Azerbaijan. According to
Countryaah official website, President Gejdar Alijev's single government
continued to subdue the opposition. In February, former
Prime Minister Surat Guseinov was sentenced to life
imprisonment for a number of crimes, including attempt to
overthrow Alijev in 1994. Guseinov denied the charges.
In June, unrest erupted in the Armenian enclave
Nagorno-Karabach in A. Two Azerbaijani soldiers were killed
and several injured in firefighting with the Armenian
military. Nagorno-Karabakh's leadership, supported by
Armenia, demands independence, while Azerbaijan can imagine
autonomy for the enclave within Azerbaijan.
Despite the clashes during the year, apparently
successful negotiations were held on Nagorno-Karabach's
future status. Under the influence of mediation from the
United States, President Gejdar Alijev and his Armenian
colleague Robert Kotjarjan met on several occasions. But the
peace process slowed dramatically in October when Armenia's
Prime Minister and seven other leading politicians were
assassinated in the Armenian Parliament. It was speculated
that the assailants wanted to prevent a compromise on the
Armenian enclave. In Azerbaijan, the opposition criticized
the negotiations with Armenia.
In November, Azerbaijan, together with Armenia, proposed
a security pact in the southern Caucasus comprising
Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, the Russian Federation
and the United States. The proposal involved a historic
rethink, since Azerbaijan and Turkey have traditionally been
at enmity with Armenia.
During the year, the Azerbaijan state oil and gas company
Socar signed new contracts with three US companies for the
development of potential oil fields in the Caspian Sea. In
July it was announced that a new large deposit of natural
gas was found in the Caspian Sea in a field owned by a
consortium with, among other things, Norwegian Statoil and
After years of discussions, an international agreement
was reached in November on new oil and gas pipelines from
the Caspian Sea via Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to the
port city of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. It is hoped that
the oil pipeline will be completed in 2004, but economic
analysts questioned whether the oil in the Caspian Sea is
sufficient for the project to be profitable.
In December, local elections were held, which were
criticized by both the Council of Europe and the domestic
opposition observers. These reported on irregularities that
could affect the outcome of the election.