Envoy: US supports Azerbaijan's contribution to Europe’s energy security

22 August 2020 12:00 (UTC+04:00)

By Akbar Mammadov

The United States Ambassador Earle Litzenberger has reiterated Washington’s support for Azerbaijan's contribution to Europe’s energy security and for the Southern Gas Corridor that will take Caspian hydrocarbons to the European markets.

The ambassador also praised Azerbaijan’s energy infrastructure.

Addressing the Regional Energy Security Symposium held in Baku, Litzenberger said: “Our message has been clear and consistent: Azerbaijan’s role in supporting and contributing to European and global energy security and stability represents a sustained positive commitment and contribution we deeply value.”

Litzenberger said that strong U.S. support for Azerbaijan’s efforts to secure export routes to world markets for its abundant energy resources, and thereby diversify Europe’s energy supply has constituted keystone of our economic and energy cooperation between the two countries.

He emphasized that at the same time, the United States is cognizant of the fact that Azerbaijan is transitioning from mainly oil exports to a greater share of gas exports through the Southern Gas Corridor, supported by a more-diversified non-oil economy.

The ambassador reiterated Washington’s sustained support for the Southern Gas Corridor as well as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in the late 1990s. He reminded that the US firms were in Azerbaijan since the signing of the Contract of the Century in 1994 and hold largest share in the contract. He added that the U.S. have continued to invest billions of dollars into Azerbaijan’s economic development.

Speaking about the Southern Gas Corridor megaproject, he stressed that it is of strategic importance both for the sovereignty and independence of the nations involved and contributes to the energy security of U.S. allies and partners.

The ambassador reaffirmed U.S. support for Azerbaijan and the companies involved in the Southern Gas Corridor.

“This is the first east-west non-Russian gas export pipeline. Completion will bring Azerbaijan a significant step forward as a provider, not only of energy, but also security and stability to Europe. Now that it is nearly completed we also need to look ahead to the future of the SGC, and think about opportunities to expand that flow of gas by forging links across the Caspian,” Litzenberger said.

The ambassador also praised Azerbaijan’s energy infrastructure.

“Over the years, Azerbaijan has built impressively resilient energy infrastructure, together with its commercial and strategic partners. Hardened infrastructure protects populations from potentially disastrous stress on economies and real-world threats to the lives of vulnerable populations. Free markets prevent countries from using gas for political purposes, and drive economic growth across the world.”

The ambassador said that the intersection of energy and security remains an important and relevant topic despite the challenges over COVID-19.

Speaking about the Azerbaijan-U.S. ties, the ambassador noted that the bilateral relationship has rested on three common pillars: security cooperation, economic and energy cooperation, and support for human rights and the rule of law.

“Security cooperation, as one of these three pillars, includes this week’s event.”

“United States has fully supported Azerbaijan’s independence, stability, and prosperity since its independence from the Soviet Union,” he went on saying.

Litzenberger added that the United States and Azerbaijan also have robust ongoing cooperative security initiatives underway throughout the country to strengthen border security, protect critical energy infrastructure on the Caspian Sea, enhance cybersecurity, and counter transnational terrorism.

“In the last two years, the United States approved $100 million for security assistance to Azerbaijan. Approximately half of that funding is being used on the Caspian Sea for surveillance equipment, small vessels, and training that will enhance security and the protection of maritime critical energy infrastructure,” he said.

The ambassador highlighted that as part of protecting Azerbaijan’s critical energy and cyberinfrastructure, he has been calling for improving the effectiveness of intellectual property rights enforcement in Azerbaijan.

“We’ve been able to obtain a pledge from the American Chamber of Commerce that all member companies will use only licensed software. But more still needs to be done,” he added.

Noting that cybersecurity remains a key component of energy infrastructure security, the envoy noted that this is an area in which the United States continues to invest heavily.

“We strongly urge Azerbaijan to make this a priority and take the same measures, firstly by ensuring IP rights are respected, and secondly by hardening their systems to potential attacks from malign actors,” Litzenberger stressed.

The ambassador emphasized that the United States stands ready to continue to support Azerbaijan’s further development as a reliable supplier of energy to the world. “I hope that you all can reflect on your discussions of the past week to make your own contribution to this goal,” he concluded.

 

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Akbar Mammadov  is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AkbarMammadov97

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