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United States Values Its Strategic Partnership with Azerbaijan

"The United States values its strategic partnership with Azerbaijan," said the U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, Richard Morningstar.

"And more than anything else, we want to help protect the independence and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, which we think is very important," Morningstar said.

"We have a whole series of shared interests which include democratic and economic reform, security reforms relating to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Afghanistan, and counterterrorism. We also have a strong shared interest in issues relating to energy," he added.

Going back to the strategic side of things, Morningstar stressed that the U.S. very much appreciates Azerbaijan's cooperation on Afghanistan, with the troops that it has there.

U.S. and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Morningstar said that the U.S. is very much concerned about the recent tension between Azerbaijani and Armenian troops on the contact line.

"The U.S. has made very clear to both Azerbaijan and Armenia that escalation on the line of contact is not helpful at all. In fact, it is quite damaging to the peace process," he said.

With regard to the fact, that so far, the OSCE Minsk Group member countries have not recognized Armenia as an aggressor country, the ambassador said that as Minsk Group co-chair, the U.S. can mediate, can facilitate and can come up with ideas that can help the two presidents for example to move towards the settlement.

Azerbaijan's role in ensuring European energy security

The U.S. ambassador believes that Azerbaijan's role in ensuring the energy security of Europe is very important.

"This is something that I have been involved with going back to 1998 when I was working on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. I think that very major steps have been taken just in the past year, including the decision on the route for the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to deliver gas to Europe," Morningstar said.

Economic relations between Azerbaijan and U.S.

Talking about the steps that are being made to increase trade turnover between the U.S. and Azerbaijan, Morningstar said that the U.S. encourages companies to come here and to learn about Azerbaijan.

"We had a trade mission this past November. American companies involved in Turkey came here and learned about Azerbaijan. During Bakutel, we brought several telecommunication and information technology companies to see what investment opportunities exist here. I think there are companies that are very interested in working here," the ambassador said.

The ambassador stressed that the U.S. would be very happy for Azerbaijani companies to operate in the United States.

"At the same time, as I said before, we encourage American companies to look at Azerbaijan's long-term investment potential as well," Morningstar said.

Talking about section 907 of the United States Freedom Support Act that bans any kind of direct United States aid to the Azerbaijani government, Morningstar mentioned that this section gets waved every year, which basically allows the U.S. to do what is necessary in connection with assisting Azerbaijan.

"Regarding the section's ultimate repeal, that is really a matter for Congress. But again I would like to emphasize that the section 907 has been waved every year by the president for over a decade," Morningstar said.

He also stressed that Azerbaijan has been very active in international peace keeping efforts.

"We certainly appreciate Azerbaijan's contributions," Morningstar said.

Source: Trend

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