Category Archives: Azerbaijani Politics

Azerbaijan Feels Pressure to Join Moscow-Dominated Eurasian Economic Union

 

Photo credit: MIKHAIL KLIMENTIEV/AFP/Getty Images

EAEU member states’ leaders pose for a picture before a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Sochi on May 14, 2018. (Photo by Mikhail KLIMENTIEV

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 18 Issue: 68

The next meeting of the Intergovernmental Council of the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) will be held in the central Russian city of Kazan, on April 29–30 (TASS, March 17). A key agenda item for the EEU member states may reportedly be to discuss the possibility of bestowing observer status on Azerbaijan and, at a minimum, to allow its delegation to take part in this and future meetings, if officials from Yerevan approve. For Russia, this would be an important first step toward Baku’s eventual full membership in the regionalist bloc (Central.asia-news.com, April 19; Turan, April 24). However, from the point of view of Armenia, several important issues will need to be addressed before it would agree to Azerbaijani attendance at this week’s EEU gathering. Continue reading

The Second Karabakh War and Caspian Energy

Trans-Caspian Pipeline (Photo-Credit: IENE)

Trans-Caspian Pipeline (Photo-Credit: IENE)

On November 10, the second war in Nagorno-Karabakh ended with a Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia. While the 44-day war caused severe damages to frontline settlements and civilian casualties on both sides, frequent missile attacks carried out by Armenia towards Azerbaijani cities and infrastructure beyond the frontline raised concerns not only in Baku but also in the EU regarding the security of vitally important energy infrastructure. The possibility of damages to energy infrastructure, particularly the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline, would explicitly put the role of these pipelines in European energy security under question.

BACKGROUND: The Tovuz/Tavush incidents on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan in July 2020 became a prelude to the second war between Baku and Yerevan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. On September 27, 2020, fighting escalated beyond the established “meeting point” (Line of Contact) with the involvement of a significant number of military personnel, artillery units, and long-range missiles, threatening the geopolitical stability in the Black Sea-Caspian region. Continue reading

Searching for the right formula for South Caucasus regional co-operation

President Erdogan’s initiative for a 3 + 3 regional co-operation format in the South Caucasus offers the possibility of opening up the region through an extensive network of land corridors. Not everyone has welcomed the initiative, but the prospect of turning a fragile region into a beacon of stability after a long period of instability and violence is a worthy aspiration, argues Fuad Shahbazov in this op-ed for KarabakhSpace.eu.

The second Karabakh war has shifted the geopolitical and geo-economic realities in the South Caucasus region, particularly heightening the possibility of competition over the region’s transport corridors. The Moscow-brokered ceasefire agreement signed on 10 November brings with it the possibility of opening a number of transit routes, which have been closed for almost 30 years. In the aftermath of the Armenian forces’ devastating defeat in the 44-day war, the idea of regional co-operation becomes increasingly important. Continue reading

The Revival of Islam: How Do External Factors Shape the Potential Islamist Threat in Azerbaijan?

International Counter-Terrorism Review (ICTR)

International Counter-Terrorism Review (ICTR)

Abstract

Considerable scholarly work on the post-Soviet region has focused on the various regional conflicts and security challenges, but rarely on the roots of the growing Islamism factor as a new source of threat. Following the demise of the Soviet Union, with its forcibly imposed atheist agenda, the majority of Muslim countries in Central Asia and the North Caucasus witnessed growing Islamic sentiments that led to a long-term, violent Islamic insurgency in the North Caucasus and, to some extent, in Central Asia. However, unlike other Muslim countries in the post-Soviet space, Islam plays a minimal role in Azerbaijan. 

The country has maintained its unique secular model mainly due to the firm “secular nationalism” ideas put forward by local intellectuals since the 19th century. Nevertheless, it is necessary to understand the historical evolution process of Islamic thought in Azerbaijan, underline the role of certain external actors in promoting radical Islamic ideology, and understand how they pose an existential threat to national security and identity. Continue reading

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