Azerbaijan country brief
The Republic of Azerbaijan is situated in the South Caucasus, bordering the Russian Federation to the north, Georgia, Armenia and Turkey to the west, Iran to the south, and the Caspian Sea to the east. Its capital is Baku. Covering a total of 86,600 square kilometres, Azerbaijan is a mountainous country with almost half its territory comprising the wooded mountains of the Greater and Lesser Caucasus. Its population is 9.3 million (2013 est.).
The national day of Azerbaijan is Independence Day, celebrated on 28 May, which commemorates the founding of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan in 1918.
The President of Azerbaijan is elected for a five year term. The President appoints the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet). Current President Ilham Aliyev won a landslide victory with 77 per cent of the vote in 2003, and was re-elected on 15 October 2008 with roughly 89 per cent of the vote. In a referendum on 18 March 2009, voters in Azerbaijan approved a package of constitutional amendments including a removal of the two-term limit on presidential tenure. The change to the constitution allowed President Aliyev to stand again in the October 2013 presidential elections, where he again won a landslide victory with 84.5 per cent of the vote. The 2013 presidential elections were criticised by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as being seriously flawed, and undermined by limitations on freedoms of expression and association, the intimidation of candidates and voters, and a restrictive media environment.
The Azerbaijani Parliament comprises a unicameral National Assembly of 125 seats. Members serve five-year terms. The last round of Parliamentary elections was held on 7 November 2010. International observers, including from the OSCE, welcomed the participation of all opposition parties, however noted a number of significant improvements that were still needed to bring campaign procedures up to international standards.
Azerbaijan is a member of the United Nations (UN), Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) and the Council of Europe. Azerbaijan has observer status at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is seeking membership.
Azerbaijan's WTO membership Working Party was established on 16 July 1997, and the Working Party on Azerbaijan’s WTO accession met for the eleventh time in February 2014.
Azerbaijan has experienced high economic growth due to its vast reserves of Caspian Sea oil. Azerbaijan weathered the global economic crisis relatively well, avoiding an economic downturn. The economy has recently performed strongly with real GDP growing by 5.8 per cent in 2013. Azerbaijan’s economy is heavily reliant on oil and gas production. However the non-oil sector (including manufacturing, construction and hotel sectors) has also been a key driver of economic growth in Azerbaijan in recent years, a trend which is expected to continue for the next few years.
Oil exports to Europe through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline began in June 2006. The pipeline extends over 1,770 kilometres from Baku via Georgia and into the Mediterranean Turkish port of Ceyhan where the oil is loaded onto super tankers for European markets. On 28 June 2013, the Shah Deniz Consortium announced that the Trans-Adriatic-Pipeline project had been selected to transfer Azerbaijani gas from offshore gas fields in the Caspian Sea to customers in Greece, Italy and Southeast Europe.
Australia recognised Azerbaijan's independence on 26 December 1991. The Australian Embassy in Turkey provides consular assistance to Australians in Azerbaijan and Australia’s Ambassador in Ankara has non-resident accreditation to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan established an Embassy in Australia in June 2013.
According to the 2011 census, 450 people living in Australia identified themselves as of Azeri ancestry.
In December 2010, Australia again supported the removal of explosive remnants of war in Azerbaijan by providing A$50,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross / Red Crescent, following Australia’s contribution in 2006 to a NATO Partnership for Peace Trust Fund project for the clearance of unexploded ordnance in the Saloglu region of Azerbaijan.
High Level Visits
Australia's then-Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, Mr Bill Fisher, visited Azerbaijan in September 2013. The Prime Minister's Special Envoy to Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Caucasus, Dr Russell Trood visited Azerbaijan in June 2012 and the Azerbaijani Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Khalaf Khalafov, visited Australia in April 2012. In February 2009, the Hon Sabir Rustemkhanly MP, Chairman of the Civil Solidarity Party and Co-chair of the World Azerbaijanis Congress, visited Australia. Then Vice-President Ilham Aliyev visited Australia in 2000 for the Sydney Olympics.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Two way merchandise trade between Australia and Azerbaijan was A$297 million in 2013, largely in Azerbaijan’s favour. In 2013, Australian exports to Azerbaijan were worth A$11 million, made up largely of butter, hand or machine tools, and milk, cream, whey and yoghurt. Imports from Azerbaijan in 2013 were worth A$286 million, made up entirely of crude petroleum (A$286 million).
For advice on doing business in Azerbaijan, see Austrade’s website Austrade's website.
Updated August 2014