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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The U.S. needs Eurasia and vice versa

- The Washington Times - Monday, August 30, 2010

The Obama administration's attempt to facilitate dialogue and rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia missed a key point necessary to the success of its goals: Azerbaijan ("Obama cites 'devastating chapter' in Armenia past," Web, News, April 24).

My nation, Azerbaijan, is the first secular parliamentary democracy in the Muslim world. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, it has continued on this track. After some adept planning by the Obama administration and the departments of Defense and State, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates recently paid an official visit to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. While in Azerbaijan, Mr. Gates hand-delivered a letter from President Obama. Azerbaijan has been increasingly baffled by the lack of U.S. interest in the region, following so many years of deep engagement by previous administrations. The nomination of an ambassador, Matthew J. Bryza, after more than a year, was also an appreciated development.

In the letter delivered by Mr. Gates, Mr. Obama expressed his "appreciation for the partnership between our two countries." The letter went on to thank Azerbaijan for its partnership with the United States, its contribution of troops to U.S. and NATO efforts in Afghanistan and support for the International Security Assistance Forces. It stated the president's belief that "a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is essential for the long-term stability of the South Caucasus region."

This has long been Azerbaijani policy - in the case of my opposition party and the ruling party alike. Azerbaijan sees itself and the rest of Eurasia moving closer to the West, increasingly prosperous and progressive, with our Armenian neighbors left behind.

Even more hopeful was the recent visit to Eastern Europe, Azerbaijan and Armenia by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her presence and remarks were even more encouraging for the prospect of a renewed U.S. role and engagement in the region.

Together with partners in Eastern Europe, Turkey and Central Asia, Azerbaijan is creating the new Silk Road - not just for energy, but for transportation, communications, trade and the promotion of ideas such as secularism, dialogue and cooperation of civilizations. Unfortunately, through its self-imposed isolation, our neighbor Armenia does not participate in these projects and progress.

Americans tell me the United States certainly could use more real Muslim friends in the world. The Obama administration is welcome to redouble its efforts at creating ties between our two nations; Eurasia needs the United States, too.

ASIM MOLLAZADE

Chairman, Democratic Reforms

Party of Azerbaijan

Baku, Azerbaijan

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