By Aynur Karimova
The U.S. Vise President, Joe Biden has stressed Azerbaijan's strategic importance as an ally, welcoming Baku's active participation in the international anti-terror coalition in Afghanistan.
Biden, in a meeting with President Ilham Aliyev, who is in Washington on a working visit to participate at the 4th Nuclear Security Summit, said that the steps taken to define opportunities for defense cooperation between the two countries are of importance.
Biden stated that the U.S. attaches great importance to meetings with President Aliyev, adding that these meetings contribute to expanding the Azerbaijan-U.S. cooperation and elevating bilateral relations to a new level.
Azerbaijan and the U.S. established diplomatic relations in 1992. Today the two countries enjoy close ties - active political dialogue and economic cooperation. To date, the U.S. companies have invested more than $10 billion in Azerbaijan's economy.
Biden believes that there are good opportunities for expanding the bilateral ties in all areas, particularly in economy.
Azerbaijan, which has suffered from Armenian terrorism for many years, has always been active in counterterrorism operations of the U.S. and participating in peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today, some 100 military servicemen of the South Caucasus nation are serving with NATO servicemen in Afghanistan.
Biden also mentioned this factor, saying Azerbaijan and the U.S. enjoy good cooperation with respect to security and peacekeeping operations.
Azerbaijan, which is an initiator of huge oil and gas projects of international importance and plays a significant role in ensuring Europe's energy security, is considered a reliable partner by the U.S.
Biden at a meeting with President Aliyev once again voiced Washington's strong support to the Southern Gas Corridor project, which will carry Azerbaijan's blue fuel to the European market.
He said the U.S. fully supports Azerbaijan's efforts to implement the Southern Gas Corridor project, and added that the country will take necessary measures in this regard.
Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was among the discussed topics. Biden said the U.S., which is one of three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, resolutely supports Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and added that this is of great importance for the U.S.
President Aliyev, in turn, highlighted Azerbaijan's position on the conflict and thanked the U.S. for its firm position on the settlement of the dispute, and underlined the significance of solving the problem. He said that the U.S. plays a vital role in finding a peaceful and negotiated solution to the conflict.
President Aliyev also stressed the importance of President Barack Obama's stance - as president of the co-chair country - that the status quo is unacceptable.
Touching upon the reforms conducted in Azerbaijan, President Aliyev said that the government conducts reforms in all areas and the freedom of thought, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, freedom of Internet are provided in the country.
The head of state expressed Azerbaijan's interest in strengthening cooperation with the U.S. in political, economic and energy fields.
The sides also expressed mutual interest in maintaining strong and long-term cooperation between the two countries.
Before President Aliyev had a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss some issues on political agenda.
As part of the visit to Washington, President Aliyev also held several meetings with the U.S. officials.
He met with former Governor of the State of New Hampshire and White House Former Chief of Staff under President George H. W. Bush, John Sununu, and the sides exchanged views on current state and future development of relations between Azerbaijan and the U.S.
Later, President Aliyev met with Fred P. Hochberg, the Chairman and President of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. They discussed the expansion of relations between Azerbaijan and the Bank, and stressed the importance of studying the prospects for cooperation in various fields.
They exchanged views over opportunities for cooperation with Ex-Im Bank on several projects to be implemented in Azerbaijan, as well as in the fields of electric power, gas, irrigation and cotton growing.
President Aliyev and Hochberg also exchanged views on opportunities for cooperation in the East-West transport corridor, shipment and other fields.
Also, President Aliyev held meetings with President of Armitage International Richard L. Armitage, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace William J. Burns, as well as the Vice Chairman of General Electric, John G. Rice in Washington.
Later, a dinner reception was hosted on behalf of President Obama in the White House for the heads of state and government attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. President Aliyev attended the reception.
Aynur Karimova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Aynur_Karimova
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