President George W. Bush recently welcomed the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, to the White House. Mr. Bush thanked the Azerbaijani leader for his support of the U.S.-led operation in Iraq. Azerbaijani soldiers are also serving in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
During their meeting, President Bush expressed hope for greater democratic progress in Azerbaijan and urged President Aliyev to forge ahead with political reforms:
"We talked about the need for the world to see a modern Muslim country that is able to provide for its citizens, that understands that democracy is the wave of the future."
The 2003 presidential election in Azerbaijan was flawed, as were the 2005 parliamentary elections. According to the latest U.S. State Department human rights report, Azerbaijan's overall human rights record remains "poor." The government is faulted for corruption, political repression, and prisoner mistreatment.
During his meeting with President Bush, Mr. Aliyev acknowledged these difficulties and pledged to pursue further political reform:
"I consider this instrumental in the future development of Azerbaijan as a modern, secular, democratic country. [The U.S. and Azerbaijan] share the same values. We are grateful for United States assistance in promotion of political process, process of democratization of our society and very committed to continue that cooperation in the future."
Another area of common interest between the U.S. and Azerbaijan is creating a stable energy supply. Azerbaijan has large oil and gas reserves that have the potential to provide Europe, in particular, with an alternative energy source. The United States has helped to build a one-thousand seven-hundred-kilometer long pipeline from the Caspian Sea through Georgia and Turkey, which is likely to bring millions of barrels of Azerbaijani crude oil to market when it comes on line later this year.
Azerbaijan is an ally of the United States in a region of great importance. The U.S. looks forward to continuing to work with Azerbaijan on energy issues and regional peacekeeping. At the same time, the U.S. will continue to help Azerbaijan pursue democratic reforms.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.