordinary meeting like in Sadarak. Responding to the question on the probability of Azerbaijan beginning a war, the minister stated that Azerbaijan wants to liberate its occupied lands by all means: “We can not agree that Azerbaijani citizens live in tent camps.” Guliev has, once again, quoted that Azerbaijan can not put up with the current situation and has to release its lands. He also drew the attention of Armenian journalists to the idea that the advantage that Armenia gained in war is temporary.
The minister said that an economic partnership between the two countries is impossible and that there is not such an analogue to be found.
On August 14, Azeri journalists also met with the Armenian defense minister Serj Sarkisian during the meeting of Haidar Aliev and Robert Kocharian. Armenian media representatives wanted to attend this meeting, but they were not permitted, being offered instead a meeting with the Azeri foreign minister Vilayat Guliev. Armenian journalists did not permit Azeri correspondents to attend this meeting either. A report of our correspondent Zulfiyya Ahmadli from a meeting with Serj Sarkisian:
Can Armenia agree with stage-by-stage regulation of the conflict?
I think that you should ask the presidents about the issues concerning the political regulation of the conflict. However, as our position is common, I cannot say that we support partial regulation of the conflict. Stage-by-stage regulation may make the situation tense, because, representatives of other powers are present in the Armenian army and such cases are observed in the Azerbaijani army, as well. We do not support military regulation of the conflict. I do not think that the Minsk group co-chairs have been wasting their time for 8 years. In any case, there is a ceasefire, and no bloodshed. The question must be settled in a peaceful way. Why peacefully? Because, if the war begins, the losses of both sides will be 10-15 times more in comparison with the first war, due to both Azerbaijan and Armenia having strong ammunition.
Neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia makes concessions. In that case, how will the situation be?
I would not hurry to say that Azerbaijan will not compromise. Then why are these talks held? If the sides do not compromise, then it means the achievement of peace is impossible. What is the use of both sides standing at their 1998 positions?
Do you consider the regulation of the conflict possible with recognizing Karabakh in any status as a part of Azerbaijan?
To tell the truth, I do not, in general, see Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan and do not think about any status. Local residents living there for centuries do not consider themselves a part of Azerbaijan.
Does this conflict put Armenia beyond regional economic projects?
You have limited knowledge about this. Armenia takes part in regional projects. This conflict similarly influences both Azerbaijan and Armenia. Armenia develops similar to Azerbaijan’s economic situation as well. They are both experiencing economic growth.
Despite the non-recognition of international organizations and foreign powers, presidential elections were held in “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.” No observers attended. How do you account for this illegality?
Observers attended. They may not recognize Upper Karabakh as an independent state. But there were observers of all countries.
How will the political situation develop in Armenia in light of the political crisis: On the one hand, Kocharian’s resignation is demanded and on the other there is a confrontation in the country?
I am surprised at your information.
And I am surprised at your disinformation.
You address me disrespectfully. No Armenian correspondent would speak with your defense minister in such a manner. This is why I do not answer your question.
Which questions are discussed in this meeting, in general? Is the issue of territory exchange discussed here?
You should better ask the presidents. Territory exchange will not be discussed.
May the Armenian side agree with the territory exchange?
Of course, no.
* This article is reprinted from the WEEKLY ANALYTICAL-INFORMATION BULLETIN published by the AZERBAIJAN NATIONAL DEMOCRACY FOUNDATION (ANDF). To receive this e-mail publication directly, please write to email@example.com.