Letter to the Editor: Azerbaijan’s GUAM Policy

To the Editors,

Richard Weitz [“Unity of Guam States Threatened in Efforts to Realize Energy Potential,” July 10, 2008] is a correct that the GUAM Organization would be doomed to extinction without Azerbaijan, and that the organization’s future depends on Azerbaijan’s economic resources and transit potential. However, the portrayal of Azerbaijan as a member country that impedes GUAM’s democratic development, along with the fanciful notion that it is considering quitting the organization, is wholly inaccurate.

One should not forget that the very idea of GUAM began with the late President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev who brought the initiative before his colleagues from Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine during the 1996 CFE Treaty Conference in Vienna where the four states issued a joint statement and proposed common initiatives. International attention of GUAM has risen over the years. At the 10th anniversary summit of the organization in 2007 in Baku, members drew new priorities for the organization for the years ahead, including but not limiting to: expanded cooperation to promote democratic values; development of GUAM’s energy and transport corridors transit capacity; joint measures within international organization on settling protracted conflicts in the GUAM region; and the development of inter-cultural and inter-confessional dialogue.

Thanks to Azerbaijan’s GUAM+ initiative, the GUAM-Poland and GUAM-Japan dialogues have been established. Moreover, it was Azerbaijan who instigated the GUAM-U.S. partnership in 2001, which resulted in joint cooperation projects on border security and the fight against organized crime and terrorism, as well as on the facilitation of trade and transportation in the region.

During Azerbaijan’s chairmanship in GUAM from June 2007 to July 2008, the Government of Azerbaijan has sponsored numerous international events with participation of experts from throughout the world, including the United States. Just recently, renowned regional expert and Jamestown Foundation senior fellow Vladimir Socor noted that “Azerbaijan’s chairmanship of GUAM (June 2007-June 2008) proved to be the most efficient and dedicated chairmanship in GUAM’s institutional history.”

Dr. Weitz’s notion that Azerbaijan is “unwilling to commit fully to Euro-Atlantic integration” is simply incorrect. The country’s 2007 national security concept clearly indicates that integration into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions is a No. 1 priority. It closely cooperates with NATO and the EU on a range of programs of mutual interest, including the implementation of its Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO and European Neighborhood Plan with EU.

It is also worth mentioning that Azerbaijan is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and has signed numerous treaties and laws conforming to international standards. It has established a working group to gain accession to the World Trade Organization. The First Lady of Azerbaijan is a UNESCO goodwill ambassador. The country has opened 60 diplomatic missions across the globe since regaining its independence in 1991. These are hardly the actions of a country shying away from integration.

Best regards,

Yegana Balayeva
First Secretary
Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Washington, D.C.

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