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Azerbaijan and its Caviar Diplomacy in the Focus of International Media

''Some call it the Paris of the Caspian; others purr that it is the caviar-producing region’s Dubai'', - states the article of The Economist, referring to Azerbaijan and its generous use of caviar diplomacy with a help of which it diverts the attention abroad from its human-rights record and discourage the opposition at home.

''In the West Azerbaijan is engaged in the lobby using its consulting agencies and PR companies, organizing conferences in hotels of Baku, handing out gifts to foreigners, including carpets and fish specialties, which gave rise to the expression ''caviar diplomacy'' - Matthew Valencia wrote in his article.

Azerbaijan is also involved in the sponsorship in arts. According to publications in the press, Azerbaijan has paid for numerous reconstruction projects in France, in particular, has provided € 1 million to the Louvre, and participated in the restoration of the medieval church in Normandy. Some see this as an attempt to please the French Government, which has close diplomatic ties with Armenia rather than with Azerbaijan.

One aim of caviar diplomacy is "to send a message back home that there is nothing that can be done to remove Aliyev, and to signal that the West is behind him," says Rasul Jafarov, a lawyer and human-rights campaigner who was imprisoned in 2014 and released in the pre-nuclear summit pardon.

However, an economic downturn raises questions about whether the government can continue to splash out on projects to buy loyalty and support. Azerbaijan was clobbered by the sharp fall in the oil price in 2014 and 2015. It has since suffered multiple devaluations and a budget crisis. The economy is expected to shrink by 3% this year. In January protests broke out over bread prices in several towns. Banks are wobbling; foreign-exchange reserves have dwindled to $4 billion. Public servants are no longer receiving the envelopes that unofficially top up their salaries.

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