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Yearbook 2008

Azerbaijan. At the beginning of the year, several casualties were claimed in fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the Armenian outbreak republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev explained that his regime was prepared to take the area back by force.

2008 Azerbaijan

In March, a 16-year economic conflict was resolved when Azerbaijan agreed to pay large debts to Turkmenistan for old gas supplies. According to Countryaah reports, the settlement was considered to remove an obstacle to the planned Transcaspic gas pipeline from Turkmenistan via Azerbaijan to Central Europe.

Figures during the year showed that Azerbaijan's economy grew by a record high of 25.4 percent in 2007. Growth came primarily from the oil industry, while it was minus figures in agriculture that employ close to 40 percent of the population. Rural health care was substandard while large parts of Azerbaijan's energy income went to road construction and military purposes.

Azerbaijan's new oil wealth has made the regime less susceptible to pressure based on democratization, according to human rights groups. "If anyone wants to stain Azerbaijan's perfect image, we will fight those forces," President Aliyev explained in his annual speech to the Baku diplomatic corps.

Harassment against government-critical media continued. A journalist was beaten by security officers while working on an article about corruption. A man alleged to be the journalist's former gay lover was sentenced for the act in what human rights groups saw as slander and attempts to blacken the reporter in the public eye.

The war between neighboring Russia and Georgia in August caused a temporary halt in Azerbaijan's oil exports via Georgia. The public in Azerbaijan supported Georgia in the war, but the Azerbaijani regime kept a low profile so as not to provoke Russia.

In October, President Ilham Aliyev was re-elected with 88.37 percent of the vote, according to the official election results. None of the other six candidates were reported to have received more than 3 percent of the vote. But the elections were not conducted in accordance with democratic principles, the European Security and Cooperation Organization (OSCE) explained.

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