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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

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: 307- (27/07/06)

It is a great mistake for the world to ignore future conflicts. The huge irony is that potential aggressors, for whatever reason, usually declare their hand beforehand and are then ignored. One just has to think of Hitler. He made it as plain as day what he intended - but nobody believed him.

Azerbaijan's Aliyev Says Karabakh Talks 'Hopeless'
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has described the efforts of international mediators to resolve Azerbaijan's dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh as "hopeless," RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service reported. 
Aliyev made the comment during a graduation ceremony of cadets in Baku at Azerbaijan's supreme military academy. 
He said Azerbaijan was ready only to negotiate the restoration of its sovereignty over the disputed Armenian-majority enclave. 
The failure of international mediation, the Azerbaijani leader said, was forcing him to change policy. He said Azerbaijan would retake Nagorno-Karabakh by whatever means it takes. 
Aliyev warned Armenia that he would use Azerbaijan's rapidly expanding oil wealth to strengthen the armed forces.
This is rather obviously a moment when Western leaders should take note - but will they? It should be notted that Russia has historically seen itself as Armenia's protector.

The launch of the BTC oil pipeline
The opening of the Baku, Tbilisi, Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline from Central Asia in mid-July is certainly a major event. 
The world's second longest oil pipeline, inaugurated on 13 July, is running through dangerous and conflict-ridden territory in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Security was always going to be a key concern.
The stakes are sizeable. Stretching 1,760 kilometres, with eight pumping stations and 101 block valves, BTC is the second longest pipeline in the world. The US$4 billion project, completed a year later than originally expected, is projected to have a daily capacity of 1 million barrels. 
The BTC runs through difficult and dangerous territory. Not only does the route pass through forbidding mountains and remote locales, including over 14 seismic faults, but it runs dangerously close to the region's frozen conflicts and hotspots: Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, the North Caucasus, Abkhazia, Armenian enclaves in southern Georgia and the restive Kurdish regions of southeastern Turkey. 
The wider Caucasian region has experienced an episode of sabotage as recently as January, when suspicious explosions in North Ossetia cut off gas and electricity supplies to Georgia. The pipeline also faces threats on the local level. Despite reimbursement and reinstatement of the land from the British Petroleum-led BTC consortium, locals staged frequent blockages during construction, and illegal tapping attempts were found even before oil began to flow in May 2005. 
Faced with a host of potential threats, the BTC consortium has implemented stringent security measures. While there is substantial, tell-tale infrastructure above ground, such as block valves, the pipeline itself is buried at least a meter underground along virtually the entire route. Once the land above is reinstated, the pipeline right-of-way should look the way it did before construction, making it difficult for potential saboteurs to find its exact location. Large, above-ground structures, such as pump stations, have elaborate security measures, from concrete blast walls to closed-circuit cameras and armed guards. 
These measures may look impressive on paper, but their effectiveness is questionable. A three-week research trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan by one observer found that the rush to finish laying the pipeline had often resulted in security systems that were either not well thought out or badly implemented. 
In one instance, a pump station had been surrounded by security cameras, but the flood lights supposed to complement them had been installed behind the cameras, negating their purpose. Blast walls, although able to prevent truck bombs, are useless against much more likely mortar or grenade attacks. Two layers of reinforced gates are useful to protect the entrance to the facility, but only if they are kept closed. In many cases, local staff flouts security procedures for the sake of expediency. British Petroleum (BP) security personnel have had to begin the re-installation of security measures after the pipeline's completion. 
The pipeline route is also extensively monitored and patrolled. Sensors along the entire length allow for any disruptions to be immediately spotted on a constantly monitored digital map of the pipeline. In addition, a joint agreement between the BTC consortium and the Azerbaijani, Georgian and Turkish governments facilitates patrolling arrangements. 
Azerbaijan has not signed a similar bilateral security agreement with BP to the company's one with Georgia, but talks are continuing. Turkey has not indicated that it is interested in such an agreement, preferring to let its armed forces handle pipeline security. 
Long hailed for its geopolitical significance, the BTC pipeline is likely to take on additional prominence in 2007 when Kazakhstan begins transporting 3 million tons of oil a year via the conduit.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili at the launch discussed with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan the prospect of buying an additional 2 billion cubic meters of gas from the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline "at reduced prices," the Azerbaijani news agency Trend reported.

                                          *****

The following article is of great interest, both for its content and the forthright views expressed by its authors, two brave dissidents, one of them in Washington, but with family in Azerbaijan, and the other in Baku:-

Opposition poet's arrest raises media concerns 
Shahin Abbasov and Khadija Ismailova 
Journalists and human rights activists argue that the recent arrest of a satirical poet for heroin possession is connected with political attacks against opposition media. 
The authorities state that Sakit Zakhidov, known by his pen name, Mirza Sakit, a regular contributor to the pro-opposition newspaper Azadlig (Freedom), was arrested on June 23 for carrying and selling 10 grams of heroin. 
Zakhidov's colleagues and supporters, however, dismiss the charges as unfounded, noting that they came just three days after a panel discussion on media freedom organized by the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP). At the discussion, YAP Executive Secretary Ali Akhmedov and Bakhtiyar Sadigov, editor of the parliament-owned official Azerbaijan newspaper, had urged the government to take measures against Mirza Sakit. "No government official or parliament member has avoided his slanders. Someone should put an end to it," Akhmedov said that the governing party had previously applied to the Press Council with a complaint about newspapers' publication of Zakhidov's poems, according to news reports. 
Sakit Zakhidov's poems, laced with curse words, are written in the 19th century "hajv" style, popular in the poet's native region of Shamakhy in central Azerbaijan. Hajv couples strong criticism with rough language, and follows the structure of Arabic "eruz" poetry. 
One of Zakhidov's poems, "What If We Didn't Have Him?" is about the personality cult surrounding the late President Heidar Aliyev. The poems' sharp satire, however, could easily be interpreted as slanderous and a target for lawsuit, commented Rauf Mirgadirov, an analyst for the pro-opposition Zerkalo newspaper, in a recent column. 
Some journalists argue that politics prompted Zakhidov's arrest and have signed a petition to President Ilham Aliyev, Heidar's son, for his release. "It is a political order … He was in opposition, he used to target his criticism at people [in government] and he was very successful at what he was doing," commented Mehman Aliyev, director of Turan News Agency, an independent news outlet sympathetic to the opposition. "That is why they [the authorities] made up a fake drug case." 
According to Emin Huseynov, head of the Committee for Protection of Mirza Sakit's Rights, the poet's lawyers have not been given any evidence related to the case, or given access to the video shot by police during Zakhidov's arrest. "It is almost a month since Mirza Sakit was arrested and there are no investigative actions," Huseynov said. "I call the investigator every week and they still have not finished the analysis of the 'powder' [found on Zakhidov] and [his] drug addiction test. For almost a week he has not seen his defence lawyers." 
In a June 20 meeting with Huseynov and several human rights activists, Interior Minister Ramil Usubov refused to release Zakhidov from pre-trial detention, but stated that the investigation would be conducted objectively and would be completed shortly, a statement released by Huseynov's committee reports.
In a July 17 interview with the news site Day.az, Haji Efendiyev, the state investigator for Zakhirov's case, stated that the investigation is nearing completion. Examination of the powder allegedly found on the writer confirmed that it was heroin, Efendiyev added. 
Zakhidov's associates are unlikely to accept the findings. Little separates the drug case against Zakhidov and the unsolved 2005 murder of editor and outspoken government critic Elmar Huseynov, agued Rushana Huseynova, Huseynov's widow, at a July 17 ceremony to mark her late husband's birthday. "It is just the beginning, not the end. Since we did not make them accountable for one death, there will be more," said Huseynova, whose newspapers, Bakinskiye Vedomosti and Baki Bulvari, also published Zakhidov's poems. 
In recent months, journalists working for Azadlig and other Baku-based opposition publications have been the targets of violent attacks by unknown assailants. In late May, Bakhaddin Khaziyev, the editor-in-chief of Bizim Yol, was abducted and brutally beaten. The attack followed a similar incident in March involving Azadlig reporter Fikret Huseinli, who was cut with a knife and beaten after receiving threats related to his articles on bribe-taking and criminal activities involving government officials and influential businesspeople. 
A six-month review of media conditions recently released by the Ruh Committee for the Protection of Journalists' Rights, a local non-governmental organization, reported that at least one serious attack against journalists occurs each month in Azerbaijan. Investigators have yet to find the perpetrators of the attacks against Khaziyev and Huseinli. 
Controversy also surrounds Zakhidov's health. Vugar Hasayev, the poet's lawyer, told Turan on July 15 that the writer has developed strong chest pains and shortness of breath. Zakhidov reportedly told Hasayev that he is being kept in an overcrowded and stuffy prison cell that has damaged his health. 
Efendiyev, the government investigator, dismissed reports about the poet's declining health, telling Day.az that the writer had "never been taken to the hospital because he never had health problems." 
Both international and domestic human rights organizations, however, have expressed concern over Zakhidov's arrest, as well as at a string of recent attacks on Azerbaijani journalists, with some arguing that the writer is a prisoner of conscience. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has called on the government to release Zakhidov and to examine how police conducted their investigation. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has called on the Azerbaijani government to allow an independent investigation of the case, while the American embassy to Baku has stated that it will be following Zakhidov's case closely. Amnesty International has also expressed concern, noting that in the past 18 months, "violent attacks, intimidation and arbitrary arrests of opposition journalists have sharply increased in Azerbaijan." 
Journalists sympathetic to Zakhidov have set July 22, Print Journalism Day, as the deadline by which they hope the poet will be released. Calls have also been made for the government to show progress in its investigations into the death of Elmar Huseynov, and the attacks on Bakhaddin Haziyev and Fikret Huseinli.

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ENERGY

SOCAR to attract credit to develop Shah Deniz 

Azeri state oil company SOCAR plans to attract a credit to finance its share in the project to develop the Shah Deniz field, SOCAR vice president for Investment and Marketing Eduard Nasirov said on June29th, Interfax News Agency reported.
"The funds are being attracted to refuse a credit from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development of 170 million Euro, granted to finance the SOCAR share. We can attract a credit with better terms," Nasirov said. 
He said talks are currently underway with a number of international financial institutions and commercial banks. SOCAR has already received a credit of 750 million at LIBOR+1.75 per cent from a syndicate of Western banks to finance its share in the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli project. SOCAR and the EBRD signed a credit agreement in London on December 14, 2004. Of the total credit of 170 million Euro, 110 Euro was to be used to finance the SOCAR share in the development of the Shah Deniz field, and 60 million Euro - on building the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline.
Shah Deniz holds an estimated 625 billion cubic metres of gas and 101 million tonnes of condensate. Phase one development involves the production of 178 billion cubic metres of gas and 34 million tonnes of condensate. Production under Phase one will peak at 8.4 billion cubic metres of gas and two million tonnes of condensate a year. Production will increase to 16 billion cubic metres a year in the later stages of the project.
Phase one also includes the construction of the 690-kilometres Baku - Tbilisi -Erzurum pipeline - 442 kilometres of it in Azerbaijan and 248 kilometres in Georgia. 
Turkey has ordered 6.3 billion cubic metres of gas per year, Azerbaijan up to 1.5 billion cubic metres annually and Georgia up to 0.8 billion cubic metres annually of the Phase 1 gas. Participants in the Shah Deniz project are SOCAR - 10 per cent, BP - 25.5 per cent, Statoil - 25.5 per cent, TotalFinaElf - 10 per cent, LUKoil Overseas Shah Deniz - 10 per cent, NICO - 10 per cent and TPAO - nine per cent.

Baku to sell Georgia more gas at world prices 

Azerbaijan intends to sell additional gas to Georgia at world prices, Azerbaijani Industry and Energy Minister, Natik Aliyev, said recently.
"It's hard to talk about prices right now because we import gas from Russia. We don't yet know how much the price of gas will be for us next year. So it wouldn't be natural to buy gas at a higher price and sell it for less," Aliyev said, Interfax News Agency reported.
He said Azerbaijan's Shah-Deniz field would produce around one billion cubic metres of gas this year. "Azerbaijan plans to buy most of this itself, but we'll can set some aside for Georgia if the possibility arises. The price of that gas would depend on prices on the world markets. It would differ greatly from the special price, which is US$55," Aliyev said. 
Aliyev said Azerbaijan did not intend to re-export gas supplied by Russia to Georgia. "The gas that Azerbaijan buys from Russia will not be sold to Georgia as we buy it for our own needs," he said. Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli discussed buying additional gas to be transported via the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline with the Azerbaijani government in Baku on July 5th. Azerbaijan intends to start exporting gas via the pipeline in September. According to a signed agreement between the two governments, Georgia will get five percent of the gas transited via the pipeline and be entitled to buy another five percent at a discounted price of US$55 per 1,000 cubic metres. The price will increase by up to 1.5 per cent annually. In 2007-2008, the first years of the pipeline's operation, Georgia will be able to receive just 200-250 million cubic metres of gas per year, rising to 300 million cubic metres and 800 million cubic metres in 2011, when the pipeline is operating at full capacity.

Oil, gas production to double in 2007 

Azerbaijan is to double gas production to 11 billion cubic metres in 2007, Azeri Industry and Energy Minister, Natik Aliyev, said at the 13th Caspian Oil and Gas-2006 conference, Interfax News Agency reported.
"In 2005 production of gas in the country amounted to 5.7 bcm, this year we plan to produce 7.3 billion cubic metres and in 2007 - 11 billion cubic metres. We primarily expect the growth in production to come from the start of operation of the large Shah Deniz gas condensate field," Aliyev said. He said this would allow Azerbaijan to export its gas. "We have major ambitions regarding supplies of gas not only to Azerbaijan, but also to export it first of all to Turkey, and then to Europe. Thanks to the development of the Shah Deniz field Azerbaijan will strengthen its energy security and for the first time in its history will become an exporter of gas," Aliyev said. The minister said that in 2007 oil production in the country would also be doubled. "In 2005 Azerbaijan produced 22.2 million tonnes of oil, which is a record for the past 64 years. This year oil production will reach 30.5 million tonnes, in 2007 - 47 million tonnes and in 2008 will exceed 50 million tonnes. Growth in production is primarily due to the development of the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli field," Aliyev said.

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MINERALS & METALS

Azerbaijan, Rusal to continue smelter construction talks 

Azerbaijan's Economic Development Ministry and Russia's Rusal will continue to discuss the construction of an aluminium smelter in the second half of June, Economic Development Minister, Heydar Babayev, said at a press conference, Interfax News Agency reported.
"We're in permanent contact with representatives of the Russian company and we've invited them back to Baku after June 15 to continue the talks," Babayev said. 
Babayev said the smelter's location and the availability of electricity supplies were being discussed right now. He said the smelter might be built in Ganja, 330 km west of Baku. "The Russian company is also interested in building a gas-fired power station for the smelter," he said.

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