By Ayya Lmahamad
Ambassador Lee Litzenberger has said that the U.S. welcomes the decision to establish a direct communication line between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Trend reported on November 22.
He made the remarks in an interview with journalists in Baku.
"We welcome this step. We also believe that the parties should demonstrate their readiness to use this mechanism and benefit from it,” he said.
The ambassador also commented on the upcoming meeting of the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders in Brussels.
“I was also very pleased to hear the news about the decision to hold a meeting between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Brussels. The U.S. also worked hard on this. This meeting will ensure trust between the parties," Litzenberger added.
Litzenberger added that the U.S. wants to support a comprehensive settlement between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
“I have seen increasing U.S. engagement in the region with the new administration. We actually see a reflection in the U.S. policy of the changing circumstances in the region. We realize that there are now new opportunities to normalize relations, reach a comprehensive settlement that will allow Azerbaijan and Armenia to live together in peace. We want to support that,” he said.
Lasting South Caucasus peace
The ambassador stressed that the U.S. is committed to ensuring lasting peace in the South Caucasus.
He recalled that next year, the U.S. and Azerbaijan will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
"We have achieved a lot in 30 years. In particular, we have successfully cooperated on the NATO security mission. We are grateful to Azerbaijan for participating in this initiative," he said.
He pointed out that the U.S. over the past 30 years has been a strong supporter of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and independence.
“Developing its energy sources has been the basis for its political independence and has allowed Azerbaijan to make its own decisions and its own choices. We support that. We support that for all of three countries in the South Caucasus," he said.
"We want to see the region have increased independence, increase resilience and stability. We’re more focused on how we can help the three countries in the region work together and cooperate and develop economically through transportation links. There is a huge potential opportunity for the three countries in the region to work together. So, we want to support that,” he added.
Participation in projects in Karabakh
Litzenberger emphasized that three U.S. companies are involved in the implementation of projects in Karabakh.
"I believe that there are great opportunities for the participation of U.S. companies in the implementation of projects in Karabakh. U.S. companies have the best technologies and solutions. They can provide the most modern technologies and best practices," he said.
Speaking about the former IDPs, the ambassador stated that in the aftermath of the conflict last fall there is now an incredibly important opportunity to help support the successful return of internally displaced people in Azerbaijan to their homes and thereby removing a major source of conflict in the region.
He added that the U.S. has been providing assistance for the IDP community for over a decade- providing job skills training, English language instruction, building schools for the community. The ambassador stated that the USAID mission director was asked to begin to look at how the U.S. can direct its assistance programs to help the IDP community to develop the kind of job skills they will need in order to return successfully and build a new economic life.
The ambassador also added that he is planning to visit Azerbaijan's liberated Aghdam. He added that he had already visited the Zangilan region.
Europe’s energy security
He emphasized that the U.S. also supports Azerbaijan’s efforts to ensure energy security in Europe.
Answering a question about the possibility of expanding the Southern Gas Corridor, the ambassador said that it depends on commercial decisions.
“Azerbaijan is doing everything possible to ensure energy security in Europe. We have provided political support for the Southern Gas Corridor," he said.
He stressed that the U.S. position on this issue will remain unchanged.
Litzenberger stated that the U.S. is working to help support the diversification of the Azerbaijani economy.
“We have a long and strong track record of supporting the development of Azerbaijan’s energy resources, starting with oil, with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, but then, most recently, with the Southern Gas Corridor, that’s today brings Azerbaijani gas to Italy, supporting Europe’s energy independence and energy security," he said.
He added that the work is underway to help support the diversification of Azerbaijan's economy in fields further than energy.
The ambassador noted that the U.S. would like to see more opportunities made available for the American companies in Azerbaijan. He said that the American companies are ready to invest and participate around the world where the conditions exist for them to come and compete and operate successfully.
" I would like to see more opportunities made available to American companies and one way, in particular, is through the use of public open tenders. That way all companies in the US would be able to see what are the priorities for Azerbaijan’s development, including in Karabakh and what types of technologies Azerbaijan is looking for. Then American companies can propose their solutions. I am confident that they will be able to compete successfully and again help Azerbaijan develop its economy. So, there is no limit to the areas that we could potentially cooperate,” he said.
Cooperation amid COVID-19
The ambassador stated that the U.S. had provided $6 million in humanitarian aid to Azerbaijan to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
He added that the vaccination of the population is the only way to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Litzenberger emphasized that the U.S. is committed to continue the partnership with Azerbaijan in healthcare even after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Vaccination levels are increasing both in Azerbaijan and the US. They are essential in the diplomatic community to be able to do our business. We have vaccines and I think that will help the world find its way out of this pandemic. I am eager as the situation improves to redouble our efforts for person-to-person kind of communication," he said.
"We’ve been working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and with TABIB very closely to provide training, equipment and to help with the transformation of the public health sector to deal with this unprecedented global crisis,” he added.
Ayya Lmahamad is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @AyyaLmahamad
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