BAKU: Interview with US envoy on bilateral ties, Iran

APA, Azerbaijan
[Translated from Azeri]
Dec 10 2012

Interview with US envoy on bilateral ties, Iran

The new US ambassador to Azerbaijan, Richard Morningstar, has outlined
priority areas for cooperation between his country and Azerbaijan.
“Azerbaijan has helped us a lot with regard to Afghanistan,”
Morningstar said in an interview with APA news agency. He also said
that US-Azerbaijani military ties are “very good” and that that
settling the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict between Baku and Yerevan
remains a priority task for the US administration. Speaking about
Iran, he said that “if Azerbaijan is able to influence to some extent
the position of Iran this would, of course, come very handy”. The
following is an excerpt from the interview published by APA news

[Correspondent] President Barack Obama has said that during his second
presidential term he will make a foreign trip to Turkey. Can we say on
the basis of this that in the second presidential term he will pay
more attention to this region?

[Morningstar] Our administration will continue to attach important and
high priority to Azerbaijan. The USA and Azerbaijan have common
interests in a number of important areas that include regional
security, the Nagornyy Karabakh issue, Iran and Afghanistan.
Azerbaijan has helped us a lot with regard to Afghanistan. Other areas
of cooperation include the energy sector. Here we believe that it is
important for Azerbaijan to achieve greater diversification of its
economy and to continue our joint efforts with Azerbaijan to this end.
The recent forum on internet governance was a very good example of

What is more, we continue our work with the government in the areas of
democracy and human rights. During her visit to Azerbaijan in June,
the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said that we have best
relations with those governments and those states that protect and
guarantee human rights. We are waiting with impatience for resumption
of our activities with the government to this end.

Karabakh conflict

[Correspondent] Does the USA plan to play a more active role in
resolving the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict?

[Morningstar] Of course, settling the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict will
remain a high priority task for the [US] administration and I believe
that resolving this conflict is a very high priority for our relations
with Azerbaijan. I have spent about three months in Azerbaijan and I
have clearly realized during this period that settling this conflict
is important for everybody in Azerbaijan. No matter what their
political views and outlook is everybody in Azerbaijan is feeling the
pain of this conflict and takes the same position on this matter. I
will continue my efforts with the Minsk Group to settle this conflict.
As you know, the Minsk Group is making a lot of efforts to settle this
conflict and recently they held a new meeting in the region. I hope
that these meetings will eventually lead to positive results.

[Passage omitted: Post-election situation in the USA and search for
new secretary of state]

Direct flights and political meetings

[Correspondent] At what stage are the talks about opening direct
flights between Baku and Washington?

[Morningstar] We hope that in the near future there will be direct
flights from the USA to Azerbaijan. I believe that such flights will
be very useful for both countries. Certain permits have to be obtained
for this to happen. However, I am not aware about the latest situation
with regard to obtaining these permits.

We would like to hold discussions on the document called “open skies”
that concerns direct flights between the two countries. I am waiting
impatiently for a chance to directly fly to and fro the USA to

[Correspondent] You have held several meetings with Azerbaijani
opposition parties, but you have still not met representatives of the
ruling New Azerbaijan Party. They are concerned about this.

[Morningstar] Such meetings should not worry the New Azerbaijan Party.
I am the ambassador appointed to Azerbaijan and I meet various people
and groups on the basis of their wishes. If the New Azerbaijan Party
wants such a meeting I am ready to meet them with great pleasure.

Airport in breakaway Karabakh

[Correspondent] What is the position of the USA on the attempts to
open the Xocali airport on the occupied territory of Azerbaijan
[Nagornyy Karabakh]?

[Morningstar] We hope that this issue will be resolved without resort
to violence and with participation of all interested sides. At the
same time, I believe that opening the airport and making flights from
there will not bring much benefit. As stated in the statement of the
OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, this can lead to greater tensions in the
region and this is in nobody’s interests. The Minsk Group also
explicitly stated that operation of the airport will have no bearing
at all on the legal status of Nagornyy Karabakh. We hope that this
matter will be resolved through diplomatic and legal means. I would
like to note again in the end that opening this airport will have no
effect on the legal status.

Military cooperation

[Correspondent] What is the progress in bilateral military relations
between Azerbaijan and the USA. Do you plan joint training and drills?

[Morningstar] Our cooperation with Azerbaijan in this area is very
good. Azerbaijan attends a number of trainings and most of them are
related to NATO. At the same time, the USA cooperates with Azerbaijan
with regard to security matters at the Caspian Sea. This cooperation
is also important. Despite the presence of Section 907 [which bans
direct US government aid to Azerbaijan] we have managed to build
cooperation on the necessary level. In addition, we also cooperate in
combating terrorism.


[Correspondent] The US Senate has made sanctions against Iran even
stricter again. Does the new administration think of stepping up
efforts to resolve diplomatically the problem with Iran?

[Morningstar] Iran is a very important and high-priority matter for
the US administration. The US president has explicitly announced that
it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons. In addition, the
president said that there is still time for a diplomatic settlement of
the issue. We hope that this matter is resolved through strict
sanctions and diplomacy. I do not personally take part in this process
and this is all information I have in this regard.

[Correspondent] Can Azerbaijan be useful in resolving this matter and
what can it do?

[Morningstar] Indeed, Iran is Azerbaijan’s neighbour and there are
broad and sophisticated relations between these countries. We can say
that they have mutual contacts in various spheres every day. If
Azerbaijan is able to influence to some extent the position of Iran
this would, of course, come very handy.

[Translated from Azeri]