Cheney Visits Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine

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In Baku, Cheney stated, “The US and Azerbaijan have many interests in common. We both seek greater stability, security and cooperation in the vital region of the world. We share the goal of energy security for ourselves and for the international community. And we are both devoted to the cause of peace. One of the basic foundations of security and peace is respect for national borders — a principle that is endangered today. Mr. President, although we decided on this visit months ago, we met this evening in the shadow of the recent Russian invasion of Georgia — an act that has been clearly condemned by the international community. President Bush has sent me here with a clear and simple message to the people of Azerbaijan and the entire region: The United States has deep and abiding interests in your well being and security.

“America strongly supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. We are committed to achieving a negotiated solution to the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict — a solution that starts with the principle of territorial integrity and takes into account other international principles. Achieving a solution is more important now than ever before; that outcome will enhance peace and stability in the region, and Azerbaijan’s security, as well.

“America also appreciates Azerbaijan’s commitment to working with Western countries on energy issues. All peoples are best served when market principles are allowed to work; when there is transparency of information; when energy export routes are diverse and reliable. The United States strongly believes that, together with the nations of Europe, including Turkey, we must work with Azerbaijan and other countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia on additional routes for energy exports that ensure the free flow of resources. Energy security is essential to us all, and the matter is becoming increasingly urgent.

“Finally, Mr. President, I want to express my country’s appreciation for the brave contributions that Azerbaijan is making to the fight against the global terrorism problem. Our forces have worked together in Afghanistan and Iraq. We cooperated to foil plots by violent extremists. Our countries are united in recognizing the threat posed to Azerbaijan and the world by the proliferation of nuclear weapons to dangerous regimes. America deeply appreciates Azerbaijan’s contributions to the cause of peace and security, both in this volatile region and internationally. And we support the people of Azerbaijan in their efforts, often in the face of great challenges, to strengthen democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, and to build a prosperous, modern, independent country that can serve as a pillar of moderation and stability in this critical part of the world.”

Cheney’s first meetings here in Baku were with representatives of two international oil companies: William Schrader of BP Azerbaijan and Robert Dastmalchi of Chevron, according to a spokeswoman, Megan M. Mitchell. Those meetings came a day after Putin announced plans for a new natural gas pipeline from Central Asia to Russia, a route that would increase Russia’s role in providing natural gas to Europe. Cheney, who in 2006 accused Russia of using its natural resources as “tools of intimidation or blackmail,” expressed the administration’s strong support for seeking alternate routes for oil and natural gas from Central Asia and the Caspian.

(A story from the International Herald Tribunecontributed to this report.)

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