AZAD's Chairman Met with US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Morningstar mid=49

WASHINGTON, DC. August 16, 2011. Yesterday, chairman of
Azerbaijani-Americans for Democracy (AZAD), Elmar Chakhtakhtinski, has
met in Washington, DC with the new US Ambassador to Azerbaijan,
Richard Morningstar. Below is Mr. Chakhtakhtinski's interview with
Azerireport about this meeting.

The job of a US Ambassador to Azerbaijan has been vacant for a long
time and might be considered to be one of the more challenging posts
for US diplomats. What can you say about the appointment of Ambassador
Morningstar to this position?

Ambassador Morningstar is one of the most experienced US diplomats,
highly regarded by his peers both in the US and around the world. He
has been involved with Azerbaijan and broader post-Soviet region as
the US President's Special Advisor since early 1990s and later as the
Special Envoy on Euroasian Energy. So, he is deeply familiar with the
situation in and around Azerbaijan and commands all necessary skills,
reputation and experience to be effective at this job.

There has been much controversy around the previous US Ambassador to
Azerbaijan, Matthew Bryza, starting with the allegations about his
personal links to the Azerbaijani government officials that surfaced
during his Senate confirmation process and ending with him joining the
Board of Turcas Petrol - a company closely linked to the Azerbaijani
State Oil Company (SOCAR). These developments have raised questions
about the Azerbaijani government using its vast energy resources to
exert undue influence over foreign diplomats on personal levels. Were
these concerns addressed during your meeting with the new US
Ambassador to Baku?

In addition to Mr. Bryza's case, there also was a previous precedent
of a lucrative post-diplomatic business career in Azerbaijan, set by
former US Ambassador Stanley Escudero. In both instances, one of the
main concerns, at least in public's perception, was that this might
have led the foreign diplomats to turn a blind eye or take a softer
approach towards the violations of rights and freedoms by the corrupt
and repressive Aliyev regime. Because so many people, including those
within the Azerbaijani-American community, have been concerned about
it, I have raised this question during our conversation with the
Ambassador. And I am happy to say that Ambassador Morningstar has
reassured me that he personally has no plans or intentions to have any
such future personal business involvement linked to the Azerbaijani

Richard Morningstar is known as someone more involved with the energy
issues, especially considering his last job as a Special Envoy for
Eurasian Energy. How much importance, you think, will he place to the
issue of democracy in Azerbaijan?

Of course, the objectives and priorities of US foreign policy towards
any country are set by the US administration and policymakers in DC.
However, the position of a US Ambassador is very important in
fulfilling those objectives.

I shared AZAD's view's on the situation with human rights and freedom
in Azerbaijan and our perspectives on the role the United States can
play in that regard. Ambassador Morningstar has stressed that he
considers democracy to be as important as other top priorities in the
US relations with Azerbaijan and he is looking for ways to effectively
promote democratic development in his capacity as the US ambassador.
The points he raised demonstrate that he is keenly aware of the
serious issues related to human rights violations within the country
and with the socio-political conditions in Azerbaijan.

What other topics were discussed during your meeting?

Among other issues, we talked about the Karabakh conflict and the
prospects of its resolution. I have communicated to the Ambassador
that the absence of democratically elected governments, representing
free wills of their people, and the existence of corrupt and
repressive regimes make the peaceful resolution of this conflict more
difficult, even impossible (Azerireport).