Category Archives: Azerbaijani Politics

Azerbaijan and Slovakia Expand Strategic Partnership

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 81

Executive Summary:

  • Azerbaijan and Slovakia recently signed an agreement on defense cooperation that opens the door to joint defense production, with Slovakia set to produce weaponry funded by Baku.
  • Slovakia’s expansion of its strategic partnership with Azerbaijan takes on a significant geopolitical dimension, potentially reshaping the dynamics of EU-NATO relationships and the balance of power in the region.
  • Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine presented Azerbaijan with an opportunity to expand its energy trade with Europe and to build individual strategic partnerships with EU and non-EU members.

On May 7, Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico arrived in Azerbaijan for an official visit to meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The visit marked a significant milestone in the Azerbaijani-Slovakian partnership, as the two leaders discussed new opportunities, such as transporting Azerbaijani gas to Slovakia, and upgraded bilateral ties to a strategic level (President.az; Azertag, May 7). In recent years, Azerbaijan has focused on building individual strategic partnerships with both EU and non-EU states in Europe, despite the strained relations between Baku and Brussels. Continue reading

Azerbaijan’s new strategy is to become a green energy hub

COMMENT: Azerbaijan’s new strategy is to become a green energy hub

Two agreements signed at the end of May advanced Azerbaijan’s efforts to establish itself as a key energy provider in Southeast Europe, going beyond its role as a producer of hydrocarbons to enter the electricity markets in the region as well.

On May 29, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania and Hungary signed a memorandum to create a joint venture as part of the implementation of the Black Sea Energy Caspian-Black Sea-Europe Green Energy Corridor project. The first agreement regarding the submarine cable was signed in 2022 and it is supposed to be fully operational in 2029. The Black Sea submarine cable will be 1,195 km long and is set to be an important pillar of the transition to green energy, with the plan to integrate it into the EU’s internal electricity market. As an attempt to diversify energy supplies in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine in February 2022, the Black Sea cable is of particular importance. Continue reading

How pragmatism drives Azerbaijan-Iran shift on regional transit

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi meets with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Nov. 9, 2023. (Photo via Iranian presidency)

After rising confrontation and a war of words in recent years, Azerbaijan and Iran have returned to the diplomatic track—emphasizing regional connectivity and infrastructure projects based on pragmatism.

Having pursued coercive diplomacy to contain the rising influence of Israel and Turkey in Azerbaijan since 2020, Tehran has opted for reversive diplomacy towards Baku to de-escalate tensions. The shift is part of a broader Iranian strategy of seeking rapprochement with neighboring states, including Saudi Arabia.

Transit in focus

Regional infrastructure projects lie at the heart of the current pragmatism in the Azerbaijan-Iran relationship, putting political disputes on the back burner.

In Oct. 2023, Baku and Tehran laid the foundation for a new route connecting Azerbaijan to its Nakhchivan exclave through Iranian territory. The ceremony gathered Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev and Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mehrdad Bazrpash. Per the initial agreement, a road bridge will be constructed between the two countries, followed by new motorway and railway connections. Although there is currently a functioning road connection between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan via Iran, the new highway will significantly reduce travel time. Continue reading

Azerbaijan and Serbia Expand Defense Partnership

Presidents of Azerbaijan and Serbia made press statements

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 31

On February 6, Serbian President Alexander Vučić confirmed that Serbia signed a new defense contract worth over $300 million with Azerbaijan for Serbian-produced NORA B-52 (155 millimeter) self-propelled artillery (DefenseMirror.com, December 13, 2023). While Western media was surprised to hear about the new defense contract, it was not a surprise for Azerbaijani society, given the recently deepened strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and Serbia. For example, in November 2023, both countries signed a new energy deal to deliver Azerbaijani natural gas to Serbia (Balkan Insight, November 15, 2023). In the same period, Azerbaijani company AzVirt started the construction of the high-speed highway Slepcevic-Badovinci, which was 15.4 kilometers near Shabac (ABC.az, November 29, 2023). The most recent Serbian-Azerbaijani arms deal is a logical continuation of the earlier agreement regarding military-technical cooperation that consistently asserted mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity as the framework for collaboration between the two ministries in the military-economic and military-technical sphere (The Government of Serbia, October 11, 2021). Continue reading

How the Hamas-Israel war impacts the South Caucasus?

Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Baku, Azerbaijan on May 30, 2023. (Photo via Azerbaijani presidency)

The war between Hamas and Israel war has triggered strong anti-Israel sentiments in the region and heightened fears of a broader conflict engulfing actors such as Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Worried that the conflict in Gaza could escalate into a regional confrontation, the US has dispatched two aircraft carrier strike groups within range, including additional troops and military advisors.

But alongside tough rhetoric, the violence in Gaza has renewed apparent pragmatism by important regional states such as Iran and Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has openly slammed Israel’s bombings of the Palestinian coastal enclave. On the other hand, Ankara has avoided issuing direct threats against Tel Aviv and, in an apparent unusual move, allegedly distanced itself from Hamas in the aftermath of the Palestinian movement’s surprise attack on Israel last month. Continue reading

The new Iran – Azerbaijan transit route reflects shifting geopolitical realities

Azerbaijan begins construction of corridor to Nakhchivan through Iran

Azerbaijan and Iran laid the foundation on October 6 for a transit route connecting western Azerbaijan to its exclave of Nakhchivan through Iran. The road bridge is being built in line with the memorandum of mutual understanding between the governments of Azerbaijan and Iran on developing new transport links. According to the Azerbaijani media, the bridge will span the Araz River to connect to the Iranian province of Eastern Azerbaijan.

The new transit project announcement came amid the ongoing normalisation of ties between Azerbaijan and Iran after months of harsh diplomatic confrontation. From the Iranian perspective, there are several reasons behind the shift in diplomatic relations, but the most important is the changed regional balance of power in the South Caucasus following the war in 2020 between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Among the broader impacts of the war were the declining influence of Iran and the strengthening axis of Baku-Ankara and Baku-Tel Aviv in the region. Continue reading

Despite Nagorno-Karabakh flareup, Azerbaijan-Iran set to pursue thaw

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi meets with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on Nov. 28, 2021. (Photo via Iranian presidency)

After years of rising tensions, the July visit to Baku by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has signaled increased diplomacy between Azerbaijan and Iran. The apparent new détente brings positives for both sides.

For Iran, reconciliation with its northwestern neighbor will allow it to play a bigger role in the South Caucasus. Meanwhile, with improved relations with Tehran, Baku can focus its resources and attention elsewhere. Such efforts have also reduced the chances of a regional crisis breaking out, even as the flareup of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh may add complexities. Continue reading

Azerbaijan’s energy diplomacy pivots to the Balkans

OPINION: Azerbaijan’s energy diplomacy pivots to the Balkans

Azerbaijan has adjusted its foreign policy agenda to target the Balkan region, that is more vulnerable to the energy crisis than the states of Central and Western Europe.

Energy has long been the core element of Azerbaijan’s pragmatic foreign policy, and recently it gained more impetus as European nations sought additional energy suppliers to replace Russian fossil fuel exports. Although the EU’s leading member countries are able to compensate for energy shortages by using energy reserves, employing alternative energy sources and importing additional gas volumes from alternative suppliers, the less developed Balkan states are struggling to adapt to the energy deficit.

More gas for the Balkans

On April 26, a signing ceremony for the memorandum of understanding on encouraging cooperation among Bulgartransgaz (Bulgaria), Transgaz (Romania), FGSZ (Hungary), Eustream (Slovakia) and the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) was held in Sofia. The memorandum paves the way for additional Azeri gas volumes to flow to the Balkans amid the unprecedented energy crisis in Europe caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Moreover, the document highlighting Azerbaijan’s strategic partnership with the Balkan nations will ease the cooperation between the local authorities and the transmission and distribution system operators. Continue reading

Azerbaijani-Iranian Tensions Disrupt the South Caucasus

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 20 Issue: 63

On March 30, Azerbaijan officially inaugurated its first embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, after avoiding the move for three decades. Although the decision highlighted the importance of Azerbaijani-Israeli relations, it quickly became a catalyst behind the renewed war of words between Iran and Azerbaijan (Themedialine.org, March 30). Since 2021, diplomatic relations between Tehran and Baku have steadily become embittered. Iran is primarily concerned with the decline of its influence in the South Caucasus, which has suffered since the end of the Second Karabakh War in 2020. As such, in an attempt by Tehran to flex its muscles and intimidate Azerbaijan, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps conducted large-scale military drills on the border with Azerbaijan in October 2022 (Eurasianet, October 20, 2022). Unlike previous years, the exercises provoked an uneasy reaction within Azerbaijan and triggered anti-Iranian sentiments throughout the country. Continue reading