Azerbaijan Journal – October 2017

Day Two

It has been a whirl of meetings that are effectively shaping my view about Azerbaijan.

It is clear that Azerbaijan is constantly mapping its future and they like to share it with the world. It is important for a 25-year-old country to work along a guideline of improvement and development and Azerbaijan is facing an ongoing phase of growth. The country that ten years ago could have been seen as an economic basket case has resources to work with and brain power to bring visions to fruition.

Azerbaijan has black gold, it has rich oil fields. That is given but the rest of the economy must be developed and grow. Here are the bodies and entities that are helping the needed growth’s trajectory.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) crude oil pipeline is 1,768 kilometers (1,099 mi) long, stretching from the Azeri–Chirag–Gunashli oil field in the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, connecting Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, via Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, to Ceyhan, Turkey’s south-eastern Mediterranean coast port. BTC is the second-longest oil pipeline in the former Soviet Union, after the Druzhba pipeline. The first oil that was pumped from the Baku end of the pipeline reached Ceyhan on 28 May 2006 and Azerbaijan began seeing revenue from it in 2007. Then life in the country began to drastically change. Whereby, till then simple staple diet food items where hard to come by, the Azerbaijanis began to see some relief.

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 New Port of Baku port plan

Ten years later, here is what transpired.

Azerbaijan is looking to become an economic magnate and part of becoming such country is the New Port of Baku’s vision of a 21st century super modern Free Trade Zone, expected to be operational at the beginning of 2018 with special legal administration favorable to foreign investors. This will make trade maritime between east and west countries, through Azerbaijan, shorter and more affordable and will also see increase in tourism. The port’s new administration’s goal is based on transparency with the least bureaucracy and roadblocks for the docking ships, truckers, freight trains and the passing through passengers.

Azerbaijan is steadily working to shift to its own new economy model that is not attached to its neighbor Russia or the West while catching up with modernity and globalization.

The government had already invested $1 billion dollars to build the first phase of Baku International Sea Trade Port (CJSC), located at Alat, on the Caspian Sea that is surrounded by advantageous natural wave breakers. For centuries, Port of Baku served as a link between East and West, alongside the ancient Silk Road, as well as North-South transport corridor that connects North Europe and Russia with Middle East and South Asia. The Port of Baku is about to complete its phase 1 of its multi-service new international sea port, to include a railway line to Turkey, that will be able to simultaneously accommodate the loading and off-loading 30 ships per day. With that, it will increase the port’s capacity to 25 million tons of general cargo and up to one million containers, many of which could be transshipped between China, Central Asia and Europe.

Think-Tank

Established ten years ago, the Center For Strategic Studies Under The President Of The Republic Of Azerbaijan is a think-tank its work is to come up with domestic, foreign, economic and global policy suggestions and solutions that are good for the country in all aspects. Concentrating on tourism, agriculture, transportation, development of the country as geopolitical center, connecting east and west, security and what is the general plan for the entire country, this think-tank is a hub of ideas of how to move the country forward in a pace it can keep up and meet.

 Entrance sign to Center for Strategic Studies

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a wide-open discussion at the Center. For Azerbaijan time, which spins Armenia’s position stronger, is of the essence. Not solving it is working against Azerbaijan, as the Armenian government is working toward consolidation, not concessions. I am told that the longer the conflict goes the more the world accepts Armenia entrenching on Azerbaijan’s territory which Armenia occupies.

A meeting with the Military Prosecutor of Azerbaijan

The office was established on May 21st, 1992 and is conducting its duties, based on Azerbaijan’s constitutional law, just like any other military prosecutor in a democratic country.

 Azerbaijan Rasim Kazimov, deputy military prosecutor of the Republic, General-mayor

It is the Armenian’s occupation of Azerbaijan’s land that occupies this branch the most. The material damage in the occupied territory, which Armenia caused when it captured 20% of Azerbaijan’s legal territorial land, is estimated at $815 billion and required a special committee to deal with this greatly niggling issue. During the conflict and years later, Azerbaijan was in its baby steps to full independence and weak. The result, the information about the size of the massacre by the Armenian forces during its invasion of Azerbaijan’s land only came out when Ilham Aliyev took office as the country’s recent president.

Azerbaijan that is cooperating with NATO eastern division forces in training and exercises, seeks the international community’s help to solve the conflict but apparently the apathy and double standard that is applied to this case are the moving force for a possible solution. Therefore, arriving as an end to the conflict is facing walls of obstacles.

Nineteen US states already recognized the Khojaly Massacre (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khojaly_Massacre), but that is by far not enough to put the effective pressure on Armenia its foreign politics much relies on its large lobby in the United States and the European Union.

Within the Parliament of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic

Last, but not least, for the day, a meeting with MP, originally from the town of Shusha, in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh area, whose father was a prosecutor in Karabakh. Azerbaijan decided that the internally Displaced People (IDP) can continue having a vote; they elect their political representative who represents what today is an occupied by Armenia land. Though the IDP do not live in their motherland, nor their representative(s), so long you were displaced from a district in the occupied territory and so long your off springs marries other offspring from your district in the occupied territory, you can vote for a representative who is either displaced himself or his parents were displaced. This person you elected represents your occupied district in the parliament and through your representative, a member of the Parliament of Azerbaijan, you have a voice. This internal political setup gives the IDP HOPE. They are not forgotten and there are 12 such MPs’ in the Parliament of Azerbaijan who give a voice to the people displaced because of the Armenia invasion and occupation.

 Azerbaijan Parliament building

The MP tells me that they are constantly working and weighing all the options to achieve peaceful to a very complex political situation

 Beautiful Baku on the Caspian Sea

Writer’s note:

During my entire visit in Azerbaijan, what sucks much energy out of the country’s leadership is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The impression I get is that it is a heavy stone around the neck of Azerbaijan and no matter what has been tried, there is no solution in sight yet. Azerbaijan wants to solve the conflict and gets its land back peacefully. Armenia is obstinate and belligerent and is an unfriendly neighbor. However, my suggestion to Azerbaijan is that sometime, what is seen as the worst step to remove a heavy burden may turn to be the best.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a hindrance to a country that is moving so positively forward. Perhaps some rethinking is the answer. But whatever it is, Azerbaijan, my salute to you!


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