Friday, December 02, 2005

Joining the dots

I cannot think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian,"
- Dick Cheney (then CEO of Haliburton) 1998.
If you're anything like me, you probably don't know a great deal about Azerbaijan. It is one of the countries of the Caspian so maybe we'd better take Cheney's advice and pay it some heed. Here's a spot of background information if you're interested. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipleline runs through the country. Built by a consortium led by BP (construction started in Spetember 2002), it is the second longest oil pipeline in the world. With the backdrop in place, we can now attempt to join some dots.

We'll start here:
International observers monitoring elections in Azerbaijan say the vote did not meet democratic standards. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe complained of significant irregularities in the parliamentary vote and vote-counting... Council of Europe observers said the count in 43% of polling stations had been "bad or very bad".
- 07/11/05
And then:
Truncheon-wielding police beat and dispersed opposition protesters demanding a re-vote of disputed parliamentary elections -- the first time since the vote that authorities used force against demonstrators. Some 15,000 opposition activists gathered Saturday in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, to protest the outcome of the November 6 parliamentary elections which they claimed were rigged -- the latest in a series of such opposition actions in recent weeks.
- 27/11/05
And then go here:
Large business opportunities of Azerbaijan would grow after full operation of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Azerbaijani Trend reports as quoting the US ambassador to Azerbaijan Rino Harnish saying at the briefing in Washington. The diplomat invited the American businessmen in Azerbaijan, highlighting attraction of the oil as well as agriculture, communications, banking and healthcare sectors there.
- 01/12/05
And here:
Azerbaijan’s Constitutional Court on December 1 confirmed the official results of the country’s November 6 parliamentary elections, with one key opposition leader seeing his election victory thrown out. The ruling prompted leaders of the main opposition alliance to announce that they would press its claim of a rigged vote in an international court... Opposition leader Ali Kerimli, chairman of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) and a leader of the tripartite opposition bloc Azadlig (Freedom), and another PFPA activist, Gulamguseyn Alibeyli, a member of parliament, both saw their election victories thrown out as a result of the canceled results. Two independent candidates and two governing Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP) candidates were among the other contenders affected.
- 01/12/05 [my emphasis]
And then here:
As you know, various international organizations and their observers were working here, and have made their conclusions. These conclusions are being studied, analyzed, and if there are fair criticisms, they are, naturally, accepted and taken into account. Where there are groundless criticisms, wrong opinions appeared on the base of misinformation, we of course cannot accept them. If there are biased criticisms, we wholly reject them, because we stand for justice. All necessary measures were taken to ensure fair and transparent elections.
- President Aliyev, 02/12/05
And finally here (pdf) :
The United States Embassy welcomes the decision of the Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan to annul the results in additional constituencies that had been affected by electoral fraud in the November 6 parliamentary elections... The United States looks forward to working closely with the newly elected parliamentarians.
US Embassy press release, 02/12/05
Did you draw a pretty picture?

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