Madam Speaker, on May 10, we commemorate the 85th Jubilee of the late Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev. Heydar Aliyev was a strong leader at a critical time. When political strife and economic uncertainty engulfed the region, he emerged in 1993 as President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
He steered his country through regional power struggles and global changes. He negotiated a cease-fire in the war with Armenia. He deepened Azerbaijan's relationship with the United States, Turkey, Israel, as well as countries in Western Europe. He also cultivated the nation's relations with multilateral organizations such as the United Nations, NATO, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE. He oversaw economic reforms that opened the door for foreign investment.
In September 1994, the ``Contract of the Century'' was signed between American and Western companies and Azerbaijan. The Contract was designed to allow Azerbaijan to develop its energy resources in order to diversify Western energy supplies. The two early oil pipelines were from Azerbaijan through Russia to the port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea and from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Supsa. But his real dream was the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which, despite strong opposition, was supported by both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, and is now pumping one million barrels of oil a day.
President Heydar Aliyev always valued his country's relations with the United States. The United States was one of the first countries to recognize Azerbaijan's independence. His goal was to elevate relations to a strategic level, and we can say that he has been successful.
After we experienced the worst terrorist attack on United States soil on September 11, President Heydar Aliyev was one of the first in the world to offer the unconditional support of his country in the fight against terrorism. Soon after, Azerbaijan had troops in Afghanistan and was the first country with a predominantly Muslim population to send troops to Iraq.
President Aliyev was instrumental in shaping Azerbaijan's Western-leaning policies and relationship building practices. Azerbaijan joined NATO's Partnership for Peace Program in 1994. It is also a 2001 charter member of the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development which works to promote democratic values, ensure stable development, enhance international and regional security, and step up European integration. Azerbaijan has consistently integrated into the Euro-Atlantic security architecture, further deepening U.S.-Azerbaijani military to military cooperation.
Following his passing in 2003, Azerbaijan has continued its course first established by President Heydar Aliyev toward the greater democratic and economic development. Due to his efforts and the will and character of the people of Azerbaijan, there is no doubt about the viability of this nation or about its capability as an effective leader in the region.
The United States looks forward to furthering its partnership with Azerbaijan in the region and on global issues of mutual concern.
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