Books on Azerbaijan
Update No: 288- (01/01/05)
Aliyev visits London; Britain May Provide Military Aid
The UK is an important partner for Azerbaijan these days, second only to the US
and Russia. BP after heads the huge AOIC consortium with AMOCO and there is
considerable other British investment.
On December 14th, President Aliyev met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair,
Foreign Minister Jack Straw and other officials to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict and economic relations between the two countries.
It is logical for Azerbaijan to court the City of London and big British
business. A visit by the country's president, Ilham Aliyev, makes perfect sense.
It greatly helps that he is fluent in English.While in London, President Aliyev
also spoke at a conference entitled "The development of the non-oil sector
During the visit, Aliyev held meetings at various commissions of the British
parliament. He also met BP President George Brown and heads of several other
Great Britain may provide military and technical assistance to upgrade the
Azerbaijani Army and establishment of various entities. This was discussed at a
meeting of President Aliyev with British Minister of Defence Geoffrey Hoon. Also
considered were issues related to Azerbaijan's integration with European
entities and a plan of action on the NATO-Azerbaijan Individual Partnership
Azerbaijan's president about to be tested by challenges he inherited
His real job of course is back home, although it helps him build up stature
domestically to bestride the world stage. His main problem is that he is still
very much in the shadow of his father. In his office a portrait of his father,
the patriarch Heydar who ruled over the country in the South Caucasus for a
decade until his death 2003, looks out sternly, as it does in strategic points
across the capital Baku and the rest of the country.
The principal question is how far Aliyev junior is able to assume and modify the
legacy of his father, and how far he remains a captive to the previous powerful
establishment, which remains largely in place. Like his counterparts in the
region, he stresses the challenges he inherited. "From the time of
independence, we had one of the most difficult situations among the states of
the former Soviet Union," he said. "The country was completely
disintegrating. There was civil war, domestic problems, elements of chaos and
Despite the challenges, geography has also handed Azerbaijan significant natural
resources. With the strategic Baku-Ceyhan pipeline set to begin piping local oil
for export next summer, and gas output soon to grow sharply, Mr Aliyev faces the
prospects of a substantial boost in government revenues soon.
If he meets his pledge to use the money transparently and to help kick-start
broader economic diversification and reform, none of which his Father did, as he
discussed in London, he could yet live up to his father's legacy. If not, he
risks being overshadowed by it, as a pale imitation.
Political problems abound
Mr Aliyev is operating against the backdrop of an enlarging European Union and
NATO; and his self-professed foreign policy priority is to "integrate into
European and euro-Atlantic structures." Hence the importance of the London
visit. But breathtaking corruption, human rights abuses and democratic
restrictions are all attracting increased international scrutiny as a result.
"Of course there is a lot to be improved," he said. "Azerbaijan
is a country in transition. Our objective is creating a normal, pluralistic,
democratic country. But it's very difficult to create civil society. We need
economic growth and education. We must not expect a miracle, but we have made a
lot of positive steps."
He brushes aside suggestions that the state is pressuring print media, while
saying that his ministers and government officials are within their rights to
pursue publications for libel, in cases that have proved a powerful blow to
local journalists, (a technique developed by Singapore).
He also stresses that he has recently released a group of "so-called
political prisoners," although recently seven other rival politicians were
convicted. Mr Aliyev accuses his opponents of being involved in violence - and
of being those who imposed censorship and tension when in power at the start of
the 1990s. "We need a normal, civil relationship between different forces,
but we will never tolerate violence," he said, adding that he easily won
the election despite international criticism of voting, although international
observers held this election to be farcical, given the repressive techniques,
like locking up their political opponents.
Nagorno-Karabakh looms large
He has recently spent time with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and the
two men discussed the single most important issue confronting Mr Aliyev: the
unresolved conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the mountainous western zone occupied
by Armenia since a ceasefire in 1994.
"Azerbaijan will never compromise its territorial integrity," he said.
"We are ready to talk about compromises, but outside this issue. We will
not give independence to Nagorno-Karabakh or allow it to become part of Armenia.
At least in public, he shows little sign of fresh concessions on the subject,
demanding Armenian military withdrawal from the region and seven surrounding
districts that they have occupied, and the return of almost a million
Azerbaijanis driven out by the conflict.
In exchange, he said he is willing to offer "security guarantees" for
the Armenians left in Nargono-Karabakh and the "the highest possible
Georgian-Azeri relations improve
Commenting on the current situation on another key regional issue, the
Georgian-Azerbaijani border, across which there has been extensive smuggling,
President Aliyev told journalists on December 17th that the issue has been
clarified. "All problems on the border will be eliminated after we make
sure that no cargo is passed to Armenia," underlined the President, saying
that Azerbaijan and Georgia are committed to fighting contraband.
Aliyev noted that consignments are smuggled to Armenia through Azerbaijan,
President Aliyev said: "We will not have this happen again". He
stressed that the border will remain closed until a normal work schedule in
Georgia is provided.
Expressing his stance on the recent incident involving Azerbaijanis living in
Georgia, President Aliyev said that a peaceful life for Azerbaijanis abroad is a
very important issue for the state. "There are forces trying to harm the
friendly relations between the two countries. We know who they are.
Unfortunately, there are such forces in Azerbaijan as well. However, the main
forces are outside the country. We cannot allow hurting the strategic
partnership between Georgia and Azerbaijan."
President Aliyev called on the Azerbaijanis living in Georgia to respect the
laws of the country and not to commit violations. He also voiced his confidence
that all the outstanding discrepancies will be eliminated.
Iran, Azerbaijan agree on building two bridges to Naxcivan
The Iranian and Azerbaijani transport ministers have agreed on the construction
of two bridges connecting Iran with the Naxcivan Autonomous Republic (NAR)
[Azerbaijan's exclave]. Azerbaijan and Iran will jointly fund the construction
of a bridge between Poldasht (Iran) and Saxtaxti (NAR), and a bridge between
Jolfa (Iran) and Culfa (NAR). Three million dollars have been allocated for the
construction of the first bridge and US$4m for the second one. Iran has begun to
carry out the feasibility study of the project. The construction will be done by
Iranian companies and will start in the first months of 2005, MPA News Agency
Azeri oil boss, Iranian envoy discuss energy cooperation
A meeting between SOCAR [State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic]
President, Natiq Aliyev and Iranian ambassador to Azerbaijan, Afshar Soleymani,
in Baku has focused on the development of cooperation between Azerbaijan and
Iran in the energy sector, Turan News Agency reported.
The Iranian embassy's press service said that during the meeting, Soleymani had
touched on the delivery of the Caspian oil through Iranian territory on the
principle of swap (equal exchange). The envoy said that this could be regarded
as a factor of the "development of regional cooperation."
Talking about bilateral relations, he described the future deliveries of the
Iranian gas to Naxcivan [Azerbaijani exclave] as a "success" of the
In turn, Aliyev spoke highly about the expansion of bilateral cooperation in the
energy sector and expressed his satisfaction with the implementation of the
project to transport the Iranian gas to Naxcivan.
SOCAR, EBRD agree Shah Deniz credit terms
Azeri state oil company SOCAR and the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development initialled all documents for a credit of €170m to finance the
SOCAR share in the Shah Deniz project, SOCAR President, Natik Aliyev, said,
Interfax News Agency reported.
"We agreed all the documents for the credit," Aliyev said after talks
with bank representatives. Aliyev said earlier that if necessary the EBRD might
provide a credit for more than €170m.
Of this total, €110m will be used to finance the SOCAR share in the
development of the Shah Deniz field and €60m on building the
Shah-Deniz holds an estimated 625bn cubic metres of gas and 101m tonnes of
condensate. Stage-1 development includes the production of 178bn cubic metres of
gas and 34m tonnes of condensate. During peak production under Stage-1 the field
will produce 8.4bn cubic metres of gas and 2m tonnes of condensate a year. Gas
will be produced from 15 wells at the TPG-500 platform at sea depths of 105
metres. Production will increase to 16bn cubic metres a year in the later stages
of the project. Participants in the Shah Deniz project include SOCAR - 10%, BP -
25.5%, Statoil - 25.5%, TotalFinaElf - 10%, LukAgip - 10%, OIEC (Iran) - 10% and
TPAO (Turkey) - 9%.
BP signs US$10m contract on Azeri oilfield with British engineering firm
BP and the British company KCA Deutag Drilling Ltd have signed a US$10m contract
on the Phase 3 project envisaging the full-scale development of the
Azari-Ciraq-Gunasli oil fields, Yeni Azarbaycan, Baku, reported.
The contract envisages the drilling, engineering, procurement and building of
drilling modules for a technological supply platform, the BP press service has
reported. The work will end by the third quarter of 2007.
Salans advises SOCAR on restructuring
Britain's Salans should finish drafting recommendations to restructure Azeri
state oil company SOCAR by 2006, Natik Aliyev said recently, Interfax News
"Salans has started to draft the recommendations and will work on them
throughout 2005. Once it has submitted the recommendations, we will spend six
months identifying the most interesting ones and present them to the
government," Aliyev said. The European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development (EBRD) has provided one million Euro to finance work on the
recommendations. Aliyev said the objective was to "dispense with
organisations that perform the same tasks as others and with those which can
work independently, and to provide services in other spheres as well as the
petroleum industry." SOCAR was last modified in January 2003, following a
presidential decree. SOCAR was left with eight major enterprises, constituting a
vertically integrated company, at the time.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Azerbaijan, Qatar sign cooperation accords
The emir of Qatar, Hamad Bin-Khalifah Al Thani, met Azerbaijani President, Ilham
Aliyev, in Doha recently. The Azerbaijani president was paying an official visit
to Qatar, Turan news agency reported.
Emir Al Thani expressed his country's interest in developing cooperation with
Azerbaijan. "Political relations between our countries are at a high level.
This visit by the Azerbaijani president will enable us to expand cooperation in
the economic and other spheres," the emir of Qatar said.
He added that to develop relations even further, it is necessary to open an
Azerbaijani embassy in Doha, organize mutual visits of the two countries'
foreign ministers, heads of other state institutions and businessmen.
During the meeting, the sides pointed to Qatar's extensive opportunities for
investing in different sectors of the Azerbaijani economy. Al Thani said that in
addition to cooperation, Qatar was ready to help Azerbaijan. The sides agreed to
start inviting different specialists from Azerbaijan, including doctors, to work
Ilham Aliyev said Azerbaijan would soon open an embassy in Doha and supported
the idea of setting up a joint economic commission.
Aliyev also expressed his appreciation for Qatar's support of Azerbaijan's
position in international organizations, including the UN and the OIC
[Organization of the Islamic Conference].
After the top-level negotiations, agreements on cooperation in the areas of
health, culture and art, on trade, economic and technical partnership were
signed. The sides also signed a memorandum of understanding between the foreign
ministries, documents on cooperation between the national Olympic committees of
the two countries and on cooperation in tourism.