While attending a high-level conference in Baku, Wilson Center Advisor to Global Europe Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Alexandros Petersen praised transformation of Azerbaijan`s economy in an interview with the State Telegraph Agency (AzerTAc).
Petersen, the author of “The World Island: Eurasian Geopolitics and the Fate of the West”, said, “I first visited Baku in the 1990s. The city has changed a lot since then. I’ve been many times to Baku since then and it`s amazing to see the transformation of Azerbaijan’s economy going not just from being a petrol state, but now being an increasingly diverse economy.”
“It’s amazing to see the incredible development and infrastructure development that has been going on here, he continued. “So I have great optimism for the future in terms of Azerbaijan’s development not just in terms of buildings, infrastructure and the sort of things, but increasingly becoming a centre for intangible things like human capital, the center for technological development and innovation, and the bridge between East and West.”
He continued, “We say like many this cliché that Azerbaijan is the bridge between East and West. But I think it is increasingly becoming the case in ways that it is not just about the infrastructure. It’s increasingly about the substance and the people of Azerbaijan, who are, I think, achieving their great potential.”
Petersen stressed the importance of the “Cooperative Approach to Energy Security: View from NATO and Beyond” conference, which was co-organized in Baku by the Center for Strategic Studies under the Azerbaijani President (SAM) and NATO.
“I think it’s very important that a high-level Azerbaijani organization such as SAM is organizing a conference with NATO Centre of Excellence. The more cooperation we can have, particularly on energy security, which is a strength of Azerbaijan, the more cooperation we can have between Azerbaijani institutions and NATO institutions. I think it is very positive for the Western outlook of Azerbaijan and for the country emerging as an energy security leader in the region.”
He hailed the country’s role in ensuring Europe’s energy security: “Azerbaijan is central to Europe’s energy security. With the Southern Energy Corridor that has been led by SOCAR it’s going to ensure diversification in the European energy market and it’s also going to make sure that from strategic, security and military standpoints, which is certainly in the interest of NATO, there is going to be flexibility should, God forbid, there will be a conflict situation at some point in the future that NATO might be involved in.”
“Azerbaijan’s energy reserves are key to align flexibility in a potential future crisis period,” Petersen emphasized. “So Azerbaijan’s relationships with its European consumers are absolutely a key for overall EU and NATO energy security.”
He called the selection of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) by the Shah Deniz consortium, which was a decision led by SOCAR, “a very wise decision because it was the most commercially viable pipeline and plus it was the one that realistically will be built.”
“And it is one that, I think, is going to be key in bringing new markets to Azerbaijani gas so it reaches Italy, but it also very importantly from Italy could potentially in the future reach Central Europe, reach Western Europe,” he added.
He saluted Azerbaijan`s role in the region, saying: “I think Azerbaijan has emerged in the broader Black Sea-Caspian region and Eastern Europe. Azerbaijan has emerged as a diplomatic, a very dynamic diplomatic player. It has been enormously important as a partner for Western institutions such as the EU and NATO, but also strategically for European individual members in the European countries and for the United States. There is no better ally for Western institutions and Western countries in the Caucasus-Caspian region than Azerbaijan.”
Mr Petersen touched upon Azerbaijan`s relationship with the European Union and the United States.
“The US-Azerbaijan relationship in the past years has emerged to be, I think, a genuinely substantive and deep partnership. I would even say that the United States now should consider Azerbaijan as a key ally in the region.” He said strategic and geopolitical relationship is extremely important for both countries, not just for Azerbaijan. “The United States needs Azerbaijan as well,” he added.
He also commented on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh problem:
“I think that it was encouraging that the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia got together recently to start discussions again. I think it shows initiative on the part of the Azerbaijani leadership despite a lot of challenges that it faces from the international community which, I think, generally is more biased towards Armenia.”
Remarking on the US role he said, “I think, we might see from the US administration a little bit more of an active role in trying to promote the conflict’s settlement. I think that’s positive. I think what we need to do is to move towards comprehensive negotiations and hopefully with more pressure on Armenia from the United States. If it`s going to be more active, then those comprehensive negotiations could be achieved in a fair and equitable manner.”