Today.Az http://www.today.az Covering Azerbaijan inside and outside http://www.today.az/images/logo_small.gif Today.Az http://www.today.az Psaki proves Armenian minister wrong http://www.today.az/news/politics/138961.html Politics Mon, 02 Mar 2015 18:30:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Mushvig MehdiyevThe Armenian foreign ministry appears to apply a new method in its code of conduct in relations with foreign colleagues. Falsification here turns to be a "smart" addition to the ministry's activity given the tense developments in the region these days.As the South Caucasus region finds itself focused on the resolution of the complicated dispute in between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the two Azerbaijani hostages, Armenia continues to defy international law. With all due respect, Armenia's position on the return of captives to Baku does not fit calls from the international community interested in developments in the region, particularly the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict's settlement.The U.S. and Russia, co-chairing countries of the OSCE Minsk Group, a mediator structure involved in the conflict's resolution, has consecutively revealed their advocacy for the release of the two Azerbaijani hostages.Three Azerbaijanis - Hasan Hasanov, Dilgam Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev - were captured in the Shaplar village of Azerbaijan’s occupied Kalbajar district on July 11, 2014 by the Armenian special forces.Hasanov was reported killed after enduring brutal torture.Asgarov and Guliyev were judged in a show trial in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region and subsequently sentenced to life in prison and 22 years imprisonment respectively on trump up charges.Jane Psaki, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, said on February 25 that the U.S. has supported through OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair, James Warlick the release of the two Azerbaijani hostages held by the separatist authorities in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. It was, in fact, the official position of the White House, according to Psaki.Nevertheless, the Armenian media reports on February 26 said Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan stated that none of the OSCE Minsk group co-chairs have called for the release of Asgarov and Guliyev.Nalbandyan's statement emerged as an attempt to cast a shadow on the accuracy and seriousness of the U.S. foreign policy. He, indeed, put Armenia's foreign policy at a head lock with the U.S.Armenian foreign chief's denial of the representation of the official U.S. position in Yerevan by Warlcik pushed the U.S. Department of State to once more clarify its approach towards the Azerbaijani hostages' case.In a press statement on February 27, Psaki quashed Nalbandyan's attempts to dismiss her earlier remarks as she officially reconfirmed Warlick's calls to release the hostages in a meeting in Yerevan."I believe I was referencing, I think, public comments that were made. So I would point you to that, and I certainly made those calls from here. So those reflect the position of the Department and everybody up in the senior ranks," she said.Psaki's reiteration of the previous address, indeed, proved the White House's unchanged position on Armenia's illegal capture and judging of Azerbaijani nationals.The U.S. sees the captives' release as part of efforts to reduce the tension on the line of contact of the Armenian and Azerbaijani armies notwithstanding Yerevan's childish "cat and mouse game" with the Western giant.Furthermore, prior to Psaki's address, in an interview with a news agency in the so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh republic" Warlick said the release of the two Azerbaijanis could be a positive step for the peace process, according to Azatutyun, a local radio in Yerevan.Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, was the first U.S. top figure who chided Armenia for its inhuman treatment of the two Azerbaijani captives, expressing serious concerns over Armenia's approach towards the prisoners back in her speeches in Baku and Yerevan in mid-February.Azerbaijan's internationally recognized Nagorno-Karabakh territory has become a conflict zone following Armenia's aggression in the early 1990s. As a result of Armenia's armed invasion, 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory fell under Armenia's occupation. Nonetheless, the OSCE has attempted to foster a peaceful resolution to this conflict amid Armenia's persistent derailment on peace talks. Azerbaijan to experience cold snap http://www.today.az/news/society/138959.html Society Mon, 02 Mar 2015 18:20:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Amina NazarliJust as people were getting ready to enjoy some warmer weather, forecasters have predicted a fall in temperature.On March 3, Azerbaijan will experience snow, the National Hydrometeorology Department said.In Baku and Absheron Peninsula the weather is expected to be cloudy. Intermittent rain in some places and northeastern wind will blow on Tuesday.The temperature will stand at 3-5 degree Celsius at night and 7-10 degree Celsius during the day.Several regions will see intermittent rains, while in mountain and foothill areas forecasters predict sleet and snow.Air temperature in the low-lying areas will stand at 1-6 degree at night and, 8-13 degree during the day.In mountain areas, however, temperatures will hover around 2 to 3 degree below zero and during the day at about 3-8 degree.But, cheer up, dear residents, as forecasters have said “Despite fluctuations in temperature, temperatures this month are expected to be close to the climatic norm.” Apple's market share ups in Azerbaijan http://www.today.az/news/business/138960.html Business Mon, 02 Mar 2015 18:07:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Nigar OrujovaIf Apple and Samsung have been battling for top position in the world market, so have they in Azerbaijan where both giants have worked to assert themselves as the nation's favorite. Data have shown that since the beginning of 2015 Apple has increased its market share.Apple now ranks second in Azerbaijan's mobile phone market.The share of Apple devices on the market of Azerbaijan increased by 3.8 percent in January-February 2015, the statistical center Global Stats reported.By late February, the share of Apple devices in Azerbaijan reached 16.35 percent. Compared with the same period in 2014, Apple’s share rose by 18.2 percent.Nokia, which ranks third in the mobile market, saw a decrease in its market-share of 14.5 percent. Nokia owns 10.39 percent of the market.Nokia's share decreased by 58 percent compared with the same period last year.The increase of Samsung’s rate was noted at 2.71 percent in the two months of 2015.Samsung devices rank first in Azerbaijan, covering 49.18 percent of the mobile phone market. Compared to the same period in 2014, Samsung increased its market share by 19.10 percent.The fourth place goes to Sony company, with a share of 5.53 percent, followed by Huawei with 4.9 percent, unknown device manufacturers (mainly Chinese) with 4.6 percent, HTC with 3.22 percent, LG with 2.17 percent, Blackberry with 0.91 percent and Alcatel with 0.86 percent.Azerbaijan is a country with a highly developed used of mobile phones. Azerbaijan's mobile phone penetration has stayed at a level of 110 percent, thanks to its three main mobile operators.The number of mobile broadband connections in Azerbaijan is 43.9 per 100 people, and on this basis, the country ranks 46th in the world.The second phase of testing the quality of voice services and data services of Azercell, Bakcell and Azerfon mobile operators will begin in March. Monitoring will take place within two months and will cover the central districts and suburbs of Baku.The first stage of monitoring took place in 2014 that discovered serious errors. For this reason regular checks and analyses will be scheduled. Armenia violated international norms, says top official http://www.today.az/news/politics/138958.html Politics Mon, 02 Mar 2015 17:20:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Mushvig MehdiyevYerevan continues to hold a destructive position and doesn’t recognize international law, a top Azerbaijani official said.While commenting on Armenia’s refusal to return the Azerbaijani nationals its armed forces captured, Head of the Public and Political Issues Department of Azerbaijani Presidential Administration, Presidential Aide Ali Hasanov said Armenia made its position obvious to the world.Three Azerbaijani nationals - Hasan Hasanov, Dilgam Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev - were captured in the Shaplar village of Azerbaijan’s occupied Kalbajar district on July 11, 2014 by Armenia special forces.Hasanov was reported killed after enduring brutal torture.Asgarov and Guliyev were judged in a show trial in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region and subsequently sentenced to life in prison and 22 years imprisonment respectively on fictitious charges."Basically, this country violates all norms of the international law. Double standards dominate in the world and no reaction has been registered vis a vis Armenia's actions," Hasanov noted."But, Azerbaijan warns Armenia, including certain circles behind it, that a state shouldn’t be built and governed on such current statements, thoughts and political views,” Hasanov added.Hasanov called on Armenian rulers to reckon with the interests of their people, if they at least have a little respect for international law."Armenia's future is under question given the fact that Armenia has turned its own people into hostages and cherishes baseless territorial claims against its neighbors," added Hasanov.He recalled that Armenia is an aggressor who forcibly invaded Azerbaijani lands and occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan's internationally recognized territory in the 1990s.In view of the puppet regime's actions in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, Hasanov warned that Azerbaijan will correspondingly react to any unilateral move, political, and social action in the occupied lands.Focusing on the upcoming illegal parliamentary election in the so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh republic" due this May, Hasanov said Azerbaijan would asses any step taken by the puppet regime in these territories as an act of aggression on another country's territory.Earlier on February 27, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry slammed the election scam planned to be held in the occupied Azerbaijani lands calling it illegal and ineffective.As for the Ministry, this deliberate move mainly aimed to undermine peace talks and prevent any breakthrough in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.Back in 1992, following a violent and bloody conflict, Armenia occupied one fifth of Azerbaijan territory, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.The two countries signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, France and the US are currently holding peace negotiations.Armenia has yet to comply with UN Security Council resolutions calling for the liberation of all occupied territories. National boxers scoop three medals in Strandja Tournament http://www.today.az/news/sports/138957.html Sports Mon, 02 Mar 2015 17:00:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Amina NazarliThe 66th Traditional International Strandja Tournament was held in Sofia, Bulgaria on February 24-28.The event was attended by 244 fighters including 173 men and 71 women from 34 countries, according to Sports.uz.Azerbaijan's team was attended by nine boxers in the men`s event, and four - in the women. Azerbaijani boxers have claimed three medals, including two gold and one silver medal.The gold medals came from Elvin Isayev at 60kg and Lorenzo Sotomayor at 64kg. In the women`s event Elena Vistropova gained silver medal in the 64kg weight division. Turkmenistan can provide Europe with necessary gas volumes http://www.today.az/news/business/138956.html Business Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:45:00 +0400 Turkmenistan is quite capable of providing the European market with necessary volumes of gas given abundant natural gas reserves and the opportunities of developing the export pipeline infrastructure, the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Turkmenistan said March 2."A huge resource base of hydrocarbons onshore and offshore allows Turkmenistan to increase the exports of natural gas to the world markets, to develop the new routes of its exports in the eastern and the European directions," the statement said.While ranking fourth in the world in natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan seeks to expand its way to the international gas market to maximally use its natural resources, the statement said.Turkmenistan actively works to supply from 10 to 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year to the European market.In particular, the possibility of building the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline is being considered. It will stretch through the Caspian Sea from the coast of Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan.The negotiations on this project implementation are being actively conducted at various levels with the European Union, the European Commission, certain countries and companies.RSK Environment Ltd company carried out the preliminary environmental studies upon the World Bank’s order.The examination confirmed that from an environmental point of view, the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline is a safe route. Today Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have every opportunity to implement the project of its construction as part of bilateral activities, the report said.The deposits of the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea may be the resource base for the gas supply via the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline at the initial stage.The reference is made to the European experts. They believe that the presence of the already proven and proved natural gas reserves in the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea makes it possible to supply 16 billion cubic meters of gas per year in this direction.In the future, there will be an opportunity to use the resources of gas fields in eastern Turkmenistan to supply gas through the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. This will be possible after the commissioning of the East-West gas pipeline with a pumping capacity of 30 billion cubic meters per year. Its construction will be completed this year.Turkmenistan is one of the key players on the gas market in the Caspian region and Central Asia./By Trend/ Azerbaijan food export set to benefit from EU-Russia spat http://www.today.az/news/business/138955.html Business Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:40:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Nigar OrujovaAzerbaijan is able to master a significant part of the food-shortfall in Russia resulted from the embargo on food import from Europe, said Dmitry Savelyev, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Financial Markets, Rosbalt reported.Experts believe, agricultural products from Azerbaijan have always been in demand in the markets of neighboring countries, but today the issue of fruit and vegetable exports is on the agenda among the first in the country."Today, Europe’s losses from the ban on agriculture export to Russia are estimated at 5-6 billion euros,” Savelyev said. “Azerbaijan may master the essential part of this volume of product exports - to the mutual benefit of both our countries.”Azerbaijani fruits and vegetables by the ratio of "price-quality" are second to none for the Russian consumer. “There is no doubt that they are attractive to its taste and environmental quality than similar products from Asia, often stuffed with chemicals, or even the European fruit and vegetable products, cultivated in the unnatural human conditions – in greenhouses or on hydroponics," he stressed.The growth rate of agriculture in Azerbaijan has reached 48.9 percent. That is significantly higher than the world's average over the last decade.Officials declared 2015 to be Azerbaijan's year of agriculture, a clear sign that the state will put a strong emphasis on the development of the country's agricultural capacity and ability.Today, this sector employs 37 percent of the working population in the country. Farmers are exempt from all taxes, except land tax. Over the past years farms have greatly modernized their equipment, cattle pedigree and developed formerly barren lands.According to 2014 state data, over 60 percent of concessional loans issued by the National Fund for Entrepreneurship Support, focused on the production and processing of agricultural products.Today, the degree of self-sufficiency in most food items nomenclature varies between 76-98 percent. Moreover, vegetables and fruits are produced in excess.Last year, Azerbaijan exported fruit and vegetables in the volume of $291 million, which is 16.1 percent higher than in 2013.This year, the country is ready to at least double its exports to Russia, and expand its product range by one and a half.In the light on depreciating oil prices, Azerbaijan has pushed for the diversification of its economy to minimize its dependence on oil revenues.Such strategy has been beneficial as Azerbaijan has been able to increase non-oil revenues, thus reducing its economic dependence and vulnerability.As it currently stands Azerbaijan has greatly improved its food export potential.Russia, which announced a ban on EU products, has said to be interested in developing stronger trading relations with Azerbaijan, especially in regards to fruits and vegetables.Azerbaijan's geographic position makes a strong competitor as transportation cost can be kept low in comparison to Africa, Asia and South America.The Russian government has already offered Azerbaijani investors to participate in the construction of logistics centers for agricultural products in the south and the central region of Russia. Iranian Judiciary removes ban on media that published former president Khatami http://www.today.az/news/regions/138954.html World news Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:20:00 +0400 The Iranian Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei has said that the judiciary has lifted the ban on media that published former president Mohammad Khatami’s speeches or photos.Ejei, who was speaking during a press conference, stated that the media were unbanned after they pledged in court not to do so again, Fars news agency reported Mar. 2.The media were unbanned 24 hours after they were banned, he stated.The Iranian Judiciary has recently banned the country’s media from covering news or publishing pictures of the former president.Iran blocked access to reformist Jamaran and Bahar News websites in late Feb. due to their covering some reports about the ex-president.Jamaran is the official website of the “Publication and Organizing Institute of Imam Khomeini Works,” which is headed by Hassan Khomeini, nephew of the Islamic Republic founder, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini.On Feb. 16, Mohseni Ejei said that Iranian media remain banned from mentioning the former reformist president and publishing his comments, statements, and pictures.Mohseni Ejei warned that the media outlets that violated the ban would be dealt with./By Trend/  Prospect of Caspian littoral states’ gas industry http://www.today.az/news/regions/138953.html World news Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:10:00 +0400 Below is an article, exclusively written by Dalga Khatinoglu, the head of Trend Agency's Iran News Service for Iranian Oil Ministry's news website Shana.Iran and its neighbors hold more than 70 percent of world’s total gas reserves. Iran, Russia, Qatar and Turkmenistan are world’s largest gas reserves’ owners respectively. But none of Iran’s neighbors, except for some certain projects, has any interaction with others in gas industry. They ignore the available cooperation opportunities viewing each other as tough rivals. Iran’s littoral neighbors - in the north and south- enjoy significant gas reserves. On the other hand, Iran’s eastern and western neighbors are in dire need of gas and power. So, Iran can play the role of a regional hub for gas or power exports. But in practice, Iran is importing and exporting only a limited amount of gas and power. With the current joint gas markets in the region, it seems we will see an intense rivalry between regional states to raise their share in the global gas markets. There are some options for cooperation in this field. Caspian RegionThe five littoral states of the Caspian Sea have in total about 85 trillion cubic meters (45 percent) of the worlds’ proved gas reserves. A glance at the Caspian Littoral States’ Gas Industry (bcm/a)Caspian Littoral StatesNatural Gas Production in 2014*Gas Production based on BP figures for 2013** Net Exports of Gas in 2014 (Including LNG)Iran210166.32.5Russia640.3604.8162Turkmenistan7662.344Azerbaijan29.516.28.5Kazakhstan4318.511* The figures are taken from official sources or statements in the mentioned countries** Excluding the flaring and re-injected gas. Azerbaijan’s gas export to Russia decreased more than 1.1 billion cubic meters in 2014. Russia also planned to decrease Turkmen gas import from 10.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2014 to 4 bcm in 2015. Turkmenistan’s gas export to Iran stood at just 7.5 bcm in 2014, while this country should deliver 14 bcm per annum to Iran based on existent agreements. So, to meet their constant energy security, the Caspian littoral states have no other way but to reach the European and Chinese markets. Considering eastern, western markets No Caspian littoral states except Russia views European markets as a potential gas market by 2019.Turkmenistan is still hesitating to export its gas via Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline and instead prefers to put its focus on the eastern markets. This comes as Russia’s gas export to Europe decreased by 14.3 bcm in 2014 compared to the previous year. On the other hand, Europe is planning to lessen by 25 percent its dependence on Russian gas by 2020.But China increased its gas imports from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan last year by 5.8 percent and 159 percent respectively. China which used to consume annually 25 bcm of gas in 2000 has increased its gas consumption to over 180 bcm/a currently. It is now expected to raise its consumption to 420 bcm/a and 555 bcm/a by 2020 and 2030 respectively. Despite reducing its gas export to Russia by 6 bcm in 2015, Turkmenistan is set to increase its total gas export to 48 bcm. To put it differently, in the current year, Turkmenistan gas export to China will rise by at least 8 bcm/a reaching 34 bcm/a in current year.On the other hand, Russia is set to export up to 38 bcm/a of natural gas from fields in East Siberia to China over a 30-year period starting after 2018 through the Power of Siberia pipeline, of which construction started earlier in September.Currently, Russia is one of China’s LNG suppliers.Russia's gas supplies to the Asia-Pacific Region by 2035 can rise ninefold from 14 bcm/a to 130 bcm/a, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on February 27.Turkmenistan also plans to allocate about 36 bcm of its gas to domestic consumption in 2015. BP had estimated just over 22 bcm for Turkmenistan’s domestic consumption in 2013. It seems that the country has decided to increase its domestic gas consumption in power plants as part of efforts to increase its electricity production for further export.Now, Turkmenistan is vying with Tehran for taking a greater share in the energy markets of Iran’s eastern neighbors. To this end, negotiations are underway over establishing a gas pipeline among Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI). Pakistan was expected to import Iran’s gas based on an agreement signed two months ago, but the country has not yet taken any step to start the required pipeline construction for this end. On the other hand, Iran and Russia are vehemently against the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline project for exporting Turkmenistan’s gas to Europe through Azerbaijan. Turkmenistan plans to raise its gas production to 230 bcm/a by 2030. Based on current agreements, the total volume of China’s gas import from Turkmenistan will remain at 65 bcm/a by 2020. China is determined to receive 85 bcm/a gas from Central Asian countries by this date. As a result, Ashgabat needs to develop a comprehensive plan to diversify its gas markets because as things stands, Iran and Russia will not import further gas from Turkmenistan. Iran plans to raise its gas production to 365 bcm/a by 2018. Meanwhile, the country’s gas export would reach to 80 bcm/a by 2022. Iran’s Outlook Plan Document has envisaged exporting gas to Europe. At present, Iran has obligation to export 52 bcm/a of gas based on signed memorandum of understandings (MoU) and agreements to Iraq, Oman, Pakistan and Turkey, but it exports only 10 bcm/a to Turkey currently. Azerbaijan is also working on a plan to start exporting annually 16 bcm/a of gas to Turkey and Europe from Shad Deniz Stage 2 (SD2) by 2020. So, Iran and Russia would play the role of main rivals for Baku government. At the same time, Europe has decided to decrease its gas import from Russia by about 25 percent (45 billion cubic meters) by 2025. This is part of a larger plan to decrease the block’s dependence on Russia’s gas which is standing now at 27 percent. If become operational, the decision would prepare the ground for Iran and Azerbaijan’s export to Europe. Converting gas to power option So, as said above, a tough competition between regional states to gain more shares in the global gas markets seems almost inevitable. But the issue of converting the natural gas to electricity and its export is also among the options that first attracted huge attentions from Iran and its northern neighbors but they left it undecided later.Last year, Iran imported 3,718 million kilowatt-hours (KWh) of electricity, 67 percent of which comes from Turkmenistan. Back in December 2008, members of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) including all Central Asian countries, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan agreed to hold talks on converting some of their gas to power. The agreement was part of a larger plan to establish a regional power network for exporting power to Iraq, Europe and Syria. The issue was forgotten later. Now, Iran and Turkmenistan are working separately to increase their power production. Last year, Turkmenistan increased its electricity production by about 12 percent. The country exports 2.8 billion KWh of electricity but based on a state program, Ashgabat plans to establish 14 new power plants to raise its electricity production to 27.4 billion KWh. Iran which exports annually about 12 billion KWh of electricity, is now planning to allocate further 6 bcm/a of its gas to new power plants by 2018 to increase its power export by additional 5,000 MW. Iran is now producing more than 70,000 MW power (Equivalent to about 263 billion KWh electricity). On the other hand, Azerbaijan is exporting more than 2 billion KWh. But since Iraq and Turkey are importing 68 and 20 percent of Iran’s power export respectively, the idea of establishing a regional network for exporting Azerbaijan’s power to these countries via Iran seems very promising. Iran’s eastern neighbors, Afghanistan and Pakistan both constitute about 10 percent of Iran’s power export. So, Turkmenistan can gain a greater share in these markets via Iran. For the time being, Ashgabat is exporting about 250 MW power to Afghanistan. /By Trend/ Army strengthening Azerbaijan's top priority http://www.today.az/news/society/138952.html Society Mon, 02 Mar 2015 15:55:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Mushvig MehdiyevAzerbaijan attaches greater attention and importance to the improvement and modernization of its army's capabilities, including combat readiness level both in terms of defense and attack operations.Both national and international reports on Azerbaijan's military have confirmed that Baku has increased its military focus, looking to further strengthen the role of its armed forces."The strengthening of the armed forces is one of Azerbaijan’s key priorities," said Zakir Hasanov, Defense Minister, in his recent address.At the opening ceremony of a modern military unit on the front area on February 28, Hasanov stated that as a result of the president’s attention and care, the military and troops' moral-psychological training, as well as the material-technical base of the armed forces have been recently strengthened."The social conditions of the personnel have been improved compared to previous periods. A third military unit has been opened over the last three months along with some additional units planned to open this year,” he noted.He added that Azerbaijan achieved to provide the army with modern weapons and equipment, to commission new military camps and apartments over the recent years."All this is the result of the attention and care rendered by the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan,” he said.Going on his address, Hasanov referred to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as Azerbaijan's most painful problem."Much work is being done to fairly resolve this conflict. The armed forces must stand strong in order to prevent the Azerbaijani people from facing such a tragedy ever again,” he noted.The liberation of the occupied lands is not far given the ongoing strengthening of the armed forces, believes Hasanov.Hasanov's regular visits to all military units have helped towards combat-readiness and improvement, all which is needed in view of successfully opposing Armenia's incursions and resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.Azerbaijan, which lost 20 percent of its territory to Armenian military occupation in the 1990s has boosted its military in view of liberating its lands. It has set this mission as a top priority for 2015.Armenia has so far ignored calls from the international community to withdraw from the Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions, which regions have been recognized to belong to Azerbaijan.Armenia fought a lengthy war against Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. The conflict claimed the lives of hundreds of ethnic Azerbaijanis. Armenia keeps under control one fifth of Azerbaijan territory and caused over a million of Azerbaijanis to live as IDPs and refugees in their homeland.Regular incursions against Azerbaijan on the contact line by Armenia represent a threat Azerbaijan armed forces have had to constantly manage.Although the international community has stepped in, trying to broker a fair resolution to the conflict, Armenia has proven to be unresponsive.Azerbaijan however has shown exemplary tolerance and commitment towards peace, especially in the light of ongoing Armenian acts of sabotage. That being said Azerbaijan reserves the right to military measures against Armenia should it needs to. AIBO robot dogs won hearts of Japanese http://www.today.az/news/interesting/138950.html Weird / Interesting Mon, 02 Mar 2015 15:30:00 +0400 ‘AIBOs’ robotic dogs were the world’s first home-use entertainment robots, sold in Japan by Sony Corp. between 1999 and 2006. Equipped with Artificial Intelligence (AI), these dogs were capable of developing their own personality, making them all the more endearing to their owners. So much so, in fact, that when they break down, the owners bury them with a proper funeral service, just like they would a real pet!To understand the strange practice of burying a robot, you’ve got to understand exactly how popular Aibos are in Japan. When Sony rolled out the first generation Aibo in 1999, the initial batch of 3000 units were sold out in 20 minutes flat, in spite of the $2,000 price tag. In the following years, over 150,000 units of various Aibos models were sold.But Sony was in trouble in 2006, so Aibo, the expensive luxury pet, was discontinued. The company did keep their ‘Aibo Clinic’ open until March last year. But then they decided to further cut costs by shutting down the maintenance unit, and owners had to look elsewhere for help with spare parts. Unfortunately, they are hard to come by, which means that when Aibos dogs break down, most of them leave their owners forever.  So the only option for the owners to deal with the loss is by organizing a real funeral.The funerals held for the ‘dead’ Aibos are quite similar to any other in Japan. The dogs are lined up on the altar, each wearing a tag to show where they came from and which family they belonged to. “I believe owners feel they have souls as long as they are with them,” said 59-year-old Nobuyuki Narimatsu, who heads an electronics repair company specializing in fixing vintage products.70-year-old Hideko Mori, for instance, had her Aibo pet for around eight years, and always treated it like a real dog. “He doesn’t require feeding and he doesn’t pee,” she said. “I never thought there was a limit to his life.” But in May last year, her beloved Aibo stopped moving. She tried to get it fixed, and even sent an email to Sony on behalf of the dog: “Do I have no choice but to die like this because I can’t walk?”Thankfully, the engineer who read the email introduced Hideko to A FUN, a company that employs former Sony engineers – they were able to fix the robot in two months. “I was so happy to see him back to health at home,” she said.61-year-old Hiroshi Funabashi, who supervises repairs at A FUN, said Aibo owners regard him more as a doctor than an engineer. “The word ‘repair’ doesn’t fit here,” he said. “For those who keep Aibos, they are nothing like home appliances. It’s obvious they think their (robotic pet) is a family member. “I don’t know if people will develop affection (towards a new generation of robots) in five, six years’ time,” said Funabashi. “But I think we need to recognize they are not ordinary electrical devices.”The only source of genuine parts for an ailing Aibo is from ‘dead’ robots. But it’s tough to get access to these parts, so repairs could take anywhere between a few weeks to a couple of months to complete. In some cases, even that isn’t possible, and the owners have to come to terms that their much loved robots are ‘dead’. This is especially tough for the Japanese, who really consider robots to be man’s best friend.Sumie Mekawa, 72, said that since she and her husband have no children, they call their Aibo ‘Ai-chan’ and treat it like a daughter. She talks to the robot every day, travels with it and makes clothing for it. And she has an agreement with her husband – whoever lives longer will ultimately be cremated alongside the dog. “I can’t imagine how quiet our living room would have been if Ai-chan wasn’t here,” she said. “It will be sad when the day finally comes when Ai-chan is unable to stand up.”/Odditycentral.com/ “Aida” opera presented by vocal artists of three countries http://www.today.az/news/entertainment/138951.html Arts & Entertainment Mon, 02 Mar 2015 15:29:00 +0400 The Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater has staged “Aida” opera by Giuseppe Verdi, on February 28, with participation of the opera stars of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine.The part of Aida was sounded by Honored Artist Victoria Chenskaya, the Honored Artist of Ukraine. She is a winner of numerous international competitions. She has been on tours in Germany, Hungary, Scotland, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Thailand and other countries.People's Artist of Georgia, State Prize winner, laureate of international contest of vocalists, prof.Teimuraz Gugushvili has performed the part of Radames. Dmitri Grishin, the Honored Artist of Ukraine was invited to perform Amonasro part.One of the leading roles in opera, Amneris, was played by Fidan Hajiyeva, the Honored Artist of Azerbaijan.The soloists also included Azerbaijani People's Artist Ali Asgarov (bass), Honored Artists Gulnaz Ismayilova, Akram Poladov and others.The conductor of the opera was David Kintsurashvili, art director of the Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre of Tbilisi.The performance was cheered by audience./By AzerTac/ Anna Pavlova says serious preparations underway ahead of European Games http://www.today.az/news/sports/138947.html Sports Mon, 02 Mar 2015 15:16:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Amina NazarliWomen's artistic gymnastics, an Olympic sport, is one of the disciplines which will be presented at the European Games in Baku. Three gymnasts will compete for the six sets of medals - for the team standings, individual all-around and individual competitions - on the balance beam, uneven bars, vault and floor exercises, will represent Azerbaijan during the Games.Azerbaijani gymnast Anna Pavlova - a potential participant at the Games opened up to Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation press service. In her interview she discussed her involvement and love of gymnastic, her ambitions and plans for the future.Below is a transcript of the interview:Question - How did you turn to gymnastics? Why did you choose this sport?Anna - My parents were coaches in gymnastics, and I grew up in the hall. I did not have of a choice.I began training when I was about 4 years old.Question - Have you tried other sports? Did you display talent in other disciplines?Anna - I tried a few different sports and disciplines. At one point I was very involved in music and chess games. Then I went to school and soon I was asked to make a decision … I chose gymnastics. It was my choice. Both my parents and grandmother were against it. They wanted me to get involved in dancing, but dancing wildly irritated me. Now I am grown up I do enjoy dancing but as a child I found it boring.Question - How do you deal with your emotions during competitions? Any special tricks or techniques to help you stay in control?Anna - It depends. I usually try to focus on the technicality, remembering my training and so on but it's always that easy. Sometimes nerves take over but as an athlete you learn to deal with such stressful situation.Question - What is the key to success in any sport?Anna - Working on yourself and the desire to win.Question - How dangerous is it to be engaged in professional sports, or does it depend on the sport? Anna - All professional sports carry a degree of danger and training at such high intensity can indeed lead to health problems. That being said it provides athletes which such a sense of achievement. Gymnastic is different form other sports in that you alone determined how far you can do. You really are in competition with yourself. Your performance depends on how well you trained. General gymnastics is also good for health. Professional sport offers athletes the opportunity to travel, to make a name for themselves and improve their lifestyle. I cannot imagine what I will do after I retire. There is an opportunity to pursue a career as a coach, but I am not ready to take this step. Moreover, I am used to my way of life - I am constantly on the move visiting new countries and regions.Question - Do you have a sport's idol? Anna - No. There are people whom I respect for their achievements. I do not consider imitation appropriate.Question - Tell us about your plans for the near future. Anna - Due to my injury, I find it hard to plan anything. Now I have one goal - to heal my foot and prepare for the European Games. I want to be on top form. I had a surgery two months ago, but it all went a bit wrong. After the injury, I was told it would be difficult to recover. I am still waiting to see if I can actually make it. After the European Games we will see if it is advisable for me to pursue my career. However, every day becomes harder for me. I have to work it out for myself, because soon the World Championships will start.Question - What do the European Games mean for you and how do you prepare for them? Anna - When I finished my career for the first time, I arrived in Baku. I like it very much and decided to stay here for 3 years. I was not able to attend the Universiade. At first, one coach did not allow me, then another one. After that I suffered from trauma. I believe that the European Games, where almost all sports will be presented, are something similar to the Universiade. For me it is very interesting. I would like to try myself at the Games.Question - If we move a little bit away from sport - do you have any aspirations or dreams that you want to achieve? Anna - I do not know. I do not dream about something special, but I want to make something of myself outside sport. Because sport is fine, I have achieved a lot, but it will end.So I need to find something else. I do not know what else can interest me. One never knows about it until he/she tries. For example, coaching attracts me. I would like to try it. I would like to teach children.Question - Are you able to combine sport with normal life? Anna - I live and breathe sport. I cannot imagine myself without sport. It is my life.Question - Tell us about your family.Anna - My family is small. My dad died, and my mother is my personal trainer. Also a younger brother helps me in terms of organizational issues. There are first cousins, second cousins, brothers and sisters; and I consider them family members. I try to see them often. If not, we constantly keep in touch through social networks.Question - Do you have a loved one?Anna - No, I haven’t.Question - What do your fans usually shout, and what do you want to hear from them? Anna - They shout whatever they want (laughing). When they are supporting me, I am very happy. Their encouragements make me stronger.Question - What would you like to tell them?Anna - I want to tell them that their support is very important for every athlete. We have recently been on a showcase tournament in Mexico and we were greeted very warmly. Fans supported us, shouted encouragements, and it was all very emotional. I would like to thank all those who support us and root for us. No reason to inflate prices on bread and flour products in Azerbaijan http://www.today.az/news/business/138949.html Business Mon, 02 Mar 2015 14:25:00 +0400 There is no reason to inflate prices on bread and flour products in Azerbaijan, the head of the State Grain Fund of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Emergency Situations Zulfugar Mammadov said March 2.He said that the volume of grain reserves of the fund increased from 500,000 metric tons to 750,000 metric tons.“This allows intervention on the domestic grain market and preventing the price increase."Currently, the fund provides the enterprises with grain at 185.6 manat per metric ton,” he said. “The wholesale price on 50-kilogram bag of flour is set at the level of 16 manat. This allows keeping the price on bread produced in the country at a stable level. In other words, there is no reason to raise the price on bread."“At present, the supply of high quality wheat in the country hit almost 500,000 metric tons,” Mammadov said. “Moreover, the negotiations on wheat supply are being held with the grain producers from Russia and Kazakhstan.”The main objective of the State Grain Fund is to provide consumers with grain products in emergency situations, to form the state grain stocks, to fulfill the international obligations and, if necessary, to prevent a sharp rise in prices on the domestic grain market.The Central Bank of Azerbaijan has set the manat rate versus the US dollar at 1.05 manat per dollar since February 21. The rate decreased by 33.9 percent.The official exchange rate of the US dollar versus the Azerbaijani manat was set at 1.0496 manat as of March 2./By Trend/ PACE co-rapporteurs visit Azerbaijan, meetings scheduled http://www.today.az/news/politics/138948.html Politics Mon, 02 Mar 2015 14:16:00 +0400 The co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Azerbaijan, Pedro Agramunt and Tadeusz Iwinski, are on a visit to Azerbaijan, the press service of PACE told Trend Mar.2.The co-rapporteurs will meet with Azerbaijani officials, including the chairman of the Milli Majlis (Parliament) Ogtay Asadov, Minister of Justice Fikret Mammadov, representatives of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE.Agramunt and Iwinski will also hold meetings in the General Prosecutor's Office, Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan and the Central Election Commission.In addition, they are expected to meet with representatives of civil society in the country and visit a number of prisoners.The visit of co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) completes on March 3.The Polish MP Iwinski was elected as co-rapporteur of PACE Monitoring Committee on Azerbaijan on January 29 during the PACE winter session in Strasbourg. In this role, he succeeded Joseph Debono Grech (Malta). This is the first visit of Iwinski as co-rapporteur to Azerbaijan./By Trend/ AIM 2015 to highlight investment opportunities in SME sector http://www.today.az/news/regions/138946.html World news Mon, 02 Mar 2015 13:15:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Sara RajabovaInvestments in small and medium-sized enterprises will be a key topic of discussion at the Annual Investment Meeting 2015, to be held in Dubai from March 30 to April 1.AIM 2015 will bring experts and officials from over 140 countries to discuss major topics related to Foreign Direct Investment, mainly in SME sector.Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori, UAE Minister of Economy, organizer AIM 2015, said SMEs are the cornerstone of any economy, given their huge contribution to the gross domestic product as well as employment generation. “Hence, it is important to have extensive discussions on SMEs being an incubator for creativity and innovation.”“SMEs have become a springboard for creativity and innovation, given their economic value addition. Many of the SMEs have grown rapidly attracting a variety of investments, as well as funds and governmental support through bodies like Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development and Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development,” Al Mansoori said speaking about SME scene in the UAE.Al Mansouri also added SMEs are essential for accelerating innovation. An SME is established based on an idea, or as implementation of a patent, and keeps developing to become a productive entity.“We support these institutions by providing facilities. This year’s edition of AIM aims to discuss this subject threadbare, and recommend solutions that would be beneficial to the macro interests of the economies in the world,” he added.SMEs are facing many obstacles, particularly on the funding side, which calls for increased investment. Participants at AIM 2015 will highlight the significance of boosting investments in such institutions, and ways to address barriers to financing, development and investments.“The AIM agenda will include investments in general as well as FDI in SMEs and their integration with the overall financial system. It will also shed light on its financial obstacles and suggest solutions. We hope that AIM will come out with tangible results to strongly support this vital sector,” said Dawood Al Shezawi, CEO and AIM’s Organizing Committee.The AIM program includes in-depth debates on patents and orientations of investments highlighting preferences of investors and host countries. It will highlight the views of governments, investors and owners of SMEs, with the goal of finding ideal solutions and ideas for developing this important sector.SMEs have shorter establishment process for foreign investors, as they find ready entities for investments and promotion in large open markets.“SMEs invest in areas that are not on the radar of bigger investors, and develop themselves to become pioneers with huge potential of further growth, especially if they find foreign markets to sell their products or services,” Al Shezawi said.AIM 2015 will be held under the theme ‘Sustainable Development through FDI Induced Innovation and Technology Transfer’.Some specialized reports reveal that SMEs play a key role in reducing unemployment, especially in some developing economies.It should be noted that many of the SMEs have evolved and grown as a result of innovative ideas of its owners, especially young people. These startup companies are considered centers for innovation and creativity to support the economy, particularly as their activity is concerned with the needs of the community.In addition to the challenges of financing, SMEs are facing obstacles related to selling in foreign markets, in light of competition from larger companies, or in light of obstacles preventing them from entering new markets.Product development is also a challenge, since these facilities may lack the necessary mechanisms for developing its products, or they might lack expertise or market research, or lagging behind in technological advancement.Lack of funding is one of the obstacles facing the SME sector, as they are unable to develop their products or expand business. Here is where the role of FDI comes in. Defense Ministry dismisses Armenian media's report on soldier deaths http://www.today.az/news/politics/138945.html Politics Mon, 02 Mar 2015 13:10:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Mushvig MehdiyevAzerbaijan's Defense Ministry has officially dismissed Armenian media's reports on soldier losses as baseless.The Ministry said the news reported by the Armenian media about alleged deaths of soldiers in Azerbaijani army were fictitious and divorced from reality."Armenian media's alleged reports on our troops' losses during a fire exchange on February 28 are not true," announced Vagif Dargahli, the ministry's spokesmanMeantime, two Armenian soldiers were reported dead as a result of a gunplay on the Line of Contact on the February 28 afternoon.Artak Aghekyan, 36, and Hayk Baroyan, 20, were killed by Azerbaijani troops in the wake of armed skirmishes.On March 2, the ministry confirmed that in the past 24 hours, Armenia infringed the ceasefire agreement with Azerbaijan over 50 times, thus forcing Baku to intervene.Drawn into a conflict it did not initiate, Azerbaijan has warned it would not stand idly while its people's lives are put in harm's way by Armenian soldiers.Back in 1992, following a violent and bloody conflict, Armenia occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts plunging the South Caucasus region into a protracted conflict.The two countries signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, France and the US are currently holding peace negotiations.Armenia has yet to comply with UN Security Council resolutions calling for the liberation of all occupied territories. Sacred energy of Ateshgah temple http://www.today.az/news/analytics/138944.html Analytics Mon, 02 Mar 2015 12:00:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Nigar OrujovaWhile the bite of winter can still be felt, spring is most definitely on its way and soon Azerbaijan will be able to enjoy a much kinder and warmer weather; and this means everyone favorite holiday is around the corner - Novruz Bayram or the New Year.Last week the country celebrated the first Tuesday before the holiday – Water Tuesday. It is one of the four Tuesdays, each of which is dedicated to the awakening of one of the natural elements.Usually preparation for Novruz begins a month prior to the festival. Each of forthcoming 4 weeks is devoted to one of the four elements and called accordingly in Azerbaijan. Each Tuesday people celebrate the day of one of the four elements - water, fire, earth and wind.Rooted in Zoroastrianism - the oldest of all monotheist religions - Novruz Bayram has been celebrated since ancient times. The spring new year has been welcomed by holidays in Azerbaijan, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and other Eastern countries. Novruz, which means "new day" in Persian is marked in the northern hemisphere on the day of the equinox (21-22 March), which is the beginning of spring.Zoroastrianism was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in ancient Iran approximately 3500 years ago and revolves around the worship of fire.With a history that stretches back millennia, Baku is home to the Baku Ateshgah or "Fire Temple". The temple is an ancient Hindu castle-like religious edifice in a suburb of greater Baku, which was initially recognized as a Zoroastrian fire worship place.The temple is included in the UNESCO’s preliminary World Heritage list and considered as one of the most interesting monuments due to its historical value.Built in the 17-18th centuries, the temple is located on a place well known for its natural burning-gas phenomenon.Zoroastrians monks highly rated mystical significance of the inextinguishable fire and came here to worship it. Dozens of hermits living in Ateshgah worshiped fire and led an ascetic life, torturing their flesh and cleansing their soul.The pentagonal complex, which has a courtyard surrounded by cells for monks and a tetrapillar-altar in the middle was abandoned after 1883 when the movement of the earth's surface stopped the yield of natural gas. Pilgrims thought it was a punishment from the gods and began to disperse.Until now, this place is believed to possess an extraordinary energy. Today, Ateshgah is a newly reconstructed museum, which attracts the attention of many tourists.Located 30 km away from the capital, on the Absheron Peninsula, the temple is a perfect place to visit during one of the festive Tuesdays. Silk Way Group to purchase three Boeing 747-8 Freighters http://www.today.az/news/business/138943.html Business Mon, 02 Mar 2015 11:25:00 +0400 Azerbaijan`s Silk Way Group will purchase three 747-8 Freighter airplanes as the company signed an agreement with Boeing.The agreement was signed by President of Silk Way Group Zaur Akhundov and Vice-president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Marty Bentrott. The contract was valued at more than $1.1 billion.President of Azerbaijan Airlines Jahangir Asgarov and US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Robert Sekuta attended the signing ceremony.Vice-president of Middle East, Russia and Central Asia Sales, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Marty Bentrott said Silk Way Group has special place among the customers. He hailed Silk Way Group`s cooperation with Boeing. He expressed confidence that the agreement would be beneficial for both sides./By AzerTac/ SOCAR reduces gas production in Azerbaijan http://www.today.az/news/politics/138941.html Politics Mon, 02 Mar 2015 11:20:00 +0400 The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) produced 570.2 million cubic meters of gas in January 2015, compared to 598 million cubic meters in January 2014, a message posted on SOCAR’s website said.SOCAR develops the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli (ACG) block of oil and gas fields and the Shah Deniz gas and condensate field jointly with foreign partners.Around 2.496 billion cubic meters of gas was produced in the country in January 2015, compared to 2.04 billion cubic meters in January 2014, according to SOCAR.SOCAR includes Azneft (companies producing oil and gas on land and sea), Azerkimya (chemical industry) and Azerigas (gas distribution) production associations.In addition, the state oil company has a number of processing and service enterprises, as well as institutions involved in geophysical and drilling activities./By Trend/ Swine flu poses no threat to Azerbaijan http://www.today.az/news/society/138939.html Society Mon, 02 Mar 2015 11:15:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Nigar OrujovaAzerbaijan has no need to be afraid of the swine influenza, the Health Ministry reported.Although cases of swine flu have been on the increase in Russia, Azerbaijan remains largely unaffected said Shair Gurbanov, the deputy director of the Anti-Plague Station.Sixty people reportedly contracted the disease in Russia."There is no reason to be concerned that the Swine flu will spread to Azerbaijan," Gurbanov added.The deputy director stressed that preventive measures against the spread of the virus in the winter period are taken every year."As ways of contamination with the swine flu and the ordinary flu are similar as well as their symptoms, the prevention of these diseases are also similar. From this standpoint, Azerbaijan does not plan to conduct additional measures, it is not necessary," said Gurbanov.Fever, cough, nasal secretions, fatigue, and headache are the main symptoms of the swine flu.The swine influenza may mutate and become easily transmissible among humans. The outbreak of the flu was noted in 2009, and was first observed in Mexico.The swine flu virus with H1N1 subtype is weaker than the regular flu. "Influenza is an acute respiratory infection. Only the laboratory can identify infection with this disease," he noted.The deputy director stressed that deaths from the regular flu are several times higher than deaths from the swine flu.The ordinary flu infection leads to death in five percent of cases, while death from swine flu comes in two percent of cases.“The swine flu, as usual, is able to promptly spread among humans. In winter, people spend more time indoors, so the chance of spreading the virus during this period is high," Gurbanov said.He further noted, "those who experience flu symptoms should see a doctor, use a mask, practice good hygiene and refrain from staying in public places as to prevent the spread of the virus”."People need to live a healthy lifestyle, eat right, not smoke, not drink alcohol with a view not to weaken their immune system," the deputy director added.It should be noted, that since Azerbaijan is a predominantly Muslim country, the breeding of swine and intake of the meat is not widespread. Synergy Baku Cycling Project to compete in GP Izola http://www.today.az/news/sports/138942.html Sports Mon, 02 Mar 2015 11:11:00 +0400 The Synergy Baku Cycling Project said it is ready for its next race, the GP Izola on Sunday, March 1. The race will offer challenges to the sprinters and all rounders.The GP Izola (UCI 1.2) features four laps of a circuit course and has its start and finish in Izola, Slovenia. It is anything but a flat course, as there are seven mountain rankings along the way. The team will be led by sprinter Maksym Averin, but if the climbs prove too much for him, Austrian Markus Eibegger will be a good option.They will be supported by veterans Dennis van Winden and Ioannis Tamouridis, who will be making their Synergy Baku debuts.Young Azerbaijani riders Elgun Alizada, Ismail Iliasov, Samir Jabrayilov, and Enver Asanov, with the race being Alizada’s professional debut.Slovenian champion Matej Mugerli was scheduled to start the race for Synergy Baku, but was forced to withdraw due to illness./By AzerTac/ Armenia violates ceasefire with Azerbaijan http://www.today.az/news/politics/138940.html Politics Mon, 02 Mar 2015 11:00:00 +0400 Armenian armed forces have broken the ceasefire with Azerbaijan 50 times in numerous positions in the last 24 hours, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said on March 2.Armenian armed forces, located on the nameless heights of Armenia’s Ijevan district, opened fire at the positions of Azerbaijani armed forces located on the nameless heights of Gazakh district.Azerbaijani positions also took fire from the positions located near the villages of Talish, Tapgaragoyunlu of Goranboy district, Chileburt, Gizil Oba of Terter, Yusifjanli, Shikhlar, Bash Gervend, Javahirli, Kengerli of Aghdam, Kuropatkino of Khojavend, Horadiz, Garakhanbeyli, Alkhanli, Ashagi Seyidahmadli, Ashagi Abdurrahmanli of Fizuli and Mehdili of Jabrayil district.Moreover, Azerbaijani positions underwent fire from the positions located on the nameless heights of Goranboy, Khojavend, Fizuli and Jabrayil districts.The opposing side was silenced with return fire.The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan.As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.The two countries signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, France and the US are currently holding peace negotiations.Armenia has not yet implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions./By Trend/ Workaholics more inclined to alcoholic drinks, says survey http://www.today.az/news/analytics/138937.html Analytics Mon, 02 Mar 2015 11:00:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Mushvig MehdiyevJust a few people in the world would agree to work more than the average time per week. First of all, most people want to spend their post-work time with their family, go for a walk, visit relatives and etc.But, today a new reason is preventing people from being a workaholic: working too hard can drive you to drink more, said researchers, warning of the double alcohol-related health risks.An overview of studies covering more than 400,000 people proved that individuals who work for over 48 working hours per week- the European Union's suggested maximum- are more likely to consume "risky" quantities of alcohol.The BMJ journal, a London-based international peer reviewed medical journal, reported that long working hours boosts the possibility of higher alcohol intake by 11 percent overall.People who work 49-54 hours a week are exposed to a 13 percent higher risk of developing a risky alcohol use habit compared to others who work 35-40-hour per week.Working 55 hours or more expose workers to 12 percent more risk.Ibrahim Ibrahimov, a psychologist in Azerbaijan told AzerNews that excessive working hours lead people to gradually lose their spontaneous way of living and live a "robotic" life in a continuous stress.Many working people involved in the surveys in Azerbaijan said working too hard caused stress in them and deprived them of spending their time with family, friends, said Ibrahimov."More working hours reduce the sociability, as well as cause insomnia among people. Being far from correlation and sleepy nights usually result in several mental disturbances. Thereby, many people turn to alcoholic drinks to get rid of psychological disorders and job fatigue," he added.Ibrahimov said overworking could even drive some people into depression, reducing their desire and energy to work."Drinking alcohol is the best way for workaholics to escape from the stress, aggression, boredom and problems. They somehow anesthetize themselves through alcoholic beverages for some period of time," he noted."Risky" alcohol usage is defined as more than 14 units per week for a woman and more than 21 for a man. Higher alcohol intake may well make a ground for a higher risk for liver and heart disease, cancer, stroke and mental disorders.An alcohol unit is equal to a third of a pint of medium-strength beer, a half of a 175-millilitre glass of red wine with 12 percent alcohol by volume, or a 25 milliliters shot of whisky.More than a dozen developed economies were covered by the research, including Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan and the United States."This meta-analysis supports the longstanding suspicion that alcohol can seem like a fast acting and effective way to eliminate the dull work-related aches and pains, and smooth the transition between work life and home life among workaholics," said Cassandra Okechukwu of the Harvard School of Public Health.The results of the mentioned survey is not new, as long working hours have previously been linked to cardiovascular disease, depression and anxiety.Okechukwu added that having a job is associated with a lower prevalence of alcohol consumption and a higher chance of recovery from alcohol misuse than being unemployed."The risk should be taken seriously. Any sign presumably linked to avoidable increases in disease or health damaging behavior, or both, warrants careful examination," said Okechukwu.Heavy drinking can have a long-term effect on employees’ performance, including absenteeism, inefficiency, poor decision-making and damaged customer relations, according to a Britain-based Institute of Alcoholic Studies. The institute claims that a raised blood alcohol level while at work jeopardizes both efficiency and safety by increasing the likelihood of mistakes, errors of judgement, and accident proneness.World Health Organization reported in its Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014 that worldwide alcohol consumption in 2010 was equal to 6.2 liters of pure alcohol per person aged 15 years or older. Moreover, harmful use of alcohol results in the deaths of 2.5 million people worldwide annually, causes illness and injury to millions more, and increasingly affects younger generations and drinkers in developing countries.WHO's report in 2011 also revealed that alcohol caused nearly 4 percent of deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence.Vodka says: "Trust me, you can dance", but Mahatma Gandhi said: "Alcohol is not the answer to all the questions". Killing the boring time with alcohol is deliberately killing the health. Health is hardly recovered once it is lost, so, try to say "no" to alcohol wherever you are, either at work or at a barbecue party. Spring beautiful spring! http://www.today.az/news/society/138938.html Society Mon, 02 Mar 2015 10:45:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Amina NazarliFinally winter is leaving us and spring is on its way.Very soon the sun will appear more often and the sky will be more vivid.After a long and snowy winter it will be nice to go outside and smell the warm wind and to see the first spring birds.Bringing spring to the country, March will also please Azerbaijanis with festive Novruz Bayram. People cannot wait to take off their warm coats and wear light clothes to walk in the fresh warm air, as days will become longer and nights will become shorter.Forecasters have predicted frequent changes in weather for March. “Despite the fluctuations in the temperature, the temperature in this month is expected to be close to the climatic norm. The average monthly precipitation will also be close to the norm,” the National Hydrometeorology Department said.Temperatures in Baku are expected to vary in between 5-7 degrees C with 2 degrees C below zero in some days. However, the other half of the month will be more pleasant as temperature will reach in between 17 and 19 degrees C.In Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic the nights will be cool (1-6 degrees C above zero), while days will see temperatures of 8-13 degrees C. The second half of the month also promises to be warm - 15-20 degrees C.What about Upper Karabakh, Khankandi, Shusha, Khojali, Lachin, Zangilan, Dashkasan and Gadabay? The weather on the first half of March is predicted to be a little cool - 1-6 degrees C, but to the end of the month the heat of the sun will increase temperatures to 17 degrees C.The average monthly temperature of 5-7 C degrees will stand in the Ganja, Gazakh, Terter, Agdam, Fuzuli and Jabrail regions of Azerbaijan. At nights, temperature will vary from 1 to 6 degrees C, with some expected drops to 1-6 degrees C below zero in some instances. However, people will feel spring has arrived a little closer to the end of the month when temperatures will rise to 15-18 degrees C.Azerbaijan’s Balakan, Zagatala, Gakh, Sheki, Oguz, Gabala, Ismailli, Shamakhi, Shabran, Guba, Gusar and Khachmaz regions will also experience warm weather on the second half of March - 15-17 degrees C. Although temperatures at night might still drop below zero temperatures will soon rise up.Forecasts for Central Aran - Mingachevir, Yevlakh, Geychay, Agdash, Kurdamir, Imishli, Beylagan, Sabirabad, Shirvan, Bilasuvar, Saatli, Neftchala and Salyan will be close to usual - at 6-8 degrees C. Temperatures at night will be naturally cooler - 2-7 degrees C, while during the day they will reach 9-14 degrees C. As in many regions the residents of Central Aran will also experience warmness on the second half of MarchIn the South regions including Masalli, Yardimli, Lerik and Astara, the monthly average temperature will stay at 5-7 degrees C. Days will stand at 8-13 degrees C, while nights - 2-7 degrees C. On some days the temperature will reach 16-18 degrees C. Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan intend to boost bilateral trade http://www.today.az/news/regions/138936.html World news Fri, 27 Feb 2015 22:54:00 +0400 Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan exchanged views on the current level and the development of bilateral economic relations, Azerbaijani embassy in Uzbekistan told Trend.The discussions were held with Azerbaijan’s Minister of Economy and Industry Shahin Mustafayev during his short-term visit to Tashkent.As part of this visit, Mustafayev met Uzbekistan’s Deputy Prime Minister, chairman of the board of Uzavtosanoat JSC Ulugbek Rozukulov, Economy Minister Galina Saidova and the Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade Elyor Ganiev.During the meeting, the sides focused on the measures on increasing the volume of bilateral trade.The trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan stood at $50 million as of 2014, according to the embassy.However, the two countries have potential to increase this figure. Uzbekistan has the opportunity to increase the volume of export of grain, cotton, fertilizers, cars, trucks, agricultural machinery and textile machinery to Azerbaijan.Azerbaijan, for its part, can sell petroleum products to Uzbekistan and take part in the projects for production and exploration of hydrocarbons in this country./By Trend/ Azerbaijani hostages' imprisonment violates fundamental human rights http://www.today.az/news/politics/138934.html Politics Fri, 27 Feb 2015 21:34:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Mushvig MehdiyevThe incarceration and subsequent show-trial for Azerbaijani hostages in Azerbaijan's occupied lands is a complete provocation, declared a Moldovan human rights activist.Moldovan Ombudsman Aurelia Grigoriu expressed strong reservations in regard to condemnation of two Azerbaijani nationals Dilgam Askerov and Shahbaz Guliyev by the puppet regime in Nagorno-Karabakh.Asgarov and Guliyev, were charged and subsequently found guilty of alleged kidnapping, espionage, murder and other fictitious crimes in a show trial.Grigoriu noted that the issue of the release of the two hostages would now depend on what the European Court will decide in relation to the gross human rights violations the two nationals were subjected to.Grigoriu confirmed that both Armenia and Russia violated Articles 3, 5, 6, 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights in regards to the captives.During an operation in the Shaplar village of Azerbaijan’s occupied Kalbajar district on July 11, 2014 Armenian forces captured Hasan Hasanov, Shahbaz Guliyev and Dilgam Asgarov. Hasanov was killed after he endured horrific torture.Asgarov is an ethnic Azerbaijani who holds a Russian citizenship.Criminal charges were subsequently filed against them by Armenia in a so-called court in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Asgarov was sentenced to life imprisonment and Guliyev to 22 years in prison."These are violations of the fundamental rights to liberty and security of a person, violation of the right to a fair trial,” Aureliu said. She added that an appeal will be immediately filed to the European Court of Justice."Much work is being conducted for the sake of the release of the two Azerbaijani captives taken hostage in the occupied lands of Azerbaijan," First Deputy Speaker of the Azerbaijani Parliament Ziyafat Asgarov said.He added that the issue has been raised with European organizations by Azerbaijani officials under the president’s specific instructions."I do not think that the Armenians will be able to keep the Azerbaijani hostages for a long time,” Asgarov said. "US Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland has recently said in Baku, then in Yerevan, that the U.S. is interested in seeing the two Azerbaijani hostages released.""However, we want these statements not only to be voiced, but also turned to action. The pressure must be exerted on Armenia," Asgarov noted.U.S. high-level officials: Victoria Nuland and Jane Psaki have recently called on the Armenian authorities and all other relevant bodies to take all necessary steps to arrange the return of the two civilian hostages to Baku.Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier in January that he would discuss the fate of Dilgam Asgarov with his Armenian colleagues in Yerevan.Armenia has refused so far to answer foreign officials' calls in regard to the release of Asgarov and Guliyev. The issue has come to a deadlock due to Armenia's preference to adopt an aggressive stance towards the captives.The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh was sparked after Armenian troops invaded large swathes of land in Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. Following bloody skirmishes, Armenia armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan's internationally recognized and historical territory. The conflict has yet to be resolved since Armenia has systematically refused to abide by UNSC resolutions. Azerbaijan-Czech trade turnover hits € 1.5 bln http://www.today.az/news/analytics/138933.html Analytics Fri, 27 Feb 2015 21:30:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Nigar OrujovaTrade turnover between Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic has reached 1.5 billion euros in 2014 on the background of successful economic cooperation in recent years, the Czech embassy in Baku reported.Jan Mladek, Industry and Trade Minister of the Czech Republic, will pay an official visit to Azerbaijan on March 3 to discuss further development of economic cooperation, according to the embassy report.During the visit, Mladek will meet with Shahin Mustafayev, Economy and Industry Minister, and other members of the Azerbaijani government.The visit will also include a business forum to be attended by 32 Czech companies and banks.The event will be organized by the Foundation for the Promotion of Export and Investments, established by the Azerbaijan Economy Ministry. The Chamber for Economic Relations with CIS will be organizers from the Czech side.Twenty-three percent increases were marked in the trade cooperation between two countries last year in comparison with 2013.The republic buys mainly oil in Azerbaijan, while supplying industrial equipment and consumer goods. Over the past 10 years, the Czech banks have provided loans in the amount of $ 1.5 billion to Azerbaijan.The Czech Republic recognized the independence of Azerbaijan in January, 1992. Diplomatic relations between two countries were established in January 1993. Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic are interested in future development of mutual cooperation within UN, OSCE, NATO, EU and other international organizations. European Council prefers facts over praise about Georgia http://www.today.az/news/regions/138932.html World news Fri, 27 Feb 2015 19:27:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Mushvig MehdiyevGeorgia is one of the foregoers of the Eastern Partnership, said a top European Council official, adding that rather than a praise the remark was a mere fact.European Council President, Donald Tusk also praised the visa liberalization progress taking place in between Georgia and the EU at a meeting with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Brussels on February 26.Georgia’s implementation of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, which was signed in June 2014, was the main topic of discussion on the day."We are making a good progress. We are now awaiting the results and recommendations of the ongoing expert missions. And I hope that at our next meeting in Riga, we can be successful in this context,” Tusk said.From the European Council perspective, Tusk emphasized several fields where successful reforms will be key points for Georgia’s implementation of the AA."The time has come for Georgia to substantially advance its reform agenda in vital areas such as the rule of law and the judiciary, including the creation of an independent prosecutor's office. Fostering a political climate based on respect and cross-party dialogue is another key area," Tusk stressed.Garibashvili said the European integration was a choice of the Georgian nation emphasizing that the government’s final goal was to successfully integrate into the EU."Georgia has an ambition to become an example of success in the region and to demonstrate the transformative power of European integration. I would like to underline that the Association Agreement does not constitute the end-point of our relations with the EU, but it paves the way towards the future progressive development of EU-Georgia cooperation,” Garibashvili said.Regional security was also at the forefront of the meeting held at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels.Garibashvili assessed the existing situation in Ukraine as the continuation of Russian aggression towards Georgia in 2008."The current crisis in Ukraine is a matter of great concern and heavily aggravates security issues on the European continent," Garibashvili said.Tusk, in turn, reconfirmed that the EU supports Georgia’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.Meanwhile, the Press Office of the Georgia’s Prime Minister released a statement saying that Tusk will probably visit Georgia before the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga in May 2015. Iran unveils new strategic weapon http://www.today.az/news/regions/138931.html World news Fri, 27 Feb 2015 19:12:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Sara RajabovaIran continues to unveil new achievements of its military and defense sectors in the massive military drills.During the last day of the military exercises, kicked off on February 25, Iran tested a new strategic weapon.The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ naval, land and airborne forces participated in the third and last day of the major drill dubbed “Prophet Mohammad- 9” which was held in the Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz.Although Iran media have covered the events at length key details were kept out of news reports for obvious national security reasons.Ali Fadavi, IRGC’s naval commander Rear Admiral explained that the new weapons will play a decisive role in increasing Iran’s naval force ability to thwart any attacks and neutralize any enemy - namely the U.S., ISNA news agency reported on February 27.IRGC also tested some of its new military equipment and weapons including the RPH reconnaissance drone equipped with powerful cameras, Jamarat missile with range of 14 kilometers, Ramait roadside mine, Sayyad bounding mine, Asef 23mm gatling gun, Arash shoulder-launched weapon and sniper rifle Siyavash on the second day of the drill.On the first day of its drill the IRGC Naval Force successfully targeted a U.S. aircraft carrier model.The real size model came under attack and was destroyed by missiles and rockets fired from tens of IRGC speedboats.In recent years, Iran has made several major breakthroughs in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing important military equipment and systems, including a variety of domestically-manufactured drones.Since 1992, Iran has manufactured its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles, radars, boats, submarines and fighter planes.The country has so far unveiled various domestically produced drones, including Ababil, Fotros, Hazem, Karrar (long range attack drone), Mohajer, Sarir, Shahed 129, Yasir and Zohal.Iranian officials have always stressed that the country's military and arms programs serve defensive purposes and should not be perceived as a threat to any other country. Baku slams separatist regime in Nagorno-Karabakh over election scam http://www.today.az/news/politics/138935.html Politics Fri, 27 Feb 2015 17:38:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Mushvig MehdiyevAzerbaijan's Foreign Ministry slammed forthcoming "parliamentary elections" in the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh republic scheduled for May 2015."The so-called parliamentary elections of the puppet separatist regime are illegal," declared Hikmet Hajiyev, the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry on February 27."Those planned elections are clearly a violation of Azerbaijan's Constitution and stand against the principal of international law. Therefore, such elections will never have any significant impact," he added.Hajiyev further emphasized that this move mainly aimed to undermine peace talks and prevent any breakthrough in the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.The so-called authorities in Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh region have scheduled "parliamentary elections" to be held on May 3, 2015, read a statement from the illegitimate "NKR" president’s press office.Previous parliamentary "elections" in Azerbaijan's occupied lands were held on May 23, 2010, at which point Azerbaijan appealed the United Nations Organization.Puppet rulers in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan have always seized every possible opportunity to hinder, thwart and sabotage peace negotiations.In July 2012, with the support of the Armenian authorities the so-called regime in Azerbaijan's occupied territories held "presidential elections".Along with Azerbaijan, Turkey has strictly condemned such actions stressing they stood in breach of international law.Back in 1992, following a violent and bloody conflict, Armenia occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.The two countries signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, France and the US are currently holding peace negotiations.Armenia has yet to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions calling for the liberation of all occupied territories. Katie Taylor named Baku 2015 ambassador http://www.today.az/news/sports/138930.html Sports Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:28:00 +0400 /By AzerNeüs/By Nigar OrujovaIrish boxer Katie Taylor will be an international Athlete Ambassador for this summer’s inaugural event, Baku 2015 European Games announced on February 27.Taylor, who took first place at the London 2012 Olympic Games, is also the current Irish and World Champion in the 60 kg weight division.Her medal haul at major competitions stands at 17 golds, including her Olympic title, five consecutive World Championships, six consecutive European Championships, and five European Union Championships, making her the most decorated athlete in the history of women's Boxing.“I am delighted to welcome Katie to the Baku 2015 team as an international Athlete Ambassador. To have a champion of her calibre backing the first European Games is a great endorsement of the event, and reflects the high level of competition we will see this summer,” said Simon Clegg, Chief Operating Officer of Baku 2015.“I am sure Katie will very much enjoy promoting the Games in Ireland through her role as an Athlete Ambassador, and we look forward to seeing her compete in Baku in June,” he said.Baku 2015 Athlete Ambassadors will represent their sports, and feature in marketing campaigns around the continent and on social media, to promote the first European Games.Taylor, 28, who has also represented the Republic of Ireland women’s national football team, said: “Baku 2015 will be great for European sport, and I am delighted to be involved both as an Athlete Ambassador and as a competitor. I will be doing my best to raise the Games’ profile and get the word out to as many people as possible.”Patrick Hickey, President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, said: “I have no doubt that Katie will do a great job of promoting Baku 2015 around the country, helping to build support for Ireland’s athletes in Azerbaijan this summer. As one of the world’s leading competitors in any sport, you couldn’t ask for a better ambassador for the first European Games.”Taylor joins British taekwondo athlete Jade Jones, French rhythmic gymnast Kseniya Moustafaeva, Denmark’s canoe sprinter René Holten Poulsen and Serbia’s Basketball 3x3 team of Dušan Domovi? Bulut, Marko Savic, Marko Zdero and Dejan Majstorovic as international Baku 2015 Athlete Ambassadors, with more to be announced in the near future.The biggest sporting event in Azerbaijan's history, the Baku 2015 European Games will attract more than 6,000 athletes to represent 50 countries in 20 sports during 17 days of competition.The games will take place in 21 stadia and facilities in Baku and Mingachevir city. ADB focuses on alternative energy development http://www.today.az/news/business/138929.html Business Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:25:00 +0400 /By AzerNeüs/By Nigar OrujovaAlthough Azerbaijan remains an energy rich country, it has greatly invested in the alternative energy sector in order to not only diversify its portfolio but also protect the environment.Azerbaijan has said to be determined to promote research in alternative and renewable energies - solar energy, wind energy, thermal energy.The total capacity of alternative and renewable energy sources in Azerbaijan exceeds 12,000 megawatts. Most of the country's capacity in this area comes from solar energy with an estimated 5,000 megawatts.Wind energy produces about 4,500 MW, biomass 1,500 MW, geothermal energy 800 MW, and the remaining 350 MW is a potential for small hydro power plants.The Asian Development Bank is currently working to assess the possibility of alternative energy development in Azerbaijan, the Baku office of the bank reported on February 26.At the moment, ADB continues technical assistance for the alternative energy development project, according to the source.“The first report has already been sent to the bank for consideration,” the bank’s office said. “If it is approved now, in late 2015 - early 2016 the planned amount of $40 million will be allocated. It is difficult to give any more details at present since we have yet to conclude the agreement. But at least, the work in this direction is underway."Under the cooperation strategy with Azerbaijan, the ADB plans to allocate $752 million in between 2014 and 2018 toward the implementation of infrastructure projects in the spheres of transport, energy and water supply.18.6 percent of the funds will be allocated toward the financing of the energy sector.Over the whole period of cooperation, the ADB allocated a total of nearly $1.94 billion to Azerbaijan for the implementation of 22 projects.The active portfolio of the ADB in Azerbaijan is $1.224 billion. President Aliyev receives new Polish envoy http://www.today.az/news/politics/138928.html Politics Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:16:00 +0400 Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev received the credentials of Marek Calka, the newly-appointed Polish ambassador, AzerTag state news agency reported.The ambassador reviewed the guard of honor. Calka handed his credentials to President Aliyev.President Aliyev then had a conversation with the ambassador.The head of state said the relations between the two countries and people have ancient history. He noted the successful development of the bilateral relations in various fields.President Aliyev recalled his meetings with Polish President Bronis?aw Komorowski in Baku and at international events, and stressed the importance of high level meetings in terms of the strengthening of the relations.The head of state said there were good opportunities for cooperation in various areas, including in the political, economic, energy and humanitarian fields, as well as within the international organizations and EU.The president also stressed the importance of more active participation of Polish companies in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani companies in Poland in joint projects.Calka said he has visited Azerbaijan several times as part of various delegations.He further noted that he would spare no effort to further expand the relations between the two countries in various fields during his diplomatic tenure in Baku./By AzerTAc/ Armenian diaspora apologizes to Azerbaijani people http://www.today.az/news/politics/138927.html Politics Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:12:00 +0400 /By AzerNeüs/By Mushvig MehdiyevIt appears that the Armenian society has finally woken up to its government's criminal and bloody past, facing up to some very uncomfortable realities.Two decades after Armenia massacred hundreds of Azerbaijanis, President Serzh Sargsyan's role has become too evident and too brutal for anyone to care to ignore anymore. And since the Armenian officials can no longer sweep their heinous crimes under the rug, Armenians are coming to terms with their history.And yet, Sargsyan remains proud of what he calls the creation of "greater Armenia". He labelled the invasion of Azerbaijan's territories in the 1990s an "independence war." He even tried to rationalize the killing of innocent Azerbaijani civilians, stressing that such a campaign had been necessary in order to exert control over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.As far as Sargsyan is concerned, Khojaly genocide remains a bright spot in Armenia's history.But officials' lies have lost their substance, the Armenian public and most especially the Armenian diaspora has said to be ready to confront the truth. Armenians have even called on all Armenian criminals of war to be held accountable.Vahe Avetian, an Armenian publicist, emerged as the voice of justice when he delivered his apology to the Azerbaijani people over the Khojaly genocide."I apologize to Azerbaijan for Armenians' participation in the killing of hundreds of people in Khojaly," he said on Feb.26, on the commemoration anniversary of Khojaly genocide.He expressed his hope that all perpetrators "will sooner or later be punished.""My dear neighbors in Azerbaijan! I again deliver my apology to you for the bloody genocide in Khojaly. Be sure that Armenia will investigate this crime and hold all criminals accountable. As soon as a legal national republic will be established in Armenia we will do so," Avetian added.Avetian, who left Armenia after government officials cracked down on opposition voices, emigrated to Stockholm, Sweden.He called on the Armenian people to abandon their bid to see recognize the killing of their ancestors some several hundred years ago as a "genocide" against Armenia."If the nation does not dare to judge its citizens for the crimes they committed by standing before the international court, it does not have a right to cry over the "genocide," Avetian said.The fact that Armenians abroad are no longer afraid to expose Yerevan's lies is a proof that Armenia's tales are crumbling to dust.Despite living far from Armenia, the diaspora is closely pursuing developments in the post-Soviet country, looking to influence positive change.Avetian noted that following his address thousands of letters from his countrymen were sent to him, threatening him with murder over his apology to Azerbaijan."Those people are degenerates of the ones who committed war crimes and continue to support war criminals. These criminals have held Armenia in shackles for over 25 years." he declared defiant.Alexander Varbedian, an Armenian writer and philosopher in Marseilles, France, expressed his solidarity with Avetian as he posted the same words of apology to the Azerbaijani people."Vahe, I join you and I beg the Azerbaijani people to pardon us for the Khojaly genocide. Most Armenians do not follow us because of their poor hearts," he said.Both Sargsyan and his predecessor, Robert Kocharyan have blood on their hands as they partook in the killing of hundreds of innocent Azerbaijanis. The Armenian diaspora is obviously sick of Yerevan's lies Industry risks of Kazakh banks increase http://www.today.az/news/regions/138926.html World news Fri, 27 Feb 2015 15:58:00 +0400 Standard & Poor's Ratings Services took various rating actions on seven Kazakhstan-based financial institutions due to rising industry risk, the rating agency reported on Feb. 27. S&P revised the outlooks to negative from stable on JSC SB Alfa-Bank, Kaspi Bank JSC, and PNB-Kazakhstan, and affirmed the long- and short-term counterparty credit ratings on these banks. The agency also revised the outlook to stable from positive on JSC Eurasian Bank and affirmed the long- and short-term counterparty credit ratings. Moreover S&P affirmed the long- and short-term counterparty credit ratings and maintained a stable outlook on ForteBank JSC (formerly known as Alliance Bank JSC), KazInvestBank, and Kazakh Agrarian Credit Corp. At the same time, the agency lowered the Kazakhstan national scale rating on JSC SB Alfa-Bank to 'kzBBB-' from 'kzBBB' and lowered the national scale rating on Kaspi Bank JSC to 'kzBBB+' from 'kzA-'. “Today's rating actions follow our decision to downgrade Kazakhstan. In our opinion, industry risks for Kazakh banks have increased because of the slowdown of the Kazakh economy, on the back of the pronounced drop in international oil prices, and further devaluation of the Kazakhstani tenge. This reflects our opinion of the Kazakh banking system's weakening funding profile,” S&P said. The sharp decline in oil prices greatly affects the outlook for Kazakhstan's economic growth and external and fiscal imbalances, given the Kazakh economy's high dependence on oil. The Kazakh oil sector accounts for an estimated 20-30 percent of GDP, more than 50 percent of revenue, and 60 percent of exports, according to S&P. The agency expects that the National Bank of Kazakhstan will either allow a gradual depreciation of the tenge or undertake another devaluation later this year, to accommodate lower oil prices and to ease the tenge's appreciation against the Russian ruble. “Our assessment of the economic risk trend for Kazakh banks remains stable. The stable trend reflects the already very high economic risks in a global comparison and the banking sector's only modest exposure to the oil sector. We expect reduced demand for credit from small and midsize enterprises and consumers, which tend to be the banks' core lending customer base, in view of lower GDP growth,” the agency said. S&P expects that credit risk in the economy will remain extremely high, taking into account Kazakh banks' history of aggressive underwriting standards and the country's weak payment culture and rule of law. The agency expects that the very high volume of nonperforming loans (NPLs) in the Kazakh banking system—24 percent as of year-end 2014--will continue to decline gradually in 2015, partly due to more proactive initiatives of the Kazakhstan National Bank. The agency noted that in recent months, Kazakh banks have suffered from a lack of tenge liquidity due to the conversion of tenge deposits into foreign currency. To hedge the widening foreign currency asset and liability mismatches, Kazakh banks have had to use costly foreign currency swaps with the National Bank of Kazakhstan, which has negatively affected their cost of funds. “We expect to see lower savings rates among corporate and retail depositors in 2015, in view of the reduced economic growth prospects and our expectation of the tenge's devaluation. We anticipate that increased retail deposit volatility and the dollarization of deposits will continue due to depositors' weakening confidence in the Kazakh economy and the tenge. Smaller banks will be particularly vulnerable to flight to quality and possible panic-driven deposit outflows. By our estimates, state-related companies are significant depositors with Kazakh commercial banks, accounting for over one-quarter of total deposits. We expect a squeeze on their deposit bases given the lower GDP growth,” S&P said. The increased industry risk puts pressure on the anchor, the starting point in assigning an issuer credit rating to a bank, which is 'bb-' for banks operating predominantly in Kazakhstan? According to S&P. “We have consequently revised our outlooks on Alfa-Bank, Kaspi Bank, PNB Kazakhstan, and Eurasian Bank, incorporating our opinion that these banks' capital buffers are likely to be affected by the increasing industry risks,” the agency said. Meanwhile the stand-alone credit profiles for, and consequently the issuer credit ratings on, KazInvestBank, ForteBank, and Kazakh Agrarian Credit Corp are not immediately affected by the increasing industry risks./By Trend/ Iran tests new strategic weapon in massive drills http://www.today.az/news/regions/138925.html World news Fri, 27 Feb 2015 15:20:00 +0400 By Umid Niayesh - Trend: Iran has tested a new strategic weapon in the last day of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) massive drill that kicked off on Feb. 25. The IRGC’s naval, land and airborne forces participated in the third and last day of the major drill dubbed “Prophet Mohammad- 9” which was held in the Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The Iranian media did not unveil details about the weapon which was tested at the final stage of the drill, however the IRGC’s naval commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said that the new weapon will play a decisive role in increasing Iran’s naval force power to combat the threats of the Islamic Revolution enemies, in particular the US, Iran’s ISNA news agency reported Feb. 27. IRGC also tested some of its new military equipment and weapons including the RPH reconnaissance drone equipped with powerful cameras, Jamarat missile with range of 14 kilometers , Ramait roadside mine, Sayyad bounding mine, Asef 23mm gatling gun, Arash shoulder-launched weapon and sniper rifle Siyavash in the second day of the drill. Jafari said on Feb. 25 that the drill is a “deterrence message to the Islamic Republic’s trans-regional enemies.” On the first day of the drill the IRGC Naval Force successfully targeted a US aircraft carrier model./By Trend/ Iran plans to become world's hub for Halal tourism http://www.today.az/news/regions/138924.html World news Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:50:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Sara Rajabova With the rise of numbers of tourists visiting Iran, the Islamic country plans to transform itself into the world’s hub for Halal tourism, catering directly to Muslim families. Iran’s top official said the country could attract as many as 15 million Muslim visitors per year. Massoud Soltanifar, Vice President and head of the Cultural Heritage Organization said his government plans to expand Halal tourism and attract an anticipated 10-15 million visitors to Iran every year, Press TV reported. He said Iran is seeing a steady rise in the numbers of tourists visiting the country, noting that five million tourists visited Iran last year, half of them travelling to Mashhad and Qom to visit Shia shrines. Since the large majority of visitors travelled to prominent Shia shrines -- Mashhad and Qom -- , Iran wants now to bank on the trend and develop its Islamic tourism. Mashhad -a city in northeast Iran - is a major tourism hub in Iran. The city is home to the shrine of Imam Reza, a grandson of Prophet Mohammad. The city attracts pilgrims from Iraq, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Pakistan, India and elsewhere. Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization said earlier that Mashhad is a major tourist destination with about 50 percent of all foreign visitors. Mashhad’s high capacity as a major tourism hub in Iran has created an opportunity to introduce the city as the new Halal tourism capital. Soltanifar further noted that Iran is planning to absorb over 20 million foreign tourists annually over the course of the next decade. “Thanks to the new government’s approach and interaction with the world, we are seeing a rise in foreign tourists from European and Islamic countries,” he said. He added that some destinations are among government officials’ priorities for development, including Qom where there is insufficient tourism infrastructure. Qom in central Iran, is one of the main centers of teaching in Shia Islam. Many pilgrims from neighboring countries and the world also travel to the city to visit the holy shrine. As Iran is planning to expand its tourism and attract more visitors, experts believe officials will need to develop state infrastructures. Iran has a diverse landscape and its tourism industry offers a myriad of recreational opportunities. They range from hot mineral water showers in the northwest to hiking and skiing in the Alborz mountains to magnificent architectural sight-seeing in the center and beach holidays in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Iran has one of the most vibrant and diverse society in the Middle East that is interesting for the lovers of history and ethnic variety. Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Armenian monastic ensembles of Iran, Bam and its cultural landscape, Bisotoun, Pasargadae, Persepolis, Sheikh Safi al-din shrine, Shoushtar historical hydraulic system, Soltaniyeh, Tabriz historic bazaar complex, Takht-e Soleiman, TchoghaZanbil and the Persian garden are among the Iranian historical heritage inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The international tourism reviews show that there is a high potential for a Halal tourism boom in the Middle East. Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco and many more countries are trying to attract Muslim tourists from all over the world, offering facilities in accordance with the religious beliefs of tourists. Azerbaijan opens another high tech park http://www.today.az/news/business/138923.html Business Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:28:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Nigar Orujova Azerbaijan will soon start the construction of yet another High Technologies Park, this time in the country’s fourth large city - Mingachevir. As Azerbaijan is looking to diversify its economy and move away from its dependence on the oil industry officials have pushed for more developments in the technology sector, especially since it has proven to be so promising. The Mingachevir park was set up in view of securing sustainable development and economic competitiveness. The expansion of innovative and high-tech industries based on modern scientific and technological achievements, as well as research and development of modern complex for the development of new technologies will enable Azerbaijan to make its mark in the region and promote growth. The facility will stretch across 1.3 hectare and fall under the administration of the Communication and High Technologies Ministry. The high-tech park has been equipped and organized in such a way that it will promote research and development work, ultimately leading to the commercialization of new products and high tech applications. An initial investment of 2 million manats was allocated to the project from the Azerbaijani President's Reserve Fund. Presently, Mingachevir is well known for its production of computer equipment - KUR. The KUR plant, which was established in 2005, is the only manufacturing company engaged in assembly-line production of computer equipment and electronics in the South Caucasus region. The plant will be used for the production of high-tech products, starting this year. Mingachevir High Tech park in will work in collaboration with another facility in Baku. The High Tech Park in Baku is currently under construction in a 50 hectares land area in the Pirallahi district of the capital. This facility will also be equipped with all the necessary infrastructure, logistics and governing entities, thus enabling engineers to conduct research in ICT, telecommunications and space use, energy efficiency, and the development of new and high technologies. Moreover, residents and companies operating in the park will be exempt from VAT (18 percent) on all imported infrastructural and technological goods and services. Along with the development of high tech parks, Azerbaijan has worked to develop its Industrial Park in Sumgayit, Azerbaijan’s industrial city. Baku 2015 signs another broadcast agreement http://www.today.az/news/sports/138922.html Sports Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:01:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Nigar OrujovaBaku 2015 European Games has signed an agreement with Setanta Sports to bring coverage of this summer’s inaugural event to Ireland.With this agreement, the Baku 2015 European Games has now announced deals to broadcast the Games in 51 countries around the world.The deal ensures that Setanta Sports, Ireland’s leading premium sports network, will broadcast eight hours of Baku 2015 sporting competitions per day, as well as daily highlights. The spectacular Opening and Closing Ceremonies will also be screened.A dedicated team of Setanta journalists will follow Baku 2015, focusing on Irish athletes participating at the Games.Simon Clegg, Chief Operating Officer of Baku 2015, said: “I am delighted that Setanta Sports and Baku 2015 have reached an agreement to bring the inaugural European Games to the Irish public.”“Our aim is to share the European Games with the widest possible audience, and we will continue working hard to ensure this,” he added.Michael O’Rourke, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Setanta Sports, said: “The European Games is a major new fixture on the international sporting calendar, and thanks to this agreement Irish sport fans will be able to follow all the action. Setanta Sports is proud to be bringing Baku 2015 to our subscribers, and looks forward to broadcasting a great 17 days of competition.”Patrick Hickey, President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, added: “The Irish delegation to the Baku 2015 European Games will be a strong one, and it’s wonderful that our athletes will be able to count on the support of fans back home thanks to this broadcast agreement.“It’s also great news for sport in Ireland, as the first European Games will be an inspirational event for our young people and the general public to enjoy,” he added.Setanta Sports reaches over 1.2 million homes in Ireland, and is synonymous with premium content from around the world, including the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League and Europa League, the European Rugby Champions Cup, Formula 1, The Masters, The Open, and American sports such as NFL, NBA and Nascar.The biggest sporting event in Azerbaijan's history, the Baku 2015 European Games will attract more than 6,000 athletes to represent 50 countries in 20 sports during 17 days of competition.The games will take place in 21 stadia and facilities in Baku and Mingachevir city. Is Kim Kardashian set to become Armenia's newest political figurehead? http://www.today.az/news/analytics/138921.html Analytics Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:00:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Mushvig MehdiyevOngoing political disputes and shifts in Armenia are slowly changing the nature of state politics, especially since the opposition has been increasingly dissociated itself from government.President Serzh Sargsyan who managed to claim victory over his political foe, Gagik Tsarukyan, by relying heavily on the support of his tight political circle continues to cling on to power.Tsarukyan who saw his political ambitions thwarted by Sargsyan, has faced increased pressure by government official, as his businesses have been targeted and his interests in Armenia have been damaged.With Tsarukyan said to be withdrawing from politics following his political defeat in February has essentially left the door open to the Republican Armenia party. With no opposition to really speak of, Sargsyan's faction has been left the "sole owner" of parliament.Tsarukyan decided to become the honorary leader of the Prosperous Armenia Party, decidedly leaving politics behind.The PAP decided to elect a new chairman following Tsarukyan's resignation.Zoghovurd, a local newspaper, wrote in a report that one particular legislator, Levon Martirosyan voiced an interesting proposal as to who should now lead the PAP."I know a lady who can lead the Prosperous Armenia party. She has all the qualities required. This brilliant lady is Kim Kardashan," Martirosyan noted, quickly adding that Kardashyan could be a better candidate to run the party.Martirosyan said the opposition party needs to talk to Kardashyan and convince her to fill Tsarukyan's now empty shoes."I'm not joking and I'm very serious on this issue. If Kardashian is elected as the Prosperous Armenia's leader, I will resign from the Republican party and join her party," he said.Kim Kardasian is an Armenian-cum porno star living in the U.S., who is married to a prominent American rapper Kanye West.Should Kardashian come to play a role in Armenia's politics, it is easily to imagine how very disillusioned the opposition will feel in relation to the credibility of Armenia.In any case the phantasmagorical proposal is actually very telling of Armenia's political unravelling. CBA says oil prices drop range in 2014 was greater than drop on other items http://www.today.az/news/business/138920.html Business Fri, 27 Feb 2015 13:44:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Amina NazarliThe average price for oil on world markets will amount to $56.73 in 2015 and $63.88 in 2016, according to the IMF, said the report on monetary policy of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA) for 2014 published on February 26.The report reads that the end of the reporting period, the price for Brent crude oil fell by 43 percent compared to the beginning of the year. The average price amounted to $99 per barrel, which is 9.2 percent lower than in 2013 ($ 109).“The prices of oil on world markets were adversely affected by such factors as an increase in military-political tension in the major oil-exporting countries, the decline of global demand, maintaining the level of oil production by OPEC countries at the same level, the growth of shale oil production in the United States,” the document said.“Since 1984, five episodes of more than 30 percent fall of oil prices were observed during six months. In 1985-1986, the price of oil decreased by 67 percent and fell from $31.72 to $10.42 per barrel, and in 2008 it decreased by 72 percent and fell from $146.08 to $36.61 per barrel.”The main difference between a sharp fall in prices in 2014 from a similar event in 2008 is that this time, the range of oil prices fall in comparison with the prices for other goods was much greater, according to the report.Since the second half of 2014, the fall in the indices of prices for energy resources, metals and minerals, agricultural products has accelerated. During the last year, the price index for goods fell by 29 percent, and by 6.4 percent for food products. The negative trend in prices is due to supply and demand factors, the CBA report said.The average price for AZERI LT, exported from Azerbaijan via the Ceyhan, Batumi and Supsa ports to Italian Augusta port, was $114.08 per barrel in June 2014(in the beginning of oil prices fall). At the same time, in December 2014, the average price for Azerbaijani oil was around $65.13 per barrel. Thus, the fall of prices for AZERI LT was 42.91 percent. Int. agencies say Russia’s economic slump seriously affects Armenia http://www.today.az/news/regions/138919.html World news Fri, 27 Feb 2015 13:29:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Mushvig MehdiyevNow that western powers have rolled a series of sanctions against Russia, Armenia finds itself in a tough economic spot, especially in the light of falling oil prices.Since Armenia remains very much a satellite of the Russian economy, the country has faced increased economic and financial difficulties in the past months. An international consulting group warned that several countries in Central Asia will suffer severe economic repercussions as a result of their ties to Russia, namely Armenia.Moscow-based Minchenko Consulting Communication Group developed a list of Russia-linked economies focusing primarily on their current and future problems.Armenia is included in the list of nations to likely find itself under continuous challenges.The global economic crisis and the devaluation of the Russian rubles have negatively affected post-Soviet countries, particularly those nations which heavily depend on Russia, said Charles Robertson, economist at the Renaissance Capital, a Britain-based research and management organization."Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova will feel the strongest pain of the Russia's economic stagnation," he explained.According to figures published by the World Bank, the fact that remittances from Russia continue to represent such a huge portion of several post-Soviet countries' economies will have a negative impact. For example, in Tajikistan, remittances from Russia represent 42 percent of the GDP, Moldova 25 percent and Armenia 21 percent.Armenia emerged to be the most Russian dependent country of the South Caucasus region, where its neighbors - Georgia and Azerbaijan - respectively hold a 12 percent and 2.5 percent Russian remittance stake in their GDP.The International Monetary Fund predicted post-Soviet countries to lose about $15 billion in total.A slowdown in Russia's economic growth will gravely hit oil importer countries, including Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and so on ... said Bank of America's Merrill Lynch financial institution.The bank claims that a decrease by 1 percent in Russia's GDP could result in 5 percent fall in remittances to post-Soviet countries.Merrill Lynch noted that Armenia remains vulnerable to external threats and risks.According to international experts, the European crisis may, as a domino effect, pass on to countries that have bilateral trade with the European Union. This includes Russia as well, which is the main source of capital and financial transfer into Armenia.This will of course further strain Armenia's economy and leave the country in a difficult situation.With Russia straining under low oil prices, the flow of investments toward countries like Armenia will eventually dry out, leaving those economies exposed.Merill Lynch said Armenians have never been skeptic about Russia's economy strength and as a result learned to depend on it.Since Armenia has joined the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union trade bloc, its economy faces increased exposure. Any negative economic development in Russia, the flagman of the union, will directly impact other member-states.The Russian Economic Development Ministry forecasted in November 2013 that Russia’s GDP annual growth will be around 3.1 percent by 2020, 2.5 percent by 2020-2025, and less than 1.8 percent by 2026-2030.Armenian state officials reportedly lost confidence in Russia's economy. Armenia stands confused amidst geopolitical shifts http://www.today.az/news/regions/138918.html World news Fri, 27 Feb 2015 12:25:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Mushvig MehdiyevAt such a time when Armenia has lost much of its military weight, dwarfed by its own internal struggles and economic hardship, can the world's elite forces really say they still need this post-Soviet country?Armenia has struggled to find its footing, forever a satellite of Russia, torn in between western powers' need to create a buffer to Russian hegemony and their desire to achieve their political survival.Though Armenia seems to have fallen under Moscow's sway that is not to say that the western powers have lost all interest into this small South-Caucasian country. If small and economically bankrupt, Armenia remains a geostrategic pawn."Armenia is neither an important nation, nor an ally of the US," Jason Katz, the principal of Tool Shed Group, a consultancy that advises foreign governments, NGOs and corporations in the realms of strategic communications, politics and policy, said in an article published in the U.S. Roll Call online newspaper.Calling Armenia a vassal of Russia, Katz explained that how Armenia actually recently turned away from the West by joining Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian Economic Union. The EEU seeks to act a counterweight to the European Union."Armenian borders and airspace are even patrolled by the Russian military," Katz added.Katz also spoke in his report of Brad Sherman, a democrat representative from California, who only recently attempted to reach out to Armenia in efforts to strengthen the mutual ties which exist in between the US and Armenia.Sherman wrote that as a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, he has focused on recognizing the unproven “Armenian genocide”, increasing aid to Armenia and Armenians of Georgia's Samtskhe-Javakheti region, as well as the separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh. Sherman's biased address pushed all limits when he urged to "hold Azerbaijan accountable for its actions against Armenia."Katz severely criticized Sherman's baseless claims, saying: “Why would a member of the US Congress go so far to offend not one, but two of America’s most important regional allies - Azerbaijan and Georgia?”"In reality, Armenia is not an important nation to the US, but it is however indispensable to the Iranians and the Russians," added Katz. He translated Sherman's efforts as the manifestation of his own political self-interest. Since California is home to much of the Armenian diaspora, Sherman was simply trying to score a few political points.While commenting on Armenian nationals living in Nagorno-Karabakh and Javakh, Kratz said, "The whole world, including the US has admitted that Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region has been illegally occupied by Armenia."Back in the 1990s, Armenia invaded and occupied several Azerbaijani regions, among which the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Ever since the region has known unrests. As a result of Armenia's armed invasion, 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory fell under Armenian occupation.Although the OSCE has attempted to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict, Armenia has systematically derailed peace talks, preferring to revert to armed aggression and war crimes rather than engage in peace talks."As for Javakh, it is a region within Georgia with compact Armenian minority and subject to territorial claims by some more radical Armenians. Actually, many Armenians in Javakheti region of Georgia, as it is properly called, carry Russian passports," Kratz noted.The Central Asian and Caucasian Studies in Sweden has already warned that Javakheti - province in southern Georgia - could become the next South Caucasus fault-line. Once again Armenia finds itself at the center of a territorial dispute.Moreover, Yerevan has been very active behind the scenes, resorting to issuing threats and warning against Georgia should it dare engages in acts of violence against the Armenian political movements in Javakheti. Yerevan issued a series of statement in which it threatened Georgia of pending actions should "its nationals" suffer violence.As tensions continue to simmer in the South Caucasus, western powers remain on the fence when it comes to Armenia and its role within their own political agenda.Uncertain itself of the direction it should take, Armenia remains weak and divided, a political conundrum which sooner or later will unravel under the weight of its own treachery and political inadequacy.In a nutshell, modern Armenia is not more than an empty institutional shell with no real own geopolitical stance. AccessBank accepts loan payments via MilliÖn payment terminals http://www.today.az/news/business/138917.html Business Fri, 27 Feb 2015 12:15:00 +0400 Trend:For the convenience of customers AccessBank has enabled customers to use MilliÖn payment terminals for loan payment. From now on, customers can use MilliÖn to pay their loans at any time of the day without coming to the Bank.The payment terminals are installed in the public places of Baku and other cities of Azerbaijan.MilliÖn payment terminals accepts both US dollars and Azerbaijani manats. You need to select “Bank services” from the screen, touch “AccessBank” icon and conduct relevant transactions. If the payment is made by 20:00 during a working day, the payment is accepted for that day. Payments made after 20:00 or on non-working day are accepted as payments of the next working day.No service fee is charged for using the terminals. Call AccessBank call centre at 151 or *0010 customer service of the MilliÖn payment system if you will have any questions.AccessBank was established in 2002 by Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, EBRD, IFC, KfW, a German consulting company LFS Financial Systems GmbH and AccessHolding. AccessBank provides loans to micro and small businesses and has a wide network of branches in Azerbaijan employing more than 2000 people.Fitch Ratings assessed AccessBank as BBB-, the highest credit rating among all banks in Azerbaijan. Armenia violates ceasefire with Azerbaijan http://www.today.az/news/politics/138916.html Politics Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:41:00 +0400 Armenian armed forces broke the ceasefire with Azerbaijan 37 times in numerous positions on Feb.27, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said on Feb.27.Armenian armed forces, located in Barekamavan village of Armenia’s Noyemberyan district and the nameless heights of the Ijevan district, opened fire at the positions of Azerbaijani armed forces located in the nameless heights and Qaymaqli village of the Qazakh district.Armenian armed forces, located in the nameless heights of Armenia’s Krasnoselsk district, opened fire at the positions of Azerbaijani armed forces located in the nameless heights and Qaraveliler village of the Gadabay district.Azerbaijani positions underwent fire from the positions located near the villages of Talysh, Tapgaragoyunlu of the Goranboy district, Yusifjanli, Bash Garvend, Sarijali, Shikhlar, Shuraabad, Javakhirli, Shirvanli of the Aghdam district, Chilyaburt, Chayli, Qekarkh, Qizil Oba of the Terter district and Kuropatkino of the Khojavend district.Moreover, the Azerbaijani positions took fire from the positions located on the nameless heights of Goranboy, Khojavend, Fizuli, Goygol districts.The opposing side was silenced with return fire.The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan.As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.The two countries signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, France and the US are currently holding peace negotiations.Armenia has not yet implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions./By Trend/ Baku 2015 volleyball preliminary round pools announced http://www.today.az/news/sports/138915.html Sports Fri, 27 Feb 2015 11:19:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Nigar OrujovaBaku 2015 European Games has announced the composition of the pools for the preliminary round of the Volleyball competition.Twelve teams will feature at the inaugural European Games in the men’s and women’s competitions respectively, of which nine have qualified through their position in the latest European rankings.Hosts Azerbaijan feature automatically, and two other teams qualify through their standings in the last four competitions of the CEV Volleyball European League.The Baku 2015 European Games Volleyball pool composition is detailed below, with teams’ European rankings in brackets. Azerbaijan were allocated the top spot in Pool A as host country in both the men’s and women’s competitions.Men: Pool A: Azerbaijan (34 – Host), Serbia (3), Poland (4), France (7), Finland (8), Turkey (13)Pool B: Russia (1), Italy (2), Bulgaria (5), Germany (6), Belgium (9), Slovakia (10)Women: Pool A: Azerbaijan (12 – Host), Italy (2), Turkey (4), Poland (6), Belgium (8), Romania (15)Pool B: Russia (1), Serbia (2), Germany (5), Netherlands (6), Croatia (8), Bulgaria (10)Teams will play the other members of their pools in a single round-robin format, with the top four teams from each pool qualifying for the quarter-finals.“Volleyball is one of the most popular sports on the Baku 2015 European Games programme, and we are very much looking forward to staging a top-level competition here in June,” said Simon Clegg, Chief Operating Officer of Baku 2015.Pool B of the men’s competition will feature the current Olympic champions, Russia, taking on Italy, who claimed bronze at London 2012, in a rematch of the 2013 European Championship final, while world champions Poland will have to contend with a strong Serbian team in Pool A, as well as France, who had a successful campaign at last year’s World Championship, ending the competition in fourth place.Reruns of the 2011 and 2013 European Championship finals will provide two of the highlights for the women’s preliminary round, as Serbia, Russia and Germany have been assigned to the same pool.Andre Meyer, President of the European Volleyball Confederation (CEV), said: “All of Europe’s top teams are set to compete in Baku at the inaugural European Games, and the pool composition will provide us with a series of high-profile matches right from the outset."We look forward to a great sporting display this summer in Azerbaijan, and are confident that the Volleyball competition will be one of the real highlights of the Baku 2015 European Games,” he added.Pierce O’Callaghan, Director of Sport at Baku 2015, added: “The top European Volleyball teams have chosen to compete in the European Games, and with Rio 2016 Olympic Games ranking points up for grabs, it promises to be a fascinating two weeks of competition.”The Baku 2015 Volleyball competition will take place from June 13 at the Crystal Hall, and will feature 336 athletes.The biggest sporting event in Azerbaijan's history, the Baku 2015 European Games will attract more than 6,000 athletes to represent 50 countries in 20 sports during 17 days of competition.The games will take place in 21 stadia and facilities in Baku and Mingachevir city. Manat falls - prices rise? http://www.today.az/news/business/138914.html Business Fri, 27 Feb 2015 10:32:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Nigar OrujovaAfter a sharp devaluation of the manat on February 21 led to an overnight rise of prices in the local market the government has worked to set in place a series of measures to protect customers and control inflation.Azerbaijan Central Bank set the manat at 1.05 against the USD, compared to 0.78 earlier. The move aims to strengthen “international competitiveness,” amid aggravated pressure on the country’s finances due to low oil prices.Such measures aim to prevent any artificial increase in prices in the consumer market, the Economy and Industry Ministry reported.The ministry insisted that its priority is to stabilize the market and protect prices for basic foodstuffs and medicines. The ministry has also prevented a price increase on flour.The State Service for Antimonopoly Policy and Consumer Protection warns that direct measures will be put in place against those business entities that seek to artificially raise prices.The ministry advised the population to remain vigilant when shopping.Officials called on all residents to notify the authorities should they witness over-prizing practices. A hotline has already been set in place by the government to that effect - people should call 195-2 - the call center of the Economy Ministry, or the Service for Antimonopoly Policy and Consumer Protection - (+99412) 498-15-01, 498-15-04.Salim Muslimov, the labor and social protection of population minister, said earlier, that his ministry will continue to monitor markets and assess its strategies accordingly.Speaking to the press he reaffirmed that the authorities will continue to meet social payments in a timely manner. "There will be no delays,” he said.He added, "In this situation, one can only talk about the reaction of the social protection system to the change in the market prices."“We are working on it,” insisted Muslimov, adding that since February 23, all relevant state departments had been monitoring the situation.“Unfortunately, and due to ongoing difficulties in the oil market world currencies are suffering. Speculation has become rampant," he noted. “In such cases, the antimonopoly structures should strengthen its administrative measures. In our case, the economy ministry deals with this, and, according to the available information, it [the ministry] conducts enhanced work in this direction.”Muslimov also said his ministry will send its monitoring results to the government, and then take appropriate action.The State Social Protection Fund has also reported it will consider the possible growth of the consumer price index when calculating pensions.Azerbaijan’s manat had been stable at just over 0.78 per dollar since mid-2011. The economy of Azerbaijan - the biggest economy in the South Caucasus - has slowed down as oil prices fell 45 percent from last year’s peak.The country, which relies on hydrocarbons for more than 90 percent of its exports and has built its state budget around the petrodollars - 65 percent - was forced to devaluate the national currency. Armenia sees gradual drug usage rise http://www.today.az/news/regions/138913.html World news Thu, 26 Feb 2015 17:44:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Mushvig MehdiyevAccording to official data, drug usage in Armenia is on the rise.The number of narcotic dependents has already surpassed 5,000 in Armenia, confirmed a report published by Hetq, a local journalistic investigation source.Most registered drug users in the post-Soviet country hail from the Vanadzor and the Gougarq regions.Hovhannes Amirkhanyan, a drug specialist, who has worked at a drug dispensary for the past seven years, believes that the real number of drug users is several times higher than officials care to admit.He noted that most users registered for treatment have been on the methadone program.The number of patients receiving methadone treatment in Armenia is also on the rise, thus concurring previous warning that the country is losing its battle against addiction. In 2009, there were 32 registered drug-addicts, it rose to 111 in 2010, 116 in 2011, 160 in 2012, and 312 in 2013.Methadone is a powerful synthetic analgesic drug which is similar to morphine in its effects, but less sedative and is used as a substitute drug in the treatment of morphine and heroin addiction.Experts all agree that Armenia has seen a dramatic increase in its number of drug users over the past years.There were 1,686 registered drug users in the country in 2009. This number increased to 3,893 in 2011 and 4,922 in 2013, said a 2014 national report on drug usage in Armenia.Hetq's investigation revealed that more people in Armenia have expressed a positive attitude towards leisure drug-taking, which ultimately led to a greater number of people falling victim to drug addiction - over 5,000 people.The 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report of the U.S. department of State read the most common illicit drug in Armenia is marijuana, most of which is grown locally.Armenia is also known for being a transit country for amphetamine trafficking from Iran to Europe.Notwithstanding its drug usage problem, Armenia also faces a serious drug trafficking crisis.According to a report by the Armenia's Police Department for Combating Drug Trafficking made public in June 2014, some 443 cases of drug trafficking were registered during the first five months of 2014.David Avetisyan, President of the Criminal Chamber of Armenia's Court of Cassation, confirmed that Armenia failed so far to crackdown on drug production and drug farming.In 2014, official statistics showed that the number of drug users in Armenia increased by 50 percent in 2014 with cannabis, opium and cocaine standing as the main drugs of choice.It is important to note that because Armenia failed to address its growing drug trafficking and drug farming problem, drug lords have turned large swathes of lands, mainly those Azerbaijani territories under Armenian occupation into large drug farms.Despite Azerbaijan’s and the international community’s concerns that great quantities of drug are being transited through the occupied territories, Armenia has yet to allow international inspectors in. Official says pensions not to be affected by inflation http://www.today.az/news/business/138912.html Business Thu, 26 Feb 2015 16:15:00 +0400 /By AzerNews/By Amina NazarliAzerbaijan State Social Protection Fund may increase pensions in the case of consumer price growth as the result of the manat’s exchange rate, said Elman Mehtiyev, Chairman of the SSPF“Every year the fund implements an indexation of pensions in accordance with the level of inflation. In the case of changes in consumer price the amount of pensions and pension capital will be automatically increased to eliminate any negative impact,” he explained.Mehtiyev stressed the pension system has its own protection mechanisms against the impact of fiscal policy and indexing. All checks and reviews are made annually.“The global drop in oil prices has had no impact on financial indicators of the SSPF. The fund ended last year with a significant surplus,” the chairman noted.Moreover, he stated that like in 2014, 2015 pensions would be paid ahead of schedule. The SSPF’s main task is to pay March pensions ahead of the Novruz holiday, celebrated on March 21.“We will pay it, as we have sufficient reserves,” he said.The average size of pensions in Azerbaijan as of January 1, 2015 stands at 173.4 manats, while the average size of pensions according to the seniority averages at 192.3 manats.The SSPF said that as of this period some 1,291,000 labor pensioners have been registered. The number of pensioners has increased by 13,000 people or 1 percent in comparison with 2014.The number of people, who received age pensions, has dropped by 8,000, while the number of those receiving a survivor's pensions has risen by 4,300.During the given period the number of people receiving disability pension has increased by 16.700.The official exchange rate of the US dollar and Euro to Azerbaijani manat was set at 1.0501 and 1.1942 manats respectively, as of February 26.Azerbaijan’s manat has been stable at just over 0.78 per dollar since mid-2011 until the recent slump in global oil prices put pressure on Azerbaijan.The country, which relies on hydrocarbons for more than 90 percent of its exports and has built its state budget around the petrodollars - 65 percent - was forced to devaluate its national currency.