Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev set off to the United States yesterday for a critical official visit taking place at a time when the Iranian crisis has deepened. Aliyev will meet US President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman.
The issues in the nuclear crisis with Azerbaijan's neighbor, Iran, and the Upper Karabag (Karabagh) under the Armenian occupation, are expected to mark Aliyev's three-day visit.
Aliyev's foreign policy adviser, Novruz Mammadov, told Zaman that four main subjects such as dual relations, energy, regional security and international terrorism will be handled, but the Iran and Karabagh issues will be the main focus of the Aliyev-Bush talks.
Mammadov announced Baku wants the crisis over Iran's nuclear program to be overcome by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations. "There are enough problems in the region already. As the nation of Azerbaijan, we have never had and we will never have any intention of interfering in Iran's domestic affairs. We are ready to offer the necessary support for this issue to be solved by peaceful means."
The Azeri official also criticized Tehran for following a policy favoring Yerevan over the Karabagh issue despite Baku's policy of mutual respect and good neighborly relations.
Mammadov, also criticizing the US on this issue, highlighted that Washington remains silent regarding Armenia that continues to occupy one fifth of Azerbaijan's territory.
"The United States may instantly take action for disagreements in other countries. We think it should show the same sensitivity for Azerbaijan, too," the Azeri official added.
Mammadov said the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Minsk Group co-chairs have not been able to make any concrete progress in the Karabagh case for years. "We believe the problem will be solved if the US shows necessary sensitivity."
Strategist Rasim Musabaev said Aliyev's visit, taken at a time when the Tehran-Washington conflict is at its peak, is no coincidence.
One of the most important ways for Baku to emerge from the Iranian crisis with least damage is to follow a policy parallel to Turkey, Musabaev added.
The Azeri official maintained Turkey and Azerbaijan are facing US pressure over the Iranian issue. "It is difficult for these two countries to say 'yes' to the United States because Iran is neighbors both countries; therefore, we should focus on ways of solving the problem peacefully."
The Azeris also indicate the importance of the visit Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will pay to Baku on May 5.
Turkey's Ambassador to Baku Turan Morali said Turkey and Azerbaijan carefully follow Iran's nuclear crisis and said the two brother countries want the problem to be solved through peaceful means.