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Azerbaijan and the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh: the highland or the patterned rug of Azerbaijan.

Byline: Prof. Dr. Lubna Abid Ali

Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and East Europe, the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus. The heart of ancient civilisations is the first Muslim country having democratic republic. It is one of the founding members of GUAM, the Commonwealth of Independent States. After obtaining independence form Soviet Union in 1991, a high level of socio economic development has been achieved by Azerbaijan and since January 2012 it is a non-permanent member of United Nations Security Council for a two year term. Azerbaijan's strength lies in it preservation of ethnic, religious and cultural harmony. The salience of scientific education and promotion of moral values and human rights distinguishes Azerbaijan from other states in the region. It has also contributed to NATO's partnership for peace programme, particularly in Kosovo, Afghanistan as well as in Iraq.

Economically Azerbaijan is rich in oil and natural gas. Western oil exploration technology is far advance than the Soviet Russia. Exxon Mobil and Amoco are able to carry out deep sea explorations. Azerbaijan is considered one of the most important place to tap deep water oil resources. It is also bestowed with other precious minerals like gold, silver, iron and copper. Azeriqaz, a sub company of SOCAR, is entrusted with the task of providing energy to the whole of Azerbaijan by 2021.

More than 50% of Azerbaijan's land is devoted to agricultural production. Agricultural scientific research institutes are focused on improving meadows, subtropical crops, green vegetables, cotton growing and medicinal plant. Caspian fishing industry, livestock and dairy products are also important occupations.

Pakistan is the bridge that connects Azerbaijan with China through the traditional Silk route. It is also the economic hub that transports up to 50 million tons of crude oil annually through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline from Caspian Sea to global markets. In 2012, the construction of Kars-Tbilisi-Baku railway would connect the railways of China and Kazakhstan in the east to the European railways in the West. However, the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh has overshadowed the admirably rich culture and heritage of Azerbaijan. In 2007, Azerbaijan government stated that long standing dispute over Armenian-occupied territory could spark a new war. The country which is cited as the top ten reformers of the World Bank's Doing Business Report, and whose carpet-making is declared as Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage by UNESCO is threatened by the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. By the end of hostilities in 1994, 30,000 people had lost their lives and more than a million living as internally displaced.

Four United Nations Security Council Resolutions call for immediate withdrawal of all Armenian forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.

Organization of Islamic Conference has adopted a resolution in 2007, that condemns Armenian actions against Azerbaijan civilians as crime against humanity. In 2008 the OIC also passed a resolution condemning Armenia for the destruction of cultural monuments in the occupied Azerbaijan.

The territory of modern Nagorno-Karabakh comprises historic region of Karabakh, which lies between the rivers Kura and Araxes, and the modern Armenia-Azerbaijan border. In the present day Nagorno-Karabakh is part of the larger region of upper Karabakh, and thus may retain its status with Azerbaijan. Most of the Armenian population is Christian and belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Republic of Azerbaijan has the second highest Shia population and 15% Sunni Muslims. However, Azerbaijan ensures religious freedom. An example is the Fire Temple of Baku ateshgah and has been a place of visit for Hindu priests for more than a millennium. There also co-exit adherents of Nehemiah Church, Star in the East Church and the Cathedral of Praise Church. The plan to build the Azerbaijan Tower in 2012 as the world's tallest building seems to coincide with Azerbaijan's acceptance of tolerance, diversity and human rights.

Director, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad
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Author:Ali, Lubna Abid
Publication:The Diplomatic Insight
Geographic Code:9AZER
Date:May 31, 2012
Words:641
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