- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 29, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

To cast Azerbaijan’s recent peaceful elections in the same light as those of Saddam Hussein grossly misinforms the American public (“Our friend Azerbaijan?” Letters, Nov. 23). The many advances made by this Caspian nation and longtime U.S. ally are commendable and best appreciated by comparison.

Armenian security forces killed 10 of the country’s own unarmed citizens on March 1 when dispersing peaceful demonstrators in Yerevan who were unhappy with the results of the presidential election. Since then, about 70 members of the Armenian opposition have been arrested and remain in prison. This is “democracy,” Armenian style.

In October, Azerbaijan held peaceful elections monitored by more than 31,000 international and domestic observers. Opposition leaders and their supporters expressed themselves freely. Despite calls from some opposition leaders for an election boycott, voter turnout reached 74 percent.

As to the question of armaments, Armenia is locked and loaded with $1 billion worth of weapons given free by Russia, including purely offensive Scud missiles. Moreover, Armenia brings foreign troops onto its soil by hosting a Russian military base.

Contributing to global security, Azerbaijan sent 150 combat troops to serve alongside coalition forces in Iraq, and it has agreed to double its troops serving with NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Media reported that Armenia’s contribution in Iraq consisted primarily of 31 drivers. Armenia sent no one to Afghanistan.

Despite the continued illegal occupation of about 20 percent of its lands and with up to 1 million Azerbaijanis forcibly removed from their homes by Armenian troops, Azerbaijan plays a growing role on the world stage. Azerbaijan has emerged as a key player in energy security, moving more than 1 percent of the world’s demand for oil to Western markets every day from the Caspian basin to the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, Azerbaijan helps neighboring Georgia survive difficult times, signing a five-year contract that provides crucial gas supplies at below-market costs.

Friendship is best displayed with deeds, not words. We Americans and our new leader, President-elect Barack Obama, should know we have a proven friend in Azerbaijan.

BEDIR MEMMEDLI

Vice president

Azerbaijan Society of America, D.C. Chapter

Alexandria

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