Azerbaijan: a 'rebalancing' of relations with West

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By Damon Embling
Azerbaijan: a 'rebalancing' of relations with West

With Ilham Aliyev winning a fourth term as Azerbaijan's president, what next for a country trying to strike a balance between its former Soviet master Russia and the West?

Aliyev's been lapping up a boom fueled by oil exports, but a slump in global crude prices has weakened the Azeri currency and hit the economy.

"The amounts of oil are falling and the amounts of gas will be quite modest, so I expect to see some kind of rebalancing of the relationship between Azerbaijan and the West in the next few years," said Thomas de Waal, from Carnegie Europe. 

"And I think it's important that the West, certainly needs a bit of Azerbaijan's energy, but the West can ask Azerbaijan some hard questions."

Azerbaijan's energy reserves and its strategic location, on the Caspian Sea, make it an attractive alternative for Europe to oil and gas coming out of Russia.

But experts says the country's not top of the EU's list when it comes to foreign policy.

De Waal commented: "The EU doesn't really have much strong capacity here, it doesn't speak with a single voice and I think the priority countries for the EU in this region are Georgia and Ukraine. So, I think, unfortunately Azerbaijan isn't really part of the big EU foreign policy conversation."

Aliyev won his fourth therm in an election boycotted by major opposition parties, who accused him of authoritarianism and suppressing political dissent.