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Congressman Shuster: Azerbaijan a ‘Great Friend of America' and ‘Extremely Important to the World'

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 29, 2009

Contact: Sevda Ismayilova
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Pennsylvania Representative Highlights U.S. - Azerbaijan Relations in the 111th Congress at USACC Luncheon Briefing


Washington, D.C. - Touting Azerbaijan as a "great friend of America" and a staunch ally in everything from commerce to security, U.S. Congressman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania briefed attendees of a special USACC luncheon this week on the state of U.S -Azerbaijan relations in the 111th Congress.

At the July 27 event in Washington, D.C., Congressman Shuster briefed the audience on the work of the Azerbaijan Caucus, and highlighting its importance in Congress.

Shuster pointed out that one of his reasons for joining the Caucus was because in Azerbaijan was one of the very few countries that expressed solidarity on issues important to the US. Of his first trip to Azerbaijan, he said: "I realized that here is a country in a strategic location and it has strategic resources, oil and gas, which is which is extremely important to the world."

Shuster said it is difficult to grow the number of members in the Caucus but that he and his colleagues have been working to increase its size. "We need to make it a critical mass to bring the number in the Caucus to 100-120 to catch attention and to push something forward like the elimination of the Section 907," he said, referring to onerous legislation that prohibits the U.S. from giving direct aid to Azerbaijan unless waived by presidential authority.

Elaborating on his travels to the region, Shuster said he was especially pleased to hear President Ilham Aliyev articulate the need for the country to diversify its economy and not become reliant on energy revenues. Creating educational opportunities for the country is among President Aliyev's strategies toward this goal, Shuster said.

Shuster pointed out that Azerbaijan continues to be a strong strategic partner for the United States, with the two countries' interests especially merging over the last several years on energy, security, stability, and the global fight against terrorism.

Sharing the closeness he feels with Azerbaijan, Shuster said he admires the fact that Azerbaijan drilled its first oil 10 years before Pennsylvania's historic oil find.

The Congressman also spoke about his close collaboration with the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to the US, Yashar Aliyev, and said that he appreciated his hard work in strengthening the bilateral relations between the two countries. Shuster added that he and Ambassador Aliyev are working on expanding the educational opportunities for students of both the countries to participate in exchange programs.

In his efforts to expand the economic ties between the US and Azerbaijan, Congressman said that he is working to create trade missions to take companies from Pennsylvania to Azerbaijan.

Shuster also addressed the topic of democracy strengthening, pointing out that it is a long and difficult process. "Americans tend to forget how long it's taken us to get here - it's been 230 years to get to where we are today," he said. He added that "step by step I feel Azerbaijan will continue to build democracy."

The luncheon briefing with Congressman Shuster was organized by the USACC and sponsored by Eurasian Cargo. The event was attended by U.S. private sector representatives, USACC member companies, as well as the representatives of the US and Azerbaijani government.

In addition to his work on the Azerbaijan Caucus, Shuster is also the Ranking Republican Member on the Transportation and Infrastructure's Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Material. The subcommittee is one of the most important in Congress, with jurisdiction over all matters involving rail transportation, from Amtrak to cargo, employee contracts to rail security.

A native of Pennsylvania, Congressman Shuster attended Dickinson College where he received a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and History. Shortly thereafter, he went on to earn a Master's Degree in Business Administration from American University in Washington, D.C.

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The US - Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce (USACC) is a nonprofit, Washington, D.C. based organization that seeks to promote trade and investments between the United States and Azerbaijan by rendering various business services. The USACC actively seeks U.S. and international investments and companies whose products and strategic interests can be advanced in the Azerbaijani market. It also serves as a liaison between foreign companies and Azerbaijani businesses and government officials. To learn more about the USACC, please visit www.usacc.org

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