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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09BAKU153 2009-02-27 10:18:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baku
Cable title:  

STAFFDEL SOCHA'S VISIT TO AZERBAIJAN

Tags:   AJ IR KISL PGOV PHUM PREL TU 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAKU 000153 

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2019
TAGS: AJ IR KISL PGOV PHUM PREL TU
SUBJECT: STAFFDEL SOCHA'S VISIT TO AZERBAIJAN

BAKU 00000153 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Ambassador Anne E. Derse for reasons 1.4 (b, d)



1. (C) Summary: On 15-17 February 2009, Embassy Baku hosted
Senior Policy Adviser Chris Socha and Legislative Assistant
Jack Julson from the staff of Senator DeMint (R-SC). Staff
del expressed interest in energy issues; security issues,
particularly vis-a-vis Russia and Iran, and the effectiveness
of U.S. assistance. Staffdel met with the Country Team, the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, opposition members and the
director of the embattled Radio Liberty, in addition to
touring the BP-run Sangachal Terminal. End Summary.

MFA on Energy, Regional Relations


--------------------------





2. (C) Staffdel met the MFA Director of the Security Affairs
Department Galib Israfilov. Israfilov called for increased
U.S. training and equipment for Azerbaijan's border service,
citing the last year,s interception of suspect materials
from Russia bound for the Bushehr reactor complex. (Note:
Ultimately the shipment was found not to violate any existing
sanctions and was permitted to proceed. End Note.) On
energy, Israfilov said that Azerbaijan was seeking additional
westerly routes for its oil and gas, but needs beter terms
from its European partners. The state oil company (SOCAR) is
also considering Russian proposals to buy all of Azerbaijan's
gas.



3. (C) Turning to Azerbaijan's relations with its neighbors,
Israfilov noted Russia's greater flexibility since the August
2008 war with Georgia, and told Socha that the U.S. must take
care not to "lag behind" Russia and take a more active role
in the OSCE Minsk Group, although he was not specific as to
what that meant. Asked about Iran, Israfilov replied that he
felt that country was more concerned with the Middle East
than with Azerbaijan (note: comments on Russia and Iran
differ markedly from what Israfilov and others tell us
routinely. However, he may simply have been avoiding making
a controversial statement to an unfamiliar interlocutor.
End Note.)

Meetings with civic and opposition leaders


--------------------------





4. (C) On the civic front, Staffdel met with
parliamentarian and former presidential candidate Iqbal
Aghazade, who received 2.86% of the vote and came in second
place in the 2008 Azerbaijani Presidential elections, as
well as Khadija Ismayilova, the director of the Azerbaijani
service of Radio Liberty, which was recently banned from
broadcasting on FM frequencies in Azerbaijan. Aghazade
discussed the absence of political opposition in countering
corruption in government. He noted that 42% of the national
budget comes from oil, and that there must be opposition
members represented in the control of oil funds as well as in
the control of other entities, such as television. Mr.
Aghazade also commented on the censure of Radio Liberty,
saying that the opposition was the &main inhabitants8 of
RL; he said that the decision to take Radio Liberty off the
air had hurt the government, as Radio Liberty was the main
influence for defining opinion in Azerbaijan. He
optimistically predicted that RL would be back on the air
after the 18 March constitutional referendum.



5. (C) In contrast, Director of the Radio Liberty station in
Azerbaijan Khadija Ismayilova doubted that it would be back
on the air after the referendum. She said that Internet
listenership had tripled since the station was pulled off of
FM, although only 6 per cent of Azerbaijanis are thought to
use the Internet more than once a week. Ismayilova remarked
ironically that by taking Radio Liberty off of the air, the
GOAJ had undercut its stated priority of promoting
Azerbaijani language and culture - the station's material is
widely acknowledged to be the highest-quality Azerbaijani
programming on offer.



6. (C) Staffdel heard the Embassy's views on a full range of
topics at a lunch with the Ambassador and country team
members and dinner with the assistant DATT and Poloff
specializing in security issues. USAID Mission Director
noted that funding for programs in Azerbaijan had decreased
substantially from a high of $30 million annually several
years ago to $14 million now. More money is needed to fund
important projects such as English language programs and
democratic development.

BAKU 00000153 002.2 OF 002





7. (C) Ambassador and Socha agreed that more active
engagement and incentives to the GOAJ will encourage
democratic reform. The GOAJ, in evaluating its relationship
with the USG, notes cooperation on counter-terrorism, energy,
sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, and permitting U.S.
overflights; in return, the GOAJ does not believe that the
USG gives Azerbaijan enough credit for democratic and
political reforms. To forge closer ties to Azerbaijan for
the sake of slowing Russian/Iranian influence and forging a
Southern EnergyCorridor for Europe, the U.S. should
accelerate engagement, provide more input into the N-K
process, become a part of Azerbaijan,s security solution,
and, in general, stepping up efforts to treat the GOAJ as a
partner. Staffdel's confirmation that several sites in
Azerbaijan are being considered as part of the plan to
compensate for the possible loss of Manas magnifies these
points. The Ambassador noted that the GOAJ, in return for
allowing the U.S. to establish a greater presence in
Azerbaijan, would, in particular, seek a closer security
relationship with the U.S.



8. (C) Comment: Staffdel Socha was well informed on regional
energy and security issues, and used their time wisely in
Baku to gather additional input and share ideas with
Azerbaijani officials and Embassy employees. The visit was
timely, as Azerbaijan looks to the USG for signals from the
new administration on foreign policy priorities and the USG
reevaluates its strategic interests in the Caucasus and
Central Asia regions.



9. (U) Staffdel Socha did not have an opportunity to review
this message.

DERSE