Books on Azerbaijan
Update No: 296- (26/08/05)
The Baku-Washington axis
The US is interested in good relations with Azerbaijan for more reasons than
one. The obvious reason in of course oil, of which it has an abundance, while
becoming the main conduit to the West of Kazakstan's Caspian Sea oil output too,
as a spur is being added across the sea to join up with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan
But Azerbaijan is actually in a vital strategic situation from a geopolitical
point of view. With Russia to the north, Georgia, Armenia and Turkey to the west
and Iran to the south, it is the hub of the region linking the Caucasus to the
Azeri foreign minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, paid a visit to Washington in early
August that could prove a watershed in bilateral relations. Parliamentary
elections in Azerbaijan are due on November 6th and the US is pressurising the
Azeris to make them more free and fair than previously. Given the democratic
revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan recently, this is seen as an
immensely sensitive issue in Baku.
'US-Azerbaijani relations at a turning point'
The need for better electoral credentials in Azerbaijan has been insistently
stressed in recent months by the Council of Europe, the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and was repeated during July's visits
to Baku by former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and current Deputy
Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky. But Washington's insistence on
democratisation in Azerbaijan is not merely an end in itself. It stems from a
broader American 'neo-con' conviction that democratisation is essential to
domestic stability and regional security. It also reflects a new tool in the
global war on terror, although it remains to be seen if this "muscular
Wilsonian" approach will yield better results, Radio Free Europe has
For Azerbaijan, this priority for democratic elections has sharply raised the
threshold for the regime of President Ilham Aliyev. But preparations for the
election have fallen far short of the shared expectations of the international
community and the Azerbaijani opposition. Specifically, Azerbaijan's electoral
reforms remain incomplete, with shortfalls in both the composition of electoral
commissions and the planned monitoring of the ballot. American disappointment
with election preparations to date was also a central message in Mammadyarov's
talks with his American hosts.
The second component was the establishment of several "Cooperative Security
Locations," tactical facilities with pre-positioned stock that provide
contingency access but, unlike a traditional base, have little or no permanent
US military presence. These locations are designed to increase the mobility of
US military forces and, most importantly, facilitate counter-proliferation
missions along Azerbaijan's southern border with Iran and northern borders with
Georgia and Daghestan.
In line with the US military need to project military power rapidly, the US
presence in Azerbaijan may be further expanded from the existing Cooperative
Security Locations to Forward Operating Sites, host-country "warm
sites" endowed with a limited military presence and capable of hosting
rotational forces. These forward operating sites can also serve as centres for
bilateral and regional training.
Thus, while the utility of a permanent, traditional military base in Azerbaijan
is seriously limited, the expansion of the forward stationing of forces is
likely. (Azerbaijani presidential aide Novruz Mamedov's recent statement to
Interfax that Azerbaijan will not host "US military bases" may draw a
fine semantic line between "bases" in the traditional sense and
forward operating sites). Yet even the military relationship is in the final
analysis contingent on Azerbaijan's ability to meet the new, more stringent US
standards of democracy and free elections. The steadfast refusal by the
Azerbaijani authorities to amend the composition of election commissions and
their reluctance to permit the marking of voters to preclude multiple voting
cast doubt on President Aliyev's repeated assertions that the ballot will indeed
be free, fair, and transparent.
RV Investment to inject 600m Euro in Azeri gold fields
In fact Azerbaijan has another means of leverage over Washington than black
gold, namely gold itself.
US company RV investment group services will invest at least 600 million Euro in
developing gold fields in Azerbaijan, the company's president announced on
August 5th in Baku. He said 50 million Euro would be invested in geological and
The industrial mining of gold is expected to start at fields in Ordubad by the
second half of 2007, said Gerald Phillips, operational director at the
Azerbaijan mining company, the operational company to develop the oil fields. He
said that a plant to process gold-bearing ore is expected to be built in Ordubad
and will produce 250,000 ounces of gold a year. Work will simultaneously begin
on developing the Kadabek and Gosh fields, he said.
Azerbaijan plans to double GDP
With a gold boom in the offing to augment the existing oil boom, Azerbaijani
President, Ilham Aliyev announced on May 12th that his country plans to double
its GDP. Aliyev said, while addressing the implementation of the nation's
poverty reduction and economic development programme: "We have set the goal
of doubling the volume of GDP. And we will do our best to meet this objective
within the shortest possible period of time."
According to Aliyev, the programme has helped reduce poverty levels from about
50% in 2003 to 40% this year. "Taking account of high GDP growth rates, the
number of poor people will continue to decrease in the future. In particular,
industrial production expanded by 15% in January-April 2005, the highest growth
rate over the whole period of our independence," Aliyev explained.
"Using the oil sector, we should diversify the economy to stop being
dependent on oil," the president said. In 2005 education spending will see
a 25% rise, while healthcare spending will be increased by 44%, he said.
Azerbaijan, Georgia ink natural gas deal
Georgian Prime Minister, Zurab Noghaideli, and Azerbaijani President, Ilham
Aliev, signed an agreement in Baku recently according to which Azerbaijan will
send new stocks of natural gas to Georgia, New Europe reported.
The details of the agreement will not be worked out until August at which time
Aliev will announce the amount of Azerbaijani natural gas that Georgia will
receive in the winter.
During the talks, the most important item on the agenda for the discussion was
the search for an alternative to Russian natural gas and Georgia preferred
Azerbaijan as the ideal partner.
At the same meeting, there was another discussion on whether Georgia will get an
additional two billion cubic metres of natural gas from the Shah Deniz-Erzrumi
natural gas pipeline, according to the reports.