Washington not to repeat mistake of Paris: details of James O'Brien's visit to Baku

Politics Materials 8 December 2023 10:47 (UTC +04:00)
Washington not to repeat mistake of Paris: details of James O'Brien's visit to Baku
Tahmaz Asadov
Tahmaz Asadov
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, December 8. Washington has made it clear that it is not going to repeat the mistake of Paris. The US has decided to adjust its policy towards the South Caucasus, which it has been pursuing over the past month. It was clear that the anti-Azerbaijani remarks of Assistant Secretary of State James O'Brien at a House subcommittee hearing on November 15 could deal a serious blow to relations between the two countries.

However, it did not take the US diplomat long to realize that this policy is fundamentally flawed and that such an unbalanced policy in the South Caucasus does not promise Washington anything favorable. That is why O'Brien made a phone call to President Ilham Aliyev after his speech.

The Assistant Secretary of State was explained that in any issue in the South Caucasus, it is already extremely important to reckon with Baku. Likely, O'Brien was also given the example of Iran and France after the 44-day war.

The biased attitude of James O'Brien towards Baku even led to the cancelation of the planned meeting of the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Washington and the de facto rejection of US mediation by Baku. Most likely, James O'Brien decided to meet with the Azerbaijani ambassador to the US a few days after he realized that his speech in Congress went beyond the red lines.

In case relations continued to escalate, it would not have been in the interests of either the US. or Azerbaijan. In particular, Azerbaijan's expression of its principled position in response to the misunderstanding with the US, helped Washington realize that this was not the way to continue relations with Azerbaijan.

Yesterday's visit of James O'Brien to Azerbaijan made it clear that relations are returning to the previous course. Blinken was able to explain to his aide that this is especially important in the current period in Washington's policy in the South Caucasus, as he in his statements tried to maintain a balance between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

It was of interest what O'Brien, who spoke against Azerbaijan in the US Congress, would say in Azerbaijan. It is no secret that O'Brien has dealt a blow to the security interests of the United States with his speech in the Congress.

The blow to cooperation with Azerbaijan, the leading state of the South Caucasus, its main actor, was contrary to the security interests of the United States. It should be taken into account that the US and Azerbaijan have years of cooperation in the field of security and energy, and Washington should not repeat the mistakes of Paris regarding the policy of the South Caucasus.

The decisive, strong-willed policy demonstrated by President Ilham Aliyev over the past three years after his historic victory to change the geopolitical order in the region in the interests of Azerbaijan, despite the pressure of international forces in various directions, is having an effect in a wider area.

If it was not, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken would not have called Baku and asked President Ilham Aliyev to receive James O'Brien, even given that before the meeting another statement softening relations came from Washington. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said, "We never said that we were not going to continue relations with Azerbaijan; that would be contrary to our interests."

Washington has reversed policy in the South Caucasus over the past month, sensing a serious need for adjustment. The result was that the meeting in Baku between James O'Brien and President Ilham Aliyev highlighted positive aspects of the relationship. Firstly, President Ilham Aliyev emphasized the rich history of relations between Azerbaijan and the US, noting that during the years of Azerbaijan's independence, cooperation relations were established in various spheres, especially in the field of energy. Secondly, Ilham Aliyev noted that after the full restoration of Azerbaijan's sovereignty, historical opportunities for peace are being created, and the US can contribute to this process taking into account the new realities.

James O'Brien confirmed President Ilham Aliyev's words. The American diplomat emphasized that relations between the US and Azerbaijan have deep roots and that both states are good partners. He also spoke about the role of the US in supplying Azerbaijan's energy resources to world markets. Saying that America supports the peace agenda in the region, normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and negotiations on the peace treaty, O'Brien brought to President Ilham Aliyev's attention that the US is ready to continue negotiations in Washington. He also emphasized that the US supports the continuation of discussions on the development of the concept of the Trans-Caspian transport route, as well as the opening of communications between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

O'Brien recanted his words in Congress. However, Baku has more expectations from Washington. The importance the US attaches to Azerbaijan should be reflected in its South Caucasus policy as well. Brien and other US officials afterward will probably think twice before speaking out against Azerbaijan. If Washington wants to maintain a balanced policy towards the region, this is necessary.

Yesterday's meeting and positive messages give grounds to say that visits of Azerbaijani officials to the US will resume very soon. This is important for positively maintaining bilateral relations. U.S.-Azerbaijani relations are returning to the previous level.

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