Vol. 5, No. 15 (August 01, 2012)
Azerbaijan expands ties with Latin America
Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy
The visit of Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov to Columbia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru during the last eight days of July highlights something that many have overlooked: More than any other post-Soviet state, Azerbaijan over the last decade has sought to expand its political, economic and cultural ties with the countries of South America. 
At each stop, Foreign Minister Mammadyarov met with the presidents, foreign ministers, economic officials, and members of the Azerbaijani diaspora. He extended invitations from President Ilham Aliyev to the presidents to visit Baku, a step each said that he was interested in doing. He reached agreement on new economic relations with each of these countries, not only in the petroleum areas, but in other sectors of the economy as well. And he stressed the ways in which Azerbaijan sees the countries of Latin America as its natural allies.
Many news reports about the visit were inclined to portray it, and indeed the Azerbaijani policy behind it, as reflecting either Baku’s desire to collect as many leadership visits as possible or to demonstrate the relevance of President Aliyev’s commitment to a balanced foreign policy. But there are three far more important considerations that explain why the expansion of ties between Azerbaijan and the countries of Latin America are so important for both Baku and these states.
First, Azerbaijan has been a major beneficiary of these ties. Its election to a two-year term on the United Nations Security Council is at least in part a reflection of such broad ties. Moreover, these ties give Baku added weight not only at the United Nations, but in other international forums as well. Moreover, and this is especially important in Baku, Latin American countries, and Colombia in particular, have taken a forthright pro-Azerbaijani position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As bilateral ties increase, Azerbaijan will not only gain more influence, but will be in a position to promote Latin American interests as well. Consequently, while most of its neighbors are pursuing regionally defined diplomatic offensives, Azerbaijan is positioning itself as a country with worldwide interests and contacts.
Second, Azerbaijan will clearly benefit from economic ties with Latin American countries. Many of them are interested in developing multiple sources for hydrocarbons and consequently they will welcome expanded trade. But as Foreign Minister Mammadyarov’s visit underlined, such trade will not be a one-way street or involve only hydrocarbons. Instead, it will promote a diverse range of sectors of the Azerbaijani economy and also lead to a further improvement of the standard of living of the Azerbaijani people.
And third—and geopolitically, this may be the most important consequence of all—Azerbaijan’s cultivation of ties with the countries of Latin America mean that increasingly the governments of those countries will look to Baku as a gateway to the Caucasus and Central Asia, a perspective that will only increase as they and Azerbaijan increase the number of embassies and missions in the other. At present, Azerbaijan has two embassies in the region, in Mexico and Argentina, but Foreign Minister Mammadyarov indicated that it plans to open more as part of President Aliyev’s commitment to doubling the number of Azerbaijani diplomatic missions abroad in the last few years.
The international media in Europe and the United States gave relatively little attention to the Azerbaijani foreign minister’s visit, but the steps Mammadyarov took mean that in the future, they will be more attentive because these are the kind of ties that increasingly matter, even or perhaps especially if they do not fit into the neat geopolitical schemas so many writers still have.
 For background on this, see the comments of Mammad Ahmadzada, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Argentina, at http://ada.edu.az/biweekly/issues/vol3no23/20110129033600828.html (accessed 28 July 2012).