Envoy: U.S. companies can participate in Karabakh rehabilitation
By Vugar Khalilov
U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan Earle Litzenberger has stated that American companies can be involved in the reconstruction of Azerbaijan’s liberated territories, Trend has reported.
Litzenberger made the remarks at a press conference with local journalists on February 16.
He underlined that U.S. companies can take part in many spheres in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region, including the restoration of these territories.
“I would like to see more U.S. companies in Azerbaijan… The U.S. companies have great experience and advanced technologies to participate in the reconstruction process in the Karabakh region,” the ambassador stressed.
He added that U.S. companies could also help with demining in Azerbaijan's liberated areas.
"I have visited Aghdam and Zangilan. I’ve seen the extent of the problem. We have close relationship with [Azerbaijan's Mine Action Agency] ANAMA. So, we understand very well what the challenges are. It is going to be a huge project. I would like to see American companies play role in that process. I think the government is still looking at that. The preference has been to use local sources. However, U.S. companies do have some technology and techniques that I think are of interest to the government. Hopefully, we will find a way forward. The US government recently announced a $500,000 grant of assistance to help address the issue in the region. In addition, we have an NGO called the Marshall Legacy Institute, which is already working with the government and ANAMA. It donates and contributes mine detection dogs. They have provided some 30 dogs this year. Some of them are being purchased by the government, but about half of them are donated," Litzenberger said.
The ambassador recalled that the United States had provided Azerbaijan with $100 million in security assistance over the previous two years.
“We mean equipment and training, rather than weapons… As one of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, the U.S. wants to help Azerbaijan and Armenia solve problems and therefore, we do not provide weapons to any side,” he added.
South Caucasus peace
The U.S. is ready to support the opening of communications and creating peace in the South Caucasus, Litzenberger stressed.
"The U.S. is committed to supporting comprehensive peace in the region. We’re committed to supporting the opening up of transportation links to support to build prosperity in the entire region. We would like to see all three countries in the South Caucasus become stronger. We would also like to see regional cooperation increase. That’s going to take some time. But we stand ready support bringing the parties together over whatever issues they want. I would like to highlight that the U.S. played a significant role in normalization earlier on after the conflict,” he underlined.
The ambassador highlighted the importance of confidence-building measures between Azerbaijan and Armenia in resolving the current problems in the region.
“We have always urged both sides to engage in confidence-building measures that will help resolve the issues that still need to be resolved: border demarcation, demining, transportation corridors, missing persons. All of these need to be worked on. We welcome EU’s engagement and we monitor very closely Russia’s engagement. The U.S. is always looking for opportunities where we could bring the parties together to play a role to support that. We will support any format that will help resolve the issues and help the parties to move towards peace,” the ambassador said.
The normalization of Turkey-Armenia relations will help unblock regional communications, the diplomat said.
"Normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia will help improve relations between Baku and Yerevan. This will contribute to the opening of communications in the region," Litzenberger stressed.
He stated that Azerbaijan has the potential to bring peace to a wider geographic area.
"The U.S. will remain a committed partner to Azerbaijan. We believe Azerbaijan has a great opportunity to advance the causes of peace and prosperity not only in this region but beyond. That’s the partnership we want to have with Azerbaijan,” the envoy added.
Highlighting the two countries' multifaceted relations, Litzenberger stated that the U.S. is ready to assist Azerbaijan in the region's peace-building process.
"We are marking 30 years of your friendship and we’re also marking Azerbaijan’s independence. I really want to underscore that the U.S. has from the very beginning been a strong supporter of Azerbaijan’s independence. For 30 years we’ve worked with the Azerbaijani government and the people of Azerbaijan on issues of broadening these relations from the rule of law, human rights, the economy, energy security, which are incredibly important components of our relations. I think our track record is strong. As a friend of Azerbaijan, the U.S. stands ready to help find peace and construct the economic, transportation, and people-to-people connections to help the entire region to prosper in peace,” he added.
Strong security cooperation
The ambassador emphasized that Azerbaijan and the U.S. have established strong security cooperation.
"We have developed strong and robust security cooperation. It started with Azerbaijan’s early participation in the international efforts in Afghanistan to combat terrorism. Azerbaijan stood by us in Afghanistan all the way to the end. In conjunction with Turkey, Azerbaijan’s providing security in Hamid Karzai International Airport. I saw Azerbaijani forces at the airport. I very much appreciate the role that Azerbaijan has played in that coalition and continues to cooperate with us in a range of counterterrorism issues. We also work very closely with Azerbaijan to secure its borders, its land borders to the South and maritime borders to the East. On the Caspian side we’re helping Azerbaijan secure its critical energy infrastructure, the offshore oil and gas wells and pipelines that really form the basis of Azerbaijan’s economic independence, which underpins its political independence," he said.
In terms of educational cooperation, Litzenberger stated that the U.S. and Azerbaijan are attempting to increase the number of student exchange programs.
“We have over 500 Azerbaijani students studying in the US. I would love to see that 5,000. I think it is one of the best programs we have to build relationships, to lay the foundation for the next 30 years of our relationship. We strongly support expanding opportunities for people-to-people exchanges on English language instruction. I am really pleased with the cooperation we had this year with the ministry of education to build and develop dual degree programs between Azerbaijani and US universities, which increases the number of Azerbaijani students that have access to US education. When they graduate, they get degrees from both universities. I would like to double or triple our exchange programs, we’re trying to increase them as much as we can,” said the ambassador.
Since 1997, the U.S. has been acting as one of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs along with Russia and France to promote a peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict through negotiation and mediation. The OSCE Minsk Group was instituted in 1992 and activated in 1994.
On January 27, 2021, U.S. ambassador Earle Litzenberger congratulated Azerbaijan on the restoration of its territorial integrity and expressed the U.S. readiness to participate in the restoration of the lands liberated from Armenia's occupation.
A Moscow-brokered ceasefire deal that Baku and Yerevan signed on November 10 brought an end to six weeks of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani army declared a victory against the Armenian troops. The signed agreement obliged Armenia to withdraw its troops from the Azerbaijani lands that it has occupied since the early 1990s.
On January 11, the Azerbaijani, Russian and Armenian leaders signed the second statement since the end of the 44-day war. The newly-signed statement is set to implement clause 9 of the November 2020 statement related to the unblocking of all economic and transport communications in the region.
Azerbaijan was one of the first countries to join the global anti-terror coalition assembled by the U.S. government. Azerbaijan opened its airspace to the allied forces and assured its agencies would cooperate and provide information that would assist in American-led efforts.
Azerbaijan’s contributions to the U.S.-led anti-terror campaign also included deploying a peacekeeping contingent in Afghanistan. Azerbaijani peacekeepers began serving there in November 2002, and by 2021 the contingent consisted of 120 servicemen. They left the country more than a week after the Taliban seized power on August 15, 2021.
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