4KING FAHD CAUSEWAYThe King Fahd Causeway is a series of bridges and causeways connecting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The idea of constructing the causeway was based on improving the links and bonds between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.[ Surveying of the maritime began in 1968, and construction began in 1981 and continued until 1986, when it was officially opened to the public. Total Length – 16 Miles
5King: Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah He had been crown prince since 1964, when, on the death of his father Sheikh Isa in March 1999, he became emir.Born in 1950, he was educated at a public school in Cambridge, England, and went on to study at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot, England, and at the US Army Command and Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.In 1968, he founded and became commander-in-chief of the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF). He served as minister of defence from 1971 to 1988.The government has over the years faced protests from the Shia majority, with demonstrators saying the ruling Sunni minority shuts them out of housing, healthcare and government jobs.
6BAHRAINBahrain - which name means "two seas" - was once viewed by the ancient Sumerians as an island paradise to which the wise and the brave were taken to enjoy eternal life.Full name: Kingdom of BahrainPopulation: 1.4 million (UN, 2012)Capital: ManamaArea: 717 sq km (277 sq miles)Major language: ArabicMajor religion: IslamLife expectancy: 75 years (men), 76 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 Bahraini dinar = 1,000 filsMain exports: Petroleum and petroleum products, aluminumGNI per capita: US $15,920 (World Bank, 2010)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eszUWlemVIY
9GOVERNMENTVeteran Iraqi politician Fuad Masum was overwhelmingly elected by parliament in July He is the second ethnic Kurdish president of Iraq.Born in 1938, he is the son of Sheikh Mulla Masum, a former head of the Association of Muslim Scholars in Kurdistan, and belongs to an established political dynasty with Muslim clerical links.A former law lecturer, President Masum is a founding member of Mr Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and served as its envoy in Syria and Britain before becoming prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan region in 1992.He went on to be speaker of the Iraqi parliament in , following the fall of Saddam Hussein.President Masum is well-connected with parties and groups across the Iraqi political spectrum.Prime Minister: Haider al-Abadi. A veteran politician from the Shia State of Law party, Mr al-Abadi was deputy speaker of parliament when President Masum asked him to form a government in the summer of 2014.Outgoing prime minister Nouri Maliki initially opposed the appointment of his party colleague as a "coup", but gave in when Shia community leaders and the US backed Mr al-Abadi.The new prime minister heads a cabinet with Sunni and Kurdish support, something Mr al-Maliki lacked, and will need to build on this in order to push back Islamic State militants who have seized parts of northern Iraq.He also faces the prospect of a Kurdish regional referendum on independence later in the year.Mr al-Maliki was prime minister from 2006, and alienated Kurds and Sunnis with his firmly Shia orientation.He failed to hold back Sunni insurgents after US troops left in 2011, and was dismissed after the Islamic State captured Mosul and moved into central Iraq in the summer of 2014.
10IRAQIraq, in an area once home to some of the earliest civilizations, became a battleground for competing forces after the US-led ousting of President Saddam Hussein in 2003.Full name: Republic of IraqPopulation: 33.7 million (UN, 2012)Area: 438,317 sq km (169,235 sq miles)Capital: BaghdadMajor languages: Arabic, KurdishMajor religion: IslamLife expectancy: 68 years (men), 73 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: Iraqi dinarMain exports: Crude oilGNI per capita: US $2,640 (World Bank, 2011)
13Supreme Leader: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei The Supreme Leader - the highest power in the land - appoints the head of the judiciary, military leaders, the head of radio and TV and Friday prayer leaders. He also confirms the election of Iran's president.Moreover, the Supreme Leader selects six members of the 12-member Guardian Council, an influential body which has to pass all legislation and which can veto would-be election candidates.The Leader is chosen by the clerics who make up the Assembly of Experts.Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was appointed for life in June 1989, succeeding Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic. He previously served two consecutive terms as president in the 1980s.
14President: Hassan Rouhani Hassan Rouhani was elected as Iran's president in June 2013, winning just over 50% of the vote.The cleric, regarded as a religious moderate, was backed by the reformists, led by former President Mohammad Khatami. He was endorsed by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was barred from running for office.Mr Rouhani says he wants to steer Iran towards "moderation". One of his main election pledges was to try to ease international sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program, which he partially achieved in November with an agreement with the P5+1 group - US, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany - in Geneva.
15IRANIran became an Islamic republic in 1979, when the monarchy was overthrown and clerics assumed political control under supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini.Full name: Islamic Republic of IranPopulation: 75.6 million (UN, 2012)Capital: TehranArea: 1.65 million sq km (636,313 sq miles)Major language: PersianMajor religion: IslamLife expectancy: 72 years (men), 75 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 10 Iranian rials = 1 tomanMain exports: Petroleum, carpets, agricultural productsGNI per capita: US $4,520 (World Bank, 2010)
18GOVERNMENTBenjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the right-wing Likud party, became prime minister after an inconclusive early election in February 2009, a decade after holding the office once before. Mr Netanyahu campaigned on a policy of toughness towards Palestinian militancy. Mr Netanyahu was born in 1949 in Tel Aviv, and spent part of his childhood in the United States where his father was a professor . During his five years in Israel's army, he served as captain of an elite commando unit. A fluent English-speaker, Mr Netanyahu has long been a prominent advocate for Israel in the international media.President: Shimon Peres. The Israeli president has a mainly ceremonial role; executive power is vested in the cabinet, headed by the prime minister. On 13 June 2007, the Israeli parliament chose the veteran politician Shimon Peres to succeed Moshe Katsav, who had taken leave of absence from the presidency earlier in the year after being accused of various sexual offences.The president has in the past been seen by Israelis as the nation's moral compass, and many hoped that Mr Peres would restore dignity to what they saw as a tarnished office.Mr Peres was a leading member of the Labour party for decades, but left in 2005 and later joined the centrist Kadima party.He twice served as prime minister, and in 1994 was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize when foreign minister in recognition of his role in bringing about the signing of Israel's first interim peace accord with the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Oslo the previous year.
19ISRAELA densely-populated country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Israel is the only state in the world with a majority Jewish population. It has been locked in conflict with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors over ownership of land considered holy by Jews, Christians and Muslims since its creation in 1948.Full name: State of IsraelPopulation: 7.7 million (UN, 2012)Seat of government: Jerusalem, though most foreign embassies are in Tel AvivArea: Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics cites 22,072 sq km (8,522 sq miles), including Jerusalem and GolanMajor languages: Hebrew, ArabicMajor religions: Judaism, Islam, ChristianityLife expectancy: 80 years (men), 84 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 new Israeli shekel (NIS) = 100 new agorotMain exports: Computer software, military equipment, chemicals, agricultural productsGNI per capita: US $28,930 (World Bank, 2011)
22Palestinian Authority President: Mahmoud Abbas Many analysts regard Mahmoud Abbas as a moderate. He has condemned the armed Palestinian uprising and favors the resumption of negotiations with Israel. But he faces the challenge of persuading armed groups to stop their campaign of anti-Israeli attacks.Mahmoud Abbas was born in 1935 in Safed, a town in present-day northern Israel. He co-founded Fatah - the main political grouping within the PLO - with Yasser Arafat in the late 1950s.He established contacts with left-wing Israelis in the 1970s and was the main Palestinian architect of the 1993 Oslo accords, which led to the foundation of the Palestinian Authority.
23PALESTINE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcY3RVSbvsg The Palestinian population of around ten or eleven million people is divided between historic Palestine and a diaspora, mainly in neighboring Arab countries.Population: 4.4 million (UN, 2010)Intended seat of government: East Jerusalem. Ramallah serves as administrative capitalArea: Palestinian Ministry of Information cites 5,970 sq km (2,305 sq miles) for West Bank territories and 365 sq km (141 sq miles) for GazaMajor language: ArabicMajor religions: Islam, ChristianityLife expectancy: 73 years (men), 76 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 Jordan dinar = 1,000 fils, 1 new Israeli shekel (NIS) = 100 new agorotMain exports: CitrusGNI per capita: US $1, 340 (World Bank 2005, latest figure available)
26GOVERNMENTKing Abdullah II, Jordan's monarch since 1999, has extensive powers: he appoints governments, approves legislation and is able to dissolve parliament. Over the past few years, he has been facing growing demands for political reform, and following the popular uprising in Tunisia which led to the flight of the president in January 2011, King Abdullah dismissed his government and appointed the first in a series of prime ministers to oversee the introduction of political change.Previously he had backed a 10-year program for political, social and economic reform and supported a plan for elected local councils. Conservative legislators were apprehensive about the proposals.Balancing diplomatic interests with domestic demands has been tricky for King Abdullah. The country's peace agreement with Israel and its close ties with the US are unpopular with many Jordanians.Prime minister: Reformist Abdullah Ensour was sworn in as head of a new government on 30 March, only months after offering his resignation following parliamentary elections in January Mr Ensour, a former minister and vocal advocate of democratic reform, was re-nominated by the king following extensive consultation with parliament. Previously, MPs played no role in the process. Ensour has vowed to speed up economic and political reform
27JORDANThe Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a small country with few natural resources, but it has played a pivotal role in the struggle for power in the Middle East. Jordan's significance results partly from its strategic location at the crossroads of what Christians, Jews and Muslims call the Holy Land. It is a key ally of the US and, together with Egypt, one of only two Arab nations to have made peace with Israel.Full name: The Hashemite Kingdom of JordanPopulation: 6.5 million (UN, 2012)Capital: AmmanArea: 89,342 sq km (34,492 sq miles)Major language: ArabicMajor religion: IslamLife expectancy: 72 years (men), 75 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 Jordan dinar = 1,000 filsMain exports: Phosphates, fertilisers, agricultural productsGNI per capita: US $4,380 (World Bank, 2011)
30Emir: Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah Sheikh Sabah succeeded Sheikh Saad, who ruled for just nine days after Sheikh Jaber died on 15 January 2006 having spent more than 25 years on the throne. Parliament voted Sheikh Saad out of office because of his ill health.Sheikh Sabah had been running Kuwait's day-to-day affairs for years. He became prime minister in 2003 when concern grew about the health of his predecessor in the post, Sheikh Saad.He has maintain Kuwait's pro-Western stance and pursued a policy of cautious reform; his government appointed Kuwait's first woman minister and he introduced laws which opened the door to foreign investors.
31KUWAITKuwait is a small, oil-rich country nestling at the top of the Gulf, flanked by large or powerful neighbors - Saudi Arabia to the south, Iraq to the north and Iran to the east.Full name: The State of KuwaitPopulation: 2.9 million (UN, 2012)Capital: KuwaitArea: 17,818 sq km (6,880 sq miles)Major language: ArabicMajor religion: IslamLife expectancy: 74 years (men), 76 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 Dinar = 1000 filsMain exports: OilGNI per capita: US $48,900 (World Bank, 2010)
34GOVERNMENT Prime minister: Tammam Salam President: post vacant - Michel Suleiman vacated the presidency at the end of his six-year term in May 2014, leaving behind a political vacuum chiefly caused by the fallout from the civil war in neighboring Syria.The president is chosen by a two-thirds majority of parliament, or 85 of the legislature's 128 members.Several attempts in parliament have failed to agree on a consensus president, some of them because of a boycott by MPs.Prime minister: Tammam SalamThe Sunni Muslim politician Tammam Salam was tasked with forming a new government in April 2013, after the divided cabinet of his predecessor, Najib Mikati, failed to reach agreement on how parliamentary elections due later in the year should be staged.In the event, it took Mr Salam ten months to assemble a new power-sharing cabinet. Meanwhile, the elections were put on hold; instability caused by the war in neighboring Syria may mean they will be delayed for some time.Mr Salam's unity government is split equally between the two main opposing factions in Lebanese politics - the Hezbollah-led pro-Syria March 8 coalition and the Western-leaning March 14 movement led by Saad Hariri. Mr Salam does not belong to any political party. His independent status facilitated his acceptance by the Lebanese parliament, which voted overwhelmingly in favor of his nomination after the fall of the Mikati-led government.
35LEBANONWith its high literacy rate and traditional mercantile culture, Lebanon has traditionally been an important commercial hub for the Middle East.It has also often been at the centre of Middle Eastern conflicts, despite its small size, because of its borders with Syria and Israel and its uniquely complex communal make-up.Full name: The Lebanese RepublicPopulation: 4.3 million (UN, 2012)Capital: BeirutArea: 10,452 sq km (4,036 sq miles)Major language: ArabicMajor religions: Islam, ChristianityLife expectancy: 71 years (men), 75 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 Lebanese pound (or lira) = 100 piastresMain exports: Foodstuffs and tobaccoGNI per capita: US $9,140 (World Bank, 2011)
38Sultan, prime minister, foreign minister: Qaboos Bin Said Al Said Sultan Qaboos seized power in a coup against his father, Said Bin Taimur, in 1970.As sultan, he took on the role of prime minister and heads the foreign, defence and finance ministries.His policies have proved popular in spite of the lack of a democratic government. He instigated the use of oil revenues to develop the country's infrastructure and modernised the government structure with the establishment of a Consultative Assembly in 1981, replaced by the Consultative Council - the majlis al-shura - in 1990 and the Council of State in 1997.However, all important decisions are still made by the sultan.Oman saw a rare outbreak of discontent in 2011 when demonstrators gathered to demand jobs and political reform. Their action followed a wave of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world. Sultan Qaboos responded quickly by promising more jobs and benefits.
39OMANThe oldest independent state in the Arab world, Oman is one of the more traditional countries in the Gulf region and was, until the 1970s, one of the most isolated.Full name: Sultanate of OmanPopulation: 2.9 million (World Bank, 2012)Capital: MuscatArea: 309,500 sq km (119,500 sq miles)Major language: ArabicMajor religion: IslamLife expectancy: 71 years (men), 76 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 Rial = 1000 baizaMain export: OilGNI per capita: US $19,260 (World Bank, 2010)
42Emir: Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani assumed the role of emir when his father abdicated in June 2013.The voluntary hand-over by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was a rare step for a ruler in a region where leaders normally die in office.He is deputy commander of the armed forces and head of the National Olympic Committee, and in recent years had taken on increasing military and security responsibilities.Like his father he went to the British military academy Sandhurst.He also went to Sherborne school in Dorset, United Kingdom.
43QATARQatar, a former pearl-fishing center and once one of the poorest Gulf states, is now one of the richest countries in the region, thanks to the exploitation of large oil and gas fields since the 1940s. Qatar, a former pearl-fishing centre and once one of the poorest Gulf states, is now one of the richest countries in the region, thanks to the exploitation of large oil and gas fields since the 1940s.Full name: The State of QatarPopulation: 1.9 million (UN, 2012)Capital: DohaArea: 11,437 sq km (4,416 sq miles)Major language: ArabicMajor religion: IslamLife expectancy: 79 years (men), 78 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 Riyal = 100 dirhamsMain exports: Oil, gasGNI per capita: US $80,440 (World Bank, 2011)
46Head of state, prime minister: King Abdullah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz Al Saud Saudi Arabia has been ruled since its foundation by the Al Saud dynasty. King Abdullah succeeded the late King Fahd, his half-brother, in August 2005.As crown prince, Abdullah had been the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia since King Fahd suffered a stroke in the mid-1990s.He became heir to the throne in 1982, commanded the powerful National Guard and rapidly rose to be was the most influential figure in the country. His son, Mutib, is deputy commander of the National Guard.Abdullah is said to have forged alliances with other members of the ruling family to offset the influence of his seven half-brothers. The latter "Sudairi Seven" are the most powerful bloc within the ruling family.He has a reputation for incorruptibility and won respect for his drive to stamp out graft. He has favoured some reforms, balanced with a respect for Saudi traditions in order to defuse potentially explosive tensions.King Abdullah is believed to have been born in He received a traditional religious education and is close to the Saudi tribal way of life, often spending periods of time in the desert. But he has never shared the severely puritanical view of Islam of his country's Wahhabi religious establishment.
47SAUDI ARABIAOne of the most insular countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has emerged from being an underdeveloped desert kingdom to become one of the wealthiest nations in the region thanks to vast oil resources.Full name: Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaPopulation: 28.7 million (UN, 2012)Capital: RiyadhArea: 2.24 million sq km (864,869 sq miles)Major language: ArabicMajor religion: IslamLife expectancy: 73 years (men), 76 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 Riyal = 100 halalahMain exports: Oil, gas, cerealsGNI per capita: US $17,820 (World Bank, 2011)
50President: Bashar al-Assad In power since succeeding his father 2000, Bashar al-Assad is fighting for control of his country after protests against his rule turned into a full-scale armed rebellion.Following successful uprisings against authoritarian rulers in Egypt and Tunisia, pro-democracy demonstrations were held in Damascus and several other cities. President Assad responded with a mixture of concessions - dismissed as superficial and disingenuous by the opposition - along with a brutal crackdown, accusing his opponents of being "terrorists" funded by enemies abroad. But the attempts at repression - as well as attempts at international mediation - failed and the conflict turned into a fully-fledged internal war.Mr Assad's government continues to enjoy strong diplomatic support from Russia and traditional ally Iran, amid persistent reports that they also supply it with arms. The president's troops have been bolstered by fighters from Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group.
51SYRIAOnce the centre of the Islamic Caliphate, Syria covers an area that has seen invasions and occupations over the ages, from Romans and Mongols to Crusaders and Turks.Full name: The Syrian Arab RepublicPopulation: 21.1 million (UN, 2012)Capital: DamascusArea: 185,180 sq km (71,498 sq miles)Major language: ArabicMajor religions: Islam, ChristianityLife expectancy: 74 years (men), 78 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 Syrian pound = 100 piastresMain exports: Oil, gasGNI per capita: US $2,750 (World Bank, 2010)
54President, ruler of Abu Dhabi: Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Sheikh Khalifa was named as president by the UAE Federal Council shortly after the death of his father, Sheikh Zayed Bin-Sultan Al Nahyan, in November The former president, who was 86, had been in poor health.Sheikh Khalifa, who had been crown prince of Abu Dhabi since 1969, is said to be a pro-Western moderniser. He has promised to widen the participation of UAE citizens in "public affairs".Often referred to as the father of the nation, Sheikh Zayed succeeded his brother as ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966 and, because of his strong leadership and commitment to forming the federation, he was elected as the first president of the United Arab Emirates in 1971.Re-elected every five years since 1971, Sheikh Zayed to some degree promoted the values of religious tolerance and equality, especially for women, into his policies, which greatly enhanced the stability of the UAE.Sheikh Mohammed succeeded his elder brother Sheikh Maktoum as ruler of Dubai in January 2006, and was elected to take his place as the UAE's federal prime minister.Even before taking over as ruler, Sheikh Mohammed had pursued the ambition of transforming Dubai - originally a fishing village and the emirates' main trading post - into one of the world's foremost financial and cultural capitals.In the early 2000s, growth rates reached double digits, while investment and workers poured in from Asia, the Middle East and the West. Sheikh Mohammed also worked to make his state the most tolerant in the UAE for foreigners.However, the economic crash of left Dubai with large debts, and needing assistance from Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi gave Dubai $10bn to pay off the debts of the government-owned company Dubai World.
55UNITED ARAB EMIRATESThe United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven states formed in 1971 by the then Trucial States after independence from Britain. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al QaiwainFull name: United Arab EmiratesPopulation: 8.1 million (UN, 2012)Capital: Abu DhabiLargest city: DubaiArea: 77,700 sq km (30,000 sq miles)Major language: ArabicMajor religion: IslamLife expectancy: 76 years (men), 78 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 Dirham = 100 filsMain exports: Oil, gasGNI per capita: US $40,760 (World Bank, 2011)
58President: Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi took office after an uncontested presidential election in February 2012, marking the final stage in the exit of Ali Abdallah Saleh, Yemen's longest-serving leader in recent times.With President Saleh sidelined by the 2011 popular uprising against his 33-year authoritarian rule, the low-key Mr Hadi emerged as a figure trusted enough by the pro-Saleh military and tribal factions, pro-democracy protesters, southerners and Yemen's powerful Saudi neighbor to manage the transition to free elections in 2014.He has a monumental task in trying to hold these bitterly-divided groups together against a background of economic stagnation, al-Qaeda violence and deepening poverty. The dangers of southern separatism and Houthi Shia insurrection in the north are also never far away.
59YEMENYemen has been at the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East and Asia for thousands of years thanks to its position on the ancient spice routes. It is one of the possible locations for the Biblical kingdom of Sheba.Full name: Republic of YemenPopulation: 25.6 million (UN, 2012)Capital: SanaaArea: 536,869 sq km (207,286 sq miles)Major language: ArabicMajor religion: IslamLife expectancy: 65 years (men), 68 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 Yemeni riyal = 100 filsMain exports: Crude oil, cotton, coffee, fishGNI per capita: US $1,070 (World Bank, 2011)
62President: Recep Tayyip Erdogan Recep Tayyip Erdogan was sworn in as president in August 2014, cementing his position as Turkey's most powerful leader.Ambitions - The ruling AK Party must win a stronger majority in parliament in a general election due by June 2015 if Mr Erdogan is to secure his ambition of changing the constitution and establishing an executive presidency.Mr Erdogan became prime minister in He brought economic and political stability to Turkey and faced down the country's powerful military establishment, which previously had a history of overthrowing elected governments that it saw as challenging either the secular constitution or national security.Steady military pressure combined with negotiations also brought the Kurdish rebel PKK group to a truce that provided for a withdrawal of all PKK fighters to Iraq from May 2013.
63TURKEYStraddling the continents of Europe and Asia, Turkey's strategically important location has given it major influence in the region - and control over the entrance to the Black Sea.Full name: Republic of TurkeyPopulation: 74.5 million (UN, 2012)Capital: AnkaraLargest city: Istanbul (by population)Area: 779,452 sq km (300,948 sq miles)Major languages: Turkish (official), KurdishMajor religion: IslamLife expectancy: 72 years (men), 77 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: Turkish liraMain exports: Clothing and textiles, fruit and vegetables, iron and steel, motor vehicles and machinery, fuels and oilsGNI per capita: US $10,410 (World Bank, 2011)
66President: Serge Sarkisian Serge Sarkisian won a second term in office in February 2013,International observers said the polls lacked real competition. Several leading candidates had chosen not to run, saying they feared that the poll would be skewed in Mr Sarkisian's favour.The economy was a key campaign issue; Mr Sarkisian oversaw a return to growth during his first term.Serge Sarkisian became president in 2008, winning in the first round with 52.9% of the vote. Deadly street protests ensued, with opposition supporters saying the poll was rigged.Europe's main election monitoring body, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said the vote had mostly met international standards.Serge Sarkisian was a Soviet soldier and later worked in the defense-committee of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. He was then appointed Armenia's minister of defense. He had a spell as minister of national security and head of the presidential staff before returning to the defense ministry.In 2009, he signed a historic deal to re-establish diplomatic ties with Turkey, but the pact broke down when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted it depended on Armenia resolving its dispute with Azerbaijan first.
67ARMENIAA landlocked country with Turkey to the west and Georgia to the north, Armenia boasts a history longer than most other European countries.Situated along the route of the Great Silk Road, it has fallen within the orbit of a number of cultural influences and empires.Full name: The Republic of ArmeniaPopulation: 3.1 million (UN, 2012)Capital: YerevanArea: 29,743 sq km (11,484 sq miles)Major languages: Armenian, RussianMajor religion: ChristianityLife expectancy: 71 years (men), 77 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 dram = 100 lumasMain exports: Processed and unprocessed diamonds, machinery, metal products, foodstuffsGNI per capita: US $3,360 (World Bank, 2011)
70President: Ilham Aliyev Ilham Aliyev took over as president from his father, Heydar, in 2003.Heydar Aliyev described his son as his "political successor". When his father died, Ilham was already prime minister, vice chairman of the state oil company and deputy leader of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP).He won the 2003 presidential elections by a landslide. Western observers were highly critical of the campaign which they said had been marred by voter intimidation, violence and media bias. Opposition demonstrations were met with police violence. There were many arrests.Heydar Aliyev, a former Soviet Communist leader, reinvented himself as a post-independence political strongman and had ruled Azerbaijan with an iron fist since 1993 following a period of great instability. His record on human rights and media freedom was often criticised in the West.Ilham Aliyev took over as president from his father, Heydar, in 2003.Heydar Aliyev described his son as his "political successor". When his father died, Ilham was already prime minister, vice chairman of the state oil company and deputy leader of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (NAP).He won the 2003 presidential elections by a landslide. Western observers were highly critical of the campaign which they said had been marred by voter intimidation, violence and media bias. Opposition demonstrations were met with police violence. There were many arrests.Heydar Aliyev, a former Soviet Communist leader, reinvented himself as a post-independence political strongman and had ruled Azerbaijan with an iron fist since 1993 following a period of great instability. His record on human rights and media freedom was often criticised in the West.
71AZERBAIJANOil-rich Azerbaijan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 amid political turmoil and against a backdrop of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh.Full name: Republic of AzerbaijanPopulation: 9.4 million (World Bank, 2012)Capital: BakuArea: 86,600 sq km (33,400 sq miles)Major language: Azeri, RussianMajor religion: IslamLife expectancy: 68 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 manat = 100 qapikMain exports: Oil, oil productsGNI per capita: US $5,290 (World Bank, 2011)
73GOVERNMENT President: Giorgi Margvelashvili Giorgi Margvelashvili took office in November 2013, bringing to an end the decade-long presidency of charismatic reformer Mikhail Saakashvili.He cruised to victory with around 62% of the vote at an election the previous month.Mr Margvelashvili, a former philosophy lecturer, assumed a weakened role because constitutional changes that come into force with his inauguration transferred a raft of key powers from the president to the prime minister.He had little political experience and was seen as beholden to billionaire Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose coalition drove Mr Saakashvili's party from power in the 2012 parliamentary elections.Prime Minister: Irakli Garibashvili - Like President Margvelashvili, Irakli Garibashvili is a protege of Bidzina Ivanishvili.He took over prime minister when Mr Ivanishvili resigned following the inauguration of Mr Margvelashvili.He inherited a post strengthened in relation to the presidency under reforms introduced by President Saakashvili.Aged only 31 on taking the job, Mr Garibashvili was Europe's youngest serving head of government at the time.A graduate of the Sorbonne in Paris, he was a political unknown whenMr Ivanishvili appointed him interior minister in He had previously spent almost his entire career working in various parts of Mr Ivanishvili's business empire.
74GEORGIASituated at the strategically important crossroads where Europe meets Asia, Georgia has a unique and ancient cultural heritage, and is famed for its traditions of hospitality and cuisine.Full name: GeorgiaPopulation: 4.3 million (UN, 2012)Capital: TbilisiArea: 69,700 sq km (26,911 sq miles)Major language: Georgian, Russian widely spokenMajor religion: ChristianityLife expectancy: 71 years (men), 77 years (women) (UN)Monetary unit: 1 lari = 100 tetriMain exports: Scrap metal, wine, fruitGNI per capita: US $2,860 (World Bank, 2011)