The Rise of Azerbaijan
There is one development in the region of the Caucasus, that can not be ignored: the rise of Azerbaijan has changed the interest of the regional superpowers. Where Russia and Turkey were to preoccupied with their western neighbors, they are now turning eastern to the Causasus. The main reason for this is the big economic growth that Azerbaijan has gone threw in the last couple of years.
Ever since the disastrous war against Armenia back in 1992, Azerbaijan has invested largely in their rich oil and gas fields. This has led to the findings of many new oil en gas sources; the excavations and export of these sources has made Azerbaijan without doubt the richest country in the Causasus. Unfortunately for Armenia all the oil and gas pipes are build to go around Armenia. So rich that Azerbaijan has found the confidence to tighten the diplomatic relations with other upcoming countries such as Polen, Belarus, Japan, İran, Romania, Russia and their historical and cultural ally Turkey. This is a big difference with Azerbaijan’s biggest rival in the Causasus: Armenia. Ever since Armenia occupied approximately 24% of Azerbaijan’s territory in 1992, it has been regarded as the outlaw of the region. Turkey and Azerbaijan have boycotted Armenia ever since the occupation, an occupation which has led to almost 30.000 dead Azeri civilians and another one million Azeri refugees who were forced to leave the areas occupied by Armenian forces due to Armenia’s policy of ethnic cleansing.
Now Armenia has to spend a big amount of their budget to consolidate the occupation of Azerbaijan, while almost al their neighbors are boycotting Armenian trade. The only lifeline that holds Armenia alive is the Russian-Armenian agreement. But this has started to change, since Russia has realized that Azerbaijan has a lot more to offer them than Armenia. While Armenia is almost bankrupt due to the heavy strain the occupation has provided them, Azerbaijan is among the richest countries in the region. Smart investments has led to a great increase in military technology, which is to be used to recover their lost lands. According to Azerbaijan president İlham Aliyev this can be achieved by diplomatic means or in the worst case by arms. Seeing that they are in a situation without a positive end, Armenia has come to terms with their underdog position. It has recently agreed to re-establish international relations with Turkey and is now talking with Azerbaijan to ensure that it won’t be swept of the map by the upcoming rich state of Azerbaijan. It was Turkish member of parliament Şenol Bal who described the situation accordingly:
“Currently, there is no production in Armenia. People head to other countries to earn money. Nearly 50,000-60,000 Armenian migrants work in Turkey. They support their families with their income back in Armenia. Today Armenia has to make concessions to Turkey, but not Turkey to Armenia. In fact, Armenia should ask us to open borders not to starve to death and abandon its claims.”
According to various diplomats, such as Aladdin Büyükkaya, Armenia has even informally agreed to leave to lands they have occupied for so many years. This has been confirmed by Azerbaijan president Aliyev who stated:
“Armenia has agreed to leave five Azeri regions it has occupied for 15 years. After doing so, we will agree to sign a peace agreement concerning the largest occupied region Karabağ [where fierce fighting between Armenian and Azeri forces continues on and off]. But Karabağ will not be an independent state, like Armenia wishes to realize, nor will their be a corridor between Karabağ and Armenia. It can at most be a autonomous province of Azerbaijan. After redrawing their forces from five Azeri regions, Armenia will have five years to withdraw from the other two regions Kelbeçer and Leçin.”
This would mean that the most disputed province of Karabağ (which is located at the hart of Azerbaijan but has a quite large Armenian minority), would be an autonomous province as a part of Azerbaijan. This would of course be good news for the approximately one million Azeri refugees who can at last return to their homes and not in the least for Armenia which can now start to trade with their neighboring states and in doing so, recover their economy.
November 13, 2009
© Armand Sağ 2009