Mr. Rubin, how do you find US-Azeri relations currently? What are the US priorities in Azerbaijan?
The United States values its strategic partnership with Azerbaijan, which is based on shared interests in security (especially a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, counter-terrorism, and Afghanistan), energy, and democratic and economic reform. Ambassador Bryza recently noted that the US-Azerbaijani Ã¢â‚¬Å“strategic partnership is strong and is getting strongerÃ¢â‚¬Â. I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t agree more.
The United States deeply appreciates AzerbaijanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s contributions to international security efforts. Azerbaijani troops have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. troops in Iraq, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, where 90 Azerbaijani troops currently serve. Azerbaijan continues to play a key role on transportation of troops and non-lethal supplies in support of the international effort in Afghanistan.
The US also supports AzerbaijanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s current efforts to help our European allies diversify their natural gas supplies.
As Secretary Clinton said when she visited Baku last year, our closest relationships are with democratic states that respect the full range of human rights of its citizens. The United States believes that AzerbaijanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s future prosperity and stability are best served by continued democratic and economic reform. AzerbaijanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s progress on reform is the key to strengthening our bilateral relationship and to its own stability.
Recently, the European Union revealed its intention to start talks with Azerbaijan over construction of a Trans Caspian Pipeline to bring natural gas from the Caspian region to western markets. But Russia criticized this move. What is the US view on the project?
The United States supports the development of a robust and competitive energy sector in the Caspian region and beyond. Competition and multiple export routes to market are in the interests of the United States, Azerbaijan, and other Caspian energy producing nations.
A Trans Caspian Pipeline would contribute positively to the development of the Caspian energy sector and to the diversification of EuropeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s energy supplies, but this is an issue for the European Union, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan to decide.
The Southern Corridor is a key plank in the diversification of European Energy supplies. Why does this matters to the US? What should be done to make the Southern Corridor a reality?
The diversification of suppliers, transportation routes, and markets enhances the economic and energy security of producer, transit, and consumer countries. The United States has consistently supported the development of the Southern Corridor. It generates prosperity for, and strengthens the independence of, our energy producing allies in the Caspian region. It also bolsters the energy security of our European allies and strengthens their cooperation with each other.
To make the Southern Corridor a reality, however, Azerbaijan and Turkey must finalize a gas transit agreement. We have urged the two sides to complete their negotiations and sign the agreement as soon as possible. No matter which export route is ultimately chosen, new gas sources will flow westward through new routes.
A long-standing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Karabakh has been a major problem for Azerbaijan. The latest talks between the sides have failed, as US and other mediators are keen to find a peaceful solution. Do you see any chance to reach peace agreement in the near future? Do you see any international example for autonomy, which might be introduced in Karabakh in order to resolve the conflict?
The United States remains committed to working with the parties, as a Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, to achieve a lasting and peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based upon three core principles of the Helsinki Final Act: the non-use or threat of force, territorial integrity of states, and equal rights and self-determination of peoples.
While the Basic Principles were not finalized in Kazan, Presidents Aliyev and Sargsian, in their joint statement with President Medvedev following the Kazan Summit, noted that they reached mutual understanding on a number of issues. They also agreed to continue to work on the Basic Principles as a framework for a comprehensive peace settlement.
With the assistance of the OSCE Minsk Group Chairs, the parties continue to work to find common ground. The United States remains engaged in the Minsk Group process – at the highest levels – to assist the sides in clarifying their positions and bridging the differences needed to reach agreement.
There is no military solution to the conflict. Only a negotiated settlement can lead to long-term peace and stability, opening new opportunities for regional development and cooperation.