Stability in the South Caucasus: South Africa-Azerbaijan Relations
Professor Maxi Schoeman Head of the Department of Political Sciences at UP and Ambassador Elkhan Polukhov of Azerbaijan
The occupation of the Azerbaijan territory of Nagorno Karabakh by Armenia was the main focus of the lecture presented by Ambassador Elkhan Polukhov of Azerbaijan to South Africa to the Department of Humanities at the University of Pretoria.
Ambassador Elkhan Polukhov with students
He pointed to the double standards practised by certain powers in the international community when challenged on the issue of occupied territories.
Polukhov’s presentation explains in detail the territorial conflict with a timeline and historic facts about the emerging region of the South Caucasus which is made up of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. These countries became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Azerbaijan has since the occupation of the territory by Armenia in May 1992 been negotiating the return of the territory so that the internally displaced people (IDP) in Azerbaijan can return to their land. According to Polukhov skirmishes on the disputed borders occur daily.
Ongoing negotiations through the Minsk Group Mechanism of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has thus far produced little, as have many resolutions of the United Nations and various other attempts to find a resolution.
The Republic of Azerbaijan is also bordered by Russia on the North and Iran to the South.
Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan is located on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The Ambassador describes it as a nexus between Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Azerbaijan has been endowed with natural gas and oil resources and is regarded as one of the birthplaces of the oil industry.
It is the leading economy in the region and is poised to play a significant role in this industry. The Embassy of Azerbaijan opened in South Africa in 2012 and in the two years has made huge strides in building relations.
Students from South Africa were sponsored a trip to Azerbaijan after winning an essay competition.
Azerbaijan are kick-boxing world champions and brought their champions to compete with South African kick-boxers. They also donated equipment to a kick-boxing club in Mamelodi.
Ballet is another area in which cooperation is being sought.
Azerbaijan will also open a mission in Addis Ababa and the African Union (AU) to increase and deepen relations with Africa.