Twenty-five years ago today, while then-President George H.W. Bush was delivering his State of the Union message before a joint session of Congress in Washington, Soviet troops attacked unarmed civilian protesters in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, killing some 133 people and wounding hundreds of others.
Azerbaijan: A Quarter Century Since Restoring Independence, A Thriving U.S. Ally
Azerbaijan: A Quarter Century Since Restoring Independence, A Thriving U.S. Ally is an advertising supplement produced by The Washington Times
Why would a relatively stable country at the intersection of the Middle East, Europe and Asia, with a strong economy and burgeoning energy supply, matter to the United States? It's a great question with a relatively easy answer. In 1991, Azerbaijan gained its independence from the Soviet Union and has since proven to be a strong strategic partner to the United States as an energy producer, a staunch opponent of Russia and Iran, and a reliable international ally.
In the middle of Eurasia sits the Caucasus Mountains, flowing down to the Caspian Sea. And on the West Shore of the Caspian sits a small and very important country named Azerbaijan. This country sits between Russia to the North, Iran to the South and the Caspian Sea to the East. Azerbaijan is of particular importance since it holds the rights to significant reserves of oil and gas in the region. All of which makes this small country very strategically important to the West.
If one wonders how the majority Muslim country of Azerbaijan came to such a rich alliance with Israel today, one need look no further than the Red Village, a tiny river conclave in the mountainous region of Quba. There, for centuries, a Jewish community has thrived amid a Muslim population.
Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio, has been one of the most cogent voices on Capitol Hill in educating his colleagues about the importance of Azerbaijan as a strategic U.S. ally. And as chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Parliamentary Assembly, his voice is closely heeded.
Shortly before leaving for holiday recess, the U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Robert F. Cekuta, a career foreign service diplomat with expertise in international energy issues, to be the new American ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan.
A few weeks ago in France, a bastion of democracy, Islamic radicals deliberately targeted a kosher supermarket and killed four Jews. In the frequently criticized Republic of Azerbaijan, Jews celebrated another Sabbath and prayed at Baku's newly built synagogue. The synagogue, one of the largest outside Israel, was opened in this Muslim nation of 8 million at a ceremony attended by the Chief Rabbi of Israel. And yet, despite this glaring contrast, some in our media and foreign policy elite continue to single out Azerbaijan's leadership for criticism.
There are many signs of Azerbaijan's growing economic prowress, but none more visible than the expanding footprint of its main airlines
At a time when the direction of America's foreign policy is generating abundant global bewilderment, policymakers in Congress and the administration must be mindful not to alienate more allies and increase doubt and distrust of America's promises.
Azerbaijan was one of the darlings at the just-completed World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where officials hailed the former Soviet republic for its economic growth and its commitment to global sports competition.
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The complex is less than 20 miles north of the town of Gusar, about 8,200 feet above sea level. Temperatures are perfect for skiing, bottoming out around 34 degrees on winter nights and topping out at 68 degrees during the summer days.
The region draws its name from two of the ancient Turkish tribes that settled there: the Tovuz and the Ovuz. Its buildings and monuments preserve some of the region's rich culture and history, dating to medieval times.
1. Visit the largest saltwater lake in the world: The Caspian Sea.