Since Azerbaijan’s emergence as an independent nation in 1991, the US-Azerbaijan relationship has evolved into a strategic partnership based on mutual interests, common values and pragmatism. Both sides reiterated commitment to their partnership during the September 24, 2010 meeting between presidents Ilham Aliyev and Barack Obama in New York. During the summer of 2010, both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the Azerbaijani capital of Baku underscoring the importance of the US – Azerbaijani relations. In previous years, Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Energy Secretaries Federico Pena, Bill Richardson, Samuel Bodman and various other top US officials visited Azerbaijan.
The Republic of Azerbaijan and the United States uphold a vision for a peaceful and prosperous future in Eurasia. Therefore, Azerbaijan actively promotes the ideas of tolerance, inclusiveness and inter-cultural dialogue and takes a leadership role on regional integration projects. Both the Americans and Azerbaijanis share a deeply rooted understanding that their respective societies are built on civic identity, which rejects discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion and gender. Today, the government–to-government contacts, parliamentary visits, business, professional, academic, student, media and other civil society exchanges all contribute to the wide and rich mosaic of the US-Azerbaijan partnership.
For the Republic of Azerbaijan, support from the United States has been extremely important over the last two decades as the process of nation-building has been underway. From security to energy to economic development to promoting reforms, the United States has been a valuable partner for the people of Azerbaijan. In turn, Azerbaijan has established itself as a key regional ally for the United States. Working in partnership with the United States, as well as with Georgia and Turkey, Azerbaijan initiated and completed the strategic Baku-Tbilisi- Ceyhan oil pipeline. Azerbaijani servicemen have served shoulder–to-shoulder with their U.S. counterparts in the Balkans and in Iraq and continue serving in Afghanistan. The fact that a significant portion of non-military cargo for NATO’s Afghanistan operation transits through Azerbaijan illustrates just one element of U.S.-Azerbaijan cooperation on security matters.
Azerbaijan was among the first countries to offer the United States unconditional support in the war against terrorism. Azerbaijan joined all 12 international conventions on counter-terrorism and reinforces regional cooperation on fighting terrorism through signing numerous agreements and participating in the activities of regional organizations such as NATO, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and others. At the same time, the United States, along with France and Russia, is a co-mediator of the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace negotiations under auspices of the OSCE, the Minsk Group.
Azerbaijan works with the U.S., both bilaterally and multilaterally, through the GUAM (Georgia – Ukraine–Azerbaijan–Moldova) framework to prevent illegal trafficking and to secure borders.
The U.S. and Azerbaijan jointly participate in the Caspian Guard program targeted against WMD proliferation, terrorism, and smuggling as well as protecting the energy development and transportation in the Caspian, as part of the larger energy security agenda. Azerbaijan also is an active partner in international and U.S.-led non-proliferation efforts.
Since Azerbaijan joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace Program in 1994, it has consistently integrated into the Euro-Atlantic security architecture, further deepening U.S.-Azerbaijani military to military cooperation. President Aliyev recently reiterated Azerbaijan’s commitment to strengthening cooperation with NATO at the Alliance’s 2010 Summit in Lisbon.
Azerbaijan and the Caspian region, in general, are increasingly important in contributing to global energy security and diversification of sources of natural gas. Azerbaijan’s position on this is built on national interest and the recognition of its role as a responsible member of the international community.
Various American companies operate successfully in Azerbaijan. The examples are numerous and diverse. The most recent examples include, in addition to the energy companies, continuous purchases of Boeing aircraft, including the Boeing 787 “Dreamliners” for the national carrier, the Azerbaijan Airlines; production of the nation’s first space satellite by the Virginia-based Orbital Corporation; building of the world’s largest free-standing flag pole in Baku by the US-bases Trident Support Corporation, and many others. According to the US State Department, the U.S. and Azerbaijan have signed a bilateral trade agreement, which entered into force in April 1995 and confers to Azerbaijan the status of most favored nation. The United States also has a bilateral investment treaty with Azerbaijan and in 2008 named Azerbaijan a beneficiary country under the Generalized System of Preferences program.
Just as the opening of the Consulate General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles marked a milestone in the U.S.-Azerbaijan partnership, another recent example of the growing bilateral relations is the appointment of Mr. Emmit Richard “Art” McHaffie as the Honorary Consul of Azerbaijan in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 25, 2010. Mr. McHaffie’s appointment marks the first time the Government of Azerbaijan designates an honorary consul in the United States and reflects the policy of expanding and strengthening the relations between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the United States of America, as well as an outreach to the western states.
Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act
In 1992, Congress adopted Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, barring all U.S. direct assistance to Government of Azerbaijan. This provision was adopted without any debate and before newly independent Azerbaijan opened its embassy in Washington. Section 907 rewards the aggressor and punishes the victim. As a result of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, 20% of Azerbaijan is occupied, and one million out of a population of eight million Azerbaijanis are refugees and internally displaced person. All Administrations opposed this provision. While Section 907 has been somewhat modified in Foreign Operations Appropriations legislation since fiscal year 1997, and President Bush has exercised his waiver authority since it was given to him in 2002, there is no substitute for its repeal.