U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte recently visited Azerbaijan. He said the United States and Azerbaijan share important interests and cooperate closely on many issues.
The U.S. and Azerbaijan are partners in working for regional and global stability. American and Azerbaijani soldiers stand side by side in Iraq and Afghanistan. "The contributions of Azerbaijan to these security priorities," said Mr. Negroponte, "are greatly appreciated by the American government and the American people." The United States will continue to assist Azerbaijan in reforming its defense establishment under NATO's Partnership for Peace program.
U.S. and Azerbaijan are also strategic partners in expanding the supply of energy links between the Caucasus region and Europe. The U.S. is working with Azerbaijan to pursue the Turkey-Greece-Italy and Nabucco natural gas pipelines, as well as expand oil transit opportunities. All these ventures help achieve the goal of diversifying and thereby securing energy supplies in European and global markets.
Azerbaijan will soon face a test of its democratic progress, as the country prepares to vote in presidential elections on October 15th. In addition to incumbent President Ilham Aliyev, six other candidates are running for office.
The upcoming election, said Deputy Secretary Negroponte, "represents an opportunity for Azerbaijan to demonstrate its commitment to democratic reform by holding an election that is assessed by it own people and the international community to be free, fair, and transparent." Since 1993 no election in Azerbaijan has fully met international democratic standards.
In light of Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Georgia, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte stressed that the U.S. and its European allies "support the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Georgia, as well as Azerbaijan, and Armenia." In this environment, said Mr. Negroponte, the U.S., now more than ever, wants to help Azerbaijan find a peaceful solution to the ethnic conflict in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The United States will continue to support the well-being and security of Azerbaijan and its neighbors in the South Caucasus.