U.S. Ambassador praises Azerbaijan’s independence

By: Sara Rajabova

U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan praised Azerbaijan’s independent policy in the past 20 years.

Azerbaijan is one of the few countries in the post-Soviet area which is not under anyone’s control and has managed to maintain an independent policy for 20 years, Richard Morningstar said.

He made the remarks during his speech at the first international Caspian Energy Forum-2014, underway in Baku on April 23.

“Azerbaijan’s energy resources have always been important, but its importance is now growing against the background of the events of recent months regarding Ukraine and Russia,” Morningstar said.

He said the success of large-scale energy projects, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, is the result of international cooperation.

Morningstar noted that the U.S. has its own interests in the region, despite the fact that Azerbaijan’s oil and gas is not directly supplied to the United States.

“Support for Europe’s energy security and diversification of the sources of energy supply are some of those interests,” Morningstar said.

He further said the cooperation between Azerbaijan and its international partners in the energy sector was a very far-sighted step, as energy resources play a special role for other countries.

“The adoption of decisions on the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) last year and the final investment decision on the second stage of development at Azerbaijan’s offshore gas condensate Shah Deniz field in 2013 created opportunities for reaching progress on the Southern Gas Corridor,” Morningstar noted.

He said the U.S. will continue to work with Azerbaijan and other partners to develop the Shah Deniz project further.

Liquefied gas supplies from the U.S. to Europe will not affect the export of Azerbaijani gas to the European market, Morningstar added.

“We are considering the issue of liquefied gas supplies from the U.S. to Europe,” he said, noting that this will have no effect on gas exports from Azerbaijan.

Morningstar said supplying gas to Europe from various sources will ensure the reliability of its fuel supply.

He also noted that Azerbaijan pays great attention not only to traditional energy sources, but also to the development of alternative energy sources, adding that it is one of the most important issues in the modern world.

Saying that the U.S. is always ready to cooperate with Azerbaijan in the field of alternative energy, he noted there are favorable conditions to take advantage of wind and solar energy in the Absheron peninsula. Azerbaijan’s participation in post-war development of Afghanistan

Morningstar also highlighted Azerbaijan’s role in the post-war development of Afghanistan, saying that the United States appreciates Azerbaijan’s commitments in this regards.

“We appreciate Azerbaijan’s every step and all the assistance rendered to Afghanistan,” Morningstar said. He said an example of such assistance is the presence of Azerbaijani servicemen serving in that country.

A company and then a battalion of peacekeepers were established as part of the Azerbaijani armed forces in 1997. The Azerbaijani peacekeeping contingent in Afghanistan doubled in 2009. Currently, some 90 Azerbaijani servicemen are serving in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations. Morningstar also stressed Azerbaijan’s big transit role in transporting food and other goods.

“I believe that international cooperation will continue after the withdrawal of the mission’s troops from Afghanistan,” Morningstar said.

Azerbaijan is among the eight partner countries that have confirmed their presence in Afghanistan after 2014. Peacekeepers of the country will stay in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country by the end of 2014. However, Azerbaijan will reduce its presence in Afghanistan after 2014.

Azerbaijan has decided to broaden its activities in Afghanistan’s non-military areas. Real cooperation began with Afghan specialists’ training in mine sweeping. The preparatory works are underway on Azerbaijani military doctors’ activity in Afghan hospitals, education of Afghan people at medical universities, participation of medical personnel in Azerbaijan’s educational courses, Afghan military personnel’s participation in educational courses at the military academy and other military schools, and Afghan students’ education in Azerbaijan.