Azerbaijan International

Autumn 2006 (14.3)
Pages 26-35

Hafiz Pashayev Reminisces
Azerbaijan's First Ambassador to the United States

Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act: What is it?
Ambassador Hafiz Pashayev: Other Articles Published in Azerbaijan International

The Soviet Union had just collapsed (late 1991). Everything was in chaos. The enormous network between 15 republics that had been operating for more than 70 years had been abruptly severed breaking the links shared between spheres such as medicine, science, education, social services, manufacturing and the arts.

Add to the confusion and economical turmoil of those days, the disastrous war with Armenia over the territory inside Azerbaijan known as Nagorno Karabakh which had left Azerbaijan overwhelmed with hundreds of thousands of refugees desperately seeking adequate shelter, food, water and safety, not to mention the drastic urgency to attend to medical and psychological needs of those displaced citizens who had been forced at gunpoint to abandon their communities, their property, which meant leaving behind much of their identity, their networks, and even their loved one's graves.

And though the United States had pledged to assist the former Soviet republics with substantial financial aid until they could find their way and get back on their feet, there was a small clause - which became known as Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act that prohibited any aid - even humanitarian in nature - to be given directly to the Azerbaijani government.

Armenians had succeeded in getting Congressional representatives to inject this restriction into the legislature despite the fact that it was information based on lies and misrepresentations.The circumstances were far from ideal in an attempt to begin building cordial relationships with representatives of the one remaining super power in the world - the U.S. That responsibility was thrust on Hafiz Pashayev, Azerbaijan's first Ambassador to Washington. Interestingly, we announced Pashayev's appointment in that first issue of Azerbaijan International, which we published in January 1993. Now 14 years later, the Ambassador's assignment is over and he has returned to Baku. He kindly agreed to sit down with us again and share some of his insights and reflections about his years in Washington. Azerbaijan International's publisher Pirouz Khanlou interviewed the Ambassador in Baku on August 26, 2006.

Azerbaijan International: In your new book - Racing Up Hill - you describe those first years serving as Azerbaijan's first Ambassador to the United States like being asked to climb Mt. Everest with little knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of this giant peak. You were referring, of course, to obstacles hindering the Azerbaijani-U.S. relationship because of the passage of Section 907 of the U.S. "Freedom Support Act"1 which denied all direct aid to the Azerbaijani government.

Here we are - nearly a decade and a half later - and that piece of U.S. Congressional legislation is still effectively on the books. Of course, some might argue that it doesn't really matter these days as Azerbaijan has found its own way without aid from the U.S.

Others might point out that despite the law, Azerbaijan is currently receiving assistance because each year since 2002, President George W. Bush has personally signed a waiver allowing some aid to be channeled to Azerbaijan's government, though most of the funds are earmarked for projects related to security in support of America's alleged "War on Terror". But given how history has played out, from your perspective what difference would it have made if there had not been that restrictive clause back in 1992?

What difference would it have made if the U.S. had directed aid to the Azerbaijani government as it did to each of the 14 other former republic
of the collapsed Soviet Union?

Ambassador Pashayev:
It would take an entire day to exhaust this subject. For sure, Section 907 had many implications for Azerbaijan and for those early bilateral relations between our two countries. Many of the pages in "Racing Up Hill" deal precisely with this issue.

Left: Ambassador Pashayev congratulating U.S. President Bill Clinton in the Capitol Building on the occasion of his State of the Union Address, January 1999.

But it wasn't only the refugee situation that overwhelmed us. Everything was in chaos. The enormous network between the 15 republics of the former Soviet Union, which had been operating for nearly 70 years, had totally collapsed, abruptly severing the infrastructure of the vastest nation in the world which stretched across 12 time zones. All links in the spheres of economic, medical, educational and social services had been cut. We, along with the other republics, felt that we had been abandoned and orphaned.

For the reason, the U.S. government's decision to deprive us of assistance during the desperateness of our fundamental needs, was a devastating blow to us morally. One must view Section 907 in its historical and political context. Throughout those long years of the Soviet occupation of our country, we had looked to America as a beacon of hope, democracy and justice. For us, America could be counted upon to be a strong defender of human rights. We had aspired to those life-affirming qualities; we dreamed of the day when government would look after our own people in the same way.

First of all, it's true that we did feel the economic impact of not receiving humanitarian assistance in those early days of our independence. The tragic conflict with Armenia over our territory in Nagorno Karabakh (NK) had left us with more than 700,000 refugees. We desperately needed to improvise basic shelter, and provide food, water, and exposure from severe climactic conditions. The mere survival of our people depended upon it. In addition, there were enormous medical and psychological needs of our displaced population who had been forced to flee their property, their communities and, virtually, everything they knew.

So the first close political encounter with the U.S. that we had as an independent fledgling country shocked us very deeply in the core of our psyches. Finally, as we were trying to shake off Soviet oppression - an effort which the United States themselves had actively endorsed and encouraged - we discovered that they, too, had shunned us, ignored our needs and abandoned us when we needed help the most. Psychologically, it was a demoralizing blow.

How could America deny aid to us in those needy days when they were pouring billions - not just millions - but billions - of dollars into the infrastructure of the other former republics of the Soviet Union? And how could they deny aid to us - the victim of aggression - when they were showering significant aid on the Armenians who had brought all this devastation and death upon us? To this day, our people do not understand this.

Left: Hafiz Pashayev and wife Rana with Brent Scocroft at the Farewell Reception for Ambassador Pashayev, July 2006. Air Force General Snowcroft served as National Security Advisor under President George H. W. Bush (current Bush's father)

From the very first day of its passage on April 1, 1992, it was obvious to us that this decision could not be justified. Let me be fair and add that many Americans also understood how unwarranted and wrong this judgment was. Armenia accused Azerbaijan of a so-called "blockade against Armenia". It was a very skillful Armenian subterfuge that served them well, especially among uninformed Americans.

Even the United Nations had identified and condemned Armenia as the aggressor in this war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Between 1993 and 1994, the UN had passed four resolutions condemning Armenia's aggression on our territory. And yet, via the Freedom Support Act, the United States was blaming and punishing us for the war.

There were times when I would visit Congressional office that it seemed like I had to prove to everybody that I wasn't some sort of nomadic creature from the desert, far removed from civilization - that I was, in fact, a human being. That was the situation we dealt with in Azerbaijan back in 1992-1993.

I'll never forget some of the discussions we had with members of Congress and their staff. Of course, the substance of those meetings primarily related to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and Section 907. We would go back again and again to the same office and hear the same diplomatic cordialities: "It's nice to see you again, Mr. Ambassador." Or "We will definitely try to address your concerns, Mr. Ambassador." "Let me see what we can do to improve the humanitarian situation in your country," and so on. In short, I got nowhere beyond politeness.

That reminds me of another incident in the mid-1990s when Madaleine Albright was Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton. During a meeting with our Foreign Minister [Hasan Hasanov at the time], she closed her remarks, attempting to compliment me in front of my boss for the job I was doing in Washington. The Minister looked at me and then turned back to her and commented: "We'll make a judgment about his work in Washington after Section 907 is repealed." Albright immediately responded: "Poor Mr. Ambassador. He might have to stay in Washington for the rest of his life." It seems she wasn't far off target.

Left: Colin Powell (center), as U.S. Secretary of State during the first administration of President George W. Bush at a reception hosted by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld (left) on September 10, 2004.

You remember all those difficulties that Azerbaijan went through 1992, 1993 and 1994.
3 Other former Soviet republics were receiving significant assistance. During those years, approximately 13 or 14 billion dollars of U.S. assistance was granted to countries that had finally won their freedom shaking off the yoke of the Soviet Union. And the Azerbaijan government was deprived of any of it.

AI: What impact did Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act have on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict?

Ambassador Pashayev: The greatest consequence of 907, however, was the enormous negative impact it had upon the peace process and the resolution of the conflict between Armenia and my country over Nagorno-Karabakh. Whether this is what the U.S. intended or not, the legislation which denied us aid emboldened Armenians and gave them an edge over us - an advantage in the conflict. Section 907 was interpreted both by Armenians and Azerbaijanis as indirect support for Armenia, especially in relationship to the resolution of this war.

Clearly, Section 907 has had an enormous negative impact on the region by slowing down the peace process. The Armenian Diaspora and their lobbyists are still able to seize the advantage and insist on a hard-line position rather than negotiating a peaceful resolution. It emboldens Armenians to insist on independence for Nagorno Karabakh or in joining the land that they captured during the war to Armenia. But this is our territory.

Most people in the international community recognize that Armenia is the aggressor and Azerbaijan is the victim. We are the ones who had an enormous burden of refugees and lost about 15 percent of our territory. Many Azerbaijanis do not view the U.S. as an honest broker in the peace process. The American government is not perceived as an impartial negotiator.

AI: What difference would it have made to the average Azerbaijani if there had been no embargoes in those very critical days when Azerbaijan was dealing with a war with Armenia and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of refugees on its small, impoverished territory?

Ambassador Pashayev:
Even to this day, Azerbaijanis do not accept that Section 907 is still in place. When I take taxis in Baku, drivers often comment: "We're best friends with the U.S. We're doing our best to strengthen our relationships with them. We've made our energy resources available to them. We're actively engaged in their 'War against Terror'
4. We've even sent our men to assist in Iraq. Ordinary people in Azerbaijan simply cannot understand why the U.S. has placed these sanctions against us. They are always asking, "Why, why, why?!" A big part of my job has been to try to explain why it happened. It's not because the U.S. isn't friendly towards us. It's the reality of their political system, which allows lobbyists, even minority ethnic groups, essentially to buy Congressional votes.

There's no valid reason why sanctions were imposed on Azerbaijan. To tell you the truth, it's becoming more and more evident that the political system in the United States needs a major overhaul because of the overwhelming influence that small ethnic groups or other lobbyists can have on Congress, influencing them with monetary support, which, in turn, determines the outcome of elections. I'm convinced that such factors are undermining U.S. foreign policy, not only in relationship to Azerbaijan, but towards every major issue in general. And this is extremely detrimental to the institutions of democracy. It damages the democratic process. The profound negative influence of lobbies on the U.S. government has become a major topic of discussion in many political circles.

The two primary reasons why Armenians still expect to achieve full independence of Nagorno Karabakh is that during the first years of our independence, Armenia received support from Russia as well as from the U.S.

Left: The building of Azerbaijan's Embassy in Washington D.C., was selected during Pashayev's tenure.

AI: Did anything good come from not receiving U.S. aid? Was it all negative?

Ambassador Pashayev:
You're right. Some good did come out of it. In fact, one should not underestimate the benefits that resulted from having those sanctions placed against us. First of all, we learned not to depend on anyone except ourselves and not rely on major powers to bail us out of our own complicated situations. Secondly, it obliged us at the Embassy to become fast learners of the U.S. political system. Section 907 became a major case study for Azeri diplomats. Actually, those experiences served as an apprenticeship for many of the outstanding young diplomats who now have taken on very prominent positions in international relationships. For example, Elmar Mammadyarov who worked with me in Washington is now Azerbaijan's Minister of Foreign Affairs. Fakhraddin Gurbanov is Ambassador to Canada, Elin Suleymanov has just opened the Consulate in Los Angeles. Taghi Taghizade is the Press Secretary for the Ministry now.

Our embassy became a training ground for understanding the intricacies of Washington. Colleagues in other embassies often sought our advice when dealing with Congress.

AI: You've been conscious of many dozens of meetings where top leaders have discussed and attempted to negotiate a resolution of the war with Armenia, how do you think the Nagorno-Karabakh problem can be resolved?

Ambassador Pashayev:The Caucasus states have a choice to make because the outcome to this war is not historically inevitable. We and our neighbors can continue to dwell on the animosities, hatred and conflicts of the past; in which case, we will continue the cycle of violence, death and poverty. Clearly, if we do not solve these problems ourselves, others will attempt to solve them for us at the expense of our own independence.

There's one historical principle in which I believe: those who remain preoccupied with the past will lose their hope for the future. Those who look backward can never see the future. Preoccupation with the past and the issues of territorial expansion have led to devastating results for the entire region.

AI: But the recalcitrance of Armenians in this conflict has had its own repercussions. It has backfired. For example, the most direct route for Baku's oil pipeline to the Turkish Mediterranean was not through Georgia, but through Armenia. But when Armenia was not willing to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, Azerbaijan refused to allow the pipeline to go through their territory. The pipeline detoured Armenia resulting in Georgia becoming the beneficiary. As a consequence, the pipeline is really longer than it needed to be and Armenia as a poverty-stricken, land-locked nation, missed an enormous opportunity. Armenia would have made millions of dollars in transit fees alone for the rights for oil to pass through their country on its way to market.

Ambassador Pashayev: Armenians are missing many opportunities available in the region. That's true. But it's the fault of their Diaspora that continues to lobby the U.S. Congress and hold to such a strict, hard-line position. Let me also mention that one should not overlook how private business exploits the situation. Every year, Armenians hold telethons to raise money on television and they succeed in raising millions of dollars. It's a known fact that many of those funds never reach Armenia. One must never forget how the war can be exploited as a business opportunity. In the long run, these selfish private interests complicate the process of solving this conflict.

Left: Doonesbury comic strip by Garry Trudeau in early 1993, reflecting how little was known about Azerbaijan - even in governmental circles.

AI: As Ambassador those first years in Washington, what were some of the perceptions people had about Azerbaijan. After all, as a newly independent country, Azerbaijan had been relatively obscure and unknown for 70 years. I remember how often we used to meet people who hadn't a clue even how to pronounce the name "Azerbaijan" correctly.

Ambassador Pashayev:
Americans had such little knowledge about Azerbaijan during those early days. Most people didn't know anything at all about our country. Often people would call us seeking visas to visit Abidjan [Ivory Coast] or Abuja [Nigeria]. People would ask: "Are there any McDonalds in your African nation?"

Or there was a cartoon published in 1993 by political satirist Garry Trudeau. In the four-cell scenario, he sketches the boss in the White House calling on the so-called "leading expert" of Azerbaijan to get his advice. "Azerbaijan is about to blow", he is told. At the same moment the "expert" receives a phone call from his wife, wondering when he will be arriving home for dinner. Totally befuddled, he uses the opportunity to ask her: "Do you know where Azerbaijan is?"

Americans are quick to admit that they don't know geography very well. I remember during my first visit to California in 1975 where I spent 10 months in graduate studies in physics, I was once stopped by a policeman. He looked at my driver's license, which had the name and emblem of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and asked: "Where's that?"

I deliberately didn't mention Russian and named some other places such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moscow, Kyiv, Leningrad, Baku. Only after I mentioned the word "Russia" did he look at me and say: "Yes, I know where Russia is, but you don't look Russian to me." This lack of awareness about our part of the world meant that a great part of my mission in Washington was simply to educate Americans about Azerbaijan, beginning with very basic information.

I'll never forget another incident when a member of Congress was surprised to learn that Armenia was not surrounded on all sides by Azerbaijan. "I would never have voted for the U.S. sanctions against Azerbaijan if I had realized that at the time," he confided.


Left: The realities of Nagorno-Karabakh war with Armenia. Fleeing Kalbajar in the mountains of the Caucasus. Photo: April 1993.

AI: What is the difference between the way that Azerbaijanis perceive the United States today as compared with 10 years ago?

Ambassador Pashayev: In the 1990s, when relations between Baku and Washington were gradually strengthening, I also observed the transformation of both American and Azerbaijani societies. While Monica Lewinsky5 was becoming a household name in America, the people of Azerbaijan were awakening to the world around them, including life in America. We were both puzzled and amused by the whole Clinton affair. But in the end it offered, not just a window into the complex life of politics in America, it also pointed to the strength of the American political system. It meant that one could, indeed, question authority without resorting to violence and mayhem. The lesson learned was that the President of the most powerful country on earth could be held accountable. Not surprisingly, good governance, democracy and human rights started to creep into the lexicon of Azerbaijan's political culture.

Left: Azerbaijanis used whatever mode of transportation was available to flee from the attacking Armenians - helicopters, trucks, tractors, cars, horses and donkeys. Many of them had to walk on foot dozens of kilometers before reaching safety. Photo: 1993.

Despite this, it's difficult for me to explain to our public that the U.S. genuinely wants democracy to develop in Azerbaijan. Many people here view democracy as another guise that the U.S. uses to impose its own influence or presence here in Azerbaijan. People sometimes ask me if the U.S. genuinely advocates for human rights. They say that if it were really true, at least, the U.S should talk about, think about and help our refugees and that they should be an honest broker when it comes to Armenian aggression towards Azerbaijan. These are the issues that people are raising here. When some members of Congress come here preaching about human rights, Azeris immediately point out that the U.S. themselves hindered human rights when it came to our refugees.

Of course, the U.S. has one of the most-developed democracies in the world. Its political system is quite accessible for everybody. In fact, sometimes it's so open that some groups take advantage of the system and impose their own agendas at the expense of the greater American interests.


Left: Canvas tents were provided for the hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled Armenian occupation. However, since the tents were set up out on the open plains in central Azerbaijan, they provided little shelter against exposure to harsh climactic conditions - both the frigid cold of winters and scorching heat of summers. The United Nations estimated that approximately 700,000 Azerbaijanis were forced to leave their villages and towns because of the war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Photo by Oleg Litvin.

Right: Since fuel was extremely scarce and survival depended upon it, refugees started cutting down trees to prepare their food. Photo: Betty Blair, 1993.

The beauty of the system is that all Americans have had an opportunity to express themselves. And, of course, in my view, it has the most advanced system in terms of serving people.

President Ilham Aliyev was officially invited to Washington in April 2006 to meet with President George W. Bush at the White House. That meeting highlighted the geopolitical importance of Azerbaijan and gave a new and strong impetus to relations between Baku and Washington. A broad spectrum of issues was discussed during that meeting, including energy development, regional security and non-proliferation of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction).

Despite the fact that November 2005 Parliamentary Elections had many novelties that were implemented for the first time such as the allocation of free airtime on state television to all candidates, the marking of fingers of those who had voted with invisible ink, the conducting of exit polls, opposition parties and some members of the Western media were preparing themselves for an Azerbaijani "color revolution".

It didn't surprise me at all to read articles published in some U.S. media outlets that expressed disappointment over the fact that they did not see a "color revolution" in Azerbaijan. I could not stop wondering about the whole idea of "democracy promotion" that the U.S. administration was propounding. The idea of spreading democracy and freedom in today's world is a genuine and natural thing. I could not agree more with President's Bush's remarks at his meeting with President Aliyev at the White House, when he said that "Democracy is the wave of the future". I share and applaud his personal commitment and desire to see the rest of the world free and democratic.

However, the U.S. President's current strategy - the doctrine of promoting democracy as he is doing it around the globe brings to mind the Soviet Union's doctrine of spreading communism under Leonid Brezhnev
7 in the 1960s and 1970s.

Revolutions will not resolve the chronic problems of a country if that country lacks a strong institutional foundation or basic understanding about democracy itself. Honestly, even after working so many years in Washington, I still don't understand many aspects of democracy, especially, the dangerously growing role of money in it. Or how can one justify the exceeding influence of ethnic politics impact on American foreign policy?
I think many supporters of "color revolution" in Azerbaijan even began to have second thoughts about this method of change after seeing that the situation in some "color revolutionized countries" had not changed much but had even worsened in some cases.

To expect Azerbaijan to achieve such a democratic system fast enough to satisfy some of the American officials is also somehow a simplistic approach, especially given the Soviet system that we have just begun to rid ourselves of. But sometimes those who are in White House or the U.S. State Department seem to be rushing to see the results of democratization under their own immediate watch.

Left: Nearly one million Azerbaijanis were made homeless in their own land because of the Nagorno-Karabakh War with Armenia. Photo: Oleg Litvin, 1993.

Every society, every nation has its own pace as it marches towards democracy. And in my view that's what is happening in Azerbaijan now. I want to emphasize that the trend is in the right direction. We are going the right way towards democratization.

I'm glad that President Ilham Aliyev's visit to the United States convinced Washington that he genuinely shares the same values and aspirations for freedom and democracy and sees the future of Azerbaijan, in his own words, "as a modern, secular, democratic country." I'm also very pleased that President Aliyev's successful visit was my "last accord" as an Ambassador of Azerbaijan to the United States. By the way, this final visit that I helped to organize was the eighth visit of an Azerbaijani President to the United States during my tenure in Washington.

AI: You served as Ambassador in the United States for 14 years. During that same period, there have been six different U.S. ambassadors.9 assigned to Azerbaijan. You've also served during three Presidential terms and two Presidents - Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. That's an enormous difference in terms of years in a position to understand the complexity of that particular society.

Yes, you're right. Azerbaijan's situation was unusual. We didn't have any experience in foreign policy when I first became Ambassador. We had no well-established diplomatic training. Actually, we had no embassies. For that reason, we were obliged to use the individuals chosen to serve as ambassadors as long as possible.

In my situation - as you may know - I requested President Heydar Aliyev to release me after his official visit to Washington in 1997. But the President told me that we needed more time to educate the American public, especially in regard to Section 907 and that I should continue awhile as it would take time for a new ambassador to learn the job. Well, that "little while" turned into eight-nine more years.

The United States, of course, has an absolutely different situation. The American government can draw upon many capable, well-trained individuals to fill their positions of ambassadors. They have some very well-established policies that determine how many years each ambassador should spend in a particular country.

AI: What major differences did you observe in the U.S. government's attitude toward Azerbaijan during the different Presidential administrations?

Ambassador Pashayev: Well, Bill Clinton represented the Democrats; and George Bush, the Republicans. In terms of relations and policy towards Azerbaijan, I can't say that I observed any major difference. As you know, President Clinton did a great job in supporting the energy policy of Azerbaijan. As a result, we were successful in signing what we call "The Contract of Century" for the development of the giant oil field Azeri, Chirag and Gunashli (ACG) and in putting forward the global project of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline route.

President Bush did much less than Clinton in terms of oil. It's easy to explain because in 2001 after the 9/11 (September 11th) attack on the World Trade Center in New York, he focused on organizing a coalition against terrorism. So, terrorism became the major issue in relations between US and Azerbaijan. For both administrations, I have no complaints in terms of their attitude towards Azerbaijan. Both administrations opposed Section 907. Their position was very clear. They opposed these sanctions. It was Congress who had put them in place and maintained them.


Far Left: Azerbaijan International devoted two entire issues to the refugee problem: Spring 1994 (Winter of Disbelief), and Left: Spring 1997 (Refugees Revisited). Many articles about the refugee situation can be accessed on our Web site. Search at

AI: You've only been back a few weeks in Azerbaijan [August 2006]. What do you sense are the deepest concerns among the local population in relation to the Middle East and the U.S.? After all, there are so many major crises: Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Lebanon. Azerbaijan is geographically located rather close to each of those countries. Being a Muslim country - though quite secular in nature - but nevertheless, Muslim, what do you sense are the feelings among general population towards these volatile situations?

Ambassador Pashayev: The U.S. has put itself in a very difficult position, especially in relationship with the war in Iraq. No one knows what might happen next, but let me respond by saying that in 1975 when I first visited the U.S., it was very clear to me that the spread of American ideals attracted everyone. I remember the old Soviet days. It was these American ideals of justice and human rights that made us so keen to listen to radio broadcasts such as Voice of America and BBC. Keep in mind that it wasn't so easy to gain access to such information.

But now since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. remains the only Super Power of the world. And somehow, I don't know how it happened, but they started to rely entirely on military might, rather than diplomatic power.
These days there is often talk about the U.S. trying to conduct war simultaneously on two or three fronts in different parts of the world. Of course, maybe they can achieve this from military capability (instead of strategic) point of view, but they are losing the good will and trust of nations worldwide. I think it's much more effective to persuade people of ideas diplomatically than militarily. In my view, Americans are at risk of losing some of their ideals and basic principles of democracy by going down such a path. Their losing what attracted the world to them - "the American dream," "the American way of life," "the America that we used to know". Especially now.

AI: So, in Azerbaijan do you sense negative feelings towards the U.S.?

Ambassador Pashayev: I wouldn't call it "negative", but there is immense "disappointment". But, of course, our government and the majority of people here understand that Azerbaijan and the U.S. should work together. The role of diplomats is to facilitate and help people become aware of the importance of our relationships.

AI: More and more lately, we hear that the U.S. is making plans to attack Iran, claiming that if Iran gets access to nuclear weapons they will be a threat to the region. In your opinion, if the U.S. does attack Azerbaijan's neighbor to the south, how will this affect Azerbaijan?

Ambassador Pashayev:
First of all, let me emphatically say that the idea of the U.S. attacking Iran is not a good idea at all. The disputes and difficulties that exist between the U.S. and Iran must be resolved by peaceful diplomatic means. All difficult issues must be resolved peacefully.

If the U.S. were to attack Iran, of course, there would be enormous implications for Azerbaijan. Very negative implications and I would not advise such action. If officials in the U.S. were to ask our advice, categorically, we would advise against any such attack. It's not a good idea, and there would be very serious and negative repercussions for Azerbaijan.

As you know, Azerbaijan already has so many refugees. Nearly one million people in our small country of eight million people have been displaced because of the Armenian war over Nagorno-Karabakh. We don't want to revisit those tragic days. We had enormous problems trying to house and feed so many hundreds of thousands of people on limited resources. To this day, we bear the scars of that calamity.

Should there be an attack against Iran, no doubt there will be a flood of Iranians coming across our borders to seek refuge. This would be humanitarian disaster for Azerbaijan.

Openness and dialog is the way to bring opponents and adversaries to your side. Through communication. Through discourse. Those are much more effective ways than to attempt to use military might. Earlier, I mentioned about the image of U.S. in the world. Any new attack will create enormous complications and difficulties even for the U.S. itself. It's absolutely not the correct path to go in order to achieve stability in the region.

AI: Now that you're back in Baku, what are your plans for the future? Are you retiring?

Ambassador Pashayev: Actually, after so many years in Washington, I think I deserve to get out of any business related to the government so that I can have some free time to enjoy life. And that's exactly what I was gearing up to do when I returned to Baku this summer. I've had enough. I was yearning to have a chance to live a private life with my family.

I'm grateful to three successive presidents of Azerbaijan - Abulfaz Elchibey (1992-93), Heydar Aliyev (1993-2003) and Ilham Aliyev (2003-) - who trusted and honored me with the opportunity to represent my country in the world's sole remaining power center at such a crucial time in our history. It has been a privilege to serve in this capacity. To be honest, admittedly, it is a bit sad to be leaving such a major part of my life behind. But the time is ripe to move on and clear the playing field for others who, undoubtedly, will continue in what hopefully has been my humble contribution to the thriving alliance between our two nations.

But then the idea has begun to take shape that we should take advantage of those many years in Washington and utilize my experience to do something useful by helping to create a Diplomatic Academy in the Foreign Ministry. President Ilham Aliyev supported the idea and I have been asked to lead this process. Though this idea was something new that I had to think about, I realized how important it would be for Azerbaijan and for diplomacy, not only for international relations actually, but for all Azerbaijani government structures to have a school which would help to provide concrete knowledge of the modern world in a modern education system.

And so now, I have committed myself to this goal. My plan is to create something not only for Azerbaijan but a school that could be used to train diplomats in the region and, perhaps, even beyond. I am currently working with friends in the U.S. from various universities to come up with some ideas of how to structure such an institute.

We're in the process now. Of course, I want to build something new for Azerbaijan ­ a new university campus. I think it's very important to establish a diplomatic college based upon international standards. And I see it being developing in various stages.

Of course, intitially, we would like to organize executive programs for our diplomats in the Foreign Ministry and other ministries of the Azerbaijani government, for those who need international training.

I visualize the second stage being the development of a graduate school, with a Master's degree program. The third stage would be to create a full-scale university-type institution, offering a Master's degree in International Relations. My greatest dream now is for this Diplomatic College to become a center of excellence.

Life is education in every sense. So, of course, we must share our experience with the young generation and I think the best way to share our diplomatic experience will be through this Academy.


The White House deemed that the "Freedom Support Act" was a "once-in-a-century-opportunity" to help freedom take root and nourish in the lands of Russia and Eurasia whose success in democracy and open markets would directly enhace our own national security. The growth of freedom there would create business and investment opportunities for Americans and multiply the opportunities for friendship between our peoples." See the Press Release Fact Sheet announcing the passage of the Freedom Support Act passed on October 24, 1992. Visit: Federation fo American Scientists at

2 The 15 former republics of the Soviet Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Of these, only the government of Azerbaijan was denied U.S. assistance during this critical period of transition from a centralized government to a market economy.

3 For a discussion about the content of these UN Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884, see "The Nagorno-Karabakh Question: UN Reaffirms the Sovereignity and Territorial Integrity of Azerbaijan" By Yashar T.Aliyev [UN Representative at the time], AI 6.4 (Winter 1998). Search

4 In 2003, Azerbaijan sent 160 troops to Iraq as part of what President Bush called "The Coalition of the Willing".

5 Monica Lewinsky: A young woman with whom President Bill Clinton had a sexual relationship in the White House for four months betweeen 1995-1996. The scandal that broke out resulted in Congress trying to impeach him but in the end he acquitted and remained in office. Clinton remained popular with the public throughout his two terms as President, ending his presidential career with a 65 percent approval rating, the highest end-of-term approval rating of any President since Eisenhower. Source: Wikipedia: Oct 10, 2006.

6 "Color Revolution": Refers to the general non-violent change of government via elections and alleged people movements that recently occured in a few of the former Republcs of the Soviet Union. These include the "Rose Revolution" in Georgia in 2003 that ended the Presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze, the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine, which ended with the election of Viktor Yushchenko in 2004-2005, and Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, which led to the overthrow of Askar Akayev in 2005.

7 Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (1906-1982) was the effective ruler of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982, though at first in partnership with others. He was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Sovet Union from 1964 to 1982, and was twice Chariman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (head of state), from 1960 to 1964 and from 1977 to 1982. Source: Wikipedia on October 10, 2006.

8 Eight presidential visits: six with President Heydar Aliyev (whose presidential term in office was 1993-2003) and two with his son Ilham Aliyev(2003-).

9 U.S. Ambassadors appointed to Azerbaijan: Richard Miles (1992-1993), Richard Kauzlarich (1994-1997), Stanley Escudero (1997-2000), Ross Wilson (2000-2003), Reno Harnish (2003-2006), and Anne Derse (July 2006-).


Back to Index AI 14.3 (Autumn 2006)

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