Morningstar mission in the Caucasus

By Orkhan Sattarov

In early September, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev accepted the credentials of the new US ambassador Richard Morningstar. Thus, the period of instability in the work of the US embassy in Baku was finished. After the mission of Ann Dercy came to an end in July 2009, the position of the American ambassador was free for more than a year. Later the president of the US Barack Obama appointed to the position an experienced diplomat, the former co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group Mathew Brayza by-passing the Senate. However, due to an active resistance of the Armenian lobby in the Senate Brayza’s career ended sooner than it should: he managed to work only for a year, after which his functions were not prolonged.

After the failing appointment of Brayza, who became a victim of political intrigues in the American Senate, the US didn’t hesitate and appointed a new candidate for the position of the ambassador in Baku. It was Richard Morningstar who knows the South Caucasian region quite well. Previously he was the special envoy of the US State Secretary on energy issues in Eurasia. Baku was satisfied with the new ambassador. Morningstar has made more than 20 visits to Azerbaijan and knows the political top officials of the republic.

Richard Morningstar managed to tie close contacts with top politicians of Azerbaijan, including contacts at the personal level. This aspect is very important in the politics, especially in the former Soviet countries. Even though Morningstar became the ambassador only two weeks ago, he managed to reach first success already.

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Recently it appeared that Azerbaijan revived the state registration of the American non-governmental organization National Democratic Institute (NDI). The Azerbaijani information agency Turan reminds that according to the order of the government on March 16th, 2011, foreign non-governmental organizations should have a written agreement with the Ministry of Justice to operate in the country.

However, even before this order, on March 10th, 2011, the Azerbaijani authorities stopped operation of NDI and The Human Rights House — an office of the Norwegian fund The Human Rights House. The reason was absence of the agreement with the Ministry of Justice. Registration of the Norwegian organization was not restored, despite its numerous requests to the Ministry of Justice. It means that NDI will continue realization of its projects in Azerbaijan, Turan reports.

The fact that the Azerbaijani authorities revived the American organization which actually financed the radical opposition in the country is an interesting fact ahead of the presidential elections next year. It means Baku has no serious doubts that Americans intend to stir up trouble during the coming elections.

At the same time, the opposition elements of the Azerbaijani civil society complain: the US again places energy and security to first place in Azerbaijani priorities and forgets about democracy and human rights. These complaints are naïve, because it is no secret that the issues of «democracy and human rights» are put forward by the US only in cases of providing American national interests. For example, interests in the sphere of energy and security.

The true reason for the Azerbaijani opposition’s dissatisfaction is not the priority of the American politics in Azerbaijan. The opposition considers «energy and security» to be the governmental sphere, while «democracy and human rights» to be the sphere of the opposition. Thus, the opposition failed to gain political support from the US once again.

During the working of Richard Morningstar in Azerbaijan key decisions on transition of gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe will be taken. Moreover, the crisis around the Iranian nuclear program will be settled, at it will touch on Azerbaijan in a way. Also growing of tension in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is possible. In 2013 and 2014 Azerbaijan will hold presidential and parliamentary elections. Therefore, it is logical that America sent one of the most experienced diplomats on the region to Azerbaijan. As Azerbaijan has all chances to become a «hot point» of the geopolitical world in the nearest future.
Vestnik Kavkaza