- The Washington Times - Monday, August 23, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Strong, sustainable partnerships are built on long-term strategic interests and understanding. Herein lies an important challenge the United States faces in Eurasia: Achieving both strategic and tactical goals requires outlook and commitment (“Gates courts a putout Azerbaijan,” Web, News, June 6).

The Obama administration’s initial focus in the Caucasus has been to push the opening of the Armenia-Turkey border at any cost. This is a noble objective, but realistically, it can only be achieved as a part of a wider strategic vision. This was how, in the 1990s, the United States was able to build strong partnerships and help emerging nations establish themselves in the international community.

It was a positive sign when Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, in Baku in early June to discuss security cooperation and Afghanistan, delivered a letter from President Obama emphasizing the need to broaden U.S.-Azerbaijani relations. Today, Azerbaijan is a non-ideological, pragmatic and independent player committed foremost to guarding its national interests. In terms of regional stability and long-term U.S. interests, such pragmatism is exactly what is needed.

Democratic reforms are best advanced through engagement within a comprehensive context. Throughout the region, much remains to be done, but the steady progress should not be overlooked. In Azerbaijan, from establishment of the award-winning Oil Fund to rapidly growing levels of economic development, the process of nation-building has been vibrant and transformative. Institutional reforms take time.

ELIN SULEYMANOV

Consul general, Embassy of Azerbaijan

Los Angeles

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