Greetings from the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Washington, DC. In this edition of the News Digest, you will find stories about US-Azerbaijani bilateral relations, the country’s many energy projects and the opening of Baku Olympic Stadium. To learn more about the Embassy’s activities, please remember to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Financial Times features special coverage of Azerbaijan
Among its coverage of Azerbaijan, the Financial Times has focused on a range of subjects, including the construction of Baku Olympic Stadium, the “grandiose project” that would put Azerbaijan on the sporting map, as well as a new luxury ski resort. On the economy, the outlet has featured Azerbaijani diversification
and the reemergence of the Silk Road. Finally, the Financial Times has also written on a potential “ripple effect” of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In the global war on terror, US must strengthen ties to Azerbaijan
Former US Representative Ronnie Shows (D-MS) comments on the politicization of foreign policy and the importance of cultivating relationships with potential allies, stating: “One moderate Muslim nation with which the United States has a long-standing partnership is the country of Azerbaijan. In the last few months, there has been a lot of talk about our relationship with that nation. I believe we should be strengthening our relationship with countries that seek to be constructive US allies, Azerbaijan chief among them.”
Azerbaijani Nowruz holiday celebrations held around the world
US First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a Nowruz celebration at the White House on March 11. The Silk Road Dance Company performed in the East Room of the White House to celebrate the 3,000-year-old holiday. The official start of the nearly two-week holiday observance is March 21, coinciding with the Spring Equinox. Ms. Obama also presented the White House Haft Seen, the traditional table setting of Nowruz. The Haft Seen, which translates to “the seven S’s,” features seven items placed on a table to symbolize seven new hopes for the new year, including blessings, patience, love, sweetness and rebirth.
The Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan (AFAZ) organized a celebration at the historic Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. Harvard and Brown Universities also hosted Azerbaijani cultural events and Nowruz celebrations.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Baku and Ambassador Robert Cekuta hosted a Nowruz celebration. Also in Baku, President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva celebrated with family and state and government officials in downtown Baku.
Azerbaijani President Aliyev pardons 101 people
On March 18, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree pardoning 101 people, including civil society activists Bashir Suleymanov, Orkhan Eyyubzade and Anar Gasimli. According to the presidential decree, the decision was made after considering the health condition, marital status and overall wellbeing of the prisoners. 90 people that were sentenced to imprisonment have been freed from serving the remainder of their sentence.
Azerbaijani minister: Southern Gas Corridor is a global project
In an interview with New Europe, Azerbaijani Energy Minister Natig Aliyev discussed the importance of the Southern Gas Corridor on the global stage: “This is a global project, not just an Azerbaijani project. This is the reason why first of all we have to have in our region, peace. That is most important. We have to solve all the conflicts in the regions...We need cooperation and support on every level. We have all the financial resources; we just need the political support."
Azerbaijani, Turkish, Georgian presidents take part in TANAP groundbreaking ceremony
An official groundbreaking ceremony for the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) project was held March 17 in the Turkish province of Kars. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili attended the ceremony and pressed a symbolic button to signal the official start of construction. TANAP envisages the transportation of gas of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field from the Georgian-Turkish border to the western borders of Turkey.
BP joins Turkey and Azerbaijan in TANAP gas pipeline
On March 13, BP joined the consortium developing the 31 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year TANAP gas pipeline, taking a 12 percent stake in the 1,850 km-long project to connect Azeri national oil company SOCAR and Turkey's state gas importer BOTAS. Construction of TANAP officially began March 17 with a groundbreaking ceremony near the northeastern Turkish city of Kars. The line will run from there to the Turkey-Greece border where it will connect with the planned Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). Initially, the line is slated to carry 16 bcm per year of gas from the second phase of development of Azerbaijan's BP-operated Shah Deniz gas field.
Azerbaijan's role as energy supplier discussed in Brussels
The current and future role of Azerbaijan as an energy supplier and transit country was discussed during the “Cooperation in Energy and Beyond” international conference, held in Brussels. The conference was jointly organized by leading Belgian energy infrastructure specialist Fluxys and the European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS). Didier Reynders, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that the massive Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project will bring Azerbaijani gas to European markets, and change the energy landscape across the continent. More than 120 specially invited diplomats, ministers, Belgian politicians and businesspeople attended the conference.
Georgian President: It's impossible to think about Georgia's success without support of Turkey and Azerbaijan
At the March 17 TANAP groundbreaking ceremony, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said that the pipeline “is important not just for Georgia, but also for our neighbors. Georgia is an important gateway between Europe and Asia.” He also noted that “it’s impossible to think about Georgia’s success without support of Turkey and Azerbaijan,” and that the pipeline project “will have a positive impact on tourism and trade.”
President Aliyev, First Lady attend opening of Baku Olympic Stadium
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, chairperson of the Baku 2015 First European Games Organizing Committee, attended the opening of the Baku Olympic Stadium on March 18. Six stories tall, the stadium occupies an area of nearly 50 hectares and seats 68,000 with 26 different entrances to the stands. The stadium also has a 3,100-car parking lot and features 82,000 square meters of green space.
Azerbaijan expects tourist arrivals to grow to 5 million
Azerbaijan is expected to increase its tourist flow up to 5 million a year, Abulfaz Garayev, the country’s culture and tourism minister said at the Caspian Energy Forum 2015 on March 11. The share of tourism in Azerbaijan's GDP stands at 2.4 percent, or 1.3 billion manat. Over 2.5 million tourists arrived in Azerbaijan in 2014 and overall, tourism in the Land of Fire has doubled since 2006.
The argument for Nowruz as an observed holiday in the US
In a letter to the editor of the Elmira Star-Gazette, New York resident Arif Kuliyev writes that Nowruz, the holiday celebrated by Azerbaijanis as their New Year, should gain the status of an observed or even federal holiday in the US. On March 21, some 400,000 Azerbaijani-Americans, among other ethnic groups tracing their origin to Eurasia, celebrated Nowruz, the day signifying the beginning of spring. The holiday’s traditions are kid-friendly—planting wheatgrass, dyeing eggs and preparing sweets and treats – and it was inscribed by UNESCO on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Baku World of Mugham Festival celebrates traditional Azerbaijani music
The fourth edition of the International World of Mugham Festival came to a close on March 20 in Baku. One of Azerbaijan’s many forms of folk music, Mugham is a traditional art form that combines classical poetry and musical improvisation, drawing on popular bard melodies, rhythms and performance techniques. The week-long event drew musicians from some 40 different countries. In 2003, Mugham was recognised as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. The festival’s director, Firengiz Alizade, is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and the next festival will be held in Baku in 2017.
AZERTAC photo correspondent wins gold at DONEGAL 2015
Azerbaijani photographer Ilgar Jafarov won gold at the Photo Club Emerald’s 1st International Salon of Photography, "DONEGAL 2015," held in Ireland. His photograph, “Cleaning,” placed first in the City Life – Salon category. The competition received over 215 entries and was conducted in accordance with the requirements and practices of the Photographic Society of America (PSA).
Football legends take part in Baku 2015 Beach Soccer draw
Robert Prosinečki, coach of the Azerbaijani national soccer team, and Christian Karembeu, FIFA beach soccer ambassador, announced on March 16 the draw for Baku 2015 European Games’ beach soccer competition. Group A consists of Azerbaijan, Portugal, Switzerland and Ukraine, while group B contains the Russian Federation, Spain, Italy and Hungary. “Baku 2015 will be a wonderful showcase for the sport, and being featured in the first edition of the European Games gives us a high-profile platform to increase interest and participation in Europe and beyond,” said Mr. Karembeu.