Azerbaijan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests Page: 4 of 6
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delineating Caspian Sea borders. Perhaps seeking Russian support for his rule, Ilkham
Aliyev in March 2004 reaffirmed the 1997 Azerbaijani-Russian Friendship Treaty.
According to The Military Balance 2004-2005, Azerbaijani armed forces consist of
66,490 army, air force, and navy troops. There also are about 5,000 border guards and
more than 10,000 Interior (police) Ministry troops. Defense spending has been increasing
in recent years, to $240 million in 2005, about 12% of the budget. Under a 10-year lease
agreement, about 1,400-1,500 Russian troops are deployed at Gabala. Azerbaijan
reportedly received foreign-made weapons of uncertain origin and armed volunteers from
various Islamic nations to assist its early 1990s struggle to retain NK. In 1994, Azerbaijan
joined NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP) to "bring Azerbaijan closer to the Western
world," increase aid possibilities, and contribute to ending the NK conflict. Some
Azerbaijani troops have participated in NATO peacekeeping in Kosovo since 1997.
Within PFP, there are tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The NK Conflict. In 1988, NK petitioned to become part of Armenia, sparking
ethnic conflict. In December 1991, an NK referendum (boycotted by local Azerbaijanis)
approved NK's independence and a Supreme Soviet was elected, which in January 1992
declared NK's independence and futilely appealed for world recognition. The conflict
over the status of NK resulted in about 15,000 casualties on both sides and over 840,000
Azerbaijani refugees and displaced persons (plus over 300,000 Armenians). NK
Armenians control about 15-20% of Azerbaijan's territory (NK and adjacent areas). A
ceasefire agreement was signed in July 1994 and the sides pledged to work toward a peace
settlement. Reportedly, four peace plans have been proposed by the Organization for
Security and Cooperation's (OSCE's) "Minsk Group" countries. In April 2001, the
presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan attended Minsk Group talks in Key West, Florida,
and the two later met with President Bush, indicating early Administration interest in a
settlement. In January 2005, media in Armenia and Azerbaijan reported negotiations on
a "hybrid" peace plan involving the return of most NK border areas prior to a referendum
in NK on its status. Also in January, PACE approved a resolution that termed the
"occupation of foreign territory by a member state ... a grave violation" of COE
commitments. It also called for the safe return of displaced persons and for Azerbaijan
to open talks with NK separatists and suggested that if the Minsk Group failed to soon
facilitate a settlement, Armenia and Azerbaijan should submit the dispute to the
International Court of Justice.
Political and Economic Developments
The Azerbaijani constitution, approved by a popular referendum in November 1995,
strengthened presidential power and established an 125-member unicameral legislature
(Milli Mejlis) with a five-year term for deputies. The president appoints and removes
cabinet ministers (the Milli Mejlis consents to his choice of prime minister), submits
budgetary and other legislation that cannot be amended but only approved or rejected
within 56 days, and appoints local officials. It is extremely difficult for the Milli Mejlis
to impeach the president. The U.S. State Department viewed an August 2002
constitutional referendum as flawed and as doing "very little to advance democratization."
Some opposition party leaders objected to provisions eliminating party list voting in
future legislative races and designating the prime minister as the next in line in the case
of presidential incapacity, death, or resignation, which they predicted would facilitate a
succession from then-President Heydar Aliyev to his son, Ilkham.
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Azerbaijan: Recent Developments and U.S. Interests, report, March 4, 2005; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc808556/m1/4/: accessed November 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.