Vol. 2, No. 5 (March 01, 2009)

Azerbaijan and Romania: An alliance of necessity

Fakhri Karimli, PhD
Independent Analyst
Baku, Azerbaijan

Since the end of communism in both countries, Azerbaijan and Romania have become allies of necessity, given their geographical and strategic locations and the common goals of their governments and peoples regarding both domestic development and foreign policy priorities.  And that closeness, first underscored by the visit of Heydar Aliyev to Bucharest in 1995, continues to grow. 

The two countries cooperate closely at the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE, where they are both members, and Romania has recently joined the EU and NATO, the two Euro-Atlantic institutions Azerbaijan seeks further integration into.  More immediately, Romania is the only European participant in the TRACECA program, the modern form of the Silk Road in which Azerbaijan is vitally interested, and Bucharest is equally involved in promoting the construction of the 1400 km-long Baku-Constanta-Trieste pipeline to carry Azerbaijani and Caspian Basin oil to Europe.  Moreover, Romania is also an outspoken supporter of NABUCCO gas arrangements.

Unlike many of the countries that emerged in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Romania and Azerbaijan have embassies in the capital of the other, with Romania having opened one in Baku in 1996 and Azerbaijan having set up on in Bucharest in 2001.  It is worth underlining that Azerbaijan’s embassy in Romania was its first in Eastern Europe, itself a mark of the importance of bilateral ties. 

Those government arrangements have been supplemented by people-to-people groups like the Azerbaijan-Romania Friendship Society established in Baku and the Romania-Azerbaijan Friendship Association established in Bucharest in 2001.  Both are active individually and collectively in promoting relations between the two societies. 

Romanian writers, like Mihai Eminescu, have been translated into Azerbaijani, and the works of Romanian diplomat Nicolae Titulescu, composer George Enescu, sculptor Constantin Brancusi, and others have gained new attention in Baku.  And Azerbaijani works, including the Kitabi-Dede Korgut, the Koran, and various literary and scholarly works have been published in Romania.

Cooperation between academic institutions is also growing with various arrangements already having been made between universities in both countries.  As a result, two Romanians have received doctorates in Azerbaijan and two Azerbaijanis have received the terminal decree from Romanian institutions.  But that is just the peak of a growing pyramid of students from one country spending time in the other.  One of the most important forms of cooperation involves military training for Azerbaijani officers in NATO courses in Bucharest.  And starting from February 2009, Romania took over from Turkey the mission of the NATO Contact Point Embassy (CPE) in Azerbaijan.

In all international forums, Bucharest has supported Baku on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, insisting that any resolution of that dispute must be based first and foremost on the principle of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.  Moreover, Romania is behind the Black Sea Synergy program that supports Azerbaijan’s position and was adopted by the European parliament at the start of 2008.  And at present, SOCAR has an office in Bucharest, the first of its kind in Europe. 

During Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Romania in September 2007, the two countries opened a special street in honor of Heydar Aliyev, featuring not only his name but a statue, measures of how close relations between the two countries now are and of how they are likely to develop in the future.