Azeri Consul General Speaks to Graduate Students at USC

LOS ANGELES–Azerbaijan’s Consulate General in Los Angeles Elin Suleymanov on Tuesday spoke to graduate students at the University of Southern California. His lecture focused Eurasian current affairs, US policy on the South Caucasus and Azerbaijan’s position on regional security issues, the Azeri website reported Wednesday.

The seminar was sponsored by USC professor Robert English.

In his remarks, Suleymanov stressed the need for “a more focused and consistent US policy towards the region.” He complained about “double standards” in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and described US policy on the conflict as a “pursuit of short term objectives at the expense of long term strategy.” Both, he continued, are damaging for US interests in the region.

The Azeri diplomat, however, praised the United States for its role in fostering the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in the 1990s, which connected Azerbaijan to international oil markets and allowed Baku to funnel billions of dollars in oil revenues into its military.

“The BTC oil pipeline was made possible by a sustained, clear bipartisan commitment from Washington,” he said, adding that the commitment of the 1990s was now lacking. “Presently, in spite of Azerbaijan’s readiness to be a part of an expanded East-West natural gas corridor, there is an obvious lack of leadership on the part of potential consumers of Caspian gas.”

Suleymanov also said there was an “urgent need” to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan “as soon as possible.” He expressed the United States would “intensify its efforts in this direction.”

“A fair solution for the conflict would benefit the region as a whole and facilitate Armenia’s integration with its neighbors,” he said, ruling out any possibility for a resolution to the conflict that respects the Nagorno-Karabakh peoples’ right to self-determination.

Suleymanov also commented on Russian-Georgian relations, which took a turn for the worse in August 2008 when the two countries fought a brief but devastating war over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. The Azeri Consul General pointed to the conflict as an example of how an unresolved territorial conflict can “undermine all other aspects of development in the region.”

“Georgia and Russia are Azerbaijan’s neighbors and close partners in the region and that Azerbaijan would be happy to see improved Georgian-Russian relations soon,” he added.


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