Azeri President’s Germany Visit Marred by Protests, Human Rights Scrutiny, and International Pressure

Jeyhun Bayramov (left) allegedly, as a notoriously incompetent and corrupt Azerbaijani foreign minister, along with foreign policy advisor Hikmat Hajiyev, does little to alleviate the foreign policy challenges for Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (front). ft.com

 

May 1, 2024

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev faced a series of challenges both internally and externally during his recent visit to Germany to participate in the St. Petersburg Dialogue event. As the host country for the upcoming COP-29, Azerbaijan’s human rights record and corruption concerns overshadowed the climate discussions. Foreign media also drew attention that as a petrostate, Azerbaijan does not plan to reduce oil and gas production, which directly goes against the logic and essence of COP-29 that Azerbaijan is going to host.

Upon his arrival in Berlin, Aliyev was met by a group of Azeri exiles chanting slogans against him. During press conferences, he fielded tough questions from both Azeri and German reporters regarding alleged human rights violations and corruption in Azerbaijan rather than issues related to COP-29.

In an embarrassing moment, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz openly stated that he raised human rights concerns with the Azeri president during their meeting. The diplomatic tensions did not end there for Aliyev.

Shortly after returning from the trip, he received a call from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who urged the release of “unjustly detained” people in Azerbaijan. The U.S. Congress has also threatened looming sanctions against Azerbaijani military, security, and judicial officials over alleged human rights abuses.

Azerbaijan recently faced further blows from international bodies. The Council of Europe suspended the country’s delegation’s voting rights at the Parliamentary Assembly, while the European Parliament adopted another resolution calling on the EU Commission to suspend oil and gas cooperation with Baku due to its poor human rights record.

Despite these pressures, Western-associated activists in Azerbaijan continue to face dubious charges, such as illegal funding, leading some observers to suggest a broader confrontation between the West and Russia. They argue that Russia is pressuring countries in its orbit of influence, like Azerbaijan, to curb Western influences through such moves.

Aliyev’s challenges are magnified by the pervasive corruption and administrative inefficiencies within Azerbaijan’s diplomatic framework. Allegations suggest that the country’s foreign service is rife with ineptitude, tainted by graft, nepotism, and cronyism. Both Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and foreign policy advisor Hikmat Hajiyev serve as notable examples of this systemic issue. Despite widespread concerns, the hesitance of certain Western politicians, media outlets, and organizations to confront the corruption allegations against Bayramov and Hajiyev weakens the pressure on them, providing Aliyev with little incentive to replace them.

As Aliyev navigates these internal and external pressures, the road ahead appears increasingly challenging for the Azerbaijani leader and his government.

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