YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Addressing a conference on "The Azerbaijan-Turkey-U.S. Relations and Their Importance for Eurasia" in Washington Monday, Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, said Azerbaijan will need to resolve its outstanding issue with Armenia in order to flourish in the region.
“The South Caucasus cannot achieve its full potential in the absence of a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. As long as Armenia remains isolated in the region, a common vision of prosperity and freedom, and therefore stability, will not be attainable. It is time to wrap up agreement on the Basic Principles of a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement,” he said.
According to Fried, Russia will be a major factor in the South Caucasus; it is neither wise nor possible for the United States to pit itself against Russia as an objective of its policies.
“Rather, in our vision of an open region, there is room for all nations to develop relations with Central Asia and the South Caucasus, as this region finds its own way in the world in its new independence and sovereignty. We will defend and advance this vision vigorously,” he said.
In his presentation, Fried described Azerbaijan as “emerging as a giant producer of natural gas, in addition to the oil that fills the landmark BTC pipeline.”
“Azerbaijan’s gas reserves should be sufficient to launch–and perhaps complete–a new generation of natural gas pipelines that will link Southern and Central Europe with the Caspian Basin via Turkey, providing several of our European Allies with a viable alternative to a monopoly transport system and a closed investment climate,” he said.
According to the U.S. diplomat the opening of energy development and end to closed, monopolistic transport systems will tend to reduce corruption, if matched by development of institutions to see to it that energy wealth benefits the nation: independent, well-regulated and un-politicized banks; and accountability for the energy resources.
“The longer term impact of energy development will also be a factor in Azerbaijan’s success in developing independent institutions. Azerbaijan needs to make its oil and gas deposits become a blessing and national asset, and not a source of fast wealth and long-term instability,” explained Fried.
“We all know of petro-dictatorships abound in the world. Theories are also abound, and they usually revolve around how oil and gas revenues free leaders from checks and balances. Sudden wealth unchecked by strong, honest institutions to handle it can fatten a small group of well-placed leaders rather than strengthen a nation. In such cases, massive amounts of petro-money lead to corruption, mis-governance, economic distortions and, ultimately, political and social instability,” added Fried
“The question now is what kind of state Azerbaijan will become. And that question is not yet answered,” he said.