Category Archives: Azerbaijani Politics

Why is Azerbaijan trying to rekindle Israeli-Turkish ties?

An image from a pro-Azerbaijani community protest in Washington DC (Photo credit: Jerusalem Post)

An image from a pro-Azerbaijani community protest in Washington DC (Photo credit: Jerusalem Post)

The recent normalisation deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan signify substantial changes in the Middle East. The new agreements were signed following substantive negotiations on several security-related issues, including Iran and Turkey’s growing influence.

However, unlike their Arab counterparts, both Ankara and Tehran denounced the Abraham Accords, labeling them as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause and a “dagger in the back of Muslims.” Nevertheless, media reports in December 2020 revealed that Turkey and Israel had established a secret channel for negotiations to prepare a roadmap to further bilateral relations. The fact that Tel Aviv and Ankara’s reconciliation process emerged just weeks before newly elected US President Joe Biden was to assume office suggests that Ankara was keen to send a positive signal and prevent any possible political isolation under the new administration. Continue reading

RFE/Liberty: Azerbaijan Celebrates ‘Victory,’ Armenia In Crisis After Nagorno-Karabakh Deal

People wave the national flag and hold portraits of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his father and predecessor Heydar as they celebrate in the streets of Baku on November 10.

People wave the national flag and hold portraits of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his father and predecessor Heydar as they celebrate in the streets of Baku on November 10.

Still euphoric over the capture of a vital city from Armenian forces, Azerbaijanis celebrated on the streets of Baku after a Russian-brokered deal was signed late on November 9 aimed at ending the war over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Meanwhile, Yerevan, the Armenian capital, was plunged into a political crisis over the truce. Angry crowds stormed the Armenian parliament and ransacked government buildings after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian announced the deal on his Facebook page. As demonstrators also broke into Pashinian’s official residence, there was speculation the Armenian leader would be toppled and that the truce, along with the huge battlefield losses in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, could bring pro-Moscow Armenian nationalists back into power. Continue reading

Tactical Reasons Behind Military Breakthrough in Karabakh Conflict

A photo from the live-fire drills of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces' artillery units, July 2, 2020 / Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan

A photo from the live-fire drills of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces’ artillery units, July 2, 2020 / Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 155

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in fierce fighting in Karabakh since September 27. Unlike in most previous clashes over this Armenian-occupied Azerbaijani territory, the present conflict has involved heavy and sophisticated weaponry wielded by both sides, but especially Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces. And while the ongoing violence is essentially a conventional war fought by two professional armies, the presence of new generation, hi-tech weaponry has sharply increased its destructive potential.

Videos released by the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan since the conflict began suggest that the Azerbaijani military has all along had the upper hand on the battlefield thanks to the employment of Israeli- and Turkish-produced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), long-range missiles, and air-defense systems. Continue reading

Trends and Factors Contributing to the July Border Clashes Between Azerbaijan and Armenia

Azerbaijani soldiers. July 18, 2020. Photo: AFP Forum via Anadolu Agency/Resul Rehimov

Azerbaijani soldiers. July 18, 2020. Photo: AFP Forum via Anadolu Agency/Resul Rehimov

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 105

On July 12, the Azerbaijani border region of Tovuz and the Tavush region on the Armenian side became the new epicenter of clashes between the armed forces of the two states, with the involvement of heavy artillery and unmanned aerial drones (BBC News–Azerbaijani service, July 12). The intensive exchanges of fire resulted in the deaths of over a dozen military personnel and the destruction of local infrastructure on both sides. On July 14, Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense notably confirmed the deaths of Major General Polad Hashimov and Colonel Ilgar Mirzayev as a result of artillery shelling by Armenian military units (APA, July 14). Such high-level losses provoked unprecedented and spontaneous mass protests in Baku, with approximately 30,000 people flooding Azadlig (Freedom) Square and the parliament building with demands on the authorities to take revenge on Armenia and immediately begin military mobilization (Anadolu Agency, July 15). This unsanctioned mass rally was the largest in many years and succeeded in pushing the government to take a number of measures, including kicking off a voluntary recruitment process (Oxu.az, July 16). Continue reading

US-Iran escalation and its implications for the South Caucasus

Photo by Azerbaijani Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Photo by Azerbaijani Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Over the past several weeks geopolitical experts have been talking a lot about what the surprise U.S. drone attack on Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – Quds Force, on Jan. 3 means for the Middle East and relations between the major powers. What has received considerably less attention, however, is what Soleimani’s killing means for the South Caucasus, a region whose small size belies its strategic importance.

Located at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, the South Caucasus is a major energy supplier and an increasingly important arena for competition between regional powers, like Turkey and Iran, and great powers, like the U.S. and Russia.

Washington believed that taking out Soleimani would restore the leverage it had lost to Iran and Russia’s growing role in the region. Although U.S. sanctions have hurt Iran’s economy, sparking anti-government demonstrations, Russia, China, much of Europe, and even many American political leaders have railed against the Soleimani strike. Continue reading

The Georgian–Azerbaijani Monastery Dispute and Implications for the South Caucasus Region

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili visits the Davit Gareja monastery on the border with Azerbaijan (President.gov.ge)

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili visits the Davit Gareja monastery on the border with Azerbaijan (President.gov.ge)

Policy Memo: 612

(PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo) Often forgotten among the many post-Soviet border disputes in the Caucasus is one pitting two strategic partners against each other, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The two states have enjoyed a bilateral partnership since the beginning of the 2000s that has shaped the geopolitical landscape of the South Caucasus region. Being at the East-West crossroads, the Baku–Tbilisi axis is of geostrategic importance not only for regional countries but also for the West, Central Asia, and now China. Nevertheless, the pair recently witnessed an escalation of border disputes and tensions over the David Gareja (Keshikchidagh) monastery complex that sprawls between Azerbaijan’s Agstafa district and Georgia’s Sagarejo district.

Earlier this year, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili discussed the problem with her Baku counterpart and later paid a visit to the complex. While the top leadership on both sides expressed restraint, there was strong clamoring in Georgia about the negative consequences of her approach—often in reference to the “Russian factor.” Indeed, Russia has increased its soft power in Azerbaijan since 2008 and Russian-Georgian tensions have risen, leading analysts to determine that only Moscow principally benefits from any diplomatic discord between Baku and Tbilisi. Friction between the two would cause immense damage to regional development, namely energy and transport projects. Fortunately, taking into account their long-term decent relationship, the two states resumed their joint commission on the border demarcation process, which requires an open, comprehensive, and mutually beneficial action plan. Local provocateurs (Georgian and Azerbaijani) should be impeded and unnecessary geopolitical interference from the Kremlin must be sidestepped in order for the inherently pragmatic—albeit stalled—settlement process to prevail. Continue reading

John Bolton’s Caucasus Trip: Growing US Influence in Region?

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: 153

United States National Security Advisor John Bolton visited Azerbaijan on October 24, and held meetings with President Ilham Aliyev and other high-level state officials. Bolton appeared in Baku immediately following his visit to Moscow (Trend.az, October 24). The US National Security Advisor’s Russian agenda and his meeting with President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin suggested that Washington will not be rekindling relations with Moscow under the current circumstances.

Bolton’s ensuing trip to the South Caucasus included stops not only in Azerbaijan but also Armenia and Georgia. As the highest US official from the Donald Trump administration to come to the region since Vice President Michael Pence’s visit to Tbilisi last year (Whitehouse.gov, August 1, 2017), Bolton’s three-country tour raised questions of whether the White House is interested in more seriously reengaging the region, which had been neglected under the previous US administration. During Barrack Obama’s presidency, US influence in the South Caucasus had declined as the White House paid more attention to bilateral relations with Russia. Continue reading

What Would Membership in the CSTO Mean for Azerbaijan and the South Caucasus?

Photo Credit: Russia Business Today

Photo Credit: Russia Business Today

On August 16, the Azerbaijani MP and head of the Azerbaijan-Russia interparliamentary group Ali Huseynli told local media that “It would be advisable to consider Azerbaijan’s participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization” (CSTO). The sensational statement triggered a public discussion on Azerbaijan’s possible membership in the Russia-led CSTO and its consequences for the region. While some state officials described this prospect as a logical extension of Baku’s cooperation with Moscow, others strictly opposed the idea, stating that it would pose dangerous challenges to the country.

BACKGROUND: Russia’s various political and military initiatives have constituted important tools for regaining influence across Eurasia. However, the Russian-led regional groupings, including the CSTO, are inconvenient alliances. The CSTO unites a number of former Soviet republics including Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus (and previously Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan) under the umbrella of defense cooperation against internal and external threats such as international terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime. Whereas Russia has sought to exert leverage in the former Soviet republics via the CSTO, the organization has not become a powerful tool in this respect. In order to boost the CSTO’s role, Moscow seeks additional members including Azerbaijan, with its economic potential and rich hydrocarbon resources. Continue reading

Azerbaijan in the CSTO: An Unlikely Prospect

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: 125

In an interview, last month (August 16) with the media outlet Azeri Daily, Azerbaijani member of parliament and the head of the Azerbaijan-Russia inter-parliamentary group, Ali Huseynli, suggested that considering the changed geopolitical conditions in the South Caucasus, “it would be possible [he later also used the word ‘advisable’] to consider Azerbaijan’s participation in the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization]” (Azeri Daily, August 16). His sensational statement triggered a heated public discussion domestically and abroad about Azerbaijan potentially joining the Russian-led military bloc.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization—or “Eurasian NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization]” as it has sometimes been referred to in the West—brings together a number of former Soviet republics, including Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus (formerly also Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan). The military bloc purportedly strives to develop closer intra-regional defense cooperation against internal and external threats like international terrorism, drug trafficking, organized crime and similar threats. However, the organization also serves to maintain Russia’s political-military influence over the post-Soviet space (Janusz Bugajski and Margarita Assenova, Eurasian Disunion: Russia’s Vulnerable Flanks, The Jamestown Foundation, 2016). Continue reading

Ionian-Adriatic Pipeline: A Priority Gas Transit Project for Azerbaijan and the Western Balkans

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: 119

The Azerbaijani State Oil Company (SOCAR) announced, on July 27, the formation of a new corporate entity that will oversee the future development of the Ionian-Adriatic Pipeline (IAP) project. The proposed pipeline is designed to deliver Azerbaijani natural gas to Europe—namely to the Balkan region. According to Murad Heydarov, the head of the subsidiary SOCAR Balkan, the announced firm will be set up by the end of this year (AzerNews, Trend, July 27). Although, SOCAR is not a stakeholder in the IAP project, it acts as a technical consultant and manages the future design of the pipeline between the Albanian cities of Fier and Vlora. This project will represent the first time that SOCAR will undertake engineering services in the Western Balkans. Continue reading