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Nominee For U.S. Envoy To Azerbaijan Looks 'Beyond Pipelines'

Richard Morningstar has visited Azerbaijan multiple times in his current role as the U.S. State Department's special envoy for Eurasian energy.
Richard Morningstar has visited Azerbaijan multiple times in his current role as the U.S. State Department's special envoy for Eurasian energy.
By Richard Solash
U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee for ambassador to Azerbaijan has told lawmakers that he will do "everything in my power" to help the Caucasian country become a "modern democracy" if confirmed for the post.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 13, Richard Morningstar said the oil-rich nation's commitment to deepened Euro-Atlantic ties "must span well beyond pipelines."

"We can't just say, 'Hey, you know, you ought to do better on this,' and, 'It's important.' We have to be able to convey how much it's in their interest to make changes and to open up society and to create that way, hopefully, greater stability within the society," said Morningstar.

Azerbaijan has long occupied the lower rungs on measures of political plurality, rule of law, and freedom of expression under President Ilham Aliyev.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (center) at the opening ceremony for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline in 2006.Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (center) at the opening ceremony for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline in 2006.
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Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (center) at the opening ceremony for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline in 2006.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (center) at the opening ceremony for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline in 2006.
Pipelines, however, will consume a significant portion of Morningstar's time should he head to Azerbaijan, the third-largest oil producer in the former Soviet Union after Russia and Kazakhstan.

Featuring on his agenda will be securing Baku's continued contribution to the Southern Corridor energy project to supply gas to Europe while bypassing Russia and Iran.

Morningstar, 67, has deep credentials in the sensitive energy politics of the region.

He currently serves as the State Department's special envoy for Eurasian energy. Under former U.S. President Bill Clinton, he was a special adviser for Caspian Basin energy diplomacy.

Morningstar also served as ambassador to the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union from 1995 to 1998, and more recently, as the U.S. ambassador to the EU.

He told lawmakers that he would draw on his diplomatic experience to help defuse escalating tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. The breakaway Azerbaijani territory, populated almost entirely by ethnic Armenians, was the site of a 1988-94 war in which tens of thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced. Continued skirmishes have challenged an uneasy cease-fire.

Morningstar pledged to argue in Baku that resolving that conflict would allow the government to focus on other pressing security concerns.

"I have to believe that Nagorno-Karabakh is a huge distraction when there are other critical security issues within that region that Azerbaijan faces -- the issue of Iran seems to become greater every day with respect to Azerbaijan [and] in terms of the Caspian Sea, there are any number of [security] issues," he said.

Morningstar also said Baku is "looking for [U.S.] help" amid tensions with Tehran and weighed in on potential U.S. military sales to Azerbaijan.

The move would require a State Department waiver of restrictions currently in place and has been criticized by several lawmakers as dangerous to Armenia.

"We have to provide, I think, security assistance -- possibly military assistance -- in ways that cannot be used to exacerbate any situation with respect to Armenia or Nagorno-Karabakh," he said. "I think we have to be very, very strict in doing that, but that still, I think, would allow us to do some things that are important."

Obama's nomination of Morningstar is considered by far a less contentious choice than Matthew Bryza, the president's previous pick for the post, who was dogged by accusations of anti-Armenian bias and of questionable ties to Azerbaijani officials.

His nomination was stalled in Congress before Obama bypassed lawmakers to approve him in a late 2010 "recess appointment" for a shortened posting.

His one-year term ended earlier this year.

E. Wayne Merry, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, said the administration was taking no chances with its latest nominee and predicted Morningstar will be well-received in Baku.

"He is actually a much more senior official from the American side than would normally take an ambassadorship in a country of that size. I think his nomination actually constitutes quite an honor to Azerbaijan and represents the importance which the United States, and particularly, the Obama administration, gives to trying to establish a better relationship with Baku," he said.

Morningstar's nomination must be approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and then by the full Senate.
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Rashid from: Berlin
June 14, 2012 11:06
If USA helps to resolve this issue then they will kill two birds by one stone.
First after the Karabag issue is resolved Russia's influence will diminish significantly and it will lose major pressure point.
Second, with the conflict free South Caucuses, USA will be view more friendlier than before and will gain pressure point on Iran.
In this current mess, looser are Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan can't focus its political and monetary power on anything else and Armenia is in one of the worst situations with blockade, poor economy weak military, dependence on Russia and Iran pretty much on anything even food security. This status-kvo, makes Armenia less attractive to potential investors from west, Turkey and even Azerbaijan, which over the years accumulated good anount of money from oil and gas revenues.
So stable Caucasus first of all is beneficial to Azerbaijan, Armenia and West. However stable Caucasus is very dangerous to Russia who historically created problems for Caucasus to keep its hold on the region.
After Russia entered the Caucasus problems for regional unity started.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
June 14, 2012 12:29
Dear Harun-Al-Rashid from `Berlin`,the USA or Russia can never never never solve the problems of this or any other region.They are both sides of a coin and are motivated by their evil imperial egomaniac super-duper power greed.They can only exploit the primitive state of mind of most people in the region,who have a serf slave mentality.All efforts of Russia and Shamerica will result in a major conflict which is already looming large in the not too distant future.Poor good old Morningstar,its rather an Evening Sundown.
In Response

by: Jason from: here
June 14, 2012 19:25
Regardless who says what on the Karabakh issue, Artsakh has come back to the bosom of its sons and daughters. This land is Armenian and will never ever go back to the ashiret of Tatars. The sooner this is understood the sooner peace and prosperity will flourish for all.

No matter what oil/gas interests dictate Armenians' back is to the wall, there is no retreat.

As far as oil is concerned, let's see what will happen to that accumulated funds in the hands of the most corrupt regime in the world, Azerbaijan. This country is going to fall like a house of cards the minute oil reserves deplete, which is sooner than most analysts predict, 12 more years? In the mean time the Azeri clans are pocketing the money as fast as the oil is flowing. Already Eurovision demonstrated the hollowness of Azeri wealth. Extreme poverty throughout the country, and within Baku European journalists observed Hollywood sutudio's style facades of "expensive" stores with nothing behind them.

Azerbaijan was, is and will evermore remain a fake entity.
In Response

by: Rashid from: Berlin
June 15, 2012 14:45
It does not really matter who is in the power Ilham Aliyev or someone else not a single Azerbaijani will ever consider Karabag as a part of Armenia or as independet state, it is and will be part of Azerbaijan,
Also are you saying that Armenia is democratic? do you really believe that Karabag klan, who is in power in Armenia is really Democratic?
Armenia is puppet state for the Russia, every single major enterprise is controlled by Russians and your opposition, who are they ? Do you really belive the Armenia will prosper without Azerbaijan ? Armenia lacks the infrastructure, investment and political will to make any kind of changes,
My frined even with the corruption Azerbaijan is surpasing Armenia in everythig imagine if Azerbaijan cuts the corruption, then Armenia definatly will need several decades to catch up to its arch enemy and that is really bad for Armenian people.
I do not believe that everyone in Armenia hates Azerbaijan,
Armenian people want to live like normal people, make money feed and educate their children and in order to make that happen Armenia must resolve the problem of Karabag, not by war, becasue Armenia lacks the military power to do so, only option for Armenia is actually understand the reality and move forward with the liberation of occupied territories. It is only after then border will open with Azerbaijan and turkey and Armenia's will be able to engage in commerce and bring much needed investment form notable companies.
P.S Azerbaijan's oil will not end in 12 years and even if it does, Azerbaijan has natural gas at least for half of century

by: Jack from: US
June 14, 2012 13:22
whenever and wherever US government gets more involved in "solving problems" one can rest assured there will be another bloodshed. Shooting between Azerbajstan and Armenia started as soon as Hillary arrived to the region. US is the major sponsor of terrorism
In Response

by: Rashid from: Berlin
June 15, 2012 01:07
You always choose the lesser evil,
Other wise war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is eminent,
In Response

by: rukidding from: usa
June 15, 2012 04:26
yeah, Hillary brought war to that region - get a clue.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 14, 2012 20:18
"U.S. Envoy To Azerbaijan Looks 'Beyond Pipelines'" :-))). No wonder as long as there are no pipelines left to be looked beyond: the Nabucco pipeline project (that was supposed to put an end to the "perilous Russian influence on the energy security of the European Union") that has been promoted by the US, EU and RFE/RL for about 10 years has quietly died earlier this year, when both Azerbaijan and Turkey rejected the terms of paprticipating in the project that the bankrupt EU wanted to impose on them.
So, I bet the guy on the picture above should be fast to look for some other issues he could focus on during his term as embassador :-)).

by: RD
June 14, 2012 20:28
Azeri Foreign Minister recently made the following comment;

“If Armenia wants its soldiers to stop dying, it should withdraw from Azerbaijani territories."

Well, well, well. Azerbaijan keeps on blaming Armenia for cease fire violations. Based on this comment, I wonder who is causing the ceasefire violations. Seems Azerbaijan holds the decision when to attack Armenian positions or not, even though they agreed to a cease fire agreement in 1994.
In Response

by: Ian Brall from: Slovakia
June 19, 2012 07:41
well, well, 7 killed and (at least) 11 wounded Azeris on Azeri territory - against 3 killed Armenians in couple of days...

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
June 15, 2012 21:03
How tremendous it would be for the US if we could really look “beyond pipelines” in our dealings with foreign countries. Alas, as long as this country depends on 50% and more of its oil needs from abroad, there will be no diplomacy based on integrity and basic human rights. Our politicians in Washington (and the big corporations who sponsor them) have demonstrated a consistent ability to work with the most repressive regimes to maintain and expand the auto-centric American way of life.

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