AZERI LEADER'S US VISIT "VERY USEFUL" - FOREIGN MINISTER

Lider TV, Baku
1 May 06

The Azerbaijani foreign minister has described President Ilham Aliyev's
recent visit to the USA as "very useful".

In an interview with private Lider TV's "After the Voice" programme
on 1 May, Elmar Mammadyarov said that the three most important issues
discussed during the visit were regional security, including the
Nagornyy Karabakh conflict, the Iranian issue and democracy.

Speaking about the Iranian issue, which was discussed during the
visit at the initiative of the US side, the minister said that it
should be resolved only diplomatically. He noted that "there is no
need for Azerbaijan's mediation" between Iran and the USA because
Azerbaijan had not been asked to do so.

Mammadyarov noted that he did not think threats to US economic
interests in Azerbaijan could be expected from the Iranian side in the
event of the USA starting war against Iran. Iran has always supported
Azerbaijan, for instance, on the issue of its territorial integrity in
the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict, he said. He denied that such threats
had ever existed at all. Asked about Azerbaijan's position between
Iran and the USA, the minister said that "we prioritize Azerbaijan's
national interests in its foreign policy".

The minister went on to say that the USA had also needed the
Azerbaijani president to pay a visit to the USA "very much" as "all
high-ranking members of the US government, except only Secretary of
State Rice, met Mr President". He noted that unlike previously when
the USA was only interested in Azerbaijan's oil, now the two countries
"have reached strategic partnership in their bilateral ties". He
said that Azerbaijan had a chance to become a regional leader in the
future and that the USA therefore listened to Azerbaijan's statements
"very carefully and with a very great interest".

The USA's statements that it will take all steps to resolve the
Nagornyy Karabakh conflict mean that "both the US president and the
government are ready to do their best to bring peace to the region",
Mammadyarov said.

He added that if it were not for the strong Armenian lobby in the
US Congress, the resolution of the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict would
be faster.

"The Armenian lobby is now also starting to understand
that... Azerbaijan is turning into a regional leader," the minister
said. The situation in the peace talks will change in a few years
because in three or five years Azerbaijan may not agree to what it
agrees now, he said.