Peter Tase, International Programs Assistant of Marquette University (WI) and International Relations expert gave an interview to Washington Bureau of AzerTAc following her recent visit to Azerbaijan.
– You recently attended Baku Humanitarian Forum. What are your general impressions about the forum itself and the capital of Azerbaijan?
-Azerbaijan is not only the birthplace of fire but also is the foundation of genuine patriotism, hardworking people, consolidated democratic government and has emerged as a nation with avant-garde architecture in Eurasia. Azerbaijan is a dynamic young nation with a vibrant capital city. Over the last two decades Baku has become a genuine metropolitan city at the heart of Eurasia, which rivals some of the best western European capitals; it has also adopted its own urban landmarks similar to the Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, with exclusive shops and restaurants just like the wind city. I am honored to be part of this prestigious Global Forum in which more than 600 former heads of state, politicians, Nobel laureates, scholars, journalists and diplomats attended from over 60 countries around the world. Azerbaijan is currently playing a vital role towards fostering intercultural dialogue, religious tolerance and promotion of peace and democratic values worldwide. There is no other country in the world like Azerbaijan that invests so much time and energy towards preserving global peace and stability by organizing such strategic forums which help us in resolving today’s most pressing issues. Over the last decade, the government of President Ilham Aliyev has always emphasized the religious tolerance and peaceful solution of current regional and global disputes and pending disagreements.
– Metaphorically speaking, what puts Azerbaijan on the map for you? In other words, what is, in your opinion, significant about Azerbaijan that will draw attention of an American to the Land of Fire?
-Azerbaijan, is home of the Paleolithic period, Azykh Cave is located in the territory of the Fuzuli district, which is considered to be the site of one of the most ancient proto-human habitations in Eurasia. In 2007 another ancient monument southwest of Baku, Gobustan was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered to be an “outstanding universal value” for the quality and density of its rock art engravings.
The Government of President Aliyev has made great efforts to make Azerbaijan one of the most developed countries in Eurasia and has pursued a dynamic foreign policy that serves well to the economic and social development of the Caspian region. I must emphasize that the positive reforms set by the government of President Ilham Aliyev should serve as a perfect example and success story to those underdeveloped countries that aspire to reach high levels of economic development and eradicate poverty. My deep gratitude and appreciation goes to Mr. Aslan Aslanov, the Director General of the Azerbaijan State Telegraph Agency (AzerTAc). This information agency has always played an important role towards the promotion of history, culture and government reforms of Azerbaijan. Quite frankly, my introduction to the Republic of Azerbaijan was through the employees and the website of AzerTAc.
– Azerbaijan is a fast developing economy. Although oil and gas is a driving force, it’s also developing its non-oil sector. What is your outlook for Azerbaijan in a decade? What areas of economy, in your opinion, can or should develop and make it a regional hub?
-In 2006-2008, Azerbaijan was the fastest growing economy in the world. Contemporary architecture and cutting edge urban development nationwide will increase the development of tourism sector. Ancient and archeological sites, religious centers that are used for pilgrimages as well as beautiful landscape give Azerbaijan unparalleled advantages in order to further develop its tourism industry.
Research in Information Technology, satellite design and launching technology, defense industry, renewable energy projects and sustainable public works projects will continue to make Azerbaijan a leading nation towards the socio-economic development in the Caucasus region. In the next three years Azerbaijan is expected to inaugurate public works such as paved roads in every district and village nationwide. High quality food industry will also take a major focus in the next years.
– What should be done to enhance educational and cultural exchange between Azerbaijan and the United States?
-Washington is lagging behind towards fostering the university to university partnerships with Baku. In order to better understand the culture and society of Azerbaijan it is essential that universities establish centers of Azerbaijani Studies across the United States, just like we have well established academic centers that focus on Latin America and the Caribbean. The economic and attractive government reforms of Azerbaijan have received less to none international attention. We live in a multi-polar world and as result our universities must adapt to these new geopolitical trends and educate their students no only about the Americas but also about highly important countries such as Azerbaijan. The United States must adopt and encourage a National Policy of International Branch Campuses for its public and private universities in Azerbaijan.
Currently the United States has 76 Branch Campuses and their majority is located in the United Arab Emirates.
In the same vein, the implementation of Azerbaijani language and history programs in the US Universities, hosting guest professors from Baku is greatly needed in the US Universities. It is imperative for America’s young generations to understand that Azerbaijan has more than one million refugees and internally displaced people (IDP), including 250,000 Azerbaijanis who were expelled from Armenia, 700,000 Azerbaijanis who were expelled from Nagorno-Karabakh and seven districts of Azerbaijan, and refugees from wars in other countries. Currently Azerbaijan has been doing its best to improve the living standards of these people. Every year the administration of Azerbaijan resettles more than 20,000 IDPs, they have built 82 settlements and 40,000 families have been provided with flats or houses. The main stream media in the US never pays attention to the Caucasus and establishing various centers of Azerbaijani Studies in our country would greatly help foster bilateral cultural ties.
– Finally, U.S. and Azerbaijan are recognized as allies. How should Washington and Baku develop their ties to draw both nations’ closer?
-In 1992, the United States established its diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan, following its independence from the Soviet Union. Over the years Washington, has been committed to strengthening democracy and formation of an open market economy in Azerbaijan. The United States and Azerbaijan have promoted regional security, enhanced energy security, socio-economic development and strengthen political reforms. However, it is unfortunate that Secretary John Kerry has not yet conducted his first official visit as Secretary of State in Baku even though U.S. Ambassador Richard Morningstar announced his possible trip since March 19, 2014. Although Hillary Clinton paid an official visit to Baku in June 2012, it is important that Washington continues to have high level visits to Baku. Moreover, the United States must take a leadership role towards solving the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict to ensure full integrity and bring peace on the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan.
Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenian forces since the end of the war in 1994 and has been suffering from protracted warfare or sporadic armed clashes since that time.
The United States government must condemn the crimes against humanity such as Khojaly Massacre and honor its victims with a resolution in the U.S. Congress. The U.S. Department of State must call upon the community of nations to condemn the atrocities committed by the Armenian armed forces. Security partnership and energy security cooperation should further be enhanced between the two countries, and commercial ties must reach new levels every year.
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