Azerbaijan is a South Caucasus republic that became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. Azerbaijani foreign policy has since been characterized by a difficult attempt to free itself from traditional Moscow influence through the gradual construction of an independent foreign policy. Over the years the country has played a role as a barrier both towards the possible Russian return to the post-Soviet space and towards the possible Iranian penetration in the area, increasingly affirming its regional and international importance, thanks also to the important energy resources available.. The growing Russian activism in the area, which culminated in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea, has raised fears that Baku could itself become a victim of Moscow’s power politics.
According to itypeusa, Turkey has been and continues to be a natural link between Azerbaijan and the West. The ethno-linguistic affinity between the two countries – commonly summarized in the motto ‘two states, one nation’ – formed the basis on which a privileged relationship was founded, strengthened by a solid diplomatic, economic and strategic understanding.
In addition to possessing significant oil and gas resources, Azerbaijan has risen to be a central hub for the construction of an ‘east-west energy corridor’, promoted by the US and capable of connecting Central Asian fields to European markets through the Caspian and Turkey, bypassing existing Russian routes to the north and potential Iranian routes to the south. Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom, the geostrategic importance of Azerbaijan as a bridgehead for NATO operations has grown considerably.and Americans in Central Asia. Azerbaijan has therefore initiated a more balanced foreign policy and pragmatically attentive to maintaining good relations with the main players on the Caucasian chessboard. The country’s growing international stature was confirmed by the awarding of the first European Olympic Games, held in Baku in June 2015. An event, however, heavily criticized by many human rights organizations, given the country’s poor democratic record
The conflict with Armenia over control of Nagorno Karabach (Dağliq Qarabağ), an Armenian-majority Azerbaijani region, represented the main obstacle to Azerbaijan’s post-independence path and the full affirmation of the country’s sovereignty. After a phase of open conflict between the government of Azerbaijan and the secessionist forces of Karabach, supported by Armenia (1991-94), the failure to prepare a peace agreement froze the Armenian military victory, generating a dangerous disconnect between the de jure sovereignty over the region, exercised by Azerbaijan, and de facto controlof the same by the local Armenian authorities. Currently, around 20% of Azerbaijani territory is controlled by Yerevan-backed Armenian forces, which have embarked on a profound state-building process. In August 2012, Armenian-Azerbaijani tensions re-emerged with the case of Ramil Safarov, the Azerbaijani soldier sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of an Armenian fellow soldier, Gurgen Margaryan, killed in Budapest in 2004 during a refresher course N ato. The case arose following Safarov’s Hungarian extradition to Azerbaijan, where, instead of being arrested, he was hailed as a kind of national hero and promoted to rank.
Since 1993 the fortunes of the country have been governed by the ‘Aliyev dynasty’, a true national institution, which guided the main phases of Azerbaijani history. The Constitution, approved by referendum in 1995, centralizes significant powers in the office of the President of the Republic who, in addition to guiding the executive, appoints the provincial executive committees and representatives of the judiciary.
The unicameral parliament, elected with a majority system, is dominated by the New Azerbaijan Party (Yeni Azerbaycan Partiyası, Yap), which controls 72 seats out of 125 total and is led by President Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his father Heidar in 2003 and reconfirmed as the third mandate in the presidential elections of October 2013, with almost 85% of the vote. The elections marked a clear disagreement between the international monitoring missions present. While, in fact, the delegates of the OSCE- in this supported by the US State Department – they considered that the electoral round did not reach the minimum standards of transparency and fairness, those belonging to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament judged the electoral process free, correct and transparent. In October 2013, opposition forces formed the National Council of Democratic Forces (Ncdf) in order to contest the election result.
However, the political system continues to stand out for its authoritarian management of power, characterized by the repression of journalists, activists and political opponents.