The deadline is over a year away, but Azerbaijan is sprinting to complete preparations for the European Games, an Olympics-like competition for athletes from 49 European countries. In sprucing Baku up for the event, officials are taking a softer approach to urban renewal than during the run-up to the Eurovision song contest just under two years ago.
Warily watching Russia’s takeover of Crimea, Azerbaijani officials, politicians and analysts appear divided about what the crisis will mean for their own 26-year-long dispute with Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh.
Energy-rich Azerbaijan could emerge as a winner in the international crisis over Crimea, if the West pushes away from Russia as a natural-gas supplier, Azerbaijani analysts say. Diplomatic sensitivities, namely a desire in Baku not to rile Russia, means that any Azerbaijani effort to capitalize on the crisis will take place behind the scenes.
The informal Olympics creed of “Not to win, but to take part” is exactly what Caspian-Sea energy power Azerbaijan wants out of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
All four of Azerbaijan’s Olympic team members – alpine skiers Gaia Bassani Antivari and Patrick Brachner, and ice-dancing pair Alexei Sitnikov and Yulia Zlobina -- are naturalized foreigners; the only such team in the Games.
As the Syrian civil war nears its third anniversary, Azerbaijanis fighting for militant Islamic groups increasingly feature among those reported killed. While such reports are unsettling to officials in Azerbaijan, non-governmental observers in Baku believe the implications are limited for domestic stability.
Nearly 20 years after a ceasefire brought a halt to all-out warfare in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azerbaijani government is still grappling with the challenge of accommodating the country’s 600,000 Internally Displaced Persons, without encouraging them to forget their former homes.
Public anger is building in Azerbaijan over Russia’s rough treatment of an ethnic Azeri accused of murder. The incident likely will scuttle any chance, however remote, that Baku will join the Moscow-led Customs Union.