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 was estimated at 9.4 million in July 2011.
The national day of Azerbaijan is Independence Day, celebrated on 28 May. It celebrates 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 presidential vote) in 2003. He 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 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 welcomed the participation of all opposition parties and the peaceful atmosphere that characterised the elections. Observers, 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 first meeting was held in June 2002. Bilateral negotiations between Baku and the WTO on market access are underway.
One of the fastest growing economies in the world in 2005-07 due to its vast reserves of Caspian Sea oil, Azerbaijan's real GDP growth has slowed and is forecast at 3.1 per cent in 2013.
Despite this slowdown, oil will continue to underpin Azerbaijan's economy for the foreseeable future. Oil exports to Europe through 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. The signing of agreements in October 2011 for further delivery and transit of Azerbaijani gas to Turkey and onward to the European Union will see the Azerbaijani economy continue to thrive.
Australia recognised Azerbaijan's independence on 26 December 1991 and the two countries celebrated the twentieth anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2012.
According to the 2011 census, 450 people living in Australia identified themselves as of Azeri ancestry, although the Australian-Azeri community is estimated to be larger.
Australia contributed to a NATO Partnership for Peace Trust Fund project for the clearance of unexploded ordnance in the Saloglu region of Azerbaijan in 2006.
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.
The Prime Minister's Special Envoy Dr Russell Trood visited Azerbaijan in June 2012 and Deputy Foreign Minister 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
In 2011, Australian exports to Azerbaijan were worth A$9.24 million. Butter made up the largest category of exports (A$6.38 million).
Imports from Azerbaijan in 2011 were worth A$84.09 million, and consisted mainly of crude petroleum.
Updated October 2012