Day.Az news agency got interview from Jason Katz
, the American political scientist, director of the research and consulting company “The Tool Shed Group”.Q: What are the impressions from your recent visit to Azerbaijan?
A.: It is always my pleasure to visit Azerbaijan. The people are so warm and welcoming that I have come to feel here as my second home.
I visited Baku to speak at a conference organized by the Center for Strategic Studies under President Aliyev and the Association of International Relations Scholars. As usual, the conference was well-conceived and executed and the delegates and speakers were engaged at a high-level.
As to Baku, I am continually in admiration to the new development. The new buildings are plentiful and beautiful and built with an eye on smart and efficient municipal planning. I also had the pleasure of touring the new campus of the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. The campus as well as the instructors, students and the curriculum were top notch.
In general, Azerbaijan is moving along a quick and positive pace. Technology is increasingly accessible to the average citizen, and all levels of education, as well. Agriculture is also increasingly modern and productive. The Aliyev Administration seems to be staying on its course of balanced, far-reaching and innovative domestic and economic policies during its period of power.
Q.: Azerbaijan is trying to pursue a balanced foreign policy between the West, Russia and Islamic world. Is it the right choice for a young independent country, especially in comparison with what is going on with Azerbaijan’s neighbors (the outcome of the pro-Western course of Georgia, problems with the European integration of Armenia, Russia’s close ally)?
A.: In Azerbaijan’s geographic and historical neighborhood, a nuanced and balanced foreign policy is not only advisable, but essential. Azerbaijan has maintained a tradition of a balanced foreign policy since its independence in the 90s. Heydar Aliyev’s dream, the advent of the Southern Energy Corridor, is clear evidence of these policies. Azerbaijan’s very significant investment in technology under President Ilham Aliyev, including the launching of its first communications satellite, is further evidence. This can also be seen in the allies and close relationships Azerbaijan seeks, fosters and to which it provides careful stewardship.
The fact that Azerbaijan maintains independence and makes state decisions based on the best interests of its people is the most admirable example, considering the pressures exerted by Russia and Iran. In contrast, nations like Armenia that survive by acting as vassal states to the Russian Federation, are forced to conduct their domestic and foreign policy at the whims of Moscow.
Q.: With regard to the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, how would you assess Azerbaijan’s role in the international anti-terror coalition and Azerbaijan-U.S. cooperation?
A.: In the 12 years since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, Azerbaijan has shown unwavering and unequivocal support to the United States and the West against terrorism.
Mere hours following the attacks, Azerbaijan granted unlimited access to its airspace for American planes. Later, Azerbaijan sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan to stand shoulder to shoulder with American and NATO troops. Once the Allied pullout from Iraq transpired, Azerbaijan, instead of bringing their troops home, retasked them to Afghanistan.
In addition, Azerbaijan’s security services have regularly shared intelligence with the United States and other allies and have foiled plots within Azerbaijan against Americans, Azerbaijanis and Israelis.Q.: What should be done to make the Karabakh problem more known in the world and engage the U.S. more in the conflict settlement process?
A.: Clearly, the Europeans should pay more attention to this matter. It is in their own economic, political and national security interests to move the settlement forward and return Nagorno- Karabakh and the sourrounding regions to Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan again and again shows that it plays a role of important and stable (in terms of infrasturcture, government and economics) source of energy for Europe. Azerbaijan stands as a viable alternative to energy from Russia, which clearly comes with strings attached to the detriment of European governments and peoples.
As for the United States, Azerbaijan is much better known now, mostly due to the high professionalism of Azerbaijani diplomats. Also, Azerbaijan’s close and mutually beneficial relationship with the Jewish community matters a great deal, as does the numerous and increasing number of articles about Azerbaijan in US media.
However, the US undertook the role of the free world’s leader... the US is and should be so. Nevertheless, Congress and the Administration should put aside the wishes of their narrow, yet loud and aggressive constituencies and act in the best interests of the US and the world. A settlement to this crisis is completely in the best interests of the US and the world.
It is important to note that a settlement is also in the best interests of Armenia. A settlement to this frozen conflict would open the doors of new development and prosperity to economically stagnant and poor Armenia. In addition, a settlement would allow Armenia to be an independent actor on the world stage. Armenia's recent announcement that it plans to join the Eurasian Union shows that it is not really an independent country, in sharp contrast with Azerbaijan.
Q.: What are your expectations from the upcoming presidential elections in Azerbaijan?
A.: My travel in Azerbaijan took me to meet academicians, taxi drivers, waiters, government officials and the average person in the street eager to talk to an American.
It was very clear that Ilham Aliyev is an overwhelmingly popular figure and president in Azerbaijan. People simply love him. And, why not, Azerbaijan is a successful and independent nation under his leadership. The people have pride for the successes reached in economic and educational fields. Once the ballots are collected and counted, I would be shocked if he was not reelected.