Azerbaijan's application for observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
The decision to seek observer status at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) looks like a shift in Azerbaijan's orientation, from the West towards the East. Baku's recent criticism of the United States and Europe reinforces this impression. However, it is more likely to be an effort by Azerbaijan to rebalance its alliances -- and to send Washington a message -- than a major realignment. Given the geopolitical imperatives of its location between Russia and the Middle East, Azerbaijan must balance its foreign policy between neighbours as well as larger blocs.
- If Azerbaijan draws closer to Russia politically, it will satisfy both Moscow and the pro-Russia faction in Baku.
- Within SCO, Azerbaijan would gain a venue for commerce and defending authoritarian rule without challenges to its human rights record.
- Baku can use this apparent shift as a warning to the West, which has criticised the worsening human rights situation in Azerbaijan.