Global Independent Analytics
Miray Aslan
Miray Aslan

Location: Turkey

Specialization: Media, Politics

THE YOUNG CAUCAUSIAN BOY: AZERBAIJAN

Who is real brother of Azerbaijan and who is the stepbrother?

Azerbaijan, a small country, formerly part of the Soviet Union, proclaimed its independence in 1991. Its population is almost 10 million but its area is just about 86 thousand square kilometers. However, the country is not as small as it seems! Azerbaijan lies by the Caspian Sea. This renders it an energy source in terms of gas, oil and hydrocarbon.

Moreover, Azerbaijan has strong relations with its neighbors, the three regional powers: Iran, Russia and Turkey. Iran has an over 30 million Azeri minority, forming roughly 30% of the population of the country. Azerbaijan has the second highest Shia population percentage in the world after Iran. So, good relations between Baku and Teheran is a must for both countries. Moving to the northern border, Azerbaijan’s other neighbor is Russia. As an ex-Soviet state, Azerbaijan is deeply influenced by Russia. The president Aliyev as well as most of the country’s politicians were educated there. Children are taught both Azerbaijani and Russian and 4 million citizens of the country moved to Russia.

Finally, Azerbaijan is ethnically Turkic. Turkey and Azerbaijan have "special relations.”  The term has been used to describe exceptionally strong ties between the two nations in diplomacy and politics. As a developing country Azerbaijan has added the prospect of intensive development in trade, economic and political contacts with Iran, Turkey and Russia. However, at the same time, the three big brothers of the young Caucasian boy never had good relations with each other.

Come Closer Bro!

Escalating tensions between Russia and Turkey caused Moscow to suspend its Turkish Stream pipeline project, leaving billions of dollars and billions of cubic meters of gas meant for Turkey and Europe in limbo. On the other hand, Azerbaijan promised more business and energy supplies. "Turkey will get all the gas Azerbaijan can give and Azerbaijan promises to invest $20 billion in the Russian-boycotted Turkish economy," said the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.

"Two States - One Nation " is what is often said when describing Azerbaijan –Turkey relations. The saying was first mentioned by the ex-president of AzerbaijanHeydar Aliyev (the father of Ilham Aliyev). The two countries enjoyed close economic and military cooperation on many occasions.   However there is no border between Turkey and Azerbaijan.  Standing between the two countries is a landlocked enclave, the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, surrounded by Armenia and lacking a border with mainland Azerbaijan. Georgia therefore plays role as a transfer corridor between Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Following the formation of the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, that  transformed Azerbaijan into a major oil-based, self-sufficient economy and not dependent on Russia, there is now a new project named the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP). The project  aims to meet the natural gas needs of Europe and Turkey, and to provide gas options for the region that will reach Turkey. TANAP is one of Turkish President Erdogan's dreams come true. As President Erdogan stated, "TANAP is a project of strategic importance for Turkey and Azerbaijan." TANAP has kept its importance even after Russia’s offer to Turkey regarding the Turk Stream.  Furthermore, major logistics companies from Azerbaijan, Georgia, China, Kazakhstan and Turkey, signed a consortium for the transportation of goods from China to Europe. Turkey got closer to the former Soviet republics  in order to bypass Russia.

On the other hand Russia plays the "Armenia card." The day after the Turkish air forces shot down a Russian jet, a Russian opposition leader, Sergei Mironov, said that his party had submitted a bill to the Russian parliament on holding to account anyone who denies that the 1915 killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire “was genocide.” Beside this, there may be a rise in tensions regarding the landlocked region of Nogorno-Karabakh, lying between Baku and Yerevan, as tensions between Turkey and Russia escalate. Nagorno-Karabakh has been a site of violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan  and 30,000 people were killed there as the two countries fought a full-fledged war over the enclave. Azerbaijan claims the land as its own and considers it an occupied territory. Turkey has come down firmly on Azerbaijan's side in the conflict while Russia suports Armenia. The relations between Russia and Azerbaijan may turn negative very soon as Azerbaijan is becoming an opponent for Russia, day by day.

From Republic to Regime

No doubt, Azerbaijan has captured a perfect rise in its economy. However, there are things that consume Azerbaijan from the inside and these are corruption and human right violations. In recent years, large numbers of Azerbaijani journalists, lawyers and human rights activists have been rounded up and jailed for their criticism of President Ilham Aliyev and  the governmental authorities. The Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. "I’m proud of my daughter. The government of Azerbaijan wants to lock her up to try to bury the truth about its corruption, its crimes," her mother said. Aliyev was named the world’s most corrupt person for 2012.

While the eyes of the world were focused on Turkey on November 1, Erdogan's ally Ilham Aliyev's New Azerbaijan Party,  won a clear victory in the parliamentary elections with 91 percent of the votes. According to Transparency International not a single election held in Azerbaijan since Aliyev came to power in 2003 was free or fair.  All these make me wonder if Azerbaijan a republic.

I hope Azerbaijan will return back to being a proper regime. Azerbaijan should remember that it was not easy to get its independence. The Azerbaijani living in Azerbaijan, Iran or the diaspora should stay strong, ask for their rights and fight against corruption. Otherwise what is the importance of being independent? By the way, as time goes by, we are going to see is there brotherhood in politics? If yes, who is real brother of Azerbaijan and who is the stepbrother?

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