TODAY.AZ / Voice of Diaspora

General Director of Azerbaijani American Council talks about WikiLeaks, Turkish-Azeri relations, Armenia, Karabakh conflict

08 December 2010 [13:25] - TODAY.AZ
TurkishNY interviews General Director of Azerbaijani American Council (AAC), Javid Huseynov.
As the General Director of AAC, how do you evaluate the cooperation between Turkish- and Azerbaijani- American associations?

The cooperation of Turkish- and Azeri-American community organizations dates back over 50 years. The first Azerbaijani-American association, Azerbaijan Society of America (ASA), established in 1957, was closely integrated with the Turkish-American community groups for several decades. Many ASA members also served in Turkish-American organizations, were known and respected by the local Turkish communities as their own. Since the restoration of independent Azerbaijan in 1991, many new Azerbaijani community organizations emerged in the United States with different goals. But all of them, without exception, always worked closely and learned from the Turkish-American experience, and continued to view Turkish community as a strong base of support for their activity.

After its establishment in 2006, Azerbaijani-American Council (AAC) worked closely with the Assembly of Turkish-American Associations (ATAA) and its local chapters, with Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) and other Turkish-American groups in California, New York and Texas, on programs ranging from intercultural dialogue to grassroots advocacy.

Excellent showcases of our cooperation on intercultural dialogue programs were the 2008 "Building Bridges from Caspian to Mediterranean" forum in California (co-organized by AAC, Orange County chapter of ATAA and the American Jewish Committee) and the 2009 "Jewish Identity in the Turkic World" conference in New York (co-organized by AAC, ASA, ATAA, TCA and the Uzbek Initiative). In 2010, AAC, ASA and ATAA co-sponsored the US Census awareness sessions as well as annual Khojaly Massacre commemoration events. Since its establishment in 2008, the DC-based US Azeris Network (USAN) has also been quite active in engaging Turkic community on its grassroots advocacy and voter awareness campaigns.

Our fruitful cooperation and common vision has yielded an important new grassroots platform, the Pax Turcica, with participation of AAC, ASA, ATAA, TCA and the Uzbek Initiative. The first Pax Turcica conference was held at Columbia University in New York in May 2009, bringing together diplomats and public officials, scholars and students interested in the Turkic world, and community organizations representing various Turkic-American communities. There is currently an online newsgroup for the platform, and we are currently working to institutionalize it with broader online presence and grassroots events planned for 2011.

Did the strain in Turkish-Azerbaijani relations regarding Turkish-Armenian protocols effect the relations between Turkish and Azerbaijani communities in the U.S.?

I do not believe that was the case as we continue to work together on a number of various projects, programs and ideas. Many Azeri-Americans were initially disappointed by the mainstream Turkish-American associations' endorsement of the protocols. For Azeri-Americans, the most sensitive part of the protocols was the idea of Turkish-Armenian border opening prior to withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied territories of Azerbaijan. As you may know, Turkey closed borders with Armenia in 1993 to protest against the occupation of Kelbajar district of Azerbaijan outside of Nagorno-Karabakh by Armenian forces. The Armenian advancement outside of disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, clearly indicated an intent of territorial expansion using military occupation and ethnic cleansing. It was condemned by four resolutions of the United Nations Security Council which Armenia failed to fulfill until now.

So Armenia has not demonstrated any willingness to compromise from its non-constructive position, has not withdrawn from Azerbaijani territories and has not allowed the return of over 800,000 civilians back to their homes. In addition to those, Armenian public servants do not refrain from referring to parts of Turkey as "Western Armenia", Armenian government has no capability to stop the Armenian diaspora from pushing the claim of so-called "Armenian genocide". Combined with veiled claims on Armenian-populated regions of Georgia and irredentist maps of "Greater Armenia" spreading to parts of Iran as well, Armenia has demonstrated a complete lack of respect towards any of its neighbors.

Azeri-Americans, as well as Azerbaijan, in principle, do not oppose the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation. We are neighbors and are destined to live in the same region side by side. But honest reconciliation can take place only when Armenia takes constructive and sincere steps to improve relations and basically respect the international law. Until then, unfortunately, Armenia is bound to be isolated in the region, as it has not established a single incentive to move forward in regional cooperation.

And as it turned out later, the protocols did not pose such a major roadblock to cooperation between Turkic-Americans. There are just too many areas where our interests and visions overlap, and a single issue can not be a basis for stopping our common progress towards the future of Turkic grassroots in America. Our cooperation is based on a solid mutual interest, shared identity and vision of future. Two brothers may disagree on any subject but they can't stop being part of one family.

Recently the President of so called "NKR" visited U.S. with Armenian passport. Should it be considered as a political support of US to seperatist regime in Karabakh?

This is not a first time, when the so-called "NKR president" visits California upon the invitation of Armenian diaspora groups. Such visits take place for several years now, every November, when "NKR president" visits Los Angeles to take part in the annual Armenian fund raising telethon. Sponsored by ANCA, Armenia Fund and few other Armenian-American groups, this annual telethon is used as another stage for spreading ideas of irredentism and ethnic intolerance. Yet in reality, despite claiming millions of American taxpayer dollars, these annual money laundering sessions have actually failed to yield any result in their stated goal, an improvement in the living conditions of Karabakh's Armenian community.

One noticeable contrast of the "NKR" show in California this year was that one of the public appearances by "NKR president" was co-sponsored by the Consulate General of Armenia in Los Angeles. The active role of Armenia's diplomatic mission actually undermines in itself the Armenian claim that the conflict is between Azerbaijan and "NKR", and that Armenia is only a party negotiating for "NKR". In addition, Armenia's promotion of non-existent "NKR" in the US also stands contrary to the very foundation of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace process within the OSCE Minsk Group framework. Specifically, the 1992 "Baker Rules" (named after Secretary of State, James Baker), which became a basis for the establishment of Minsk Group, recognized Armenia and Azerbaijan as "principal parties" of the conflict, and Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of Nagorno-Karabakh as "interested" parties.

It was our great pleasure that this year, for the first time in California, the local Turkish and Azerbaijani activists united to protest against the "NKR president" showing at the Orange County World Affairs Council. They spoke up the truth indicating that over 800,000 Azerbaijanis were forced out of their homes by an ongoing Armenian occupation; that on February 26, 1992, over 600 Azeri Turks (including 106 women and 83 children) were brutally killed in the town of Khojaly, in an act of genocide by invading Armenian forces; that not a single Turkic soul is allowed to live in present-day mono-ethnic Armenia, while a century ago, ethnic Turks were a majority on the same territory; that so-called "NKR president" cannot possibly represent people of Karabakh when a significant portion of those people, Azeri Turks, are ethnically cleansed and unable to participate in elections.
The latter fact is a primary reason why United States, European Union, United Nations join the international community in their refusal to recognize the legitimacy of "NKR", its so-called "elections" or "officials".

So "NKR" warlord can visit the United States as a private citizen of Armenia, but this does not and never will bring any formal or legal recognition until the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is settled, with the United States acting as one of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.

Two Turkish American politicians won the Midterm elections in November. Azerbaijani diaspora organizations also supported campaigns of Turkish Americans. How do you evaluate the future of Turkic diaspora in U.S. politics?

And earlier in 2009 and 2010, two Azeri-American politicians stood for state elections in Virginia and Nevada, and Turkish-Americans supported them as well. This is a significant indicator that our goals are shared regardless of whether they pertain to cultural promotion, grassroots advocacy, intercultural dialogue, or politics.

Do you think WikiLeaks documents will affect Turkey's relations with Azerbaijan? How do you evaluate the info in WikiLeaks documents regarding the transfer of arms from Armenia to Iran?

"Well, first of all, the WikiLeaks documents were dismissed and condemned by both Turkish and Azerbaijani governments. Secondly, I do not think that the relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan are formulated by the WikiLeaks, or by interpretations and opinions of politicians about each other. They are based on a solid understanding of mutual interest which emanates from the common identity and shared position on regional affairs for decades if not centuries. These were factors which drove Azerbaijan to make Turkey a primary port for global oil exports, by pushing Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project to reality through a very complex web of adverse geopolitical and regional interests in 1990s. Not to mention that the comments attributed to Azerbaijani president on gas exports seem to be irrelevant or simply untrue now, as Azerbaijan and Turkey actually signed a new gas deal this year.

Regarding the concerns about Nabucco pipeline or Azerbaijan selling its gas to Russia, Azerbaijan is a producer of gas and Europeans are its final consumers. So unless the European countries demonstrate their unified and strong commitment to diversify their energy supply sources, there is just no reason for either Azerbaijan or Turkey to spend a tremendous amount energy alienating Russia or working against the very basic market rules. As far as Armenian arms transfers to Iran in 2008, with some of those weapons being used to kill Americans in Iraq, Turkic-Americans must work to increase awareness and knowledge about this sad truth among all U.S. taxpayers. Combined with a $163 million Medicare scam led by an Armenian criminal group with suspected connections to Armenia's public officials; with annual fund raising in California to support military occupation and ethnic cleansing; with promotion of suspected war criminals and terrorists on the US soil by Armenian diplomats, the case of Armenian arms transfers to Iran shall raise a serious question whether Armenia should be considered a U.S. ally or an adversary in the region.

İbrahim H. Aydoğan

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