Elshad Nasirov Vice President of socar

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Elshad NasirovVice President of SOCAR

  • Past Jobs:

    • President, Azerbaijan Institute of Strategic Research of Caucasus Development (Past)

    • Board Member, Azerbaijan Institute of Strategic Research of Caucasus Development

    • President, Centre for Economic and Political Research (Past)

    • Head of the Division of Marketing, Centre for Economic and Political Research (Past)

  • LG’s Take: Mr. Nasirov is considered one of the most esteemed men in Azerbaijan, though he will not show you that. He was even considered for President should Aliyev had not stepped in. He knows everything from pipelines, energy, politics, etc. He smokes like a chimney (and likes you to smoke with him – hee)

Elkhan Nuriyev – Direcetor of Center for Strategic Research

  • Has worked in the US with partnerships with Woodrow Wilson Institute, Georgia Washington University, Monterey Institute, etc.

  • Very Western leaning in his views

  • Knowledable on topics like BTC Pipeline, Nagorno-Karabakh

  • Sees Russia as a “partner” for Azerbaijan: “Russia, as a major power, understands and supports balanced policy of Azerbaijan”

Shahmar Movsumov – State Oil Fund

  • Master's degree, Public Administration, international economics, Moscow Institute of International Relations

  • Master of Public Administration degree, John F. Kennedy School of Government at the Harvard University

  • LG’s Take: The State Oil Fund is a fascinating beast and intricately designed to hold much of the country’s oil wealth, but not spend most of it unless the country is desperate—which it has never been.

Ali Hasanov - Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons

  • Hasanov is incredibly pro-Turkey - “The issue of military-strategic cooperation between Turkey and Azerbaijan should also be solved. There is such an understanding between Russia and Armenia. Why should not we take similar step?”

  • Hasanov is very outspoken against the US, especially the US subcommittee ruling against Azerbaijan and its support for the Turkey-Armenia protocols.

  • Hasanov sees Russia and Azerbaijan as equal partners.

Elnur Aslanov - Head of Presidential Political Analysis

  • Mr. Aslanov is very close to President Aliyev

  • Mr. Aslanov is a firm backer of the “pragmatism” of Azerbaijan in dealing with all regional powers.

  • He is critical of the US

  • He says Azerbaijan is in solidarity with the Turks on this issue and wants the US to give up illusory claims of Armenia.

  • On the Genocide issue, he calls the US recognition a “historical mistake”.

  • On Russia: “Azerbaijani-Russian relations have a solid base and are characterized by balanced and mutually beneficial growth.”

  • LG’s Take: Mr. Aslanov is very pragmatic and will talk incredibly openly with you. He wants to hear your opinion on all matters too. A balanced discussion is his way. His assistant’s name is Roya, who is a doll.

Novruz Mammedov – Head of Presidential Foreign Policy

  • Past Jobs:

    • Head, Foreign Relations Department, United Nations Development Programme

    • President, AZERBAIJANI AND ARMENIAN (Past)

    • Member, Foreign Relations Department, Foreign Relations Department of Azerbaijan (Past)

    • Head of the Presidential Administration, Foreign Relations Department of Azerbaijan (Past)

    • Head of the International Relations Department, Presidential Office (Past)

    • Head of International Relations Department of the Office, President's Office. (Past)

    • Chief of the Foreign Relationships Department, President's Office. (Past)

  • Mr. Mammedov is one of the most important men in Azerbaijan. He is the creator of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy.

  • Believes that Azerbaijan is the only “useful” country in the FSU and can really balance power with every other regional power.

  • Willing to play hardball with Turkey when needed.

  • Believes in a balanced relationship with Russia

  • Believes the US is pro-Armenian

Araz Azimov - Deputy Foreign Minister

  • Speaks English, Persian, Turkish and Russian

  • Negotiator for NATO partnerships

  • Staunch on Armenia releasing Nagorno-Karabakh

  • Sees Russia as a backer of Armenia

  • Critical of Washington over the Turkey-Armenia protocols

Ogtay Asadov - Head of the National Assembly

  • Jobs:

    • Since 1976, worked for the Baku-plant air conditioners assistant masters.

    • Since 1979, worked for the Civil Affairs Department of the General and Special Installation Engineer

    • Since 1981, the General Affairs of the Ministry of Construction Custom Installation and "Azərsantexquraşdırma” Trust texnoloqu great, department, was the chief union. (???)

    • 1996-2004, Absheron Regional Water Joint-Stock Society

    • 2004-2005, President, "Water Company" Joint Stock Company.

    • Chairman of the Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan Republic since Dec. 2, 2005.

  • Member of the New Azerbaijan Party

  • Member of the International Water Association

  • Heads the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-speaking states of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly

  • Ogtay graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from Azerbaijan State Oil and Chemistry Institute. He speaks Russian and English.

Nazim Ismayilov - Mayor of Shamakhi

(not much out there on Ismayilov)

  • Except that he did have a meeting with Iranian Deputy Interior Minister recently

Azerbaijani Diplomatic Academy

The Azerbaijani Diplomatic Academy is a school of international affairs located in Baku. It was established in January 2007. Its website describes the academic program as a highly flexible program offering professional training to Azerbaijani civil servants working in the area of international affairs. The AFSP is designed to enhance skill sets of these officials and prepare them for public sector leadership.

LG’s Take: The ADA is pretty much were EVERY Azerbaijani leader comes from (one of my sources who went there jokingly referred to it as the Azerbaijani state cult).
Center for Strategic Studies of Azerbaijan


SAM is Azerbaijan’s first governmental, non-profit think tank founded on November 12, 2007 by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, It is a research and policy recommending institution dedicated to innovative studies on national, regional and international issues

The current director Dr. Elkhan Nuriyev was appointed February 8, 2008.

The Center is divided into 4 parts:

  • Domestic Policy Analysis Department

  • Foreign Policy Analysis Department

  • Economic Analysis and Global Affairs Department

  • Financial-Administrative Department

Key parties

The ruling New Azerbaijan Party of president Ilhem Aliyev is entrenched in power, with 56 seats in parliament compared to the next highest party having 5 seats. The party was formed by former president Heydar Aliyev and is now controlled by current president Ilham Aliyev.

The opposition is divided and very weak relative to the ruling party. There is friction between the key opposition forces in the country –the Musavat and Popular Front parties. These parties rival each other and have ceased cooperation since the last parliamentary elections due to Musavat’s participation in the work of the newly elected parliament, whereas the Popular Front adopted a more radical stance and called for the boycott of the election results. Otherwise there are a handful of other opposition parties with minimal impact.

Key personalities

President - Ilham Aliyev

  • Appointed as president in 2003 by his father, who had served as president for 10 years previous.

  • Subsequent elections later in the year saw Aliyev dominate with over 75% of the vote

  • Aliyev has maintained Azerbaijan's independent policy of not fully allying with Russia nor the west.

  • However, since Turkey began to pursue normalization of relations with Armenia, this has driven Azerbaijan closer to RUssia under Aliyev.

Foreign Minister - Elmar Mammadyarov

  • In office since 2004

  • In 1998-2003 he served as counselor in the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the USA

Defense Minister - Safar Abiyev

  • In office since in 1995

  • one of the longest serving defense ministers in the Commonwealth of Independent States

  • held a meeting in Moscow May 27 over the security situation in the Caucasus


Key parties

The ruling Republican Party of President Serzh Sarkisian is by far the largest and most popular political party, and it controls most government bodies in Armenia. It gained 64 seats in the latest parliamentary elections (comparex to 18 for the next highest party).

Opposition parties pale in comparison to Sarkisian's ruling party. Republican Party candidates prevailed in the last nationwide local polls held in 2008, which were boycotted by the opposition. The main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) has since contested only the May 2009 municipal elections in Yerevan, the official results of which gave a landslide victory to the presidential party. The opposition has generally not been in favor of Armenia's normalization process with Turkey.

Key personalities

President - Serzh Sarkisian

  • took office in April 2008

  • originally from Nagorno Karabakh autonomous oblast

  • organized several battles in the Nagorno-Karabakh War and is considered to be one of the founders of Nagorno-Karabakh's and Armenia's armed forces

  • has entrenched political control of the country

Prime Minister - Tigran Sarkisian

  • appointed by Sarkisian in 2008

  • former chairman of the central bank of Armenia

  • no relation to president Sarkisian

Defense Minister - Seyran Ohanyan

  • appointed by Sarkisian in 2008

  • served as the Second Battalion commander in the 366th Motor Rifle Regiment of Soviet Ground Forces's 23rd Motor Rifle Division with the rank of a major before joining Nagorno-Karabakh's newly formed army in 1991 and playing a major role in the Nagorno-Karabakh war against Azerbaijan.

The dominant issue for both Armenia and Azerbaijan is Nagorno Karabakh, as well as the related issue of normalization talks between Armenia and Turkey.

Armenia-Turkey Protocols - For all intents and purposes, the normalization talks between Armenia and Turkey have stalled for the foreseeable future. The protocols for normalization of ties and opening the border that were signed by each country's foreign ministers months ago are deadlocked in parliament, with Armenia refusing to pass the protocols until it sees the Turkish parliament do so. The main sticking point remains the dispute over the breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh. Far from making any headway on the issue, the two countries regularly issue threats that renewed military action may be taken if there is no diplomatic resolution soon - which there won't be. A new war isn't likely to take place, as Azerbaijan isn't militarily prepared to intervene and as regional power broker would like to avoid at all costs and continue to reap the benefits of manipulating the regional actors to its benefit, but it cannot be completely ruled out given the tensions in the region.

Relations with Turkey - With talks stalled between Armenia and Turkey, Turkey has begun to re-focus its attention on repairing ties with its traditional ally in Azerbaijan. Turkey has assured Azerbaijan that no movement will be made with Armenia without Nagorno Karabakh being addressed, and the two countries are expected to sign a new energy deal  during a visit by Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev to Turkey on Jun 7. Russia will be watching carefully as it oversees the interplay of the countries within the region, as any new deals between Azerbaijan and Turkey would have to be reach with an understanding with Moscow.

Relations with Russia - Azerbaijan is a country attempting to balance its relationship with Russia against other regional powers like Turkey, Iran and the West. Its ability to continue such a balancing act is mainly due to its energy wealth, which gives it cash and leverage within those relationships. Russia has significant influence with Azerbaijan, due to energy, political, and economic links. Moscow has also strengthened its hand in the country by masterfully orchestrating a rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia that Russia knew would fail and drive Baku closer to it.

But Azerbaijan remains an independent player relative to other FSU countries. Russia holds other cards it can use in the future - such as influence within the minority populations in Azerbaijan, especially the Dagestani groups in the northern part of the country that are linked to militant movements in the Russian Caucasus but have been since purchased by pro-Russian forces in the region. STRATFOR sources have indicated that Russia has threatened to use those populations against Baku in the past, something Azerbaijan is acutely aware of, as evidence by a recent visit of Dagestan's regional president to Azerbaijan.

Relations with Iran - Nearly a quarter of Iran's population is ethnically Azeri and many of them claim their rights are being trampled on by Tehran, increasing tension between Iran and Azerbaijan. Right now their language and literature are banned in Iranian schools and they claim the authorities are worried about unrest among ethnic Azeris and about the government's relationship with Israel. Azerbaijan wants to keep a pragmatic relationship with Iran, but also doesn’t want to tick off the West.
Energy – This is the hot topic in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan currently supplies oil and natural gas to Russia, Iran and Turkey (via Georgia).

  • Nabucco - The main topic is whether Azerbaijan will feed the pro-Western Nabucco pipeline. Turkey is pushing this too. The Nabucco pipeline though is like the chiken-and-the-egg. Europe doesn’t want to sign onto Nabucco without a supplier and Azerbaijan doesn’t want to commit as a supplier unless Europe is ready to invest. Azerbaijan alone can’t fill Nabucco—its too big—so a partner like Iraq , Iran or Turkmenistan would have to get on board. Iraq is a mess, Iran is not viable to supply Europe politically and Turkmenistan isn’t interested in a deal with Azerbaijan.

  • Option 2 - Azerbaijan could instead strike a deal to fill the Interconnector pipelines instead of Nabucco. This line goes form Turkey-Greece-Italy and is almost complete. Azerbaijan alone could fill this pipeline. This deal will most likely be struck in 2 weeks when the presidents meet.

  • Russia option – Azerbaijan is already re-starting supplies to Russia, but Russia isn’t really interested in moreAzerbaijani natural gas because there is a gas glut in Russia. It knows Azerbaijan has to strike a deal with someone. It would rather not have Azerbaijan sign onto the anti-Russian Nabucco, but is comfortable with Azerbaijan signing onto the Interconnector project because Russia is looking to buy the Italian or Greek sections of that pipeline in the future—sneaky Russians.

US Ambassador Appointment – There is a current diplomatic tussle going on with the White House recently nominating Matthew Bryza as possible Ambassador to Baku. In my opinion, Bryza is over qualified for this post, but is a message from Washington that it is still friends with Baku. Bryza has a LONG history with Azerbaijan and is considered incredibly pro-Azerbaijani. Both Armenia and Turkey HATE Bryza. The Armenian lobby is going to come out in force in the next few weeks to get his nomination blocked (which could happen). Be interesting to see what the Turks say too.


Domestic politics - A senior member of Armenia's ruling Republican Party has downplayed the possibility of early elections, which have been called for by the opposition. The next parliamentary elections aren't scheduled for another two years, and the opposition has been trying to move them to an earlier date. The ruling Republican Party of President Serzh Sarkisian is by far the largest and most popular political party, and it controls most government bodies in Armenia. Opposition parties pale in comparison to the ruling party, and therefore there is very little domestic threat to Sarkisian's hold on power.

Relations with Russia - As far other issues, Russia continues to have overwhelming influence in the country, with roughly 5,000 troops stationed within its borders and a clamp down on economic and energy assets within the country. Armenia has recently expressed interest in joining the customs union Russia has formed with Belarus and Kazakhstan, which could serve to entrench Russia's influence in Armenia even further.

Is the United States Losing Azerbaijan?: Part One

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 78

April 22, 2010 04:51 PM Age: 35 days

Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vlad’s Corner, Home Page, Foreign Policy, Azerbaijan

By: Vladimir Socor
Azerbaijan’s long-standing alignment with the United States is rapidly unraveling in the wake of Washington’s recent policy initiatives. As perceived from Baku, those US initiatives fly in the face of Azerbaijan’s staunch support over the years to US strategic interests and policies in the South Caucasus-Caspian region.

Current US policies, however, are seen to favor Armenia in the Karabakh conflict resolution negotiations, curry favor with Armenian advocacy groups in domestic US politics, split Turkey and Azerbaijan from one another over the Karabakh issue, isolate Azerbaijan in the region, and pressure Baku into silent acquiescence with these policies.

Key actors in the region tend to share Azerbaijan’s perceptions in this regard. During last week’s nuclear safety summit in Washington, Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, and Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spoke frankly in this regard. They told US interlocutors at every step that the refusal to invite Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev, to the summit was a mistake, counterproductive to US interests in the region, and confirming perceptions that Washington was attempting to isolate Baku.

US President, Barack Obama’s, meeting with his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan during the Washington summit (while failing to invite the Azerbaijani president) confirmed perceptions that Armenian issues in US domestic politics distort Washington’s policy on the Karabakh conflict and toward Azerbaijan.

Ankara had cautioned Washington against such moves ever since Erdogan’s December 2009 visit to the US. At least from that point onward, Turkey has closed ranks with Azerbaijan, instead of distancing from it and opening the Turkish-Armenian border promptly and unconditionally at the Obama administration’s urging. The administration insists on de-linking the border opening from the continuing Armenian military occupation of seven districts beyond Karabakh, deep inside Azerbaijan. The administration had, instead, hoped to link the border opening with the April 24 US anniversary of the 1915-1918 Armenian events in Ottoman Turkey.

Washington’s summit miscalculation is the latest in a year-long series of blows to US-Azeri relations. This trend continues amid an apparent US strategic disengagement from the wider region (rationalized as a “strategic pause” to assuage pro-US governments there). In Azerbaijan’s case, Washington seems unable even to fill the long-vacant post of US ambassador in Baku. The vacancy deprives the United States of steady high-level access to Azerbaijan’s leaders (which had never been a problem previously), while making it more difficult for Washington to grasp the crisis in US-Azerbaijan relations and its region-wide implications.

Addressing an April 14 cabinet meeting in front of TV cameras, President Aliyev criticized the US policy of pushing Turkey to open the border with Armenia, despite the latter’s occupation of seven Azeri districts beyond Karabakh. This move pulls the rug from under Azerbaijan’s carefully constructed negotiating position for a stage-by-stage peaceful solution to the conflict. It also seems designed to separate Turkey from Azerbaijan. Accordingly, Aliyev complained about “certain countries that believe that they can meddle in everything…by exerting pressure and blackmailing. This is how we see it. This policy clearly runs against Azerbaijan’s interests, and the Azeri state is taking appropriate steps.” Aliyev strongly objected to the US de-coupling the Armenian border opening issue from that of troop withdrawal from the seven Azerbaijani districts. De-coupling the two issues would enable Yerevan to renounce negotiations on troop withdrawal altogether, he observed: “This is a completely wrong and incorrect position and contrary to Azerbaijan’s national interests.” Aliyev also urged the “certain country” carefully to “consider regional processes, history, historical relations. What do those who are unaware of regional processes want to achieve?” (Az TV, April 14; Khalk Gazeti, April 15).

Baku and Ankara have now reached the common view that the border opening and normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations is a bilateral matter between Ankara and Yerevan, rather than an issue for Washington to push from outside onto the regional agenda (Trend, Anatolia News Agency, April 16, 17).

Azerbaijan considers that Washington is moving from equidistance to partisanship as a co-chair of the “Minsk Group” of mediators in the Karabakh conflict resolution negotiations. Those negotiations are premised on a first-stage Armenian troop withdrawal from those districts. However, Washington’s push from outside the Minsk Group to open the Turkey-Armenia border unconditionally would remove Armenia’s incentive to withdraw those troops.

In a lengthy statement to the media on this issue, the Azeri presidential administration’s political department chief, Ali Hasanov, criticized Washington’s “loss of neutrality” on Karabakh conflict resolution as, “incompatible with the US role in the Minsk Group.” Evidently reflecting his president’s position, Hasanov hailed the Turkish leaders’ response to their US and Armenian counterparts during the Washington summit. There, Erdogan and Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, again declined to break ranks with Azerbaijan. “We maintain unique ties with Turkey on the principle of ‘one nation, two states’ and we are not going to spoil them under anyone’s dictation. This is what Turkey thinks too,” Hasanov noted.

On a cautionary note for Washington, Hasanov remarked that “relations between Azerbaijan and Russia have intensified significantly in the last few years…Russia views Azerbaijan as an equal partner, and Azerbaijan considers Russia a major factor in the region, a friend and partner and attaches special importance to relations with it” (ANS TV, Turan, APA, April 15). As a rule, public statements by Azerbaijani presidential team members reflect a prior consensus reached within it.

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