Importance of Azerbaijan rising in the world

Azerbaijan Materials 7 February 2013 11:32 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, Feb. 7 / Trend E. Kosolapova/

The importance of Azerbaijan is rising in the world, David Merkel, Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations - John Hopkins University in the US and Former US State Department and National Security Council Senior official believes.

According to Merkel, the relations with Azerbaijan are an issue of great importance for Washington. And the same could be said about Brussels, Berlin or London, he told Trend in an interview.

"I think the relations [between Azerbaijan and US] have greatly improved since 2011. ..They are better now than they were a couple of years ago," Merkel said.

According to Merkel, Azerbaijan is the most reliable partner in the region for US and NATO in the process of troop's withdrawal from Afghanistan.

It is very questionable issue if NATO will be able to bring equipment and troops from Afghanistan through Manas base in Kyrgyzstan after 2014. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan really may be the most stable country in this issue, the country the NATO can rely on the most, Merkel said.

Air base at Manas which was later renamed as the Transit Centre was opened in late 2001 after the U.S launched its operation in Afghanistan. At present, it accommodates about 1,200 U.S soldiers. According to Pentagon statistics, the base handles up to 15,000 coalition servicemen and 500 tons of cargoes a month. The agreement on deployment of the U.S. air base in Kyrgyzstan is valid until 2014. According to Kyrgyz authorities, the base will be closed after the agreement expires .

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan will remain very important US partner in the activity in Afghanistan even after withdrawal of NATO troops from this country, Merkel said.