Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct. 18
By Elmira Tariverdiyeva – Trend:
Over the two and a half decades since restoring its independence from the Soviet Union, the Republic of Azerbaijan has emerged as a significant regional player aptly described by some as the “keystone” of the Caucasus-Caspian region, said Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to the US Elin Suleymanov in his article published by the Huffington Post.
However, on Oct. 18, 1991, when Azerbaijan declared its independence, the nation’s future looked far from certain and getting to where it stands today was not an easy path for the Azerbaijani people, says the article.
Key pillars of the development strategy have remained broadly constant for the last quarter of a century, said Suleymanov in his article.
“They include a profound understanding that the development of the region benefits Azerbaijan, hence Azerbaijan can succeed if the region as a whole is succeeding. In this context, the Caspian energy resources, which produced the first oil boom of the 20th century, provide a strong basis for Azerbaijan’s economic growth as well as for regional cooperation and integration into the international community,” he noted. “Further, the leadership strongly reinforced Azerbaijan’s commitment to building an inclusive, tolerant and a secular modern nation and also has engaged in its trademark pragmatic foreign policy.”
Already in 1990s, this resulted in building a strategic relationship with the US, integrated partnership ties with Georgia and Turkey, as well as successful implementation of major energy projects with international partners and construction of key oil and natural gas pipelines, said the author.
Importantly, Azerbaijan’s regional initiatives received a strong and valuable support from both Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, he added.
Today, Azerbaijan is leading Europe’s most ambitious energy project – the Southern Gas Corridor, says the article, and this is not because Azerbaijan owns energy resources but rather because of the choices how to use them.
As an independent state, Azerbaijan has worked hard to turn its geography into an advantage, according to Suleymanov.
“Indeed, nothing makes people of Azerbaijan more proud than their society’s long tradition of diversity and rejecting both extremism and stereotypes,” said the author. “Azerbaijan is where the simplistic and defeatist notion of the “clash of civilizations” is rejected, and where cultures, religions and confessions come together for a dialogue and building a common home.”
A quarter of a century may seem as an instant in human history, yet, for a million Azerbaijanis displaced from their homes as a result of Armenia’s occupation of the internationally-recognized Azerbaijani territories, the two decades of exile feel like a century, noted the ambassador adding that the protracted and unresolved Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict remains the main challenge to the future of both Armenia and Azerbaijan and a long-hanging Damocles sword over the entire region.
A lasting, international law-based settlement would allow the region prosper even more, enable Azerbaijan to address its major humanitarian issue of generations of displaced citizens and help Armenia to finally become a truly independent nation, according to the author.
The people of Azerbaijan look to their future with confidence and eagerness to realize a unique historic opportunity to build an independent nation, added Suleymanov.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts. The 1994 ceasefire agreement was followed by peace negotiations.
Armenia has not yet implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding districts.