Azerbaijan too important an ally for diplomatic ping pong

It is also an anchor in the energy and mineral rich Caspian basin, which has gas and oil reserves on a par with the pre-exploration North Sea.  Energy shipment routes not only exist for oil and gas from Azerbaijan, but future plans call for movement of energy supplies from other nations to the east through Azerbaijan. These redundant pipelines and delivery routes will supply our allies in Turkey and the rest of Europe with much needed natural resources, thereby holding down energy costs around the world. Additionally, our allies will no longer be dependent upon a Russian fuel monopoly and can limit dependence on Middle Eastern theocracies.

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Beyond Afghanistan and energy politics, Azerbaijan is of utmost importance given its border with Iran and the fact that close to 30 million Azeris live in that country. Their language and cultural connection to their brothers and sisters in Azerbaijan make it all the more critical for the United States to have strong ties with her.  Azerbaijan can serve as a bridge to the hearts and minds of a large population of Iranians, as we hope that the fires of that nation’s Green Revolution are rekindled. Moreover, Baku is unique in that not only is it one of a few democracies in Muslim majority countries, but as in Iran and Syria, the majority follows Shia Islam. This opportunity to establish stronger ties with a Shia-majority democracy, that has truly unique geography, energy, economy, and a proven empathy to the American led West, cannot and should not be lost because of domestic, appeasement politics here in the States.

To be sure, Azerbaijan’s democracy is not perfect, but the new republic is less than 25 years old and is steadily improving in this area. Additionally, a resolution of the strife surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh must be found and the United States must continue to champion this process within the Minsk Group of the OSCE. But at the same time, America must pursue a policy of relationship-building with respect to Azerbaijan that reflects that Nation’s importance and loyalty as a friend.

McMahon is a former Member of the United States House of Representatives from New York and member of the House Committee of Foreign Affairs.