May 28th was formally recognized in several U.S. states. Some states earlier recognized other important dates in Azerbaijani history. What is the role of Azerbaijani diaspora in this direction?
The establishment of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) 94 years ago was one of the most important events in the history of Azerbaijani nation. The significance of May 28th is not only about the formation of a modern Azerbaijani statehood, but also about the universal values and democratic principles upon which that statehood was formulated.
The achievements of Azerbaijan in that era were recognized by President Woodrow Wilson who, after meeting with Azerbaijani delegation at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, remarked that Azerbaijani leaders shared the American vision of liberty and justice.
These historical facts constitute a great pride for Azerbaijani-Americans, who seek recognition of May 28 as their National Day across America every year.
This month, as a result of Pax Turcica action campaigns led by Azerbaijani American Council (AAC) and Azerbaijan Society of America (ASA), the governors of the states of New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island as well as the state legislatures of Connecticut and New Jersey recognized the 94th anniversary of ADR. May 28 proclamation was also issued by the County of Orange in California. All of the above proclamations acknowledge the achievements of ADR as the world's first predominantly Muslim secular democracy and recognize ASA as the first Azerbaijani-American grassroots organization built upon the ADR heritage in 1957.
The proclamations by the Connecticut Governor and by Orange County, California also emphasize the sovereignty of Azerbaijan over Karabakh and Nakhchivan regions. This is an important part of recognition that we seek from state governments and legislatures, so as to avoid situations like the one with the recent Resolution H8180 in Rhode Island House of Representatives on May 17, 2012. Influenced by the ethnic special interest groups, this resolution seeks recognition of the so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic", in contradiction of the U.S. foreign policy and in violation of state laws.
It also undermines U.S. efforts at peaceful resolution of Karabakh conflict and deeply insults hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis displaced by the conflict to date. While pleased by the Rhode Island Governor's recognition of Azerbaijani National Day, in our appreciation letter to the Governor, AAC representative in Rhode Island emphasized concerns over Resolution H8180 and called upon the executive power to use its influence for repealing this disgraceful legislation.
In a recent report on human rights situation in Armenia and Azerbaijan, the U.S. Department of State reminds of the ongoing occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and 7 other regions of Azerbaijan by the Armenian forces. The Armenian side reacted to this wording with irritation. Why did such reaction occur now, when the State Department recognized Azerbaijan's sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh all along? Did they expect any change in Washington's official position in this regard?
Indeed, the said report states the fact: “Ethnic Armenian separatists, with Armenia’s support, continued to control most of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the country and seven surrounding Azerbaijani territories.” This statement of a fact irritates the leadership of Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) that seeks to justify ethnic cleansing of the entire Azerbaijani population on the occupied territories as the right for self-determination. This achingly reminds of the situation with the war crimes committed in the name of "self-determination" by Serbian forces in Bosnia during 1990s.
Finding reason in the position of Armenian-American special interest groups regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh problem is close to impossible. That is because the position is influenced by a self-imposed tale rather than by historical facts, present realities or a vision of future. The facts that Karabakh was an Azerbaijani khanate prior to the Russian conquest of the Caucasus in early 19th century, that Armenian Republic officially recognized Azerbaijan's sovereignty over Karabakh in 1919, that Karabakh is recognized by the international community as part of Azerbaijan, that Armenians and Azerbaijanis coexisted in the region for centuries, that some 600,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis have been ethnically cleansed out of their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories have no importance for these groups. ANCA leaders are only concerned about a self-determination of one ethnic group regardless of the casualties or trampled rights of the cohabitants of a different ethnicity.
These interest groups further undermine Karabakh peace process by lobbying a handful of U.S. Congressmen to allocate direct aid to Nagorno-Karabakh based on solely ethnic preferences. While the U.S. Congress intended to help all victims of conflict since 1998, these groups try to direct U.S. taxpayer money only to one ethnic group, while leaving some 600,000 displaced Azerbaijani victims of the conflict out. Obviously, such position has very little to do with the American values.
What do you think of the nomination of Richard Morningstar as the new U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan?
Azerbaijani-American organizations support President Obama's nomination of Ambassador Richard Morningstar to serve as the U.S. envoy to Azerbaijan. As a current Special Envoy for Eurasian energy, and formerly, President Clinton's adviser on Caspian Energy and one of the influential figures behind the East-West energy corridor,
Ambassador Morningstar is well experienced and qualified for the job.
How soon can he assume the ambassadorial duties? Could there be problems during his confirmation in the Senate?
The confirmation in the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will probably take place during this summer. It is likely that the Armenian-American special interest will attempt to obstruct this nomination, as it was done via Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) with Ambassador Bryza's nomination before. For Armenian lobby this is an opportunity to show symbolic influence over the ambassadorial appointment, rather than to express any genuine care for broader U.S. national interests.
But the reality is a bit different now. Firstly, the continued absence of U.S. envoy in Azerbaijan damages U.S. foreign policy more so than it does Azerbaijan. Secondly, such absence impedes the U.S. role in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, hence damaging Armenia's interests too. Thirdly, the mentioned Senators and the ethnic lobby that influences them have expended their energy over the saga with Ambassador Bryza's nomination.
Not to mention that Barbara Boxer is likely serving her last term in the Senate, and repeated pandering to ethnic electorate is not something desirable to be remembered by. So, it is difficult to fathom that another attempt to obstruct ambassadorial appointment to Azerbaijan, based on nothing other than ethnocentric agenda, will yield fruit with the nomination of a veteran diplomat like Ambassador Morningstar.