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AZERBAIJAN


  
  

 

In-depth Business Intelligence

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 7,124 6,090 5,600 102
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 810 710 650 146
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Azerbaijan

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
86,600

Population
7,868,385

Principal ethnic
groups
Azeri 90%
Russian 2.5%
Armenian 2%
Dagestani 3.2%
other 2.3

Capital
Baku

Currency
Azeri Manat

President
Ilham Aliyev



President
Ilham Aliyev
 


Update No: 292- (26/04/05)

Pre-election turmoil
In recent weeks, a number of anti-government coalitions have emerged in Azerbaijan with the aim of winning parliamentary seats in elections in November. The opposition in the past has often failed to join forces in time to make a political impact. But leaders of these groups say they have learned from past mistakes and are determined to work together in order to bring democratic change to the country. 
Several opposition leaders and former government officials announced on 12th April the creation of a new election bloc to run for seats in Azerbaijan's Milli Meclis, or national parliament. The alliance is known as Yeni Siyaset (New Politics). It includes Namazov, the chairman of Azerbaijan's Public Forum nongovernmental organization, and a onetime aide of late President Heidar Aliyev. 
Other members are Lale Sovket, the former chairwoman of Azerbaijan's Liberal Party and a former secretary of state; and Etibar Mammedov, the former chairman of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party (AMIP). 
Namazov said the ultimate aim of the Yeni Siyaset alliance is to put an end to "a regime based on clan logic and corruption." He said that the bloc's goals are detailed in a seven-point programme for leading the country in the transition from authoritarianism to democracy. 
Yeni Siyaset "will fight for free elections -- be they presidential, legislative, or municipal -- and in-depth democratic reforms. In other words, this bloc has not just been created in anticipation of the upcoming [parliamentary] polls. We have broader strategic aims. We want authoritarianism and Azerbaijan's corrupt politics to give way to a new, democratic system," Namazov said. 

The next democratic revolutionary?
Although not widely known in the West, Namazov has long been active in Azerbaijani politics. From 1993 to 1999, he served as head of Heidar Aliyev's secretariat. He then entered parliament in 2000, but was barred from running in the controversial presidential poll in 2003. 
That vote saw Aliyev's son, Ilham, win by a landslide and launch a crackdown on the opposition, whom he accused of stirring up political unrest. 
Unlike Namazov, some founding members of Yeni Siyaset did run in the 2003 presidential polls. Sovket, running as an independent candidate, officially took 3.3 percent of the vote. Mammedov won 2.7 percent. 
Both Sovket and Mammedov claimed the vote was fraudulent. But neither joined the street protests staged by the Musavat Party, whose chairman, Isa Qambar, had finished second in the presidential race. 
The new alliances are a departure from past opposition partnerships. In the run-up to the 2003 elections, Mammedov, then head of AMIP, teamed up with Ali Kerimli, the chairman of the reformist wing of the divided Azerbaijan Popular Front Party. 
But Mammedov has since left the AMIP and joined Yeni Siyaset. For his part, Kerimli allied himself with Qambar's Musavat and the Democratic Party of exiled oppositionist Rasul Quliyev. 
Kerimli said that the Azerbaijani opposition has learned its lesson from the previous election campaign. This time, instead of waiting until late in the race to join ranks, he says they have decided to consolidate well in advance. 
"For us these elections are not mere elections. They are a way to achieve freedom of choice," Kerimli said. "But we won't be able to reach this goal if we remain isolated. This is why it is indispensable for us to join forces. After analyzing the 2003 polls and their outcome, we came to the conclusion that we must put our forces and resources together and get prepared well in advance if we want to avert a new defeat. This is why we started our election campaign so early." 
Kerimli said the crackdown that followed Ilham Aliyev's victory demoralized the opposition, which went on to boycott the 2004 municipal elections. But he said the tide has reversed and that "the opposition is now much stronger than ever." 
Both Kerimli and Namazov said it is possible their alliances will back a single candidate in November. It remains unclear, however, whether the Azerbaijani opposition will be able to overcome its traditional divisions. 
Already, a number of AMIP and Democratic Party figures have been lured into a third antigovernment coalition created in January. Known as Hemreylik ve Etimad (Solidarity and Trust), this alliance is chaired by Ilqar Qasimov, a former Russian Justice Ministry official and a reported co-author of the Russia-Belarus Union treaty. 
Many in Baku suspect that despite its self-described opposition stance, this bloc may prove to be either a government puppet or a way for Russia to maintain influence in Azerbaijani politics. By contrast, the blocs chaired by Namazov and Kerimli are widely perceived as being pro-Western, if only because their leaders are regularly invited to meet decision makers in the United States and Europe. 
Namazov said the West has been closely following developments in Azerbaijan, but so far is wary of backing a single political group. "We've been developing close ties with international structures and democratic countries, including the United States and European states," he said. "But our feeling is that they do not wish to lend support to any particular individual, or political party. What Europe and the United States support, first of all, is [Azerbaijan's] democratic process. They've stated that on more than one occasion, and I believe they are sincere." 
Namazov and Kerimli both noted that the West is currently pressing the government to amend the existing election law and ensure that the upcoming vote is fair and democratic. They also say it was Western pressure that forced Ilham Aliyev to order the release of all opposition leaders sentenced last year for their participation in the November 2003 unrest. 
Both leaders say they want use elections to achieve democratic changes. But they caution against a repeat of the recent political upheaval in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. 
"We want these elections to be democratic, honest, and fair," Kerimli said. "We're getting prepared for elections, not a revolution. We want [everything] to go peacefully, democratically, and legally. But should the government try to oppose this, should it attempt once again to falsify the election's outcome, we will not let ourselves be pushed around and there will be a popular resistance movement against frauds. If the government wants to avert this, it has only one option -- to ensure that the upcoming polls are free and fair." 
Namazov said any perception of election fraud will inevitably lead to popular resistance. He ruled out, however, the possibility of violent protests such as the ones that followed the 2003 vote. "We believe society is mature enough to not let a few thousand individuals armed with truncheons and stones confront police forces," he said.

'Stone in the shoe' Journalist's murder
The murder of a prominent opposition journalist has raised Azerbaijan's political temperature, ahead of parliamentary elections in November 2005. An unknown assailant shot and killed 38-year-old Elmar Huseynov on March 2nd in the hallway outside his apartment on the outskirts of Baku. Huseynov, the editor-in-chief of the opposition Monitor magazine, was buried March 4th. 
ne of Azerbaijan's best-known dissident journalists, Huseynov had frequently tangled with authorities. Lawsuits brought by officials and Aliyev relatives resulted in large fines against Monitor in recent years. In 2002, Huseynov received a six-month prison term for allegedly slandering the mayor of Baku, but was pardoned and released within two months.
Opposition members, human rights activists and journalists understandably take the view that the killing was a politically motivated crime. Authorities, including President Ilham Aliyev, have vigorously denied any involvement, blaming the murder instead on a mysterious force that seeks to "discredit Azerbaijan in a parliamentary election year." 
Dismissing official rhetoric, many Azerbaijani journalists remain sceptical that the government will vigorously pursue the Huseynov murder case. In an interview with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Baku Press Club Deputy Director Chingiz Sultansoy said that Huseynov had received several threats recently and feared for his safety. 
No prizes of course for identifying his political adversary as the government of the country, who wanted him removed and have succeeded in that. Since they are also the investigating authority, this is another "Don't hold your breath" advisory, if you hoped or expected to see justice done.

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ENERGY

ExxonMobil to stop drilling at Azeri fields


ExxonMobil has decided to terminate its exploration drilling programme at Azerbaijan's Zafar-Mashal and Nakhichevan structures, Azeri state oil company President, Natik Aliyev, said recently, Interfax News Agency reported.
Aliyev said that ExxonMobil has drilled one well at Zafar and does not want to drill a second and added that Azerbaijan is waiting for their proposals. ExxonMobil would probably pay compensation, the amount of which will be determined at talks. Aliyev said a similar situation was emerging at the Nakhichevan site. Aliyev said in November last year that ExxonMobil spent 150m Euro drilling the first exploration well at the Zafar-Mashal. "This is the most expensive well in the Caspian Sea, so I don't think ExxonMobil will drill a second well in the contract area," Aliyev said. However he added that SOCAR would require a second exploration well at the Nakhichevan structure, where ExxonMobil is also project operator.

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FOREIGN COOPERATION

Azeri leader, Pakistani officials discuss boosting cooperation

President Ilham Aliyev, recently paid his first official visit to Pakistan. On the first day of his visit, the president met the Pakistani foreign minister, parliament speaker and President, Pervez Musharraf, Azad Azarbaycan TV reported.
As is the case at all meetings, during the talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Aliyev drew attention to the elimination of the consequences of Armenia's aggression against Azerbaija, the correspondent in Islamabad, Namiq Aliyev, reported.
Azerbaijan and Pakistan have always supported each other in the settlement of the Nagornyy Karabakh and Kashmir problems, Aliyev said at a meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, on the first day of his visit to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. 
During the meeting, they stressed the importance of improving settlement mechanisms within the framework of international organizations, including the UN. Aliyev positively assessed the fact that Pakistan backed the initiative to raise the issue of illegal settlement in Nagornyy Karabakh and adjacent districts with the UN.
It was also noted during the meeting that trade between Azerbaijan and Pakistan is not at the necessary level and that it is important to hold business forums and encourage businessmen to pay mutual visits to boost these ties.
For his part, Pakistani Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, said it was important to ease the visa regime between the two countries. The meeting also discussed the opening of Karachi-Baku flights. 
Furthermore, Aliyev met the speaker of the Pakistani National Assembly, Mr Chaudhry Amir Hussain. During the meeting, Mr Chaudhry Amir Hussain recalled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's visit to Azerbaijan last July and said that important documents on developing bilateral ties were signed during the visit.
In turn, President Ilham Aliyev positively assessed the fact that Pakistan backs Azerbaijan's position on the settlement of the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict and noted that dialogue between the two countries has become more intense since Pervez Musharraf's visit.
The Pakistani parliament's speaker especially stressed the strengthening of ties between the friendship groups of the two countries. Trade was discussed at the meeting once again and it was noted that good opportunities have been created for import and export and that it is important to use these opportunities.

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FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS

Slovenian minister meets Azeri businessmen to boost economic ties

OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Slovenian Foreign Minister, Dimitrij Rupel, attended an economic forum of Azerbaijani and Slovenian business people recently. The Slovenian minister said that there are conditions for developing economic cooperation between the two countries and added that his country was interested in this, Space TV, Baku reported.
Azerbaijani Minister of Economic Development, Farhad Aliyev, said that Azerbaijan is doing its best to avoid the Dutch syndrome. Special work is under way to develop the regions, and businessmen who come to the country are being encouraged to go to the regions. 

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Italian businessmen set to invest 20m euros in Azerbaijan's economy

Italian businessmen plan to invest 20m Euros in Azerbaijan's economy, Italian ambassador to Azerbaijan, Margherita Costa, has told Azerbaijani Agriculture Minister, Ismat Abbasov. Praising economic cooperation between the two countries at a meeting with the Azerbaijani minister on 9th April, the Italian ambassador said that relevant agreements had been signed between the Azerbaijani and Italian governments during Azerbaijan President, Ilham Aliyev's, visit to Italy in mid-March, Yeni Azarbaycan newspaper has reported.
The agriculture minister welcomed the move and said that all the "conditions have been created in Azerbaijan" for foreign investments, the newspaper said.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Azercell concludes one more roaming agreement

In order to extend the scope of an international line of communication for its subscribers joint venture AzerCell Telecom has concluded one more roaming agreement with China Mobile Company (CHNCM), AzerTAj reported recently.
This will play an important role in cooperation between Azerbaijan and China which is one of the most important trade partners of Azerbaijan in all spheres. This agreement will also help local and foreign businessmen as well as compatriots living in China, to establish more comfortable communication. So far, AzerCell Telecom JV has already concluded 226 roaming agreements with 102 mobile operators worldwide.

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TOURISM

Azerbaijan, Greece sign agreement on developing tourism

A ceremony to sign an agreement on cooperation in the sphere of tourism between Azerbaijan and Greece was held at the Yacht Club on 7th April. The document was signed by Greek Minister of Tourism, Dhimitrios Avromopoulos, who was paying a working visit to Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijani Minister of Youth, Sports and Tourism, Abulfaz Qarayev, Turan News Agency reeported.
Qarayev pointed out after the ceremony that the agreement opened a new page in Azerbaijani-Greek relations in the sphere of tourism and now a lot depends on the two countries' travel agencies. He said that Azerbaijan could make use of Greece's experience in developing the tourism industry. 
In turn, the Greek minister stressed the invaluable role of tourism in establishing peace and stability in the region and achieving economic progress. He also said that an Azerbaijani-Greek business forum will take place in Baku in October. It will be attended by representatives of the two countries' business circles, including managers of travel agencies and hotels, as well as artists and scientists.

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TRANSPORT

Azerbaijan to have railway link with its exclave via Iran

The project envisaging the construction of a railway via Iran [from Azerbaijan] to Naxcivan exclave under the blockade of Armenia is not all that viable, Deputy Communication and Information Technologies Minister, Musa Panahov, has said. Panahov added that other projects are currently being reviewed, Lider TV reported.
"We are working on the North-South corridor project which envisages the construction of a direct railway link between Azerbaijan and Iran. The railway will be connected to Iran's Anzali-Rasht-Qazvin line via Astara [southern district of Azerbaijan]. After we join the link, we will have a direct connection with Naxcivan," Panahov said.

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