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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)

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Update No: 359 - (24/11/10)

Baku hosts crucial Caspian Sea summit
Azerbaijan is a particularly important country in the geopolitics of Central Asia. The northern province of the same name in Iran, adjacent to it, has an even larger population than that of the former Soviet republic, 13m to 9m. Iran itself is of course a prime mover in the region.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad travelled to Azerbaijan on November 18 to attend the summit of Caspian Sea littoral states in Baku. The presidents of the five Caspian states, including Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan, attended the summit.

So far, the Caspian Sea states have reached a consensus over 70 percent of the sea’s legal regime. The framework convention to protect the Caspian Sea environment was signed between the littoral states in Tehran in November 2003. This was re-affirmed at the summit.

The Tehran Convention is in principle one of the most enlightened international agreements ever. It aims at protecting the Caspian Sea environment from all sources of pollution and protecting, preserving and restoring the marine environment. The convention includes provisions on sustainable and rational use of the bio-diversity of the Caspian Sea, as well as environmental monitoring, research and development.

The devil is, alas, in the detail - how to implement it. The summit came up with no new proposals in that regard. But it at least kept this grave set of issues on the agenda.

Azeri-Iranian pact
However, preparations for the summit led to one positive result. Azerbaijan pledged to deepen energy ties with neighbouring Iran on November 17, signing a memorandum of cooperation with Tehran on gas supplies and electricity swaps.

The memorandum, the details of which were not made available, was signed during the visit to the Baku summit by Ahmadinejad. Iran is facing tighter trade sanctions imposed in June by the United Nations, United States and European Union due to concerns over its nuclear programme, which the West believes, is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon.

Western diplomats have said that oil- and gas-producing Azerbaijan could prove a weak link in the sanctions regime given its ties with Iran, home to a large ethnic Azeri minority.

General election is over
Something of a farce accompanied the Baku summit. Voting has ended in Azerbaijan's general election, with the ruling party expected to retain power easily and the opposition alleging foul play.

Opposition leaders said many of candidates were prevented from registering and the results had been pre-determined. They said the poll would consolidate power in the hands of the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party.

Observers said election officials had been "overly restrictive". But Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission defended the voting process, saying it had taken extra measures to ensure the election was fair.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) sent more than 400 monitors to the elections.

High oil revenues
In November 2005 - soon after the colour revolutions swept new pro-Western governments to power in Georgia and Ukraine - Azerbaijan's opposition mounted a serious campaign to topple the country's ruling elite and its party, the Yeni Azerbaijan Party.

They took to the streets to contest elections which had failed to meet international standards.

But after five years of high oil revenues and economic growth, international observers expected the most predictable election the country has ever seen, the BBC's Tom Esslemont reports.

An exit poll suggested that the ruling party had won enough seats to form a majority in parliament on its own, AFP news agency reports. It received credible reports of voter intimidation; opposition candidates, they said, had in some cases been disqualified for no reason.

What is more, our correspondent adds, there was a lacklustre pre-election campaign on the streets and in the media, making for a polling day expected to be clouded by voter apathy.
 

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