Opened in 2005, Azerbaijan's Consulate General covers 13 Western U.S. states, including California, the Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev told Trend
in an interview.
"With its $2 trillion GDP, California is the eighth largest economy in the world. It is represented by 53 congresspersons in the U.S. Congress - the largest congressional delegation among states. Therefore California wields substantial influence over America's national politics and policy," Aghayev said.
He went on to say that the Hollywood, Silicon Valley, as well as, world-renowned universities, such as Stanford and UC Berkeley are all in California.
"Moreover, the Consulate General also covers such economically powerful states as Washington, Colorado, Arizona and Oregon," Aghayev said, adding that therefore, the opening of the Consulate General in California was not coincidental, but a result of Azerbaijani president's farsighted and wise policy.
Aghayev added that the Consulate General is working to develop strong cooperation in various fields with the states covered, to strengthen the relationships with the state legislators and congresspersons, and spread the truth about Azerbaijan as extensively as possible.
"One can state with certainty that since the establishment of the Consulate General the number of Azerbaijan's friends here has increased, much has been achieved in informing the public at large about our country, especially its current rapid development," the consul general stressed.
Armenian lobby's anti-Azerbaijani activity in California
Nasimi Aghayev also said that according to various sources, there are around 1 million Armenians living in California.
"Around 500,000 of them live in the Greater Los Angeles Area. The members of the Armenian community here work in diverse political, economic, cultural, social and other spheres. Armenians occupy positions in various public and private structures of California, including in legislative, executive and judicial branches," he added.
The consul general stressed that California even had an Armenian governor in 1983-91.
"Today, there are two Armenian members in the California State Legislature, and one in the Los Angeles City Council. Several other cities have also Armenians in their leadership," Aghayev said.
He underscored that today California is the main ideological and financial center for anti-Azerbaijani activities of the Armenian lobby in the world, adding that the radical, primarily dashnak groups continue their activities against Azerbaijan here.
Consul General Aghayev also noted Armenian lobby is envious of every Azerbaijan-related success.
"We have repeatedly seen the lobby's attempts, albeit unsuccessful, to sabotage and disrupt our events of various kinds. For example, in 2012 we were holding, at UCLA in Los Angeles together with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, an event dedicated to the 35th anniversary of Azerbaijani Mugham music's inclusion in NASA's Voyager Golden Records sent to space in 1977. The Armenian lobby groups tried, unsuccessfully, to prevent this event from happening. Facing a fiasco, they staged a protest action in front of the event's venue," Aghayev said.
Aghayev added that nevertheless, the event was a big success and Armenian lobby's protest was another debacle.
"Or this year they tried to thwart Azerbaijan's participation at the famous Los Angeles Times Travel Show with a booth titled 'Karabakh - Azerbaijan's Crown Jewel'. The lobby failed again, and our booth evoked much interest among the attendees. We have seen such intolerance and sabotage attempts from the lobby at many of our other events too."
Azerbaijani diplomat also mentioned one recent example of the Armenian lobby's anti-Azerbaijani activism.
"This January, at the behest of the two Armenian legislators and the Armenian lobby, a resolution AJR 32 was introduced against Azerbaijan at the California State Legislature," Aghayev said.
He added that the lobby is going to all the lengths in order to get this resolution adopted.
"We have harshly protested against the resolution. Moreover, the local Azerbaijani community staged an unprecedented protest campaign against it. Many members of the community attended the hearing in the Legislature and informed the legislators about the illegal military occupation and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijan's lands by Armenia," he said.
The consul general said it is no brainer that the radical Armenian organizations usually put forward such initiatives in order to collect even more money from the Armenian community and justify their existence.
"Once initiated, they present the issue as a "life or death" cause and receive many donations from the Armenian community. Furthermore, they arrange telethons aimed at collecting funds for sending to Armenia. However, much of these funds then disappear in the massive vortex of corruption of Armenia's ruling clan," Azerbaijani diplomat noted.
"Ordinary donors Ashot or Haykanush in California do not know where these funds actually end up."
"This "cooperation" between the Armenian lobby and Armenia's corrupt government has been going on for a long time. At the end of the day, it is the ordinary members of the Armenian community in the U.S. and the starving people of Armenia who get the most damage," Aghayev stressed.
He said that nevertheless, recently one can hear the concerned voices of the Armenian community members, who openly speak out against the current catastrophic economic and social situation, rampant government corruption and widespread human rights abuses in Armenia.
"Yes, the Armenian lobby is using its time-tested tactic of silencing these voices by labeling them as "traitors". Nevertheless, I think it is a different circumstance now. Because the situation in Armenia has become so intolerable that it is no longer possible to hide it or cover it up," the diplomat added.Combating anti-Azerbaijani activity
Consul General Aghayev also said that within a short time span, many effective steps have been undertaken to counter the Armenian lobby's anti-Azerbaijani activities.
"The Consulate General is building its work in line with the Azerbaijani president's instruction to pursue a pro-active diplomacy. As a result, today the strategic importance of Azerbaijan is understood much better in the Western U.S. states. The space for the spread of Armenian lobby's lies and deceit is narrowing," Azerbaijani diplomat stressed.
He added that the local elected officials have an increasingly better understanding of the truth surrounding the policy of occupation and ethnic cleansing carried out by Armenia against Azerbaijan.
"It is no coincidence that in 2013-14 the legislatures of such states as Arizona, Hawaii and New Mexico adopted resolutions supporting Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and stressing Karabakh as an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan," Aghayev said.
He added that during the first quarter of 2013, Azerbaijan's National Flag was raised twice in the California State Legislature, and floor introductions on Azerbaijan were held, during which the strategic importance of Azerbaijan for the U.S. was highlighted.
Aghayev noted that effective relations have also been established with the State of Colorado during this period.
"This January, a presentation on Azerbaijan was held during the floor session of the Colorado State Senate. Strong relationships were built with Colorado legislators. We think that one of the most effective means to counter the anti-Azerbaijani activities is also the promotion of our rich cultural heritage here. In this regard, during the last two years, the Consulate General held 12 large cultural events in Los Angeles, as well as in other California cities," he underscored.
Among them, Aghayev specially mentioned the performance of Uzeyir Hajibeyli's 'Arshin Mal Alan' (Cloth Peddler) operetta in 2013 in Los Angeles, in one of America's largest and most famous opera theaters.
"Dedicated to the operetta's 100th anniversary, the performance was attended by over 3,000 Angelenos. It was the first performance of this immortal piece of art at such a level not only in the U.S., but also in the entire Western world. It was also the restoration of justice. Because in 1937 some Armenian film-makers shot a movie of 'Arshin Mal Alan' in Los Angeles and presented this operetta to the audience as an Armenian piece of art. Azerbaijan finally eliminated this injustice," Aghayev said.
Azerbaijan diplomat said that last year a credit course titled 'Azerbaijani Music & Culture' was launched at the Stanford University with the support of Azerbaijan.
"Many students of Stanford attended the course and performed a great Azerbaijani music concert as part of their graduation," the consul general said, adding that several other cultural projects are under planning by the Consulate General.
"So, the situation here is changing in our favor, the number of our friends knowing and appreciating Azerbaijan is increasing. And that is the best answer to all those who engage in activities against Azerbaijan. They should understand that "a lie has no legs" and the truth always comes out," Consul General Nasimi Aghayev said in conclusion.