Azerbaijan, Gabala /corr. Trend A.Gasimova / Elin Suleymanov, Azerbaijan's Consul-General in Los Angeles said during his interview for the Salt Lake Tribune that the Azerbaijan economy had reached an unprecedented 35 % growth rate in 2006 which was indeed fueled mostly by energy.
"However, the most impressive growth is taking place in areas such as transportation, communication and construction. We realize the urgent need to diversify our economy and avoid long-term overdependence on the oil sector," he noted. Azerbaijan welcomes foreign investors. In addition to the areas mentioned above, agriculture, food processing and tourism are also promising areas where Utah's experience could be very valuable. We also hope that university exchanges will help establish an important bridge between Azerbaijan and Utah. According to the diplomat, the economic transition was compounded by a conflict with neighboring Armenia. That resulted in occupation of Azerbaijani lands and displacement of large numbers of our citizens. Though some territories remain under occupation, we have privatized the land amongst our farmers, which resulted in a significant growth in domestic agricultural production. "We recognize that small and medium-sized businesses will form the core of any nation's long-term stability and our government is pursuing privatization with that in mind. We appreciate any friendly advice from our international partners." Suleymanov noted. Azerbaijan, a predominantly Muslim nation and a reliable friend of the United States, contributes to global energy security, and our soldiers stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. We also share the same values of freedom, religious tolerance and diversity. Azerbaijan hopes for deeper economic ties with U.S.