Sarkisian Sees No Imminent Deal on Karabagh

OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS INTENSIFY ATTACKS ON ALIYEV–HIS FIRST 100 DAYS IN OFFICE

YEREVAN (Eurasianet/RFE/RL)–Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian said on Tuesday that he expects no imminent breakthrough on the Mountainous Karabagh peach talks–and that the Armenian side should not be too worried.

Sarkisian pointed to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev’s statement that Baku is in no hurry to achieve a compromise solution to the Karabagh dispute because he [Aliyev] believes its consequences are more damaging for Armenia.

According to a senior official from the Council of Europe who visited Baku last week–the new Azeri leader sees less urgency in the Karabagh settlement than his late father and predecessor Heydar Aliyev did. The official–Pietro Ago–said in Yerevan on Friday that Ilham wants to "concentrate on internal problems like the economy and social affairs so that he could improve his own position and popularity" at home.

Opposition activists in Azerbaijan are intensifying political attacks on Aliyev–saying his first 100 days in power have been marked by a significant rise in government repression and corruption. One Aliyev critic described the government as presiding over a "stagnation period."

Aliyev marked his 100th day in power on February 7. Over that span–the government has cracked down on opposition political activity and muzzled the media. The Aliyev administration’s behavior since the October 15 presidential election has drawn sharp criticism from global organizations–especially New York-based Human Rights Watch–and international governmental bodies–including the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.

The government crackdown sowed disarray among opposition parties. Of late–though–there have been signs that administration opponents are starting to regroup. Despite the ongoing threat of arrest and harassment–Aliyev critics sounded off in early February. Many derided the president’s promise to maintain stability and continue the policies of his predecessor and father–Heydar Aliyev–who died last December.

"The main result of the 100 days of Aliyev’s presidency is the maintenance of stability in the country," Zardust Alizada–the former leader of the Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan–told the Ekho newspaper on February 7. "But this stability is the stability of the stagnation period."

"Heydar Aliyev did not manage to resolve Azerbaijan’s vital problems–human rights–Karabagh–economic growth–unemployment–and the fight against corruption," Alizada continued. "Nor has Ilham Aliyev been able to do this."

Azerbaijan’s existing sense of stability may prove fleeting because it is based on growing government repression rather than on steady economic growth–opposition leaders alleged. Ali Kerimli–leader of the Popular Front party–said the bulk of Azerbaijan’s population could not expect to experience a significant improvement in living standards anytime soon.

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