Category Archives: Azerbaijani Politics

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

New Southern Gas Corridor Project Will Intensify the Regional Pipeline Race

Southern Gas Corridor Route

Southern Gas Corridor Route

On May 29, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev officially inaugurated the first phase of the long-awaited flagship project Southern Gas Corridor (SGC), through which Caspian natural gas from the Shah-Deniz II field will be transported to Europe. The new project consists of several pipeline networks that pass through Georgia and Turkey (via the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline, TANAP) and further through Greece, Albania and Italy (via the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, TAP). As Shah Deniz Stage 2 is implemented, gas production will increase from 9 to 25 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year.

BACKGROUND: A decade ago, the European Commission issued its Energy and Solidarity Action Plan, which set a clear target to help Eastern European countries boost and diversify their gas imports. The Southern Gas Corridor project is the backbone of this strategy to decrease Europe’s dependency on gas imports from Russia substantially. This has been a growing concern for policymakers ever since a conflict between Gazprom and the Ukrainian government interrupted supplies in the winter of 2006. Continue reading

Southern Gas Corridor Project Opening New Long-Term Opportunities for Europe

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: 88

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, on May 29, officially inaugurated the first phase of his country’s long-awaited flagship Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) project, through which Caspian-basin natural gas (from the offshore Shah-Deniz field) will be transported to Europe (Azernews, May 29). The new project consists of several linked pipelines that pass through Azerbaijan and Georgia (via the South Caucasus Pipeline Expansion, or SCPX), Turkey (via the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline, TANAP), and further through Greece, Albania, and into Italy (via the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, TAP). In the initial operational phase of the SGC, 6 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas will annually be transported via Turkey to Europe, and those volumes will be increased to 10 bcm after 2020. Reportedly, the volumes will be expanded to 31 bcm after 2026, if additional gas compressor stations are constructed. Continue reading

Azerbaijan to Boost Arms Exports in 2018

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: 8

The Minister of Defense Industry of Azerbaijan Yavar Jamalov held a press conference, on December 17, to discuss the outcomes of 2017 for the country’s defense industry sector. The minister pointed out that this past year, two additional military-production factories were built in Azerbaijan. Thus, the total number of defense-manufacturing facilities in the country is now 58 (Trend, December 17, 2017). Moreover, these new factories were fully equipped with modern machinery developed by leading Western defense contractors. The Ministry of Defense Industry plans to launch two more new factories, which will be able to produce four kinds of modern artillery shells, mortars, and armor for military vehicles. Moreover, new military labs will be developed to produce blasting powder, trinitrotoluene (TNT) and hexogen (RDX) chemical compounds (Azerbaijan-news.az, December 17, 2017). Continue reading

Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway to Become Central Asia’s Gateway to Europe

Photo Credit: EADily Agency

Photo Credit: EADily Agency

On October 30, 2017, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, along with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Georgia’s Prime-minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev, and Uzbekistan’s Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov attended the opening ceremony of the long-delayed Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway. “The opening of the railway is of historic and strategic significance,” Aliyev said at the ceremony in the Caspian port city of Alat, south of Baku, to mark the departure of the first trains. In fact, the opening of the new railway provides an alternative route to existing rail services carrying goods from Asia to Europe.

BACKGROUND: The BTK railway, totaling 826 kilometers in length, is intended to complete a transport corridor linking Azerbaijan to Turkey (and thereby linking Central Asia and China to Europe) by rail. The railway is constructed on the basis of a Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement. At the initial stage, it will have a capacity of one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo per year, projected to reach 17 million tons of cargo per year by 2023. Starting in Baku, the trains will stop in Tbilisi, pass through gauge-changing facilities in Akhalkalaki, and terminate in north-east Turkey. Continue reading

Response to Regional Challenges: Why Strategic Partnership of Azerbaijan and Pakistan is Important?

Caucasus International Vol. 7 • No: 2 • Winter 2017

This article examines the degree of awareness at the grassroots level in Azerbaijan and Pakistan regarding the growing bilateral strategic cooperation. During the last several years, relations between Baku and Islamabad have expanded rapidly to the level of a strategic partnership encompassing various fields such as military, humanitarian issues, diplomatic, and cultural issues. Building strategic partnerships with countries in the region and beyond has always been a guiding principle of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy strategy. The common religious background of both countries also plays a significant role in strengthening bilateral ties. Pakistan’s explicit support of Azerbaijan in the international diplomatic arena, in particular in regard to the resolution process of the most complex and dangerous conflict in the South Caucasus –the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is among those significant factors. The article traces the key moments in Azerbaijani – Pakistan relations and outlines the achievements, prospects, and potential for strengthening economic and security ties.

Keywords: Azerbaijan – Pakistan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Kashmir conflict, Military Partnership, South Caucasus

 

The South-West Transport Corridor Project and the Geopolitical Reshaping of the South Caucasus

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 14 Issue: 93

Baku hosted the first joint gathering of the heads of the railway administrations of Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Poland, on June 19. The meeting was dedicated to the newly-launched “South-West Transport Corridor,” which links into the broader Trans-Caspian International Route project launched in 2016. The event concluded with the signing of a new joint protocol that envisages expanding cooperation opportunities along the so-called “South-West” route (Iran–Azerbaijan–Georgia–by ferry across the Black Sea–Ukraine–Poland) in order to optimize cargo transportation and increase transit capacity. Reportedly, the next joint meeting of the working group will be held in Odesa in September 2017 (Trend, June 19). Continue reading

Azerbaijan: From a Country with Soviet-Era Industry to a Weapons Exporter

Since the 2000s, Azerbaijan has significantly improved its defense industry to the point where it now exports locally produced weapons to countries like Russia and the US. A large part of the country’s military development could be attributed to Israel.

Since regaining its independence in 1991, Azerbaijan set a target to increase the capability of its Armed Forces. Being a former Soviet country with an outdated industry, Azerbaijan has significantly developed and diversified its military industry since the end of the first Nagorno-Karabakh war. Throughout these years, Azerbaijan has done a lot to acquire international experience in the military industry. Continue reading