U.S.-Azerbaijani relations highlighted
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent was on an official visit to Baku on October 9-10 and participated in a number of meetings, including with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and the country's top officials.
At the meeting with President Aliyev, the successful development of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and the U.S. in a variety of areas was hailed at the meeting.
The Azerbaijani head of state thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for his remarks and warm words regarding Azerbaijan-U.S. relations featured in his messages on the centenary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and the inauguration of the Southern Gas Corridor.
Security cooperation was pointed out during the meeting. Azerbaijan’s contribution to peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan and its support to the Afghan government in a bilateral format was hailed.
The sides discussed the issues relating to the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The parties also pointed to the successful energy cooperation, underlining the U.S. support to the Southern Gas Corridor project.
The sides also discussed the opportunities for bilateral cooperation in non-oil sector, as well as trade, IT, investment, and agricultural areas.
As part of his visit, Kent also met with Minister of Energy Parviz Shahbahzov, duwing which the U.S. official said that Azerbaijan is playing an important role in the diversification of energy sources and routes.
At the meeting, the sides noted successful development of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and the US in the energy sector.
High assessment was given to the continued U.S. support for energy projects being implemented in Azerbaijan, including the Southern Gas Corridor project. An exchange of views took place on the project’s role in ensuring the energy security of countries of South-Eastern Europe and the prospects for expanding the Southern Gas Corridor project at a later stage.
Kent said that Azerbaijan plays an important role in the policy of diversifying energy sources and routes, and noted that the position of the US on projects related to energy security remains unchanged.
In turn, Shahbazov spoke about the current situation in the implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor project and added that the significance of the project was also expressed at the high-level meetings that took place as part of the 27th World Gas Conference in Washington.
At the meeting, the sides discussed the necessary measures to ensure cooperation on the use of renewable energy sources and reforms in the energy sector, as well as processes taking place in the global energy market.
George Kent also attended the meeting with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov.
During the meeting, gratification with the successful development of bilateral cooperation in political, economic, energy, transport and other fields was expressed.
The importance of increasing efforts to further intensify bilateral relations was also stressed.
The minister spoke about important energy and transport projects being implemented with the initiative and with the participation of Azerbaijan, in particular about the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and the Southern Gas Corridor.
“Azerbaijan welcomes the U.S. support in the implementation of those projects,” Mammadyarov said. “Azerbaijan continues to support international peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan.”
In turn, Kent said that the U.S. continues to develop bilateral relations with Azerbaijan in energy, security, economy and others.
He also stressed that Azerbaijan’s contribution to peacekeeping operations within the fight against terrorism is appreciated.
The Azerbaijani foreign minister spoke about the current negotiations on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and his meeting with the Armenian foreign minister in New York mediated by the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
Mammadyarov stressed that the violation of internationally recognized borders of a country by using force is unacceptable. During the meeting, views on other issues of mutual interest were exchanged.
At a press conference in Baku on October 10, George Kent said that the purpose of his visit to Azerbaijan is to ensure further development of relations between the two countries.
He said that the U.S. appreciates Azerbaijan’s contribution to security in Afghanistan and the activity of the Azerbaijani government to ensure and enhance security in the region.
The U.S. wants to see Azerbaijan even more developed and prosperous, he said.
Speaking of the Southern Gas Corridor, which provides for the transportation of Azerbaijani gas to Europe, Kent noted that it will ensure energy security by diversifying the sources of energy supply
However, he stressed that some countries use the energy factor as a weapon.
“The Southern Gas Corridor is a very large-scale project. Many companies and countries have spent billions of dollars to implement this project. The projects like SGC are a prime example of cooperation between countries,” Kent said.
Touching upon the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, he said that progress has been achieved in the process of its resolution.
"In Azerbaijan, everyone is interested in a peaceful settlement of the conflict. During our visit to the country, we stressed the recent progress in resolving the conflict, including the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in New York, as well as the meeting of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Dushanbe," he added.
Kent noted that as one of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, the United States takes seriously its obligations to resolve the conflict on the basis of the Madrid principles.
"The OSCE Minsk Group cochairs will make a visit to the region this month, in two weeks. I want to note that tension on the contact line of troops has decreased. We urge the parties to continue in this spirit," he said.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding regions.
The 1994 ceasefire agreement was followed by peace negotiations. Armenia has not yet implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.