Azerbaijan. Like a number of neighboring countries, Azerbaijan faced Russian demands during the winter on almost doubling the price of natural gas. As Azerbaijan’s own gas fields are not yet developed, the country was forced to agree to price increases in anticipation of increased own production and planned imports from Iran. Prior to New Year, President Ilham Aliyev met his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and a new gas pipeline from Iran was opened to the autonomous Azerbaijan excavator Nachichevan.
According to CountryAAH, major public holidays in Azerbaijan include Independence Day (October 18) and New Year (January 1). The improved relations between Azerbaijan and Iran were seen by analysts as a setback to the US security policy strategy in the region. But neither Russia seemed to have the desired influence in Azerbaijan. Despite President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Baku in February, Azerbaijan managed to stave off Russian attempts to gain control of the Azerbaijan energy sector. President Ilham Alijev met in February in Paris with his Armenian colleague Robert Kotjarjan for talks on the conflict over the Armenian enclave Nagorno-Karabach in Azerbaijan. There was no progress, and some time after the talks, Aliyev made a hard hit against Armenia. He accused Armenian nationalists of wanting to expel Azerbaijanis from their land and create a Great Armenia.
In the spring, three young regime-critical activists faced trial behind closed doors accused of planning to overthrow the Azerbaijani regime. They denied the accusations and the case received international attention ahead of President Aliyev’s visit to the United States in April. Aliyev apparently made no concessions to the US’s request for cooperation with Iran, although Azerbaijani opposition leaders speculated that Aliyev agreed to grant bases to the US military. After the US trip, Aliyev again met Iran’s president, who was attracted by increased energy cooperation. It was further evidence of improved relations between the two countries, whose earlier harsh relationship was a brake on the development of the rich energy reserves in the Caspian Sea.
After the election fraud was found during the parliamentary elections the year before, ten parliamentary seats were re-elected in May. Half of the ten seats went to the New Azerbaijan ruling party, which thus controlled 61 of Parliament’s 125 seats. But many so-called independent members also supported President Aliyev, and the real opposition had only a few seats. International observers described the re-election as correct unlike last year’s election.
In November, the authorities resorted to the opposition, among other things. by closing the independent TV channel ANS and evoking an opposition party and a newspaper from its premises. Following criticism from the United States, ANS received its broadcasting license back in December.