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 9.4 million (2014).
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). The current President, Ilham Aliyev, took office in 2003. He was re-elected in October 2008 and again in October 2013 after a 2009 referendum approved a constitutional amendment to remove the two-term limit on presidential tenure. 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, 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 most recent parliamentary elections were held in November 2010. International observers, including from the OSCE, welcomed the participation of all opposition parties; however, observers also identified restrictions of peaceful assembly and expression, a deficient candidate registration process, unbalanced and biased media coverage and interference by local authorities in favour of candidates from the ruling party. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for November 2015.
Azerbaijan is a member of the United Nations (UN), the 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 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 it met for the twelfth time in March 2015.
Azerbaijan has experienced high economic growth due to its vast reserves of Caspian Sea oil and gas, but real GDP growth declined from 9.3 per cent in 2009 to 5.0 per cent in 2010. After a low of 0.1 per cent growth in 2011, Azerbaijan has recorded stronger economic growth in recent years with real GDP increasing by 5.8 per cent in 2013 and estimated at 2.8 per cent in 2014.
Azerbaijan’s economy is heavily reliant on oil and gas production. 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. In September 2014, BP began construction of the Southern Gas Corridor, which by 2019 will link reserves from the Shah Deniz field to Europe via Turkey. Manufacturing, construction and the hotel sector have also driven recent economic growth.
Australia recognised Azerbaijan's independence on 26 December 1991 after Azerbaijan re-gained independence from the Soviet Union. Australia’s Ambassador in Ankara has non-resident accreditation to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan established an Embassy in Australia in June 2013.
In 2006 Australia contributed to a NATO Partnership for Peace Trust Fund project for the clearance of unexploded ordnance in the Saloglu region of Azerbaijan. 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.
In the 2011 census, 450 people living in Australia claimed Azeri ancestry.
High level visits
Australia’s 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. Azerbaijan’s 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. As Vice-President, Ilham Aliyev – currently the President of Azerbaijan – visited Australia in 2000 for the Sydney Olympics.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Total two way merchandise trade between Australia and Azerbaijan was A$96 million in 2014. Australian exports to Azerbaijan in this period totalled A$11 million, predominantly consisting of butter. Imports to Australia from Azerbaijan in 2014 amounted to A$85 million, made up almost entirely of crude petroleum.
For advice on doing business in Azerbaijan, see Austrade's website.
Last updated: May 2015