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AZERBAIJAN


  
  

 

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


 


Update No: 317- (30/05/07)

There can be nothing better to grasp a foreign country than to have an insider's view, especially an informed person, with long experience of its politics and society.

Opposition leader gives his view on Azeri politics
Opposition politician Eldar Namazov is just such a figure. He resigned in October 1999 as an adviser to Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev. He published a three-part article in February-March 2007 in successive issues of the opposition weekly "Realny Azerbaijan" focusing on the relative strength of regional political groupings in Azerbaijan and the role they have played in national politics both before and since independence.

Rizvan Talybov, the leader of one such group uniting Azeris expelled from the Armenian SSR in the 1950s or late 1980s, was arrested in late April, days before a planned mass protest in support of former Health Minister Ali Insanov, also a member of that grouping. 

Namazov began by affirming that both ruling elite and opposition were established largely on regional lines and by questioning the widely observed taboo on any public discussions of regionalism. He argued that there is nothing shameful in identifying with the geographical region from which one's family originates, but at the same time he conceded that some people seek to capitalize on their origin to further their personal ends. 

Grouping The Groupings
Namazov divided the various regional groupings into three categories, of which the first and largest comprises those Azerbaijanis who resettled in the present-day Azerbaijan Republic from what is now Armenia. 

He estimated in the first instalment of his three-part article that they account for some 40 percent of Azerbaijan's present population of 8.4 million, but in the second instalment quoted feedback he received suggesting the true figure could be either higher -- up to 50 percent -- or lower -- between 25-30 percent. 

In second place, each accounting for 8-10 percent of the population, are four groups: those from Baku-Shirvan, Karabakh, Gyanja, and Lenkoran (in the far south, bordering on Iran). Two groups representing ethnic minorities, the Kurds on the one hand and the Avars and Lezgins on the other, each account for less than 5 percent, as do the natives of Quba/Khachmas and Sheki. 

Finally, the third and numerically smallest groups are the Azeris from Borchalo (southeastern Georgia) and from the Naxicevan Autonomous Republic. The latter two groups, according to Namazov, exercise disproportionate influence. He characterizes the Borchalo group as being particularly mobilized and active and as controlling media outlets that portray it in a sympathetic light. The Naxicevan "clan" has been at the forefront of Azerbaijani politics for almost three decades by virtue of the key role played by its most illustrious scion, former Communist Party of Azerbaijan first secretary and later President Heydar Aliyev. 

Interaction Key 
In the second section of his analysis, Namazov focuses on the interaction between the various groups enumerated above. He argues that the widely held perception that Aliyev's regime rested on a coalition between the "Armenian" and Naxicevan groups, to which a parallel alliance between the Baku-Shirvan group and the Karabakh group served as a counterweight, with the other, smaller groups occupying a more or less neutral position, is an oversimplification. Aliyev, who succeeded Veli Akhundov, a representative of the Baku group, as Azerbaijan CP first secretary in 1969, was constrained to seek the backing of the more numerous "Armenian" group, Namazov suggested. 

On his return to power as head of an independent state in June 1993, Aliyev presided over a division of leading posts that reserved for his own Naxicevan group the plum posts of president, prime minister and presidential apparatus, giving the Armenian group the post of parliament speaker, together with control over the economic and security ministries, and several other ministerial portfolios. Namazov attributed the "disproportionately large share of the pie" granted to the Naxicevan group to Aliyev's capacity for identifying and neutralizing potential threats to his power. When the "Armenian" group created a formal organization -- Agrydag -- in the mid-1990s, Aliyev did all in his power to undermine and neutralize it. 

Rising Influence 
The "Armenian" grouping appears to have seized on Aliyev's death in 2003 as an opportunity to revise the status quo and strengthen its political influence -- even though the Naxicevan clan retained its virtual monopoly on power thanks to the election as president in October 2003 of Heydar Aliyev's son Ilham, who retained fellow Naxicevani Ramiz Meehtyev as head of the presidential administration. In May 2005, the "Armenian" grouping founded a new, quasi-irredentist group, Return to Western Azerbaijan (meaning those regions of present day Armenia that during the 18th-19th century were part of the Erivan khanate). As of October 2006, the organization still had not been formally registered with the Justice Ministry, but despite its ambiguous legal status its leader, Rizvan Talybov, announced that it would lobby for the creation of an autonomous republic on Armenian territory, according to zerkalo.az on October 31. In January 2007, Talybov announced plans for the creation of a government in exile, day.az reported on January 17. 

But the "Armenian" grouping was seriously weakened by the arrest in October 2005 on charges of corruption and of plotting a coup d'etat of two of its most prominent members, Health Minister Insanov and presidential administration official Akif Muradverdiyev. Both have men since been tried and sentenced, and their property confiscated. And the authorities have already moved to co-opt, or at least spilt, the "Armenian" grouping: on April 7, the online daily zerkalo.az reported the creation two months earlier of a new movement to represent the interests of that group.

Named Public Union of Compatriots Deported from Western Azerbaijan, that organization has formally pledged its support for the current Azerbaijani leadership and its policies. And in an appeal adopted in early April, it called on the authorities and law enforcement bodies to take all appropriate measures to curtail the "provocative" activities of such "destructive" organizations as Talybov's.

President Aliyev issues executive order to improve chess
According to the executive order, chess is one of the ancient games widespread in Azerbaijan.

Taking into account potential in the sphere of chess and successes of our sportsmen in international competitions, the President commissioned related ministries to prepare draft state program on improving chess in Azerbaijan in 2008-2013.

Youth and Sport Ministry and Education Ministry along with local administrative bodies are to present the draft to the president within three months, taking into account proposals of Azerbaijan National Olympic Committee and Azerbaijan Chess Federation.

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CONSTRUCTION

France's Lafarge may start cement plant construction before end-2007


Deputy Executive Director of Azerbaijan Investment Company Riyad Gasymov recently said that French company Lafarge may begin building a cement plant in Azerbaijan before the end of 2007, according to Interfax News Agency.
"Geologists from the French company have visited Azerbaijan twice. Certain details are being clarified at present. Azerbaijan would like the plant to be built in the region and not in Baku. Work on a feasibility study is expected to start soon. Construction work could begin before the end of the year," Gasymov said. The construction work will take at least 18 months, he said, adding: The new cement plant could start operating in 2009. The Azerbaijan Investment Company hopes to reach an agreement with Holcim of Switzerland on buying shares in Azerbaijan's largest cement producer Garadagh Cement, Gasymov said. Holcim owns 89.5 per cent of the company. "Holcim has agreed to sell 20 per cent of shares to Azerbaijan Investment Company. Some of the details about the production section are now being clarified. We plan to acquire shares in the company by the end of 2007," he said. Azerbaijan Investment Company will buy the shares at market cost, it was reported. A valuator will be hired to determine the value. It was reported earlier that Azerbaijan's Economic Development Ministry, Azerbaijan Investment Company and Lafarge had signed an agreement to build a 150 million Euro cement plant. Lafarge SA is one of the world's largest construction materials producers. Azerbaijan Investment Company was established in March 2006 for long-term investment in non-oil sector companies. 

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ENERGY

CNPC, SOCAR discuss Kursengi-Garabagly contract conditions

China National Petroleum Corporation is holding talks with Azeri state oil company SOCAR to make amendments to the contract for the development of the Kursengi-Garabagly fields, Araz Asadov, commercial director of the project's operator Salyan Oil, told Interfax News Agency. 
"About 50 per cent of the oil produced at the contract zone is sold to SOCAR at an internal price of US$ eight per barrel, and this is creating an obstacle to Salyan Oil expanding its commercial activity. CNPC is holding talks with SOCAR to change some conditions in the PSA type contract in this area," he said. He also said Salyan Oil is interested in pumping oil through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. "We are carrying out a commercial analysis of possibilities to pump oil along various routes. We are also interested in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and are evaluating the possibilities for this route."

SOCAR calls tender for May Rebco consignment

Azeri state oil company SOCAR has called a tender for the May consignment of Rebco oil to be shipped from the port of Novorossiisk, a source in the company told Interfax. The consignment of 450,000 barrels will be shipped on May 29-30th, New Europe reported.
Switzerland's Sun Oil bought the January consignment, Britain's Glencore Energy bought the February consignment, REOC Ltd. bought the March consignment and Glencore Energy bought the April consignment. Glencore bought eight Rebco consignments in 2006, REOC bought three and Tauras, Select, Vitol and Sun Oil bought one each.

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