Azerbaijan pivotal in region’s future peace – US Ambassador candidate

Azerbaijan pivotal in region’s future peace – US Ambassador candidate

Baku, Azerbaijan, Sept.18
By Elmira Tariverdiyeva - Trend:

Azerbaijan is a country with rich history and has the potential for a bright and prosperous future, the candidate for the post of ambassador to Azerbaijan Robert Cekuta stated at a hearing in the United States Senate.

The bilateral relationships of US and Azerbaijan are important not just for the two countries, but for Azerbaijan's neighbors and the wider region, said the statement on the website of the Committee for External Relations of the United States Senate.

"The United States and Azerbaijan stand only to gain from a stable, democratic, peaceful, prosperous Azerbaijan strategically linked to the United States, our European friends and allies," Cekuta said.
"In the 22 years since the United States and Azerbaijan established diplomatic relations, we have worked with Azerbaijan on three equally important areas - security, energy, and democracy - necessary for the country's full integration into the Euro-Atlantic community," he noted.

Cekuta went on to add that the United States has long recognized Azerbaijan as a stalwart partner on international security.

"We remember that following the attacks of September 11, 2001, then-Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev was among the first to extend a hand of support and to offer his country's close cooperation in our efforts to combat terrorism," he said. "That cooperation continues. American and Azerbaijani troops served together in Kosovo and Iraq".

Cekuta noted that they serve together now in Afghanistan where Azerbaijan has shown a sustained commitment to the international effort including its role as a transportation route in the Northern Distribution Network for supporting NATO's operations.

He also mentioned that thousands of flights have crossed Azerbaijan's airspace en route to Afghanistan, and thousands of containers have departed Baku in support of the International Security Assistance Force.

"If confirmed, I will also work to enhance our security cooperation in numerous other areas, including border security, non-proliferation, and countering human trafficking," the diplomat said.

He recalled that the United States and Azerbaijan have also enjoyed more than 20 years of cooperation on energy security.

"The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the progress on the Southern Corridor for gas represent powerful symbols of Azerbaijan's commitment to global energy security - a key element of our efforts to diversify energy routes and sources for European markets," Cekuta noted.

He added that if he's confirmed as an ambassador, he will continue to work with Azerbaijan to diversify its energy routes and bolster its critical energy infrastructure protection.

"But, just as we continue our security and energy cooperation, we must also continue our efforts to work with Azerbaijan on advancing democratic institutions and processes, and strengthening rule of law," he said. "Both are essential to ensure long-term stability and to help Azerbaijanis unleash the full potential of their country."

"Azerbaijanis point to their 1918 post-Tsarist constitution to say they were the Muslim world's first democracy and that women had the right to vote in Azerbaijan before they won that right in our country," the diplomat noted.

That constitution and republic fell in 1920, but it is a tradition of which Azerbaijanis can be proud, Cekuta said.

"We recognize that Azerbaijan lives in a very difficult neighborhood and must maintain its security and stability, which the United States strongly supports," he noted. "Azerbaijan is a pivotal player in the region's future peace and stability".

Cekuta went on to add that there is no higher priority today for achieving a more secure and prosperous future for the Caucasus than the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

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 two countries signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, France and the U.S. are currently holding peace negotiations. Armenia has not yet implemented four U.N. Security Council resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.

Cekuta noted that the U.S., as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, continues to assist all sides as they seek to achieve a peaceful, lasting negotiated settlement of the conflict based on the UN Charter and relevant documents, and the principles of the Helsinki Final Act.

The Secretary of State Kerry and Ambassador Warlick have made major efforts to facilitate a settlement, he added.

"If confirmed, I will support the Administration's commitment, at the highest levels, to achieving this goal," Cekuta said.

The diplomat underscored that he will do everything in his power to work with Azerbaijanis to build strong, vibrant, modern democracy and sustainable, diversified economy that they want and deserve.
"I will work to advance our relationship in ways consistent with our shared interests and our shared values," he said.

Cekuta, who was nominated for the post of the U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan by President Barack Obama, most recently served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Sanctions, and Commodities in the State Department's Bureau for Energy and Business Affairs.
Recent overseas assignments include Tokyo (2007 - 2009) and Berlin (2003 - 2007) where he led the U.S.governments engagement on the full range of economic issues with two of the world's top economies.
Cekuta's work as Economic Minister Counselor in Germany included counter-terrorism and efforts to combat international criminal activities.

He was also Senior Advisor for Food Security in the State Department's Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and Senior Deputy Coordinating Director at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan for all development and economic affairs.

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