Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliev addressed the country in a radio message on May 9 and in a televised appearance on May 10 from the Cleveland Clinic in the United States for the first time since undergoing cardiac surgery there on April 29. The operation involved a coronary bypass and restoration of the principal, left-side ventricle (see the Monitor, May 3).
The televised appearance was timed to and did coincide with Aliev’s 76th birthday. The president, looking slimmer than usual, was shown walking unaided in the clinic and its grounds, where he is reported to be taking daily walks. His voice also seemed weaker than usual, but sounded firm and his diction was clear. Aliev expressed satisfaction with his post-operation recovery and confidence that he would very soon return to Baku. He commended the government, the presidential administration and the parliamentary leadership for “coping well” with their duties during his absence. Aliev pronounced himself satisfied that the country’s stability is fully assured.
Since May 6, Aliev has been communicating by telephone from Cleveland with the prime minister, the ministers of foreign affairs, internal affairs and national security, the head of the presidential administration, the senior foreign policy adviser, the Milli Majlis speaker, Baku’s mayor and the executive head of the governing party. The president was officially reported as having listened to reports from these officials and having given them instructions. The opposition in Baku has, on the whole, maintained a responsible attitude, despite calls to the contrary from abroad by ex-Speaker Rasul Guliev through his local supporters.
U.S. President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and other foreign leaders have expressed a strong interest in Aliev’s rapid recovery. Aliev is scheduled to join Shevardnadze and Armenian President Robert Kocharian for a trilateral meeting of the South Caucasus countries’ presidents under the European Union’s auspices in Luxembourg next month. Western diplomacy attaches considerable hope to that meeting as a possible start toward a settlement of the Karabakh conflict and impetus to progress on TRACECA (Azerbaijani radio and television, May 10; Turan, AzerNews, AFP, Reuters, May 7-10).
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