During her recent trip to Azerbaijan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that during the 20-year relationship the two countries have developed since the United States first recognized the independence of Azerbaijan, “Our nations have been steadily strengthening the bonds between our governments, our businesses, and our people.”
She noted that her meetings with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov focused on three key areas: security, energy, and democratic reform.
Secretary Clinton expressed appreciation for Azerbaijan’s past contributions in Iraq, Kosovo, and its vital, ongoing work in Afghanistan, which she called “essential to the transportation of troops and nonlethal supplies that support the international effort in Afghanistan.” She also expressed concern over the recent deaths along the border between Armenia and Azerbiajan, and urged both countries to work to keep the peace.
Secretary Clinton noted that the United States and Azerbaijan are working closely together on energy security, “one of the great global challenges of our time.” She praised “the central role that Azerbaijan plays in efforts to diversify supplies of oil and gas” and expressed support for Azerbaijan’s goal of establishing a southern corridor for natural gas exports to Europe.
Secretary Clinton spoke about “the importance of fostering a vibrant civil society, [and] embracing and furthering democratic reforms.
She commended President Aliyev for the recent release on parole of Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, with whom she met during her visit. “I hope he and all who are members of civil society in Azerbaijan continue their work,” she said. “We believe that countries that flourish in the 21st century will be those that respect the rule of law, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, [and] other universal rights.”
“I have great confidence,” Secretary Clinton said, “that Azerbaijan can both continue [on] the path of economic prosperity and continue on a path toward political reform.”