Azerbaijan Roundup

by Ben on 8/4/2005 · 3 comments

Azerbaijan is hitting the headlines these days, so it’s time for a quick and inevitably incomplete roundup.

First off, Marianna has posted the third part of her election monitor and focuses on candidate registration and an upcoming Washington visit of Azeri Foreign Minister Mammedyarov.

Will President Ilham Aliyev visit the US himself? There is quite a degree of speculation.

USAF base in Azerbaijan?
In the light of the ongoing speculation about relocating the K2 base to Azerbaijan, this comes with a weird after-taste:

Azerbaijan does not plan to take part in a U.S. military campaign against Iran or deploy U.S. military bases on its territory, said Azerbaijani presidential international affairs department head Novruz Mamedov.

A US base on Azeri soil would lie in a completely different geopolitical hemisphere, being closer to Iran than to Afghanistan.

Cyprus row
Azerbaijan formally recognised the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus some time ago and has now installed a regular flight connection between Lefkosha and Baku. Unsurprisingly, Cyprus is not amused. An unimportant row? It could be more: Greece strikes back and ponders whether it should not establish a direct flight between Athens and contested province Karabakh.

Washington Post discussion
An interesting discussion followed up on a Washington Post op-ed, written some time ago in July. “Democracy or Duplicity?” by Jackson Diehl looked into Azerbaijan-US relations in the wake of Washington’s democracy agenda:

At best, Azerbaijan could deliver a breakthrough for the Bush administration: a historic free election that would end up strengthening its ally Aliyev. At worst Bush will have to choose this November between another oil-rich autocrat and pro-democracy demonstrators who have taken his inaugural address to heart. Either way, a strategic Muslim country that hasn’t gotten much attention in Washington since 2001 will soon be in the spotlight.

A letter to the editor by Bob Lawrence that followed up some weeks later is calling for a less stark government-opposition / autocracy-democracy categorisation:

Rather than simply accepting the allegations of the opposition, a more balanced review would show that Mr. Aliyev and the leaders of Azerbaijan deserve praise and encouragement for their progress so far and their goals for the future.

Opposition leader Isa Gambar replied yesterday:

Let’s save the praise for Mr. Aliyev for when he lives up to his commitment to democratic reform rather than falsely painting the position of the opposition.

An interesting discussion well worth reading.

Similar discussions arose in Kazakhstan, where many argue that the opposition to President Nazarbayev should be seen in a more balanced light.

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