Azerbaijan Announces 53% Rise in Army Spending to $2 Billion

BAKU (Reuters)– Azerbaijan is to increase military spending by 53 percent this year, state media quoted President Ilham Aliyev as saying on Tuesday.
“In the past 4-5 years the military and defence budget of the country has risen from $150 million to $1.3 billion. However Azerbaijan’s state budget over this period has risen ten-fold,” the Azerbaijan newspaper quoted Aliyev as saying.
“I believe that in the context of an overall increase in government spending, defence spending should be increased from $1.3 billion to $2 billion in 2008. Azerbaijan has great military potential and must strengthen this,” he said.
The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, said in a report last year the fragile truce could be under threat, in part because Azerbaijan is using cash from energy exports to beef up its military.
Azerbaijan reported gross domestic product growth in 2007 of 25 percent, driven by revenues from the export of oil and gas. BP is a major investor in Azerbaijan’s energy sector.
Meanwhile, Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammedyarov told reporters Tuesday that the sooner Armenia’starts displaying what he called “constructive approaches” to the Karabakh peace process the better it would be for the entire region.
“Sooner or later we have to resolve the conflcit and authorities in Yerevan realize, whether they want to or not, they will have to show constructive approaches for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” said Mammedyarov.
The Azeri foreign minister also informed the press that the OSCE Minks Group co-chairmen were holding working meeting with the OSCE Chairman in Office in Vienna Tuesday.

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