Books on Azerbaijan
Update No: 327 - (26/03/08)
The overwhelming issue for Azerbaijan is its
relationship to Armenia, which is clinging on to 20% of its territory. A
hardline ally of Robert Kocharian has succeeded him as president, the former
premier Sarkysan. There is new talk of war.
31ST MARCH - A FLASHPOINT?
Azerbaijan marks 90th anniversary of 1918 conflict with Armenia as "Day of
In 2008 it will be 90 years since territorial disputes between Armenia and
Azerbaijan resulted in a 3-day round of bloodletting and expulsions that Baku
regards as genocidal acts against Azerbaijan. And 10 years ago in 1998 the late
president of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, declared March 31 the "Day of
Genocide" to commemorate the event. There is still a deadlock in the
negotiations between the two countries over Nagorno Karabakh, a de facto
independent republic located in the South Caucasus, and the anniversary could
trigger renewed conflict.
The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 provoked ethnic violence in the area, and more
erupted in 1918 when Armenia and Azerbaijan became independent and each claimed
Karabakh. Soviet domination of both countries suppressed the worst of the
hostilities between the two for decades, but it exploded again in 1988 with the
approaching breakup of the Soviet Union and the return of independence to both
The present deadlock coincides with the suspension of ceasefire monitoring along
the long line of trenches that divides Armenian and Azerbaijani forces around
Karabakh, and increased warnings that the dispute - in which fighting was halted
in 1994 - might once again lead to open conflict.
The OSCE Minsk Group was created in 1992 by the Conference on Security and
Co-operation in Europe, now Organization for Security and Co-operation in
Europe, to encourage a peaceful, negotiated resolution to the conflict. At this
stage in the negotiations compromises are laid out in a document called
"Basic Principles." It is awaiting the signatures of the presidents of
Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to a report by the Zurich-based International
Relations and Security network in December, the political climate in both
countries ahead of presidential elections in 2008 makes it unlikely the document
will be signed.
Azerbaijan is growing in confidence both economically and diplomatically,
according to the ISN report, and officials have said frequently that their
"patience is running out" and they are considering the military
option. On 30 October, the current president, Ilham Aliyev, said, "We
should be ready to liberate the occupied territories by military means at any
moment." Aliyev boasts that his oil-rich country's fast-growing defense
budget, which now stands at more than US $1 billion, should increase to a point
where it exceeds Armenia's entire annual budget.
What this line of talk overlooks is that Armenia would certainly receive every
assistance, including covert troop deployment, from Russia, like last time,
whose own military budget is many times $1bn. The Russians have crushed the
Chechens and have seasoned Caucasus fighters to deploy. Azerbaijan would lose
Nevertheless, on 27 November, speaking at a meeting of defense chiefs from
post-Soviet states, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiev said, "As long
as Azerbaijani territory is occupied by Armenia, the chance of war is close to
GDP doubles in four years
It would be a great pity if the Azeri regime squanders its massive oil and gas
revenues on a military build-up and war it is bound to lose. For its economy is
doing extraordinarily well, with benefits coming through for the people at last.
Since Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's term in office began in 2003 and the
State Programme for Economic and Social Development of the Regions was put into
effect, Azerbaijan's economy has performed very well -- not only in the region,
but throughout the world -- and its budget increased ten-fold, totaling $12
billion. GDP soared by 96%, a world record.
The current state of the socio-economic development programme was discussed at
the meeting, held on March 18 in Baku's Gülistan Palace. Several statesmen and
foreign mission chiefs attended the meeting.
Speaking at the meeting, Aliyev stressed that Azerbaijan's move toward
development will persist. He also explained the measures that should be taken to
prevent imbalances in income distribution, a problem oil-rich countries
Aliyev went on to say that investments should not only focus on Baku but should
spread to other regions, as well. He added that small and medium-sized
industries and investments should be promoted. Furthermore, Aliyev also noted
that the development program, which has been extremely successful so far, calls
for the development of every single administrative unit, including villages, and
the establishment of social infrastructure in these units. If the government is
once again victorious in the upcoming November elections, Aliyev plans to
implement a new program for the period between 2009 and 2013.
According to year-end data, the gross national product (GNP) per capita in
Azerbaijan was $3,700 in 2007. The government plans to increase this to $4,500
in 2008. The minimum wage has risen by approximately 700 percent in the last
four years. Meanwhile, the government is also planning to double its current
dollar holdings, which amounted to $7.3 billion in 2007.
Aliyev has already followed through on his promise to provide employment to
600,000 people and decrease poverty within five years. According to official
data, roughly 650,000 people were provided employment during his term in office.
This number if reliable, also indicates that investments and production,
particularly in industries unrelated to oil, have also increased significantly.
The Azerbaijani government plans to invest $3.5 billion in 2008 and disburse
$100 million in loans from the national investment incentive fund for use in
industries outside the oil sector. Grand global projects, including the
Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars natural gas pipelines, have also
played a significant role in Azerbaijan's economic development. The
Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project is an indicator of the significant future
investments that lie ahead of Azerbaijan.