House Committee on Foreign Affairs hosts hearing on Azerbaijani-U.S interests
February 14, 2015 Leave a comment
Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs has hosted hearing “Azerbaijan: U.S. Energy, Security, and Human Rights Interests”Chaired by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, the hearing was addressed by Former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Kauzlarich, Director of Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, School of Advanced International Studies Svante Cornell and Fellow at Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Audrey Altstadt. Mr Cornell said the decline of Azerbaijan’s relationship with the U.S. bears similarities to tensions in America’s ties with a number of other allies, from Israel to South Korea, that have grown wary of U.S. foreign policy. He touched upon the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, saying it should be “placed on a path toward long-term and peaceful resolution, within the framework of international law, and with the degree of manipulation of external powers minimized”.According to him, it is customary to blame Azerbaijan’s domestic evolution for the decline in the relationship with the USA. “The question that should be asked is how the U.S. could have allowed a relationship with a geostrategic pivot country like Azerbaijan to deteriorate so badly”.“It is important to recall that America’s relationship with Azerbaijan, like all former Soviet states, was built on several components. A constructive dialogue on human rights and democracy was one of these. Another was American engagement in supporting the development of the east-west energy corridor, which enabled Azerbaijan to market is resources independently. A third was close cooperation on security issues, which included America’s efforts to help resolve the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, as well as bilateral cooperation on defense, security, intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism.”He said: “These three areas, then, formed a tripod upon which U.S. policy was based. But in the past decade, that tripod has for all practical purposes faltered. American engagement in energy issues was strong down to the completion of initial pipeline infrastructure ten years ago; it has declined since then. The position of a U.S. Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy has been abolished; and America’s role in the efforts to bring Caspian natural gas to Europe is minimal. Security interests gained salience after 9/11, but began a slow decline after 2003 as U.S. attention shifted to Iraq and European governments were unwilling to pick up the slack. Not least, U.S. leadership in resolving the Armenian‐Azerbaijani conflict has been missing.”“Instead, it decided to embark on a project to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations. The core of that initiative was to open the Turkish‐Armenian border, which Turkey had closed in 1993 because of Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijan’s territory. Since that time,a link had been maintained between Turkish‐Armenian relations and the Armenia‐Azerbaijan conflict.”Mr Cornell said: “The United States now pushed to cut that link, something that would heavily damage Azerbaijan’s interests, without offering Baku anything in the process. This initiative effectively was understood in Baku to mean that Azerbaijan’s most important national security issue was no longer an American concern.”“Furthermore, singling out Azerbaijan makes little sense in the absence of similar measures against regional countries with worse human rights records. Frustration with western indifference to theplight of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people from the Armenian‐occupied territories in Mountainous Karabakh and western Azerbaijan is already high in Azerbaijan, and any further targeting of Azerbaijan would reinforce the sense of western double standards, which officials at very high levels already denounce,” he added.