Azerbaijan, US mark 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties with energy, security issues high on the agenda

By Sabina Mammadli

In 2022, Azerbaijan marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the subjects of international relations – both individual states and international organizations.

Azernews, the nation’s first English language media outlet, has launched a new project, designed to cover the major points of the 30-year-long diplomatic ties between Azerbaijan and individual states and organizations.

This time the United States of America is on the agenda.

This year Azerbaijan and the United States also mark the 30th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties. The cooperation between the two countries in the energy, security sectors, and in the fight against terror is particularly strong.

For 30 years, the two states have worked together to promote European energy security, expand bilateral trade and investment, and combat terrorism and transnational threats. Moreover, the US is pursuing lasting peace in the South Caucasus region.

And for the convenience of our readers, we are trying to shed light on specific aspects of the relations in a Q&A format.

Q: When did Azerbaijan and the United States establish diplomatic relations? What do we know about the history of ties?

A: The United States recognized Azerbaijan’s independence on December 25, 1991. The countries established their diplomatic relations in the same year.

On March 6, 1992, Azerbaijan opened its embassy in Washington, and on March 16, 1992, the United States opened its embassy in Baku, with Robert Finn as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim. Secretary of State Baker visited Azerbaijan on February 12, 1992.

The United States has provided over $125 million to IDPs in Azerbaijan since 1992 and remains committed to supporting this community. According to the current US ambassador to Azerbaijan, Lee Litzenberger, this assistance has included targeted support for children, such as the construction and renovation of schools, capacity-building programs for youth, and English language programs for IDP communities.

Q: What is the current state and spheres of economic cooperation between the two countries?

A: The economic relationships between the United States and Azerbaijan have primarily developed in the context of the Caspian energy resources and their transportation to western markets. The US companies are actively involved in the development of Caspian hydrocarbons in offshore Azerbaijani oilfields, and the US government actively supports the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline as the primary route of transportation for Caspian oil. Notably, Azerbaijan and the US have become strong partners in promoting European energy security.

Talking about an abundance of accords signed between the two states, one of those was the bilateral trade agreement, signed in 1995, which granted Azerbaijan the status of a “most favored nation”. Similarly, the bilateral investment treaty named Azerbaijan a beneficiary country under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program in 2008. The GSP program provides an incentive for investors to produce in Azerbaijan and export selected products duty-free to the US market.

Crude oil is the single largest import from Azerbaijan to the United States. US companies are involved in offshore oil development projects in Azerbaijan, export aircraft and heavy machinery to Azerbaijan, and are considering opportunities in agriculture, telecommunications, tourism, transportation services, and other fields.

Furthermore, the US also supports Azerbaijan’s application for accession to the World Trade Organization.

The two states periodically agree the US-Azerbaijan Economic Partnership Commission to discuss bilateral cooperation to promote trade and investment.

USAID contributes to the social and economic development of Azerbaijan through activities that further develop the agricultural sector and strengthen citizen participation in rural communities. USAID assistance focuses on activities that directly benefit the lives of the Azerbaijani people, create economic opportunities, and expand partnerships to enhance civil society at the grassroots level.

The trade turnover between Azerbaijan and US amounted to $517.5 million in 2021.

Q: What is the United States’ view of the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict?

A: The year 2022 not only marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Azerbaijan and the US but also the 30th
anniversary of the infamous Section 907 that was passed against Azerbaijan by Congress, influenced by the Armenian lobby.

Congress passed the notorious amendment to the Freedom Support Act, Section No. 907, which deprived Azerbaijan of direct military assistance.

“And we, the affected country, were essentially discriminated against. The rationale behind it was that Azerbaijan was blocking Armenia. Just imagine – Zangilan, Gubadli, Lachin, and Kalbajar regions are occupied. And this is described as a blockade of Armenia,” Aliyev said in an interview with Russia’s Natsionalnaya Oborona magazine.

However, the administrations of George HW Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush opposed Section 907, viewing it as an impediment to impartial US foreign policy in the region and an obstacle to the US role in the Karabakh conflict mediation efforts.

Consequently, after the September 11 attacks in 2001, the amendment to the Act adopted by the Senate on October 24, 2001, provided the president with the ability to waive Section 907. And this year the amendment was once again extended.

In view of Azerbaijan’s contribution and support for the US military operations in Afghanistan, President George W. Bush waived the section in January 2002 and President Barack Obama further extended that waiver.

Azerbaijan was one of the first countries to join the global anti-terror coalition assembled by the US government. Azerbaijan opened its airspace to the allied forces and assured its agencies would cooperate and provide information that would assist in American-led efforts.

In November 2011, the United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus met with the Azerbaijani president and defense minister announcing the military ties between their countries would expand. The US State Department already offered Azerbaijan $10 million to enhance its security structures in the Caspian Sea earlier that year.

Despite the notorious amendment, the US has been actively involved in the attempts to resolve the conflict since 1992. Today, the country is in direct dialogue with Azerbaijan and Armenia to support the peace process. Moreover, it is providing humanitarian demining assistance in Karabakh.

In the recent report, titled “2021 Report on International Religious Freedom” under the section “Armenia”, US State Department highlighted that hundreds of sites, including most mosques, shrines, and cemeteries used by the region’s ethnic Azerbaijani communities – approximately 400,000 people – were looted, vandalized, desecrated, and/or destroyed while under Armenian occupation.

Q: How do the two countries cooperate in political, international, educational, and other spheres?

A: Throughout these years, Azerbaijan and the United States of America have maintained stable high-level political dialogue that is ensured through regular meetings of top officials.

Furthermore, the two countries have a strong connection in the sphere of education. This way, the Public Affairs Section of the US Embassy in Azerbaijan works to foster mutual understanding between the United States and Azerbaijan through international educational and training exchange programs. The department brings US scholars and researchers to Azerbaijan, as well as sends Azerbaijani students, educators, and professionals to the United States annually for a variety of programs.

Education USA is one of those programs that offer information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States.

To conclude, the bilateral relations between the two countries are well-rounded and have the full potential to evolve further.

Sabina Mammadli is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @SabinaMmdl

Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz

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